Category Archives: Greyhound Rescue

Greyt Expectations – Your Hound in Their House or How a Crafty Dog Learned to Break all the Rules!

 

We all read about how people should treat their dogs, what they should eat, how they should be kept, and where they should sleep.  Before we had our hounds I had very firm ideas where dogs should or should not be, and most definitely not on the furniture.  I read so much about people who put their dog’s beds in their bedrooms or even shared their beds with them, and that was definitely a no-go for me.  However, Penny has taught us how important it is to adapt your living style around your hound, and that they should have a degree of say in how they live.  After all, it’s their home too.

Sally, greyhound, A Hound in the House,

Sally – our first greyhound.

          When we had our Sally, the first greyhound we had ever taken home, we soon found that we were on a steep learning curve.  The family dog when I was a kid was a Shetland sheepdog who ate tinned dogfood, slept in a plastic basket in the kitchen, rarely went upstairs and never on the furniture.  Before Sally arrived we had spoken to Greyhound Rescue Wales colleagues who had greyhounds, and to the people who had done our home check.  Their greyhound had liked Weetabix for breakfast, and dried food at tea-time, so this is what we followed.  Sally was pretty relaxed and this suited her.  Over the years we tweaked things as she got bored of Weetabix, so would ring the changes with cut cornflakes, or frosties, or porridge, and add plain yoghurt.  Sal would have s light snack dinnertime (crusts or leftovers if we were home) and then a main meal at 5 o’clock – and woe betide if we were late, as Sally’s stomach was more accurate than the atomic clock at Harwell!  She would raise the roof with barking to remind us.  Dried food was supplemented with scraps, and eventually became a mix of dried food and our food.  She thrived on it.  When Sammy arrived, she went on the same diet, two meals and light scraps/food if we were there lunchtime.

          Just like my first dog, Sally was not allowed on the chairs or settee in the house.  On the first evening she climbed up on a chair and I tipped her (gently I might add!) onto the floor.  She never climbed on the chairs again.  When she conquered the stairs (very quickly, I might add!) she was allowed up on our bed, but only when there was a cover on and we were there.  Sally used to get bored lying upstairs on her own and always wanted to be where I was.  I can remember working on the pc in the back bedroom (grandly called “The Office”!) with her lying right under the chair, terrifying me in case I rolled the castors over her ears.  Sammy loved to sneak upstairs and would love to lie in the sunshine on our bed and would sleep there all day given the chance.  After lunch she would cry by the living room door for Armelle to let her go upstairs, where she would stay until she either;

a) Demanded a walk

b) I got home from work

          Sally loved her bed in the kitchen.  From her first evening, she would go out to that bed in the evening usually before we went up to our own bed.  Shew slept through the night until I got up the next morning when she would go out the garden for a toilet stop whilst I prepared her breakfast.  Sammy, on the other hand, liked to come up to bed with us for a short cwtch, and then would come downstairs when I called her for a piece of cheese or a treat, when she would then go to the garden and then to her kitchen bed for the night.

Sammy having a doze

Sammy having a doze

          In some respects we were quite strict about this.  Even after Sammy had shared the bed in the motorhome with Armelle and I on her holidays she would still want her own kitchen bed when we were in the house.  When we had our fosters we changed a bit; Queenie was badly abused by her owner and within days of being with us she tried to tear the kitchen door down at night.  We let her sleep in the living room as she was more comfortable there.  With her toileting issues too, she would only mess at night on a carpet and not on a hard floor – a legacy of her being locked in a concrete-floored shed.  Rhys also decided that the kitchen was not for him so we had to patch up the kitchen door again!  He liked to sleep on the settee in the living room, so for the first few weeks we assessed him that’s where he slept, until he discovered the upstairs bed, and for his last fortnight with us he slept on his blanket in between us. 

          Lizzie never left the kitchen for the first three weeks we fostered her and always saw the kitchen bed as her safe place.  She was the very least adventurous of all her dogs, so quiet and scared of the world, and rarely went into the living room and never ever upstairs.  And then there was The Penster.

          We had learned over the years with experience that some things are more important than others.  The rules we had strictly enforced with the other dogs were somewhat relaxed by Penny.

