Category Archives: Crafty Dog Cymru

Hallowe’en Story 2018 – Part 1

The Crafty Dog Cymru Hallowe’en Story for 2018

 

Rubbish the Rabbit Hound and The Giant Bat

Part 1

Bob the father rabbit shook his head. “It’s too bad.  These Witches are becoming such a nuisance.”

Bluebell, his wife, agreed, “I know. They are frightening all the kits.  They won’t even listen to Finn!”

She was talking about the local coven of witches who, as the weeks drew closer towards Hallowe’en were getting more and more rowdy – screeching and cackling, swooping low over the trees and scaring the baby rabbits, birds and other animals.  Finn the deerhound had gone to pay these hags a visit, and he had politely asked them not to be quite so loud but they had just sent him off with a flea in his ear. It was a real flea too and he was not amused.

“I’m not amused,” he growled at Rubbish the rabbit hound.  The young hound couldn’t help smiling even though it was not funny.  Jeffrey the old marmalade cat grinned gummily as he stared over the top of his round spectacles at the two of them, “Frightful nuisance,” he harrumphed in agreement.

Finn was, after all, the Lord of the Glen and Warden of the Great Forest and so senior animal of the area.  From the kitchen the Maid watched the three friends discussing the problem in the woods.   She leaned towards the open window and called out, “Bacon roll anyone?”

Three animal heads swivelled as one, and nodded in unison.  “That would be marvellous,” Finn replied.

Three chopped up bacon rolls arrived in three bowls. They had continued talking amongst themselves, and still did so even as they munched on their mid-morning snacks.  The brindle greyhound could not understand why the witches would not listen to Finn.  He shook his head and dropped a small piece of bacon onto the patio, from which it was quickly snapped up by a hungry blackbird that appeared to have just been passing by.

“Bless my soul!   That was a bit of bad luck, young sir,” Jeffrey consoled the stunned Rubbish.

“I was just going to finish that,” the pup said.

Finn laughed out loud, “At last!  Something that is faster than our speeding greyhound’s ravenous appetite!”

The blackbird had landed on the roof of the outhouse, scoffing his ill-gotten gains and appeared to be listening to the three animals talking.

As the bacon rolls were finally mopped up, there came a sound from the bottom of the garden as a little rabbit pushed through the gap in the garden door and scurried up the red brick path towards them.  It was Scutter.  He skidded to a halt, scattering chippings as he stopped.  He was puffing heavily.  “Mr Finn!  It was terrible and frightening!” The rabbit’s eyes were wide with excitement as he spoke.

“Really?  Take a breath young rabbit,” he patted the rabbit on the shoulder.

“And start at the beginning,” added the ancient cat.

Scutter took a deep breath and began his story.  “It was late last night.  The witches were dancing and singing in the clearing where they have their parties.  You know what they’re like,” the rabbit made a drinking sign with his paw.  “They had their brooms and everything, and then….” he paused for dramatic effect, “as the full moon shone over the trees, a huge black bat appeared and flew over them.”

The dogs looked at each other and Jeffrey pushed his glasses back up his nose.

Scutter continued, “They were terrified!  They all packed up and went home sharpish.  Most of them walked – they were too scared to fly.”

Jeffrey laughed out loud and rolled back onto his rather large bottom.  Rubbish smiled too.  Finn however, though he was amused by the thought of something disrupting the coven’s antics, was also concerned about what this flying thing could be.  “Young Scutter – did anyone else see this?” he asked.

The rabbit nodded, Yes, the squirrel family saw it all.  It was a giant bat that made a terrible screeching noise as it flew.”

Jeffrey gave the deerhound a nudge, “Let’s go and see then.”

Finn stretched.  “Come on – I sense an adventure.”

Off the three friends went, following Scutter through the woods to the clearing where the squirrels lived, in a tree next to the witches’ party venue.

Finn and Rubbish looked around the clearing; in the centre were the remains of a huge bonfire, still smouldering slightly.  There were a couple of abandoned broomsticks, broken glasses that had held witches potions (or more likely gin and tonic). There was even one witch’s shoe (like some sort of evil Cinderella!).

“Something definitely spooked them,” Rubbish said.

Finn had to agree, “And they left in rather a hurry.”

Jeffrey was questioning the two squirrels.  He had his notebook and pencil (the ones he kept in a mysterious pocket somewhere in his fur, which so puzzled Rubbish) and was writing down what the squirrels said.

There were no obvious signs of any flying monsters.  No signs of anything in the trees; all in all, very strange.

Back at the house over a bowl of kibble and smoked salmon, (Jeffrey just had the smoked salmon) they ran through what they had found.

“What is big enough to scare off a coven of hardened witches?”  mused the deerhound.

“Can’t have been an owl or a nightjar as they see them all the time,” Rubbish answered.

Jeffrey stopped chewing to add, “And witches are a bit of an expert on bats.”

“True,” Finn confirmed.  “It must have been one heck of a bat!”

Jeffrey suddenly sat up bolt upright and even dropped his bowl into his lap.  “Aha!  Hang on…” then he shot off, disappearing through the hole in the wall into his garden next door.

The dogs looked at each other.  “Eh?”

Back in puffed the old moggie, carrying a huge book, “I know what it is!”  The cat put the book on the garden table and opened it, flipping through the pages.  It was “The Wonder Book of Dinosaurs.”

He pointed to a colour photo, “Look here!  It’s a pterosaur – a flying lizard!”

Rubbish and Finn gazed at the illustration; an enormous bat-like flying lizard with a huge pointy beak.

“Blimey,” Finn said.

“Don’t know about the witches but it would scare the pants off me,” Rubbish gulped.

“Quite so,” Finn concurred.

Jeffrey was feeling quite pleased with himself and you could see his fur puffing up with pride.

“The only problem, my ginger pal, is that they have not been seen on this earth for over 100 million years.”

The cat frowned.

“That’s a really long time,” Rubbish had to admit.

The old cat frowned even more and his puffiness deflated a little.  “But the description fits” he answered.

Finn and Rubbish had to agree with the cat; it sounded like this flying dinosaur, but where had it been hiding for the last 100 million years?

