Category Archives: Crafty Dog Cymru

Hi Fidelity – The Vinyl Countdown?

Hi Fidelity?

 

            As those of you that read my occasional Friday night music posting will know, music is very important to me.  Whilst contemplating what I will be listening to this evening I began to think about my music collection generally.  There has been such a revival in Vinyl that I have been re-evaluating the wonders of vinyl versus digital.  I can remember as a teenager going by bus into town and visiting the record stores to see what they had; this divided into a number of categories, so that if it was a new release off to HMV or WH Smiths, or if a general pot-luck search, in which case it would be Derricks.  There was something magical about thumbing through the racks of plastic and cardboard, then pulling out the large square package with its inevitably well-crafted sleeve artwork, whether single or (hopefully) gatefold sleeve, and even better with loads of photos and the lyrics too.  That moment when you pulled the LP out of the outer sleeve and held the crinkly paper sleeve to read the circular label in the centre.  There was even a particular smell to the LP when you took it out for the first time.  When I got home I would rush upstairs, switch on my Sharp turntable, push the buttons on my Sony amplifier and listen to the thump of the Wharfedale speakers kicking in.  I’d lift the turntable lid, put the disc on, close the lid and press the button and as the red strobe wheel glittered, watch the arm lazily glide up and over the (usually) black vinyl to drop into the lead-in groove. 

            However, this was often when the frustration began.  You would listen to the first few tracks and, more often than not, your heart would stop at the sound of the first click, crackle or worse still, skip.  The whole vinyl experience could be ruined by poor production, a poor mix or even worse poor handling at the factory so you would end up with a scratched piece of virgin plastic.  I can feel that bitter disappointment and annoyance even now after all these years.  The quality of the record itself varied too, from nice thick heavy flat vinyl with a great mix (Head On by BTO, a Canadian import) to mass produced UK or European albums that were so thin that they were warped even before they started. 

            I was really pleased when I heard my fist compact disc; cool clear sound – and no scratches!  I was an instant convert, I must admit.  There has been a lot of snobbery about “analogue” vs “digital” and some of the points are true; I do miss the fabulous artwork, the physicality of opening the record.  I don’t miss the tinny sound and scratches.  I can now download music and albums I had only read about before – even the deleted ones long out of print.  Admittedly, the quality of cd’s can vary but this is often due to the bit sample rate and the mix.  Some are crystal clear – Deep Purple’s Made in Japan is so good a mix that you can even hear the hum of the amplifiers.  Others are not so good.  A lot depends on your listening device – I have a new pair of Pioneer headphones which are leaps ahead of my old Akai ones, and I had thought they were amazing in their time.  I could never listen to clicks and hissing LPs through headphones!

            My Record memories? Like getting off the bus in Ynystawe with my copy of Deep Purple’s Fireball clutched under my arm and colliding with a friend on his bike so that the record in its bag leapt nine feet in the air and landed on its corner.  Despite its creased sleeve it still played perfectly!  Lifting up a turntable with Caroline Morris’s copy of Seconds Out on it and wincing as the arm bounced across the record.  Still can’t remember why I did that.  Ooops.  My first real album – Who’s Next by the Who, still one of my favourites.  Or listening to Neil Young for the first time in the Sixth Form area in school. 

            I have been gradually rebuilding my collection in CD format and many of these have now been remastered and remixed to achieve sound definition not previously thought possible – Made in Japan is a case in point.  Anyway, whether you love analogue – warts and all – or digital (soulless though it could be) the important thing is the music and that you enjoy it.  And my choice for tonight? Hmmm, still working on that one.

bto 2

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

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.

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!

 

New Blog – How Penny became the Crafty Dog!

Here’s Our Latest Posting in the South Wales Evening Post

greyhound, Penny, Crafty Dog

You can teach a greyhound to retrieve!

When the Crafty Dog wagon takes to the road with our jams, chutneys, glassware or books and people come to meet us at Craft Fairs, or at Book Readings they see Penny and see what a well-rounded hound she is, calm, gentle and polite. Some of this is down to our work with her in terms of training, both house-wise and obedience training. However, a large part is down to her breeding and some to her own nature.

Greyhounds are generally easy-going and gentle by nature. They are pack animals, and love being part of a family. They bond well and once you have a connection they will walk over hot coals for you! They are very independent minded, so to train them you really have to make them see the benefit of what you are asking them to do – they are very reward driven. You’ll never train them easily by force but with a bag full of chopped up frankfurters you can get a greyhound to tapdance!

Penny and Sam had neither of them been in a house before, so simple things like stairs were major hurdles. Sammy went up and down within a day or so and could find her way around the house. Penny ran up the stairs on the second day with us but was terrified about getting back down. We had to walk her down, me guiding her front legs and Armelle her back legs. The next day we started to teach her, building her confidence slowly. A piece of sausage on each step and she came down, tenderly, picking her way, treat by treat and step by step. The next time it was a treat every other step, then every third step, fourth step until only one treat on the bottom step. By the end of the week she was going up and down like a natural.

She had to learn a routine, starting with toilet first thing, breakfast, a walk, then me off to work. Penny soon got the hang of all of that, especially the breakfast bit. She had the same cornflakes and yoghurt that Sammy and Sally had. After breakfast it was walkies around the cricket pitch and then back home. I then went off to work leaving Penny in the kitchen until Armelle came downstairs for breakfast.

In the evening, I would come home from work, we would all have tea then afterwards go to visit my

Low flying greyhound!

Low flying greyhound!

