Category Archives: Greyhound

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!

Children’s Halloween Story – The Wychwood

Here is the new Halloween Story 2016 with characters from The Largest Rabbit book.  Tom, the youngest but bravest rabbit in the warren, is walking through the deepest and darkest part of the forest.  He knows he’s alone yet feels that someone is watching him.   Why is he there?   Who is cutting down trees?   Who’s living in the pretty cottage in the middle of the forest?  And what’s that overwhelming pong of pilchards and garlic?

The Wychwood

As Tom wandered further and deeper into the ancient wood it seemed to get darker and darker.  He stopped and turned, looking back along the path he had walked and it seemed to him that the brambles had started to grow across it.  It was ok, he told himself, he was a brave rabbit.  He couldn’t go back – he would have to go on.  Forward he trotted, whistling a tune to keep his spirits up….perhaps spirits was the wrong word, considering he was in the old Wychwood and it was All Hallows Eve.  But, he told himself firmly, he was not afraid.           

The Wychwood Tree

There was a scream which made the little rabbit’s blood freeze and stopped him  in his tracks – it sounded like a Barn Owl!  They love to eat rabbits.  He held his breath – nothing happened.  He whistled a little bit quieter when he started again.  The path weaved between the trees, their creaking, scratching aged branches meeting overhead like brown bony arms.  He swore that he could almost make out faces in the bark of some of the older, gnarlier trunks.

The autumn storm that had blown through the woods a few days before must have blasted most of the leaves off, which left twiggy sticks that looked like talons – they reminded him of the owl.  Tom halted again and listened.  It was odd – there was not a sound, as if he was the only thing alive in the forest.  The air despite the seasonal cold was heavy and oppressive, like being smothered in a thick woollen blanket.

Something moved.  He was sure of it – away to his left.  He peered into the woody gloom.  No, it was nothing.  He told himself again that he was not afraid…..but he was a little bit wary.  Tom walked faster; the path must come out somewhere.  He tried to whistle again but his lips had gone dry.

There it was again!  Something was definitely over there to his left.  “Hello?” he called.  There was no reply.  He drew his torch out and shone it towards where he had seen the movement.   There was nothing apart from trees, brambles and a green hat.  What?  The hat was gone.  OK, the rabbit thought, I can either run away….or see what it is.  Is it safe to step off the path?  Tom drew himself to his full height (still only as big as a tiny rabbit on tip-toes) and strode firmly into the bushes.  He pushed through to where he thought he’d seen the hat.  When he got there he looked down – Tom was sure that he could make out footprints.  They were people prints but smaller.  He grinned to himself – there was someone here.  “OK, I know you’re here,” he announced, “You can show yourself.”

It remained still and silent for a while, then a clear voice said, “Good day young Master Rabbit.”  It came from behind him.  Tom turned slowly and there in front of him was a man but he was the size of a small human – a child he thought they were called.  He wore a green jacket, trousers and floppy hat, all trimmed with what looked like oak leaves.  His belt had an acorn on its buckle – even his long boots were the colour of autumn acorns.  His face was dark, and wrinkled, like it had seen many summers and winters, almost like the bark of a tree.  He smiled a kindly smile, as he bowed and took of his hat. “My name is Derwen,” he said.

Tom blushed (as he did not know how to bow) and he mumbled a “How do you do” adding, “My name’s Tom.”

“What are you doing here in the middle of the Wychwood on All Hallow’s Eve?” Derwen asked.

“I was following a butterfly along a path but the butterfly disappeared and there was no path behind me, only in front of me.  I’ kept walking as I think all paths that go into a wood have to come out somewhere.”

Derwen grinned, “A very logical thought, young sir.”

Tom couldn’t help it, “If you don’t mind me asking, Mr Derwen – what are you?”

“I am one of the woodland folk, what you would call a Jack in the Green.  It is our responsibility to look after all things that grow, especially in the forests and hedgerows.  I am here because I am concerned about something going on in the middle of the forest.  Someone has been chopping down trees or parts of trees.”

“That’s terrible,” the little rabbit replied.

“I am going there to put a stop to it – or at least find out what is going on,” he looked at Tom, “You’re a very brave rabbit – would you help?”

“Certainly,” he answered, unsure as to how much help he could be, but determined to do what he could.