          Firstly, we discovered that Penny really loved her food.  And then some.  Breakfast was fine but a light snack soon became insufficient and she would come and stare at you, or even bark for a bit more.  Within a few months Penny had initiated a cereal breakfast with yoghurt, a light lunch – Armelle’s scraps but with kibble or later with a pack of pate dog food, and then a dinner just about 5 o’clock.  She started to try it on a bit, and began demanding lunch earlier than 1 o’clock (sometimes as early as 11.15!), and the same for tea time (4 o’clock seemed right for her).  Tea time she does now (mostly) wait for me to come home from work.  She loves a mix of dried kibble with human food, usually 50/50 or even 30/70.   Her favourite lunch is a deconstructed sardine sandwich (very Heston Blumenthal!), which consists of broken up bread (preferably wholemeal), and sardines (again, preferably with tomato sauce).

          Penny is also not a walkies dog.  Sally and Sam would nag if they did not have a walk.  Penny, on the other hand, is happy to go out the garden and very reluctantly go for a walk round the block.  She has never been keen to go out in the rain, or in the dark, and if she decides she does not want to walk, she splays her legs open and you won’t shift her.  Even with bribery of her favourite treats.  She has learnt to ask to go to the toilet so if she wants to go out, she asks.  If we go out in the car then she will take a walk (preferably with another dog for company) and sometimes this is the only way we can get her to toilet if the garden is too wet and muddy.   

          The first evening Penny was with us she wandered into the living room and sat on the grey bed that had originally belonged to Sammy.  This was on the floor next to my chair.  For a few weeks this was sufficient.    Then one evening Penny came in after scouring her food bowl and slipped onto the settee next to Armelle, on a fleece blanket we had initially put on for Rhys.  This has become a regular and she will often walk up to me and either nudge me or walk past a couple of times until I go and sit on the settee too and she will lie on the cushion next to me, head in my lap.

She has also developed a love of the area behind my chair which has two walls and a cabinet on three sides and is quite sheltered.  This is her cwtch where she goes when she feels insecure or just for some quiet.  She has her second living room bed in there.

          For the first few weeks Penny was happy to sleep in the kitchen but then she started banging the kitchen door and even started to chew it.  So, we left the door into the living room open.  This proved satisfactory and Penny would sleep there on her grey bed.  Once the settee had been claimed she decided that this would be her night-time bed and so she slept there instead.  She was a good dog, obedient, non-destructive, so we decided to cut her some slack and let her sleep where she was comfortable and quiet.  However, when we went to Belgium in the motorhome with Penny she got to enjoy sleeping on the double bed with us.  She would get really excited at 9 o’clock when it was time to put the bed out – Armelle would have to hold her back with all her strength whilst I put the bed together, and then Penny would be the first one on it.  When we came home from Belgium the settee was no longer good enough and so we broke the last taboo of all and she began to come up and share the bed with us.  Fortunately it’s a king-size but she does have a habit of trying to push Armelle out of bed if she gets the right angle and leverage.

Penny Dignam, Penny the Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog

Penny the Crafty Dog in her finery.

          This has actually become quite relaxing, having the whole pack together.  It’s no coincidence that since Penny started coming up with us we have all slept better.  She has started to vary her habits by sometimes sleeping downstairs and sometimes with us, which is again fine.  Penny has taught us a lot, but we have also learned from the fosters with their issues.    

          I guess that’s what this article is all about; greyhounds need ground rules, a routine, so they know what the basics of the household are.  With time, they might push the envelope a bit, and in return for them being well-behaved, I think it is fair to give them a bit of leeway.  Penny is a real star; at the end of the day, she is a healthy, well-balanced and relaxed hound in the house who loves her home.  Love your greyhound – and give them a break!

(for more  on our rescued hounds, look up the book  “A Hound in the House” available on this website here.

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 – 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.

Greyt Expectations 8 – This Weeks South Wales Evening Post Blog – How the Largest Rabbit Escaped into Print!

Getting it Write – from a Rescued Greyhound to the Largest Rabbit

Last week I wrote about how we got our first book to the printers. We pick up the story after the first boxes arrived and we realised we had to sell them to make our money back.