Mum in the local nursing home. Within a few weeks Penny got set into the routine so much that at 6.45 in the evening Penny would get excited as she knew it was time to go to the Home and if we weren’t ready in time she would start to bark at us. Once home, Penny began by sleeping in the kitchen but after a few weeks she started to scratch the kitchen door, so she moved to sleeping on her bed in the living room. That was fine but after a few weeks more she wanted to sleep on the settee on her blanket; she was such a well-behaved girl we gave her a fair bit of leeway. She was no bother at all. However, after taking her to Belgium and sharing a double bed in the motorhome she decided that she did not want to sleep on her own anymore so we now share a double bed with a greyhound every night. Fine except for when she breaks wind, or decides to run in her sleep and you end up being pummelled by her feet or wagging tail.

Penny has set up other little routines as the months rolled past; if the weather was wet, she would run straight back to bed after breakfast. Tea time (originally 5p.m. like Sal’s) began to creep forward until it merged with Armelle’s crusts after lunch. Now she gets a small lunch dinner time and her main meal with us teatime.

Penny has her foibles too – many rescue dogs have some demons. When we first had her she would freeze when walking onto the cricket pitch, a result of being abandoned in a field I guessed. Two weeks after she arrived it was Guy Fawkes night and as we walked into the Nursing Home a rocket went off about twenty feet over our heads. Penny was terrified and has been scared of thunder and fireworks ever since (maybe even before). Loud noises send her to her cwtch, an area behind my chair where she feels secure.

Recently she has become frightened of rain on the roof of the motorhome, a result of being caught on a campsite in a terrible thunder storm. She now associates noise on the roof with rain, which to her then means a thunderstorm is coming. She gets herself really wound up, not aggressive at all, just panting and shaking and there’s no room for a “den” in a 20 foot motorhome! It was so bad on our last trip that she even went off her food – unheard of for Penny. So, we are now going to have to go back to basics to break her cycle of fear of the van. We will start by building up positives; short trips to the park with a nice walk at the end, feed her in the van, get her used to the van without any rain noises. Then, gradually, start introducing a recording of rain noise, quietly at first, and slowly increase the volume over time. Again, this is not a quick fix and it will take a while and though there will undoubtedly be some hiccoughs we’ll get there. In the meantime we have calmex, and Valium in case the calmex does not work. And this week its Guy Fawkes Night – oh joy of joys!

It’s like everything in life, if you want anything to be perfect you have to put the time and effort in. Penny can be fixed, like we got Sam used to travelling. Though the Vet has given us some medication as a backup there’s no substitute for work, patience and lots of cwtches along the way! At the end of the day, our little hound is worth every penny!.

PS – By the way, I forgot to mention that this week was Penny’s Second “Gotcha” Day, the second anniversary of us bringing her home.

greyhound, Penny, rescued hound

Penny cross-country

 

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!

Greyt Expectations – South Wales Evening Post launches Greyhound Blog!

Monday this week Chris Dignam of Crafty Dog Books and Crafty Dog Cymru had his first blog published on the South Wales Evening Post website.  Its going to be a regular weekly piece about living with rescued dogs, particularly greyhounds, and tips and lessons learned along the way.  Not only will you learn what greyhounds like to do, you’ll also read about life with Penny the Crafty Dog, and also the adventures of being a jam and chutney maker, and even of how the books came about.  Wanted to know about the pet passport and travelling abroad with your dog?  One of the Greyt Expectations entries will be about that.  If there’s anything you are specifically interested in, contact us through our website and we’ll get back to you.

Heres the link to the blog;

http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Greyt-Expectations-Chris-Dignam-8217-s-greyhounds/story-23015432-detail/story.html

The Crafty Dog Gang in the South Wales Evening Post

Where Dylan Thomas Once Trod…

Chris Dignam, Greyhound Rescue, Greyhound Author, Largest Rabbit, Hound in the House.
Chris with Penny

In this week’s Evening Post Kate Clarke has written a lovely article about Chris & Armelle Dignam of Crafty Dog Cymru, about their involvement with Greyhound Rescue and living with their rescued hounds.  Its a fabulous piece – it was a double-page spread in the paper and is terrific publicity for the plight of ex-racing greyhounds and the fact that they make wonderful pets and companions.  Penny was very pleased to have her photo in the paper again and was waiting at dog class this week to sign pawtographs!  She’s been getting a bit full of herself lately, now insisting on having specially prepared foods at certain times, and her fruit peeled in a certain way.  She is even trying to take over more of the double-bed at night, which really isn’t fair!

This weekend when Armelle is at the Made it Market in Neath, Chris and Penny will be helping out at the Greyhound Rescue Wales street collection also in Neath.  Come along a meet a tabloid celebrity!

http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Kind-hearted-pair-new-lease-life-greyhounds-race/story-22961217-detail/story.html

South Wales Evening Post, Greyhounds, Jam & Dylan Thomas

What an eventful day!

Chris and Penny have a nice big photo in the South Wales Evening Post today – the very same newspaper that Dylan Thomas cut his teeth writing for.  There is a lovely article by Kate Clarke about how they got involved with greyhound rescue, about their own greyhounds and their foster dogs.  As well as talking about rescuing hounds, it also mentions the jam and glass making.  The main point behind the piece is to launch the new weekly column Chris has been given in the on-line South Wales Evening Post, nominally titled “Greyt Expectations”, in which Chris will keep everyone updated on Penny’s adventures, as well as the world of the Crafty Dog industry, making glassware, jams and chutneys, writing and promoting the books, and generally letting everyone know how great rescued greyhounds are.  There may also be some hints about the new books planned – Penny’s story “In for a Penny, In for a Hound” and the further adventures of Rubbish, The Largest Rabbit.

Chris told us ,”To be in the paper is a wonderful opportunity for us to promote the world of greyhound rescue and make people see what wonderful companions they make.  It will also allow people to keep people informed on our latest range of jams and chutneys which are proving so very popular across South Wales!”