Category Archives: Greyhound Rescue

Chris Dignam, Penny Dignam, Book Launch, Found a Penny, Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog Books, Penny Book, Greyhound Book.

New Book by Chris Dignam – “Found a Penny; The Memoirs of a Crafty Dog”

21st September 2019 saw the launch of Chris Dignam’s latest book. This time it’s the true story of Penny, greyhound and Crafty Dog of the title, in her very own words. She has worked with Chris to dictate her life-story, from being born in Ireland, to her successful racing career in England, then the sudden change in her fortunes; abandoned in a field in Mid-Wales and left to fate. Fortunately, Mr Jones and his collie found this starving, cold ex-athlete and handed her over to Greyhound Rescue Wales.

Chris Dignam, Penny Dignam, Book Launch, Found a Penny, Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog Books, Penny Book, Greyhound Book.
Penny & Chris at the Book Launch

This is where Penny’s life really began as she found a home with Chris and his wife Armelle. She found this all very strange, what with stairs, beds, and, best of all, smoked salmon! A hound with a gourmet’s palate, she takes part in an incredible fund-raising event for the rescue charity, travels across Europe in the motorhome to aid international relations (even attending the service at the Menin Gate), and helps publicise the plight of ex-racers. She talks of her mental demons, as even her life has its dark side, but hers is a positive story.

Penny also describes how she helps out at Chris and Armelle’s Craft business, and becomes known as The Crafty Dog. It’s a lovely journey, with its ups and downs but you will emerge at the end with a big smile on your face.

The books are available by clicking here.

Galgos del Sol, Suncatcher, Galgos

Helping the Galgos – Spanish Greyhounds – With Galgos del Sol

Crafty Dog Suncatchers Helping Auction for Charity

Galgos del Sol, Suncatcher, Galgos

Hank Suncatcher

Galgos del Sol is a charity that rescues Galgos Espagnol, Spanish greyhounds, and Podencos. Both breeds are used for hunting and hare coursing with betting. There is a short 4 month hunting season each year, from October to January, and at the end of the season the dogs considered surplus to requirement are abandoned in large numbers, often ending up in killing stations to be euthanised. Some are unluckier still. GdS raise money by donation and with auctions during the year. Donations have included items provided by celebrities, such as Debbie Harry of Blondie fame and singer/songwriter Sia. The money raised covers food, vet bills for injured dogs (many arrive in a terrible state), for routine vaccinations and neutering, and to build new kennels to house the rescued dogs. Hunting dogs aren’t generally considered as potential pets in Spain, an attitude charities are trying to change, as Galgos and Podencos make great pets, just like their better known greyhound cousins. GdS and other galgo charities rehome these dogs in the UK, various European countries and in North America.

Crafty Dog Cymru have provided items for Galgos del Sol for a number of the auctions they have held, including signed copies of Chris Dignam’s book “The Largest Rabbit” which raised over 200 Euros at an auction last year.  At the auction last week, Galgos del Sol sold 58 suncatchers commissioned from Crafty Dog Cymru with an image of Hank, one of the GdS real-life Galgo stars.  The suncatchers raised over 800 Euros for the charity.    Amazing to think that a small business in Clydach, South Wales, could be helping such a great cause and exporting their artwork all around the world!

Help the Galgos & Podencos

Everyone who knows us knows we help rescued greyhounds in the UK, many of whom get raced and dumped like our Penny (or even worse). We also do a bit to help the Galgos, Spanish greyhounds, and podencos. These are not so much used for racing as for hunting. The hunters use them during the season and then at the end lof the year large numbers of them are taken to killing stations to be euthanised as they hunters can’t or won’t keep them over the winter. Others are just abandoned, like the one on my FB page.

algos del Sol, GDS, Galgos, Spanish Galgos, Galgo rescue,

There are a number of Galgo charities that try and rescue, treat and then home the Spanish hounds. We have done work for Galgos del Sol, and are making some pieces for them at the moment. They regularly hold auctions to raise funds and we make things for them to auction. Pop over and look at the Galgos del Sol Website or FB pages and maybe bid on something. Debbie Harry from Blondie donated some pieces in their last auction

largest rabbit, marmalade cat, mighty Finn, Lord of the Glen, The Largest Rabbit, greyhound rescue, Chris Dignam

Greyt Expectations – Rescued Greyhounds and Marmalade Cats

A Marmalade Cat?