We plugged the book on our Facebook pages which helped, and then we went round the bookshops with bundles of books. Bookshops these days are either massive conglomerates or small shops that are often living hand to mouth. One bookshop purchased some copies outright but most would only take them on a sale or return basis. The large conglomerates were not easy to approach as their local outlets all told us to contact their central office or go through their main buyers. The same applied to pet stores where small ones took copies but the large ones had to refer us to head office which proved to be a roadblock. Either way, being a small publisher is hard. We had no money to advertise the books yet we still needed to get our name out there.

Penny, Armelle and I - Copyright South Wales Evening Post.

Penny, Armelle and I – Copyright South Wales Evening Post.

Animal – especially Greyhound – charities were really helpful, especially Greyhound Rescue Wales, who all sell the book and get a donation themselves, so it benefits everyone. As before, the larger animal charities (whose catalogues are managed by external sales and marketing companies, usually the same one) were very polite but nothing panned out that way. As our name got out, more people approached us about the book and so the number of outlets grew. We offered copies as raffle/competition prize, which was again publicity which also helped charities. We were even approached by an Irish dog charity from Donegal for copies. All reasonable requests accepted!

The book sold at craft fairs, and at library readings too. Local libraries were keen to have a local author visit but neighbouring local authorities were a dead end. Swansea Libraries even purchased copies for their stock. Gradually the books began to sell as our name and reputation grew.

Collecting the money from some of the bookshops proved difficult; one sold them on e-bay then refused to pay us (and never did) and others require a fair bit of prompting. (I must say that Cover to Cover in Oystermouth have been brilliant and an example of how things should be done). Part of the problem is that your books are swallowed up in a sea of other books and without any publicity material or, better still, a book signing/meet and greet your books will be almost invisible.

On the way home from work one evening I had an idea for a character and a new book, this time for children. It had a few twists in the plot to keep it fresh, so within a few days I had sketched out the story and began writing it. The Largest Rabbit just flew off the page. I needed a specific character to fill a role and there was a fabulous deerhound called Finn owned by a friend of ours in Ireland who I thought would fit the bill. So, with Kate’s approval, the Mighty Finn went into the book. I also added a heroic comic character called Jeffrey, an ancient marmalade cat who was my favourite and the most fun to write. After discussions with my business manager, we stumped up the cash and decided to put the book out again ourselves, under the Crafty Dog Books Cymru label. Once more, Jackie did our illustrations, but extra this time as we needed drawings for inside the book.

How did we know that the children it was aimed at would like it? A friend of ours is a deputy head at a primary school so I asked her if some of the guys there would like to read it. Jill replied by asking whether I would like to go and read excerpts at the school. It was a great idea – take Penny, introduce the children to a rescue greyhound, and read some of the book to see what they thought of the characters and the story. We need not have worried, the kids thought it was fabulous and it went down a storm. They were really entranced and it was great to see the way in which they really enjoyed the story and loved the characters. That convinced us that it was worth printing the book, and we could even include some illustrations the children had drawn after the reading.

Brindle Greyhound, Largest Rabbit, Greyhound,

The Adventures of the Strangest Rabbit You Ever Did See!

We were even more excited when we collected the boxes of The Largest Rabbit from the printers in Pontypool. Honestly, the books really took off. Facebook interest was great, and many who had ordered the first book ordered the new one too. Kate Clarke did an article about us and The Largest Rabbit in the South Wales Evening Post and the next week someone shared the link with a greyhound rescue site in the U.S.. We suddenly had orders coming in from across the states! For a week things went nuts – we thought the Crafty-Dog-Cymru.Co UK website would melt – but eventually calmed down again.

Our Crafty Dog Cymru website and webshop have proved very successful; as have the greyhound charities again – Greyhound Rescue Wales even have Chris Dignam Books as a category on their shop! Within 4 months we have even had to begin planning a reprint and the Largest Rabbit has already paid for itself.

If anyone wants a book reading at a school or Library or other group, pop us an e-mail. The only stipulation is that you have to purchase a copy of the book and Penny usually comes along! She is very well behaved though I can’t comment about the rest of us Crafty Dogs…

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