“Come on then,” the Green Man said and they strode off down the path into the trees.  He was also whistling and though Tom didn’t know the tune, he found himself joining in.  Derwen drew a little silver flute from his pocket and played the tune that he had been whistling and as he did, the branches that had seemed to be leaning low over them in a rather threatening way lifted by a few metres, and let more light in – where they walked, the oppressive feeling of the forest seemed to change.

They continued for a while (Tom thought it was all really happy and exciting) until suddenly Derwen stopped playing, raised his finger to his lips for Tom to be quiet, and popping the flute in his pocket, slowly crept into the undergrowth.  Tom followed him, keeping close.  The jolly atmosphere had changed as they had reached the edge of a clearing in the trees.  From where they stood they could see that some trees had been hacked at and their lower branches ripped away.  There were piles of twigs and leaves scattered along the edge of the clearing.  In front of them were at least six large tree stumps, and the remains of what had once been oak, elm and ash trees, now just leaves, twigs, wood chips and sawdust.  Beyond that was a cottage.  A strange cottage of pink, blue black and green with a brown roof – Tom could swear that it looked like it was made of…sweets? (He remembered Bob bringing some into the warren once – he had found a bag of them dropped by a human child, which he shared round the young rabbits.)          

The strange cottage

   “Careful, wee rabbit.  This could be dangerous,” Derwen whispered.

As he spoke, the door to the cottage opened, and a human came out.  It was a grey-haired old lady in a cloak, so stooped over that she looked like a hoop.  She appeared ever so sweet and gentle.  Tom could feel himself smiling, and he even felt his feet lifting and starting to take him towards the lady.  Derwen held him by the shoulder, “Careful!” he hissed.  Tom stopped – what had made him move?  The Old woman stared across the clearing, over the fallen trees, into the gloomy undergrowth straight to where they were hiding.

“Is there anyone out there?” she called in a frail, crackling voice.  “I won’t hurt you.  Come into my lovely warm kitchen.”  She peered towards the rabbit and the Jack in the Green.  Could she see them?

She turned on her heel – very quickly, Tom thought, for someone so elderly, “No-one there.” The voice did not sound so crackly or frail either.  She unwound her stoop, standing straighter and taller as she stomped towards the doorway which closed behind her.

Derwen breathed out, as did Tom.  “Who’s that?” he asked.

“I thought as much.  We truly are in a dangerous spot.  That’s not a dear old lady, but one of the dark spirits from the caves to the north.  She is one of the winter witches.  It’s she that’s been cutting down the trees for firewood, probably for her cauldron.  They always have cauldrons,” he grinned at the rabbit.

“Why?” asked Tom, unsure as to what a cauldron was.

“To make up foul smelling potions – or else to cook their lunch in.”

Tom felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickling as he asked, “What do they eat?”

“Anything with meat in, usually but I believe they like rabbits best of all.”

Tom had the sudden urge to run away though he managed to resist it.

Derwen nudged the rabbit and grinned again, “Come on, I’m sure you’re up for an adventure!”  He stepped out of the bushes and keeping as low and as quiet as he could, he crept towards the cottage.  When he got to the building he looked for Tom; the rabbit was right behind him, also pressed tight against the wall.  Above them was the kitchen window – too high for either of them to see through.  “Climb on my shoulders and have a look,” Derwen told him so the rabbit scrambled up.  He peered through the Glass.  What he saw made him gasp.

In the middle of the kitchen was a huge fireplace, on which there stood a large black and greasy-looking cooking pot which he assumed was the cauldron Derwen had mentioned.  It was enormous – large enough for fifty rabbits!  Under it there were twigs, sticks and coal – obviously the makings of a fire to heat it up.  The witch was filling the cauldron with buckets of water which she carried from a large hand-pump on the far side of the kitchen.  In the centre of the floor was an equally enormous wooden table and it was this that had made him gasp; lying across the table, on his side, was a great hairy dog, fast asleep.  It was Finn!  He just lay there sleeping as around him the witch was heating water.  From a drawer she took out some boxes, from which she tipped some plants which she mixed, appeared to talk to, then throw into the cooking pot.  Magic herbs maybe?  She collected a bundle of carrots from a shelf and threw them into the pot too.  All the while she was singing and chanting (Tom couldn’t hear what).  The rabbit scanned around the rest of the room before he climbed down to tell the Jack in the Green.