This is a chapter from the new book just being tidied up for release in September.  It’s called “Greyt Expectations – From Rescued Greyhounds to Marmalade Cats” and is a collection of the blog posts from here and the South Wales Evening Post pages, along with some other pieces about writing, music – and a marmalade cat called Jeffrey.  I hope that you enjoy it and feel free to tweet, reblog or share.

greyhound, Penny, Crafty Dog

What a Crafty Dog does on her day off.

If reading to children is the best fun you can have, making them laugh, making them gasp or even hide behind their hands in fear of the wicked fox or nasty hunter with his gun, the next best thing is sitting with a pen and paper, or a computer keyboard and dreaming up the characters themselves. Ideas for stories seem to come at the strangest times, usually when lying in bed at night, or out walking the dog when you have the space and time to empty your mind and let it ramble. Someone has said there are only three or four stories; everything else is just a variation on that. That might be true, but there is a heck of a lot of scope for that variation.

One evening driving home from work at local authority council offices I was stuck in a jam queuing on the slip road off the M4. As I listened to music I began to run some ideas around in my head. I wanted to write a book about a recued greyhound that would appeal to children but it needed a twist. The idea then changed to an abandoned puppy being left and brought up by other animals – I guess from the Tarzan idea, or even the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen. Rabbits – who had never seen a puppy, and a puppy who had never seen rabbits seemed to work. I started roughing up some ideas that evening, and from the first lines about the speeding car and the flying sack I was away.

Greyhound, Rubbish, The Largest Rabbit, Rabbit hound

The Largest Rabbit

 

Within a day or so I had the first rabbit characters and that of the little hound but I did not have a name. It was a few days into the book when the little character told the rabbits that the humans said he was rubbish and that’s where his name came from – the little puppy named himself! So Rubbish the rabbit hound was born.
I was sketching ideas for a plot, something simple with a villain – a fox fitted naturally into this – and also a hero. Someone needed to be able to tell the little confused rabbit into the great secret, that he was not a rabbit at all but a dog, but it had to be done by a special character that everyone in the book could look up to, but especially the little Rubbish. A noble beast, a great hound was obviously the person we needed and just as the character was forming in the story, the idea of it being The Mighty Finn popped into my head.

How could they meet? Where? I remember reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and also seeing Tom’s Midnight Garden when I was a kid on children’s TV. Looking back now, I guess there was also The Herbs, an animated children’s programme which used to be on Watch with Mother, where there was a wall, and a door which opened into a mysterious garden. The red brick wall and green wooden door were here.

I had a hero, mentor, villain – even weasel henchmen for the villain – but no comic character. This was going to be interesting. Who would be a heroic but comic figure? This was a challenge and I mulled this over for a few days. I was sitting in the office, looking round the room and there, sitting on the exercise bike was an old cuddly toy I had bought for Armelle years ago when I had been in university – a dusty old Garfield. That was it – a dusty old ginger-marmalade cat sprang to life. A well-bred and distinguished moggie, I christened him Jeffrey. He was going to be heroic but flawed – courageous and devil-may-care, he was also very vain and self opinionated, His age meant that he would be a bit creaky – arthritic with a dodgy back, few teeth and bad breath. I now realise that Jeffrey had a lot in common with Tiger, a ginger moggie that Armelle had when I first met her. She too had few teeth, some bald patches, hayfever and was a very good age. I think there was more Tiger than Garfield in our Jeffrey.

marmalade cat, mighty Finn, Lord of the Glen, The Largest Rabbit

The Mighty Finn and Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat

 