“Maybe it’s come through time through some sort of worm-hole in the space-time continuum?” Jeffrey suggested.

“Hmmmm,” said Finn.  “Or it might be something less ancient and a bit more likely.”

“We have to see it for ourselves,” Rubbish told them.

“That, my young friend, is a good idea,” the deerhound smiled.

“Capital!” beamed Jeffrey. “I’ll start packing my night gear.”

It was agreed that the three of them would meet again at 5 o’clock – after tea, naturally – and they would go and wait near the Witches’ clearing to see what would transpire.

The moon was rising as the three friends slipped through the undergrowth at the edge of the trees to wait for the witches.  There was a pronounced pong from the canvas backpack that the old cat was carrying.

“Cor – what a niff!”  commented the greyhound.

Jeffrey hissed, “its garlic.”

“You don’t say?” chided Finn.

“In case it’s a giant vampire bat,” the cat explained. “I also have some stakes.”

Rubbish looked puzzled. “In case you get hungry?”

The cat tutted, “No – not that sort of steak!  A wooden pointy one.”

Finn chuckled.

Jeffrey rummaged in the bag and came out with a large head-torch on a wide elastic headband.  It was bright orange and matched his (albeit moth-eaten and ancient) fur.  He slipped it on and adjusted the straps.

Now it was Finn’s turn to tut, and to shake his head.

A blast of very bright light in Rubbish’s face made him jump. “Oh, sorry.   It’s a bit bright,” Jeffrey blushed under his ginger fur as he fumbled and turned the torch off.  “I have boosted the light output a bit.  Should help us see whatever it is.”

Finn put his head in his paws, sighed and muttered something under his breath.  It was going to be a very long night!

Part 2 Will follow tomorrow evening!

What’s After the Rainbow Bridge?

Greyt Expectations – What’s After the Rainbow Bridge?

          Have you ever had that feeling when you are alone that you feel there is someone watching you?  Sometimes you may even hear or think you hear something. Zoologists would explain it as those primeval nerves and peripheral senses that once protected early humans when they first came down from the trees. These can in part explain the supernatural and superstitions many of us believe in.  However, sometimes we see things that are not so easy to explain. 

          Our pets are our companions and they invest so much emotion in us as we do in them.   They can be our constant companions, and they miss us when we are gone, and get so excited and happy when we return.  It is not surprising that when they pass on they can leave ripples in the atmosphere, emotional recording so to speak. 

          Sally was our first greyhound and she was a wonderful character, so popular, and was loved by many people.  She was particularly close to my Mum.  Sal had arrived only a month after my Mum’s best friend had passed away and in many ways she filled that need for friendship that had been created.  The routine of dog-sitting on a Tuesday and Thursday became important in helping my Mum through the grieving process and getting her back in the swing.  Sally was so very affectionate and she and I became inseparable; wherever I went, so did Sally.  She would wait patiently for me to come home from work or, on a Thursday, for 2 o’clock when my Mum would arrive with a milky way and let her out the garden.  If I worked upstairs on the pc, Sal would lie at my feet, often so close to the chair that I had to watch that I did not roll over her ears with the castors.  When my appendix burst, I spent 2 months off at home with her and we had some real quality time together.  Then, two years later when I broke my leg whilst walking her, I had three months at home with her.  At this time Armelle still worked 4 days a week so Sally and I were literally on our own from morning to tea-time.  It was great being with her, and on days when I was depressed or worried, she was there to sit and listen to me, not complaining or offering any reproach.  When Sally headed towards 13, Armelle was off work for a while, and I also as I had had the metal plates taken out of my leg, so we again had some quality time together.  Fate had given the three of us a month together, and it was only a few days after we both returned to work that on a Tuesday evening she was taken ill and in the early morning passed away.  I was in the room with her at the time.

         

Sally Greyhound, Greyhound Rescue, Crafty Dog Cymru

Sally our first hound in the house

It was a year or so before we had Sammy, our next greyhound.  She was very sensitive soul herself, and within a few weeks had also grown very close to my mum.  We had only had her a few months when she started a very strange habit; she would sit or lie down and look into space, about 18 inches up, as if listening intently.  She would not just stare blindly but she was really watching something (or someone).  You could read her facial expressions as she would (usually) lie there looking and listening.  Jokingly I said she was listening to orders from The White Dog – our Sally.  This went on all the time we had Sammy. 

          Sammy grew close to our next door neighbour Betty.   Sammy began to stop by her garden gate to go and see her.  We found out that Betty had become very ill with cancer, and Sammy seemed to realise this and became more and more insistent that Armelle should call.  She would go in and sit at Betty’s feet and watch over her, and she would wait patiently as Betty fussed her.  In the September we were going on holiday and the day before we left, Sam as had become usual, insisted on seeing Betty.  They sat with each other, and as Armelle made to leave, Betty spoke to Sam, telling her that they would probably not meet again.  Sam had to be practically dragged out of the house – she even sat down in the hallway and refused to go.   True enough, Betty passed away when we were on holidays, they never did see each other again.  When we came home, Sam would walk past the gate, but never stopped to call in; she knew Betty had gone.

          We did not have Sammy two years when she was attacked by another dog and, despite an emergency operation, she died at the vets.  It was a horrible death, and she was so young – it was the week of her fifth birthday – and it seemed to me that she had never had a chance to live a full and proper life.  She had been cheated.

          I’ve never believed in ghoulies or ghosties, or things that go bump in the night, nor am I particularly superstitious.  However, I have had to change my opinion over the last few years.  It must have been about six months after Sammy died that I was in the kitchen and as I turned towards the fridge freezer I saw a black shape pass from the kitchen into the utility room; I thought it was a black greyhound.  I went out into the utility room – but there was no-one there.  I put it all down to my imagination.  A few months later I was in the downstairs cloakroom early in the morning as I was getting ready for work.  The door was slightly ajar and as I turned to stand up I saw a small black greyhound trot past the door.  I opened the door wide – again there was no-one there.  I began to believe that for some reason Sam was still about, and keeping an eye on us, as Sally had kept an eye on her.  We had no dog at that time as we were in between hounds, but even since Penny has arrived I have still occasionally seen Sam.  It is usually in the kitchen or utility room, never upstairs, and always just a fleeting glance not a good view, and always unexpected.  It has never felt frightening or spooky, just unusual.  I have sometimes even felt her brush against me.