Derwen shook his head slowly and asked the rabbit some further questions; “Did you see anyone else?  Any signs of other witches?  Was there a cat?”

Tom thought.” I couldn’t see anyone but the far side of the room was hidden by a large chair.  There wasn’t any sign of another witch.”

“We’ll need a diversion,” the Green Man mused.  “How much noise can you make?” He looked the rabbit up and….well, not up very far as he was a very short rabbit.

“More than you think,” Tom answered.

“OK, then here’s my plan,” he whispered his ideas.  As they conferred there was a rustle in the bushes.  Tom felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle and Derwen reached for the small wooden club that he carried in his jacket.  From the undergrowth there was mumbling and some rude words and …the overpowering smell of fish – and garlic.  “It’s ok – I know who that is!” Tom beamed.  Out of the bushes fell a short fat ginger shape.  “Jeffrey!” Tom whispered.  The old marmalade cat stood up and waved. “Keep quiet!  There’s a witch!”

Jeffrey performed a silent “Aha!” and slinked (as slinky as a round cat could do) over to the low wall behind which the rabbit and the Jack in the Green were hiding.  Derwen looked at the strange figure that was shaking his hand enthusiastically though quietly.  Here stood a round ginger tom cat with an incredibly toothy smile, practically as broad as he was tall, wearing an old leather flying helmet goggles resting on his round head.  On his back he had a rucksack with various odd things poking out.  What Tom could not get over was the incredible smell of garlic that surrounded the old moggie almost like a cloud.  “How did you find us?” Tom asked.

The cat shook his head, “I wasn’t looking for you chaps – I’m looking for Finn.  It’s been a very strange day.”

Jeffrey outlined to the others what had happened that morning.  Finn had been a bit twitchy since breakfast and actually left some (unheard of).  He was really restless.  He said he had had some strange dreams in the night about an old lady in trouble.  After breakfast they had gone for a walk on the edge of the great wood and when they were walking they saw an old lady gathering kindling.  Finn had run over, and Jeffrey and Rubbish the greyhound had gone too.  The lady was ever so friendly and had offered the three friends a lovely breakfast in her cottage in the woods, if only they would help her carry the sticks that she was gathering for her fire.  Jeffrey was not built to carry, and Rubbish was too slight but Finn being Finn had offered to help.  They had walked into the woods together but as they walked the path got narrower and narrower so that they ended up walking single file.  At one point the undergrowth overhung the path.  The lady led Finn through this almost tunnel, and when Rubbish and Jeffrey went through – there was no-one on the other side.  Finn and the old woman had vanished!  The greyhound and the cat searched briefly but of Finn or the lady there was no sign.  Rubbish and Jeffrey had rushed home and told the Butler who told them that his father had spoken to him when he was a boy about an old lady in the woods who stole young animals that were never seen again.  She was a witch who visited the forest around Halloween every few years.  The Butler had thought it was a fairy story but realised now that it must have been true!  He had taken out the old Landrover and with Rubbish, Flower and some of the other animals they were searching the woods.  However, Jeffrey knew that he was facing something magical and evil so he had come prepared.  Creaking as he turned around, he untied the rucksack and showed the Green Man and the rabbit what he had brought with him,

“Have to be prepared, you know, never know what sort of evil you might encounter!”  Out of the rucksack came some sharpened bits of wood “Stakes in case of vampires,” he muttered, then a large crucifix “Ditto” he said.  From the pockets in his fur (they always amazed everyone) he pulled out handfuls of garlic bulbs “Ditto again”.  There was also a small slingshot and a pair of silver earrings, “In case of werewolves”, he explained.  “I’ve also got a small bottle of Holy Water.  That’s pretty good against most things.”

“Anything specifically for witches?” Derwen asked.

“Hmmm,” came the reply from Jeffrey, rummaging through the rucksack. “A Bible?”

“Should work,” confirmed the Green Man.

“Righto!  So, what do we do – a frontal assault?  Like El Alamein?” Jeffrey enquired enthusiastically.

“I did have a plan, but I think I now have a better one.  But it depends on how brave Tom can be,” Derwen and Jeffrey turned towards the little rabbit.