Of all the characters, I love writing for Jeffrey. He is wonderful and things just happen to him; he is the reason that cat-slide roofs exist, was made for flying goggles and a woolly scarf and is crying out for a book of his own. When it came to the Hallowe’en story, Jeffrey was now known as “The Professor” and it was his genius that helped turn the tables on the ghosts. When I do book readings, the kids all love to hear about Jeffrey, and when I gave him his voice, those wonderful rounded vowels of this cat, owned by a retired Colonel who lives next door, it was very easy for him to take over.
The story wrote itself once I had the cast. I just followed where Rubbish, Finn and Jeffrey led, to be ambushed by the Fox but through the bravery of a little rabbit the tables are turned and the good guys win (as they always should in a children’s book).

The next book, The Winter Hare, was going to be a bit darker. Not intentionally, it just wrote itself that way. The influence of the Green Man, the Celtic Hare and the powers of nature were going to be the main elements here. The hunters chasing the hare hark back I guess to the hunters of Peter and the Wolf, but far, far darker. There they are trying to catch the hare – but why? In the dark shed we find out – a shelf full of animal bits, wood shavings and glass domes – taxidermy!
The darker the villains, the brighter the heroes have to become. Finn is probably his most noble in this story, and Rubbish is…just himself, but even more humorous, curious and wide-eyed.

Other cast members are the hunters dogs; two equally evil and terrible lurcher dogs with huge teeth and vicious appetites and tempers to match, and the third hound, a reluctant hunter called Flower. Her role – well, you’ll have to read the book to find out what transpires.

The final set of characters are the army of black and white that is marching towards climax of the book – the great showdown. They are an army of badgers. They might hark back to my days working for the National Trust in the 1980’s at Dinefwr Parc in South Wales. There were a number of badger setts in the deer park and I was lucky enough on a number of occasions to have sat and watched them playing outside in the warm red dusk of a summer’s evening. I was roped into taking part in the local village quiz tournament in the National Trust team. We eventually won the contest and the trophy still sits on our mantelpiece after all these years. The quiz-master for the series was Aeron Clement, a self-confessed Badger-nut who loved the black and white beasts – so much that he wrote a book about them, called “The Cold Moons”. It came out a few years afterwards and became a best seller. There may be a passing nod to Aeron in my characters. He was a lovely chap but unfortunately he did not enjoy his success for long as he passed away soon after it came out. He had written a sequel which was finished by his wife and daughter and it was also successful.

The Largest Rabbit is available digitally, as is the Christmas short story.  The Hallowe’en story “The Haunted Castle or Rubbish and the Hound of the Basquet de Villes” is also available on the blog pages here, and will be out again ready for this Hallowe’en.

Greyt Expectations – Chris Dignam’s Rescued Greyhounds – Teething Troubles – Good Dental Health

Why our Penny was down in the mouth…

 

          We all know how important it is to look after our teeth and that we need to brush them at least once a day and preferably more.  Animals can’t brush their teeth so have to rely on us in two ways; providing the right type of food, and brushing their teeth for them as required.  This week we saw what a gum infection can lead to as our Penny had to go in for a tooth descale and ended up having teeth out.

          We brushed her teeth at least twice a week with doggie toothpaste, and would give her stick chews and dental chews to help the process.  We did this with all our greyhounds and to some extent this worked.  Sally did have to have a few teeth out, some of which we put down to her never chewing her food.  Crunching hard food is supposed to help shift plaque and debris.  However, this is not really logical; imagine you relied on eating a packet of biscuits instead of brushing your teeth – it just would not work.  Eating carrots or hard fruit or vegetables can help but not all dogs like these.  Sally would sit by the kitchen sink on a Sunday waiting for her carrot when we prepped dinner but if we gave Sammy a carrot she just looked at you as if you were nuts – “What – you want me to cook this myself?”. 