          Since mentioning this, a number of other pet owners have talked of seeing their pets after they have passed on; they have seen them, heard them and even smelt them.  Why does it happen to some and not to others?  I would suggest that in Sam’s case, she was so young that she still wants to share some time with us and is not ready to go yet.  She has only once seemed to talk to Penny.  Armelle has never seen her (or not admitted it!).  Sal was so very close to me yet I have never seen her – why has she not made an appearance?  I guess we’ll never know. 

          At the end of the day, I find it quite comforting to think that Sam is looking over us, and even that it seems to reaffirm the idea of life after death.  As Hamlet said, there are more things in heaven and earth….

Penny, Greyhound,Bluebells, Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog Cymru

Sammy in the bluebell wood

Hallowe’en Story – The Haunted Castle

Ghosties and Ghoulies, Hounds and Hysterics….

Here is the link to the latest adventure for Rubbish the Rabbithound, the Mighty Finn and Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat.  It’s a free pdf to download and enjoy.  Its not too scary – honest!

Meet the phantom hound that haunts the old castle in the woods along with two ghastly ghostly knights.  

Things are never what they seem…..   Will Rubbish, Finn and the Professor  win the day – or night?

The Haunted Castle pdf

Greyt Expectations – Chris Dignam’s Rescued Greyhounds – Dealing with Bereavement

This week’s piece is about dealing with the loss of a pet, coping, and the question of having a replacement. It’s specifically about losing a dog, but it can be equally true of any pet, be it a cat, horse or goldfish. Anything that you have become very attached to.

You often hear someone say “It’s only a dog” when they hear that people are upset and grieving over the loss of a pet. This is the typical comment of someone who has never had a pet themselves and is unaware of the emotional chasm left by the loss of someone who had become a member of the family. They are not just members of the family; they are members of the pack, the same way that they also see you. Pets are dependent on you, and in that caring and nurturing you invest your time and energy and friendship which they give back in return. Being a dog owner is a two way thing. This is especially so when you have children, as they see the dog as another brother or sister and do not have some of the grown-up’s formal barriers. Every boy (or girl) should have a dog (or cat, or goldfish etc.), as it teaches them responsibility and the importance of the bonds of loyalty and affection.

Sally, greyhound, A Hound in the House,

Sally at 12

It’s inevitable then that as your pet grows old, or becomes ill, that you think of what will happen when they pass on. You know it will be hard emotionally but you have a degree of time to prepare. When they do die, you will still be upset but you have had time to order your thoughts and your future actions. Well, that’s the theory but it does not always work like that. When Sally, our first rescue greyhound grew old she did so gradually, and was still active so we never noticed. One evening she had gone for a walk and sat down for a rest half way round the cricket pitch, but been eager for her food when she got back. Early that evening she started crying, was a bit spaced and evidently in some distress, so we rang the out of hours vet and took her down. At the surgery she was examined and the vet suggested she might have a stomach upset, gave her some painkiller and sent her home with us. We could see her gums were very pale. When she got home she cried a bit, and sat in her bed. I sat up with her until she went to sleep and then sat in the chair to watch over her. Sally drifted away in her sleep that night some time about six o’clock in the morning. Looking back now, Armelle and I could see the signs that she was getting old – the fawn in her face had so much more white in it and she occasionally would stop for a rest on her walks. Even so, we were devastated – Sally was our first hound, and to all intents our child. I am sure that we got the “It’s only a dog” reaction but to us the pain was very real.

Sammy was a week short of her fifth birthday when she was attacked by another dog out walking on the same cricket pitch. She appeared to have come away unscathed, but the next evening she could not eat, the back of her tongue became swollen and we rushed her to the vets. When she tried to run from the dog, the collar had pulled on her throat and it was 24 hours later that the damage became apparent. They carried out a tracheotomy, which she survived, but the internal bleeding from the damage was so bad she bled out and passed away in the surgery. We were totally devastated. The emotions here were really mixed up – grief for Sammy’s death, anger about the cause of her death, and even guilt that I had taken her for a walk that night when I could have stayed at home.
No matter how your pet dies, it’s always distressing and you will be upset. If it’s an accident or sudden death, you too might feel guilty or regret that you took them out – these are natural emotions as you try to come to terms with the loss. You have to blame someone so you end up blaming yourself. What you have to realise is that it was just that – fate – you could not do anything to prevent it otherwise you surely would have.

In one respect an awful decision was already taken for us; we never had to make the call to have our pet put to sleep. When you have a pet that has a terminal illness, injury or even extreme age which means that you have to decide when their quality of life has reached such a critical point that they should be euthanised you will inevitable feel guilt along with your sorrow. You have to be a very special person if you are so certain that you have made the right decision at the right time. It is inevitable that you will question yourself over whether you left it too long, or whether if you had waited they would have been ok to last longer. Again, this is natural.

The next decision you will need to make is what to do with your pet. The option of burial was not feasible; she was a big dog, we had a small garden. If I’d dug a hole we had a choice of either her head or feet sticking out! We had decided to have Sally cremated so we had to get her to the vets from where the cremation company would collect her. The vets sorted everything for us, but we still had to get her down there. Sally weighed nearly 30 kilos and we had to carry her through the house to the car. Fortunately for us she had passed away in her bed so we could lift her in her duvet, holding two corners each and taking her through the living room. Unfortunately, as we passed the settee Sal’s head flopped out in a most undignified manner. We could imagine her looking down and tut-tutting at us. We carried Sal out to the car and at the vet, they helped me carry her in and so I said goodbye to her. Two weeks later I collected a lovely wooden box with her name on a brass plaque. We buried her in the garden near the spot where she liked to sit in the sun. When Sammy died, we decided that we would scatter her ashes in a wood where she loved to walk and we had some wonderful memories of. So instead of a box we had a lovely scatter tube – which when it came was covered in a picture of bluebells! Fate or what?