The Witch tested the water in the great cauldron; Yes, coming to the right temperature.  The carrots and the herbs (thyme, sage and parsley) were smelling nicely – really rustic.  All she needed now was some nice doggy meat to cook slowly in the stew.  She looked down at the enormous deerhound who lay snoring across the wooden table.  She couldn’t believe how gullible he’d been; she’d cast a spell in the night to find a likely dinner date and in her seeing-bowl she had found Finn.  He was so noble and kind – so easy to snare!  The witch gave him a poke in his thigh – oh, he was very meaty but also very soft and tender.  Lovely!  Now she would only need to cut him into chunks to drop into the pot.

Walking over towards the sink, she slid a large meat knife out of the knife-block.  It was heavy, and had obviously seen a lot of action over the years.  She slipped her calloused thumb along its 12 inches of cold metal.  Blast!  It was blunt!  She went in the drawer to take out a sharpening steel.  She began to draw the edge of the blade over the sharpener, and could see it getting sharper and sharper, keener and keener with every drag.  She raised it over the slumbering hound.  No, she told herself, don’t spoil the ship for a happor’th of tar…take time and make sure the knife is properly sharp.  Finn stirred slightly – the witch lifted the knife – but he slept on.  She whistled to herself and continued sharpening.  She stood to her full height now – she had looked like a bent over old woman outside but here in reality she was tall, strong, with thick silver grey hair that hung down her back.  She did have the usual witchly hooked nose with warts, and deep black eyes, as cold as the darkest night.  The water in the cooking pot popped – it was just coming to the boil.  Excellent! And just in time – the knife was now sharp enough too.

Then there was a knock on the door.  She growled, put the knife down and stooped down as she went to the door.  Turning the brass door handle, it creaked open and she peered out.  There was no-one there.  She was about to close the door when a voice below her made her look down, “Hello” said a little rabbit.  “Have you seen a big hairy dog called Finn?”  Tom smiled back up at her.

The Witch returned the smile to the lovely little, tender, sweet chunk of rabbit meat.  “Hello, little one, and what is your name?”

“My name’s Tom.  Please lady, have you seen Finn?”

“Why yes, he’s inside waiting for you.  He is my guest for dinner – maybe you would like to join him?”

“Yes please,” beamed the little rabbit.  All Tom could think was – blimey, isn’t she tall – and what an enormous warty nose!

“Please Miss, my friends are here too,” he said. “Can we wait for them?”

The Witch scowled.  More rabbits – ah well, they’d pack out the stew, “Where are they, my dear?”

“Outside – over there in the woods. They’re a bit shy.  Would you come over and say hello?”

The Witch was now growing to like the idea of rabbit as a starter so she allowed herself to follow him out across the grass.  As she walked she uncurled and got taller and taller until she got to the wall, where she stood and rose to her full height.  She glowered down at the little rabbit.

“I do hope that you’ve not been wasting my time, young Coney!”

As Tom had led the witch across the lawn, Derwen was creeping through the open doorway into the kitchen.  He found the sleeping Finn and climbed up onto the table where he stood over him and began to speak a spell to act against the Witch’s evil enchantment.  The Green Man is a woodland spirit, and has deep and ancient magic of his own.  He tried the first spell, but it didn’t raise Finn.  A second spell made the hound’s eyes quiver, so Derwen knew he was on the right track.  As he chanted the third spell, and crumbled a handful of oak leaves over Finn’s head two things happened.  He heard a scream from outside, and Finn opened his eyes wide.  “Hello,” the Lord of the Glen said.  “And to whom do I owe this honour?”

 

As the Witch grew to her height a ginger figure leapt upon the wall and faced her.  “Not so fast!” shouted the marmalade mousketeer.  The Witch took a step backwards in shock as she stared at Jeffrey.  She was astonished and was for the first time in her life, totally, speechless.  There in front of her stood a round ginger cat in a flying helmet, who peered back at her through goggles.  “Whatever are you?” she asked.

“I am your nemesis!” he replied.

“Fine words for a fat cat! “ she cackled.  “Well be quick – that smell of garlic is making my eyes water!”

“I have everything to defeat your evil ways!” Jeffrey announced as he reached into the rucksack that he’d placed by his feet.  Out came a crucifix which he waved in the Witch’s face.

“Sorry, that does nothing,” she replied.

“Ah, OK,” he rummaged in the bag again and brought out a stake and a mallet.