          In the end you have to use a toothbrush and doggy toothpaste.  This is usually meat flavoured (apparently but they hide it well) and you can apply it with a toothbrush or a finger brush (which looks like the finger of a glove with nobbly bits on).  You rub the paste onto the teeth and it is supposed to break down the tartar and debris.  Sally hated the toothbrush, but would allow me to use a battery powered brush (she was a strange dog!).  Sam would sit and almost enjoyed having her teeth cleaned.  Just take it gently, and get the dog used to the brush for short periods and build it up to a rub around the teeth over time.

Sally, greyhound, A Hound in the House,

Sally still had most of her teeth into old age.

Some dog owners swear by feeding their dogs raw food as this is was what nature intended.  It consists of raw meat (hearts, mince, chicken) and the accompanying bones too.  Chewing bones helps keep the teeth clean, and raw bones do not shatter like cooked ones which is why they can be given raw chicken bones.  The argument is that this is what they would eat in the wild and what they evolved to eat.  We were seriously considering this but events overtook us.

          Penny did not have an auspicious start as far teeth were concerned – greyhounds are renowned for having rubbish teeth and gums.  Many dogs have a sloppy diet when they race and due to being fed in batches they are also used to bolting their food as the slow eater will end up hungry.  Less scrupulous trainers or owners will also feed their dog poorly which just compounds the problem.  When we picked Penny up from the rescue centre she had been spayed and her teeth scaled.  In spite of this, she had bad breath which we put down to her digestive system.

          So Penny began each day with cereal and a large couple of dollops of plain yoghurt, which she absolutely loves.  Whereas Sally’s digestive system had been awful (I won’t go into the details but you can imagine the outcome or should I say output!) Penny’s has always been really good.  The outside of her teeth was always pretty good, though they would occasionally go manky so we would start more intensive cleaning.  We even tried changing her food to find one that gave her better breath which was occasionally successful.  Weirdly, she was better with human food. 

          Her breath was still not very fragrant but looking inside her mouth it was not so obvious why.  Last week she went in to have the musk glands in her bottom cleaned (never a nice thing) and in passing we mentioned the bad breath.  The vet took a look and I mean a really good look.  The outsides looked dirty but the insides which we could not see were worse.  She warned us that they needed a clean and that some might have to come out. You could see where her gums had receded due to the gingivitis and plaque and in one spot the was a hole under her roots.  We were shocked and I was mortified that I had let her get into this state.  We consider ourselves to be good and knowledgeable dog owners but even we were caught out.  The toothpaste does not get to all corners of the mouth, dried kibble is not a miracle cleaner and dental chews can’t replace a proper clean.  Maybe I had also been in denial.

          Penny went in on Tuesday.  When I rang after lunch, she was on the operating table, and I was told she was worse than we thought – she would need many teeth taken out.  In fact, most teeth.  In fact nearly all her teeth.  When I rang an hour later, she was still on the table – for nearly three hours it eventually turned out.  Penny had all but her four canines and one molar removed.

       

greyhound, Penny, Dignam,

Penny recovering at home.

She was really groggy and sore when we collected her, and she dribbled and bled all night.  She is on two different painkillers, antibiotics and a mouth rinse, but is making a good recovery.  Like all greyhounds, she can be a bit of a wuss, and she also knows how to play people and milk the sympathy.  It has to be said though that having so many teeth out must be really painful so she is also in real discomfort.  She has been very brave I guess.

          The moral of this tale (tail?) is that you need to keep an eye on your dog’s teeth, brush them at least once a week and watch their diet.  Avoid sugary food and treats (as we would do ourselves).  Apparently there is a powder which can be added to food that helps keep plaque down as well – ask your vet about it.  Learn from our mistakes and Penny’s example.  Good luck, and to paraphrase Frasier Crane – Good Dental Health!

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.

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!

Travellin’ Light – The Travel Sick Greyhound

Here’s the second blog I have written in the South Wales Evening Post.   Pop over to their site and have a read, or read it here!