Penny, Greyhound,Bluubells

Sammy in the bluebell wood

Being without your pet can lead you to either one of two ways; you hurt so much you could never go through it again, or you really need to love another pet so want to get another one. Never think of a new dog as a replacement – they will never be the same, but will be fabulous and funny in their own ways. We always said Sam was Sally’s “understudy” who was filling in for her. Should you rush out and get another or should you waitt? I would always advise to leave a time to grieve, be it only a few days or maybe months – that would be down to you. It’s whatever feels best. Our greyhounds are rescued dogs, so to us it was always a case of “We gave Sally and Sam a great home, there are other dogs out there that deserve a lucky break too.”

Another option is to foster a dog for a time. When a rescue comes into kennels, especially where their background is not known, they are a blank card. They need to be assessed as to their temperament, how they are in a home setting, are they cat or child friendly, all the normal things they might never have seen in their lives. It’s a great way of having a dog to care for and occupy your mind, but you are also doing an unselfish thing by taking that dog out of kennels and allowing them to see what a real home can be like, and there’s no permanent commitment. We had a foster who hated kennels and needed a home where he would eat properly (the stress of kennels put him off eating).  And don’t forget that if you and the dog click, that the home is the right one for the dog, then the foster will never leave. Sam was a foster, as was our Penny, and neither of them ever went back to kennels.

So never be ashamed or embarrassed to cry or be upset when you lose your animal companion. It’s not you that’s at fault but the person who says “It’s only a dog” who is wrong for not understanding. Never blame yourself for anything untoward that happens, or for any decision on euthanasia where it’s the animal’s dignity that comes first. Finally, take as long as you feel its right before you have another pet.

New for 2015 – The Green Man, Owain Glyndwr and Dancing Dogs!

New Glassware for the New Year

Green Man, Glassware, Tankard.

Green Man Tankard

Amongst our new range of glassware designs for 2015 are new tankards with the Green Man  design and the banner of Owain Glyndwr.  The Celtic Dancing Greyhounds design is also now available on a wine goblet.

The Green man is the spirit of nature and the woodlands and has been captured on a lovely pint tankard.  Each one is individually hand-drawn and painted (so they are all unique) and then baked in the oven to make them dishwasher safe.  They are lovely to work on and even nicer to drink from.  

Owain Glyndwr, Welsh Dragon, Welsh, Dragon, Glyndwr,

The Welsh Dragon with Glyndwr’s banner.

Along with the spirit of the woods, there is a new design of tankard with a Welsh Dragon carrying a banner with the arms of Owain Glyndwr, the legendary Welsh leader.  Again, this is a striking piece of individual artwork, a piece of Welsh history in its own right.

 

The Celtic dancing greyhounds design, so popular on tumblers, is now available on wine goblets.  A lovely shape to hold, the design is very eye-catching, watch them chase each other around the face of the glass.

Greyhound, Glassware, Goblet, Celtic Greyhounds

Dancing Celtic Greyhounds

All of these are available from the Crafty Dog Cymru web shop.   

The Christmas Story – How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Download the whole story!

How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas

The Whole Story!

Picture4We have had many requests to make the Christmas Story available to download – consider it a Christmas present from Crafty Dog Books!  It can be downloaded as a pdf file for you to read, already set out in book format.

 

Its free for you to download and share but not for publishing generally without our permission.  Click on the text below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Story How Rubbish Saved Xmas C Dignam

The Christmas Story – How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Part 3 – The Conclusion

How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Part 3

 

Rubbish and Scutter

Rubbish and Scutter

Santa Claus has crashed the sleigh; he is injured, as are some of the reindeer (including Rudolph) and the 2 helpers.  Luckily he has been found by Rubbish the Rabbit Hound who fetched Finn, the Maid and the Butler, along with Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat and together they rescued him and the rest of his crew. 

The animals and Sam the Butler have taken the sleigh on a test flight and are now planning to help Santa by doing his Christmas deliveries for him.

They can fly the sleigh, but how will they cope on the big night?

Will Jeffrey’s map-reading be good enough to find every house? 

Or any house at all?

Will Christmas still happen as planned?

  

Now read on……

 

          “Well?” Santa and the Maid both asked together.

          “Brilliant!” Rubbish beamed, stepping out of his harness and running to the Maid for a cuddle.  Finn was smiling and laughing and went over to Jeffrey who was climbing down from the high seat.  He was having problems getting the helmet and goggles off and it took Sam and Finn to help pull them off.

          “Absolutely wonderful, old fruit!” the cat called out to the Maid and Santa.

“The book worked perfectly.  I am a navigational genius””

          Prancer looked at Santa, tutted and rolled his eyes.

          “So very modest,” Brownie added.

          Finn laughed too, “Yes, never one to blow his own trumpet, are you old boy?”

          Jeffrey ignored them and went over to Trevor where they sat on the garden bench and discussed mapwork, routes and Santa-planning.

          “There’s hot drinks in the kitchen and a roaring fire so everyone can have a warm,” Kath called out. 

          Sam was in there like a shot, glugging a mug of hot mulled wine (alcohol free, of course).

          They gathered around the blazing fire in the living room, humans, rabbits and cat on the settee, elf and gnome on one armchair, deerhound and greyhound on another and the reindeer fitting in as far as they could around the room.  If anyone had looked through the window they would have thought it was a convention of hat and coat racks!  They began what Santa called a de-brief, to see if there were any problems, whether they had learnt anything new, and whether they needed to make any adjustments.

          “Lights,” Rubbish said.  They all nodded and Happy wrote it down with his one good hand. “I have my flashing collar but we need tail lights too.”

          “We did have two nice big oil lamps on the back but they were broken off in the crash,” Santa replied.

          Jeffrey leaned over and whispered something to Scutter and Scamp.  They chuckled. “We’ll sort that,” he said.  Scutter, Scamp and Brownie jumped off the settee and disappeared out the back door.  The meeting continued without them.

          “Any navigational issues?” Happy asked.

          The reindeer talked about the stars and Jeffrey’s map reading so this was covered.

          “Access for delivery?”  Santa questioned.

          “We got the guys down and up the chimney with the automatic crane,” Finn answered.  “Worked fine.”

          “I can’t do chimneys,” Santa Sam said, looking down at his cushioned belly.

          Santa shook his head and looked over to the reindeer, “Didn’t anyone tell him?”

          Donner and Prancer sniggered, Dancer also laughed, and his taped-on antler wobbled.

          “You lot are very naughty!” Santa chided them.

The rest of the crew looked at Santa quizzically, “What do you mean?” asked Finn.

          “We only use chimneys as a last resort; not if there’s another way,” Santa replied.

          “Eh?” asked Sam.

          “You know, patio doors or fire escape,” came Santa’s answer.

          Sam looked at the reindeer who were still muttering and giggling amongst themselves, “You cruel lot!”

          Prancer looked suitably embarrassed, “Sorry Santa Sam.  We just couldn’t resist playing a joke.  But we will need to use the rabbits a lot of the time where you can’t get in.”

          Santa nodded, “That’s true, Sam.  How did it go with the crane?”

          Only the big grey rabbit called Bouncer was left as the others had gone off with Jeffrey.  “It was ok.  It may take a few of us to carry the presents though.”

          Santa agreed, “You can use the hover cart.”

          “What’s that?”  Santa explained it was a small floating cart for heavy objects.

          “That sounds fun,” Rubbish said.

          “How will we get to all the homes in the world in time?” Finn asked Santa.

          Trevor squeaked, “It’s all to do with the speed of light, a time tunnel and a fair bit of magic!”

          With that the door flew open and the old cat and the three rabbits fell in through the door carrying a large bundle.  Finn recognised them, as did Sam and Kath; square yellow flashing lights – from the skip on the other side of the farmyard!

          “It’s ok,” Jeffrey told them, “No-one uses that lane, and they’ll be back tomorrow.”

          “How do we get the presents?”  asked Finn.

          Santa winked.  “That’s the cleverest part of all.  In the old days where only the rich had presents and most people had  a piece of coal or an orange we could get things in a few sacks  It would be impossible to carry all the presents in the world these days.  So, what we do is once we get to the house we have a materialiser that beams the toys from my workshop in Lapland to the sleigh.  Makes things much quicker”.

          “And it meets Health and Safety laws too,” scowled Happy.

“Larger presents can be sent straight to the foot of the tree but it’s traditional for us to hand-deliver the smaller ones.”

          “Yes, trying to deliver a grand piano used to be really difficult” Trevor nodded.

          Aye,” Prancer said, “You think you had a problem getting down a chimney.”

          The meeting continued for a while longer until the mince pies were passed around.  It was soon time for everyone to get some rest as that night, about 10 o’clock, they would have to get the sleigh loaded up and set off for real.

 

          It was a cold crisp night as the replacement crew settled themselves onto the sleigh.  This time the seatbelts were on, and at the back two flashing yellow lights glowed behind the big seat. 

          Happy and Trevor did the pre-flight checks as the moon cleared the trees above the garden wall, and shone a bright silver blue light into the garden.  It was as if she could not believe what she was seeing and needed to light it up for a better look. 

          Santa stepped forward and shook Sam’s hand.  “Well done for volunteering and the very best of luck” he told him.  He waved at Jeffrey and the rabbits, and went towards the front of the sleigh.  He patted the reindeer and spoke to them in Lapp.  “Finn, old chap, you’re a brave and loyal hound.  Have a safe journey,” he ruffled Finn’s fur and Finn smiled back, “It’s a pleasure, Santa.”

          When he came to Rubbish, he smiled a special smile, “My young pup, I am so very proud of you for offering to lead the sleigh.  The gentlest and cleverest rabbit hound I have ever met.” He leaned down and gave the greyhound a squeeze.

Rubbish was so very pleased he could not reply due to the lump in his throat.  He beamed up and could only manage, “Thanks Father Christmas.”

          “Time!” called out Happy.

          Santa stood back and gave Sam thumbs up sign.  Sam waved at Kath, as the sleigh slid off across the snowy grass.  Rubbish started to trot, then to run, and with a skip he took off and the sleigh lifted up into the air and over the garden wall.  They were away!

          “Where first?” asked Sam. 

          Jeffrey lifted his goggles and look at the list he had made with Trevor the Santa Nav’s help. “Off to the west – over the sea and over America to the Pacific.”

          The Rabbits jaws dropped, “Where?”  They were totally amazed.

          Finn shouted from the front, “Makes sense.  The sun rises out there so it’s Christmas there first!  OK Rubbish, let’s go!”

          Rubbish nodded, clicked the light on the collar with his tongue and off he ran.  The one thing in having a greyhound lead your sleigh is that they are fast – even faster than any reindeer or even a deerhound.  Away the sleigh sped out over the coast, over the sea towards America.

          It all went marvellously; the pacific islands, Hawaii, then to the USA.  They started in Alaska (it was very snowy there) and bit by bit crossed Canada and ended up at the very tip of South America.  It all went very well, with only a few small glitches. 

          In New York they flew in through the skyscrapers and landed on a balcony.  The window was open, so Santa Sam guided the rabbits into the room to drop off the presents as they materialised on the platform on the sleigh.  As usual, they checked through the window that there was no-one there – no-one awake.at least.  A little girl lay asleep, her head of blonde curls sticking out from under her duvet.  Scutter and Brownie floated the hover trolley into the room and started to unload the trolley at the foot of the little girl’s bed.  Suddenly a little voice said, “Thank you very much.”  Brownie replied, “You’re welcome” and then froze.

          The little girl sat up, “Oh, you’re little rabbits!  You’re so cute!  If you’re the Easter Bunny – where’s Santa?”

          “We’re giving him a hand this year.  He’s very busy,” Scutter said.  He gave Brownie a nudge and they moved towards the window.  Brownie and Scutter smiled and gently stepped sideways, waving as they did so, out of the window.  The little girl waved back and slipped off to sleep.

          “Blimey, that was close,” they said as the jumped back onto the sleigh and the flying machine took off.

          “Mary Donahue,” Santa ticked the list. “Been nice all year. Why – what happened?”

          “She woke up,” Scutter said.

          “Luckily she went back to sleep,” Brownie added.