In last week’s article I wrote about how we became involved with rescued greyhounds and how Sally, our first dog, came to live with us. She was a fabulous family dog and had many adventures with us as she learned what it was like to have a family and we learned what it was like to share your life with a 40mph couch potato. Sally was a great traveller and went everywhere with us, to street collections, to visit friends and family, to the countryside or the beach. She loved it all.

We had taken it for granted that all dogs were good travellers but our next one, Sammy showed us that this was not the case. She was a quiet black greyhound girl, gentle but with an inner determination. The first signs of her travel sickness appeared when we collected her from the kennels; when I opened the hatchback to let her out she had been sick in the car. We put this down to anxiety but the next day when I took her to a street collection in the City Centre she was sick on the way there (twice!) and again on the way back.

I read up on greyhound rescue sites on the internet and found that though it is not uncommon it is unusual for a dog to be travel sick. Some said it was anxiety, and all they needed was to get used to travelling, and associate the car with good things. I tried feeding her in the car, short trips to the park at the end of the road, all ending with a good positive experience. At first she would be drooling before we had got to the end of the street, but gently over the months we managed to extend this to a couple of miles. There was no problem getting her into the4 car or out, she was not frightened of it, the travelling just made her sick. Trips to the beach or anywhere further afield were impossible.

We tried human car sickness tablets (after checking on the net to see what other greyhound owners used). Small doses were ok, did not upset her but also did not work. We asked our vet and he prescribed zylkene, a milk-derivative which helped with nervousness. These were great. Sammy started to take longer journeys but after a few miles she would still be sick. However, the tablets made her so relaxed that she would throw-up but just not care! Going to the beach was great, she just accepted she would be sick getting there and coming back. Fine for Sam but not ideal for us.

Travel sickness has 2 main causes; anxiety (fear of travel, fear of being ill) and motion sickness (the movement of the vehicle makes you ill, like sea-sickness). I was convinced by now that Sammy was ill due to the motion of the car. The question was – how could we cure it? A colleague in work had a spaniel that was travel sick and he tried a homeopathic remedy called cocculus, based on cockles. We bought some and started Sam on a small dose, checking for side-effects, and then increasing the dose. Incredibly, they worked! We could go a little bit further than before and you could see Sam’s confidence increasing. Sam would only allow Maggie at Pets at Home to cut her claws which would mean a long trip into town and back. Invariably we’d get there ok, Sam would have her claws done and a long walk, but on the way back the interminable Swansea traffic with its million roundabouts would take its toll and by the time we got to our road we would look in the back and see her shoulders going, cue to her throwing up on her blanket.

By this time we had bought a motorhome and so we wanted to be able to take Sam with us on our holidays. Larger vehicles sometimes help with travel sickness and indeed it did help but was not infallible. We needed something else. An advert in the vets recommended a new tablet called Cerenia. It was a tablet prescribed to prevent nausea for dogs having chemotherapy so was a heavy hitter. The vet agreed to try it, but it could only be used for 48 hours, which would be ideal for a weekend. The other hiccough was that it cost £7 a tablet! OK – if it made her feel ok and be able to enjoy some trips with us, then it would be money well spent.

Our first trip took us to Mumbles and where previously she had been sick as we had passed the “Welcome to Mumbles” sign, this time there was nothing. Fabulous! We even had a bag of fish and chips before coming home which we shared with her. No a patch of sickness to be seen. It had taken ages (and rolls of kitchen towel!) but we found something that worked – 99% of the time anyway.

We even managed to take Sam on holidays in the van down to Pembrokeshire and as long as we were sensible, took breaks from driving every hour or so, then she was ok. The van was something Sammy grew to love so much; when walking down the drive past it she would stop by the side door and sit waiting for it to be opened, even when we were going for a walk!

Sam did not have a long life but a happy one and her travels in the van were a real joy to her. She saw places we thought she would never get to, where once we had been resigned to her being a house dog. It all proves that with thought, perseverance and research most canine issues can be overcome. It was worth it to see her happily eating ice cream in the car park at Rhossili, not worrying about how far we would get before Sam’s blanket got to sample it too!

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