          Jeffrey looked down, “Don’t worry – she’ll just think it’s a dream,” he chuckled.

          “I know, but she thinks we were the Easter Bunny,” Brownie said.

          Prancer turned and called back over his shoulder, “Can’t be – he’s on holiday in the Bahamas until March.”

          They all laughed and made their way to the next family.

 

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful.    The rabbits enjoyed the carrots they found, and, maybe because it was magic, they never felt full so ate as many as they could.

          The mince pies and glasses of wine/schnapps/brandy/beer they brought out for Santa Sam who also said the alcohol did not have an effect, again due to the magic.  The occasional biscuit or cake (but not fruit cake as that’s bad for dogs) went Finn and Rubbish’s way, and any hay or oats fed the reindeer.  Unfortunately no-one left out any cat food or even a dead mouse for poor old Jeffrey.

          Once or twice they forgot to wipe up their footprints so a few houses had sooty rabbit prints on the carpet, or little rabbit prints on the fireplace.  When one little boy opened his window in Moscow he saw a set of greyhound prints on his windowsill!  That caused some confusion!

 

          Once the eastern pacific was completed, the sleigh sped up and Rubbish led them back over the coast towards home.  As they came over the coast they hit a gust of cold air and the sleigh jumped, like it had been hit by an invisible hand.  Everything jumped – including Jeffrey.  He was tired and his paws were cold so he did not have a proper grip on his book so the atlas bounced and jumped out of his grasp.  “Hey!” he exclaimed as the book tripped over the edge of the sleigh and disappeared into the night, down to the ground far below.  He was stunned, and upset that his book was gone, but they had no time to go after it.  They did manage a stop on the way to deliver some presents to the rabbit warren where Scutter, Brownie, Scamp and Bouncer lived.  It included a new cooking apron for Bluebell and a new storybook for Bob (so he had some different tales to tell for a change!). 

          At the magic garden the sleigh landed quietly.  Kath was asleep as the rabbits sneaked in and left a pair of slippers and a little box (with a gold wristwatch inside).  The reindeer and Santa were all fast asleep, as was Happy.  Only Trevor was awake and he just waved sleepily.

          Everyone untethered themselves from the sleigh and there was a great big group hug.  They felt so happy, though tired as it had taken them a long time and yet no time at all to make the journey around the world.  It gave some of them a headache just to think about it. That’s the thing with magic – if affects everyone in a strange way.  The reindeer had been doing it for so long they were immune but the rabbits, dogs, cat and human were dazed by it.

          They all drifted off to their beds leaving Rubbish, Finn, Jeffrey and Sam standing together on the lawn under the shining moon.  It was so bright it was practically day.

          “It’s been really good to actually be able to talk to you all,” Sam said looking at the animals around him.

          “We’ve always been talking, even to you, but you’ve never understood us,” Jeffrey said.

          Rubbish thought a bit, “It might be that we all heard each other, but we never really listened.”

          Finn’s eyebrows rose, “Well said, my young friend.”

          Sam shook his head and whistled gently, “Sean, that’s really deep,” (the humans called him Sean).

          “Rubbish, young fellow you are rather clever,” Jeffrey said.

          They all said good night and Jeffrey climbed through the gap in the fence and the others went off to bed.

 

          Christmas morning arrived.  Sam was wakened by Kath giving him a kiss and a cup of tea, and thanking him for the lovely gold watch.  Sam found a new laptop computer wrapped up on the bedside cabinet – he had wanted a new one for years! 

          Finn had a lovely new day bed, on little feet so it was just off the ground.  “Wonderful!  Keep the draught off my old bones!” he chuckled.

          Rubbish pulled the gold paper off his present – a new red collar with his name in gold letters on it, and a flashing light on the front.  The card with it said “To help you guide the way.”

          Next door Jeffrey awoke to find a parcel under the tree for him; it was a small sat nav and a book of maps.  The card said “To the best navigator for Christmas.”  He was so touched he had a tear in his eye.

          Santa and the reindeer were gathered on the lawn and they said their good byes. He was up to flying home now, and the two bruised reindeer were ok to lead the sleigh home slowly.  The ground crew waved as Santa and the sleigh took off.  He circled the garden twice, and then off it went up into the air.  As he went round for the last time he called down, “If it’s ok, I might ask for your help again?  Would you be up for it?”

          “Yes!” the animals and the humans shouted.

          Santa smiled…..and then he was gone.

          Kath called from the kitchen door, “Come on everyone – dinner’s nearly ready!  In you come and wash your hands….and paws!”

          “Fabulous!” said Finn.

          “I’ve never had a Christmas dinner before,” Rubbish said.

          “Marvellous!  I’m rather peckish,” said Jeffery rubbing his tummy.  “Brussels sprouts?”

          “But of course,” said Sam.

          “What’s sprouts?” asked Rubbish.

          Finn sighed , “Let me show you..”

 

          On Christmas Eve, as you get ready for Santa’s visit, just remember that it might not be Santa and the reindeer and elves visiting tonight.  It could be Santa Sam, Rubbish and Finn and the rabbits.  Watch out for rabbit prints on your fireside rug, or doggie footprints on the windowsill.  Remember to leave out a carrot of course  (if there are large teeth marks it means reindeer, small teethmarks mean rabbits), but also a dog biscuit for Finn and Rubbish, and maybe a small piece of ham for a rather hungry old marmalade cat!

 

If you want to read more about Rubbish the Deerhound, and how he became the Largest Rabbit, look out for the book “The Largest Rabbit” available from the Crafty-Dog-Cymru.co.uk website. 

 

All characters copyright Chris Dignam/Crafty Dog Books Cymru, except for The Mighty Finn copyright Kate Standing/World of Finn.

 

Illustrations copyright Jacs Little Welsh Studio/Crafty Dog Books Cymru

Last Weeks South Wales Evening Post Blog – Getting It Write – How A Hound in the House Came About

Getting it write – how a Rescued Greyhound escaped into print.

Owning a rescued greyhound and being involved with greyhound rescue has been a wonderful experience over the years. We have had many strange adventures, such as trying to explain to a German couple in Bruges, in French, that Penny was not Spanish but Irish though now lived in Wales, or walking around a golf course in the middle of the night with a greyhound who wants to go to the loo but only in the right place – wherever she decides that is going to be.

I was asked ages ago to write a piece about tips and hints and lessons learned living with our hound – I think it was still our first greyhound, Sally, at that time. So, I wrote a short article in the Greyhound Rescue Wales magazine which went down very well. As time went by, I was asked whether I was going to write another piece and someone else suggested a short story. By now we had fostered some dogs and had gained even more insights into greyhound life, especially of slightly more broken ones. I scribbled a bit but nothing much as life was a bit hectic at that time.

It was Sammy’s accident that really galvanised me into writing, as I wanted people to know all about her and hopefully make people learn the lesson from her accident to prevent it happening to another dog. It was a bit cathartic too, helping the grieving process by running it through my mind and putting it on paper. Within a period of a few months I had a first draft of what was now much bigger than an article, or even a pamphlet; it was a book.

What to do next then? We decided that we needed to get it published but that was going to cost a chunk of money. Casting round for alternatives, someone suggested putting out an e-book – great idea, no print costs, and it was immediate. I did some research and decided on a format (there are so many out there, each having different outlets such as Apple, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble). Formatting was fairly easy, starting with a word document and then adding in the paragraph settings, auto-numbering, table of contents etc. This took longer than envisaged but you have to remember that first impressions count – who’s going to want to buy a scruffy looking book with awful spelling and out of focus pictures. I even designed the cover. Pitfall number one – when I tried to get it uploaded the platform was decidedly not user friendly. I tried to contact the on-line help but they always e-mailed me back in the middle of the night which was a consequence of picking a host based in the USA. I grew increasingly frustrated and so switched to another host – this time Kindle. It was very easy as I had done the bulk of formatting for the other company, and it was up and running on-line in no time. A Hound in the House was available to buy.

Pitfall number two; how do you market a virtual book that does not exist. Facebook helped but it was very difficult to promote. There are not that many outlets/notice boards, and most are full of other people promoting their own e-books. Undeterred, I waited for the money to roll in. It did, a bit, slowly. The Evening Post came up and interviewed Armelle and I and took some pictures and it appeared in the paper, which generated more interest. I now had requests to give a talk about the book and life with rescued greyhounds.
Penny, Armelle and I went along to a Library where I spoke to the audience about the history of greyhounds, greyhound racing and what happened to them after their racing days. Penny enjoyed all of this as she was always given a fuss and usually some biscuits too. It was really great to speak to people who were interested (otherwise they would not have been there). However, when they asked to see a copy of the book it was a always a bit of an anti-climax to say it was only available as an e-book. There was such an interest in a printed copy that we decided it was time to bite the bullet and publish it.

At one of the libraries we met Chris Thomas, who had been a publisher himself. He came round to the house to give us advice on what we needed to do and, on hearing I had once worked in a print unit for a local authority, said, “You know about design, formatting and layouts, and about dealing with printers – why not publish it yourself? It had never crossed our minds. We reset the book to book size and sent off to printers and got some prices back – some quotes were very expensive, as for a small print run the cost of printing plates was frightening. Academic printers offered incredible quality, with lovely bound finishes but were not really what we wanted for a paperback. Instead we had a price from a digital printing company and, after seeing an example of their work we decided that was the route to go down.

We had met an artist at a craft fair and she agreed to do some illustrations for the front and back pages and I redesigned the cover accordingly. Feeling really pleased, we sent off the artwork and the text and sat back, waiting for the finished books to arrive; when would the Hound make it to the house?

Cover Picture

A Hound in the House

I remember rushing home from work in my lunch hour to rip open a box and see my hard work finally in print. It was a wonderful feeling, to hold that book, open the pages and see the photos. There I sat, surrounded by 500 copies of my very first book. Now what? A friend of mine had told me that writing is hard, printing is easy but the hardest part of all is marketing your book. Armelle and I had to figure out how we could distribute the book and how long it would be before we would make any money back!

Chris Dignam’s Latest Blog – Jammin’ With the Crafty Dog – How Greyhound Rescue led to Sweet (and Savoury) Success!

We have often been asked how we started making jams, chutneys and glassware and it’s something we have also often pondered, here at Crafty Dog Castle.  Like most good stories, it’s a rather convoluted one. 

Our involvement with rescued Greyhounds has led us in some strange directions over the years and we’ve learned lots of things along the way.  When we took Sally our first greyhound home we decided that any support we gave to the rescue charity Greyhound Rescue Wales would be financial and not physical.  The odd donation but that would be all; we were very quiet people and happy to remain in the background.

Dragon 1

Welsh Dragon Pint Glass

However, we somehow (can’t remember exactly how) got involved in helping out at a Greyhound Rescue street collection.  This meant taking Sally into the town centre to meet the public and talk to people about greyhounds and, hopefully, they would put money in the collection pot.  It was very informative both for us and for them.  People back then did not know that much about greyhounds, how gentle they were and how lazy; they did not know then as we do now, that they are 40mph couch potatoes!  People were both interested and generous, we found it enjoyable (though surprisingly hard work) and Sally really enjoyed it.  She was great with adults but especially loved children. She would have kids hanging round her neck, patting her and stroking her coat the wrong way but she just soaked it all up. 

Fundraising then led us to help out at jumble sales where even my Mum got involved making tea and selling Welsh cakes.  It was a real family affair with everyone from Sally to her Nana taking part.  After the jumble sales stopped we missed meeting people so we started attending a local Craft Market in Clydach selling painted glass items and donating some of the profits (when there were any!) to greyhounds rescue. 

Hot Chilli Jam

The Original!

We learned to glass paint and made suncatchers, lanterns and painted drinking glasses.  Looking back we can see how far we have actually come in terms of quality and finish.  One autumn our little greenhouse produced a bumper crop of chillies which Armelle decided we were not going to waste.  Looking round for recipes she found one for a hot chilli jam so that’s what she made; 12 jars which all sold within a week and we never even tasted any ourselves.  The feedback however was that it was fantastic!.  Needing a name for our newly fledged Craft and Jam business which was about Crafts and helping the dogs, the name Crafty Dog sprung to mind.  The logo was a greyhound in an artist’s beret, originally holding a brush but we dropped that.  Crafty Dog Designs Cymru was born!

We trotted the jam around local craft fairs, looked for new recipes – and even made some up. 

Hot Chilli Extra Hot Jam

Extra Hot Chilli Jam – Phew!

Scrumped apples meant we could make Apple Chutney, Damsons from the hedgerow made Plum and Damson jam.  It took a while before we plucked up the courage to go to a shop and ask whether they would be interested in selling Crafty Dog jam but shops were really keen.  Our local butcher was the first to stock our chutneys (thanks Andrew!), then the Tourist Information Centre in Swansea, and a farm shop in Herefordshire (after a chance encounter helping a charity bike ride).  Today we even supply the shop at Aberglasney Gardens. 

It’s amazing the skills you can discover you never knew you had; we both learned to glass paint and our work has grown in complexity over the years.  Where we used to sell glass lanterns at the craft fairs we now make individual bespoke hand painted pieces of glassware and have even exported a set of Welsh Dragon pint glasses to Toronto!  All this was helped by setting up a web-shop which is another thing we have to try and keep updated.  Look out for www.crafty-dog-cymru.co.uk.

Luxury Apple Chutney Calvados

Luxury Apple Chutney with Apple Brandy

If anyone would like us to attend their Craft or Country Fair, or wants to stock any Crafty Dog Jams, Chutneys or Glassware, pop us an e-mail via the website above. 

As someone asked us recently, how do you have time to fit this all in – the answer is, we haven’t a clue, we just do it.  And, on top of that, we have to walk Penny as well.  It’s a busy life being a two person industrial combo….

jams, crafty dog, preserves

Crafty Dog Jams

And then there are the books… but that, as they say, is another story!

 

Our Latest Rescued Greyhound Blog – Penny the Crafty Dog

Penny, Greyhound, Crafty Dog, Chris Dignam

Penny’s heard the crisp packet…

Greyt Expectations – Chris Dignam’s Rescued Greyhound page – Penny the Crafty Dog

Here’s the latest Blog from the South Wales Evening Post.  This week’s is about how Penny arrived with us.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve mentioned our first rescued greyhounds, Sally and Sam. We have also fostered a few over the years in between dogs of our own. Our latest hound in the house is our Penny. Her story began like many other dogs but fortunately for her our paths crossed and so she came to us.

Penny is not her racing name; for reasons that will become apparent, it’s best not to share her name here. She was born in Ireland and after initial races was sold and brought over to the UK. Like all Irish dogs she has a tattoo in each ear, which shows the year of her birth and her litter, all the details of which are recorded on the Irish Greyhound Stud Book in Clonmel. Her trainer lived in the Home Counties and she raced on the Swindon dog track. She won a good number of races, had some seconds and some thirds, was a good runner and she raced until her last outing on the day before her fourth birthday.

A month or so after this race, a black dog was found in a field in mid Wales. A dog wandering in a farmer’s field where there is livestock can be shot as a potential sheep worrier – the dog disappears, no-one is any the wiser – but luckily this dog was taken in by the farmer. He contacted Greyhound Rescue and the dog found herself in the kennels at Swiss Valley. We had spoken to the kennels about taking on a new foster dog so Armelle and I came over to see the prospective fosters. There were as usual a large number of black dogs, difficult to rehome as people do not think they are as pretty as the other colours. One of these, the dumped hound who had been named Suzi by the kennels, came out and took to us almost immediately. She walked easily on the lead with me, and even reacted well to the kennel’s Jack Russell terrier. We decided that we would give her a go, but we had a couple of craft fairs that weekend. We were asked whether we minded if she went to another family in the meantime but I said no, hang on to her as she was going to be ours.

On the way home we decided on a name; Suzi did not suit her, but how about Penny – like the Penny Black Stamp? A week later we collected her and Penny never looked back.

Penny, Greyhound, Rescue

She was named Suzi when she was handed in by the farmer.

Greyhounds have their ears tattooed – Irish dogs both ears and British dogs one ear, an important means of identifying a dog to prevent racing fraud but it also means that any dumped dogs can be traced. Some have their ears cut off when abandoned to prevent them being identified. This does not always work however, as one owner found to his cost. A number of years back a battered greyhound was found alive but dying on the hillside above Fochriw near Merthyr. His owner had dumped the body before the animal was dead and his cries had attracted another dog and owner who contacted a vet. The greyhound was so severely injured they had to be put to sleep. The owner had cut off the dog’s ears but in spite of that due to the public outcry he was identified and prosecuted. This dog, nicknamed Last Hope by greyhound charities, is the reason for an annual sponsored walk at Brynbach Park to raise funds to protect dogs like them.

Penny was far luckier. She has really landed on her paws; a famous and well-travelled hound, she helps out at Craft Fairs where we sell our Crafty Dog Jams and Chutneys, or our Crafty Dog Designs hand-painted glassware or even at book readings of our books. She is such a gentle and well-behaved dog, she has been to book readings at schools and libraries across South Wales where I read excerpts from our children’s book “The Largest Rabbit” or our greyhound rescue book, “A Hound in the House”. She loves people and children, and is more than happy to have kids hanging round her neck making a fuss of her.

Penny has been a wonderful ambassador for her breed, and a number of people have said that they had never considered homing a greyhound until meeting her. In fact, after we did a book reading at Sketty Library last year one dog was rehomed by a family that met her that day, and the interest raised by her visit meant another four dogs were also given homes.

At a recent school visit we left as the children were being collected by their parents and we could hear the guys

saying to their parents, “That’s Penny that is. She’s a greyhound and she’s really lovely.” A seed planted in a young child’s mind will help change society’s attitude towards these fabulous dogs so in a few years’ time when they want a companion for their own family, they will think of adopting a greyhound after looking back on the day they had a school visit from Penny the Crafty Dog.

For more information about Penny, keep an eye out on the Crafty-Dog-Cymru.co.uk website, for information on her latest meet and greets or news on the new book.

greyhound, running, Penny, Crafty dog

Penny doing what she loves second best!