“I’d have to stand very still and even then, I don’t think that’d work – do you?”  She shook her head,

“Fair enough,” back in the rucksack he went.  “Bible?” he offered.  The Witch shook her head again.  “Silver earrings?”

“I usually wear gold, thank you,” she replied.

“Aha!  Holy Water!” Jeffrey declared.

The Witch stepped back.  “What?”  She looked worried.

Jeffrey was jubilant.  He pulled the glass bottle from the sack and waved it in front of her.  “Holy…” he stopped for a moment.

Tom was tapping him on the leg.  “It’s not Holy Water,” he whispered.

Jeffrey looked.  “Oh dear…” the cat read the bottle, “Wart Remover!”

The Witch screamed loudly with laughter and leaned forward with her long clawed fingers scrabbling to grab the Professor.  Jeffrey said to himself, “Ah well, here goes nothing,” and flung the bottle of wart remover into the Witch’s face.  She screamed and stopped for a second, then screeched with glee as the warts on her nose disappeared.

The Witch shrieked with laughter.  “Thank you, cat, I had been wanting to something about those!  Now cat – how would you prefer to die?”  She moved towards Jeffrey whose eyes closed inside his goggles.  He tensed for a moment.

The Witch screamed a scream of someone in indescribable pain.  Jeffrey opened an eyelid and was amazed at what he saw; the Witch was starting to smoke as the chemical in the wart remover got into her bloodstream.  She stood stock still, her arms dropped to her side and then she started shaking.  As Finn and Derwen ran out of the cottage towards them the Witch suddenly went “BANG!” – And vanished!  She was gone.

“Well bless my soul!” he said.

“Jeffrey to the rescue again, old friend!” Finn smiled as he got to Jeffrey.  The Lord of the Glen bowed to the cat, as did the Green Man.

Jeffrey beamed back, “Of course, had it all worked out!”

“What got her?” asked Derwen.  “Bible?”

Jeffrey blushed deep under his ginger fur, “I thought it was Holy Water – but I’d picked up the wrong bottle.  It was Wart Remover!”

Finn and the Green man laughed.  “As the Witch was made up of so much warty matter, it must have gone into her bloodstream and dissolved all of her.  Amazing!”

Tom clambered over the wall. “But we owe it all to the hero – step forward, Tom!” Derwen cried.  The rabbit smiled a huge smile which stretched from ear to ear.  He felt so proud.  “Young sir, I owe you my life,” Finn told him.  Tom blushed even more.

“Right! “Jeffrey smiled,  “Theres a cauldron in that kitchen with herbs in.  I wonder if anyone fancies some garlic stew?”

Tom held up a sharpened wooden spike, “What goes well with stake?”

Faces in the Bark
Faces in the Bark

Characters and story copyright Chris Dignam/Crafty Dog Cymru 2016.

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.

Hallowe’en Story – The Haunted Castle

Ghosties and Ghoulies, Hounds and Hysterics….

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

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

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

The Haunted Castle pdf

Greyt Expectations – Chris Dignam’s Rescued Greyhounds – 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.

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

How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas

The Whole Story!

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Story How Rubbish Saved Xmas C Dignam

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

How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – Part 3

 

Rubbish and Scutter

Rubbish and Scutter

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

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

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

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

Or any house at all?

Will Christmas still happen as planned?

  

Now read on……

 

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

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

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

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

          Prancer looked at Santa, tutted and rolled his eyes.

          “So very modest,” Brownie added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          “Any navigational issues?” Happy asked.

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

          “Access for delivery?”  Santa questioned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          “Eh?” asked Sam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          “That sounds fun,” Rubbish said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

          “Time!” called out Happy.

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

          “Where first?” asked Sam. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          “She woke up,” Scutter said.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

          “Yes!” the animals and the humans shouted.

          Santa smiled…..and then he was gone.

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

          “Fabulous!” said Finn.

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

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

          “But of course,” said Sam.

          “What’s sprouts?” asked Rubbish.

          Finn sighed , “Let me show you..”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Illustrations copyright Jacs Little Welsh Studio/Crafty Dog Books Cymru

The Christmas Story – How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound saved Christmas – Part 1

The plump man in the red suit groaned as he moved in his upturned seat. He shook snow from his beard and hat. He could hear mumbling and the odd swear word from his companions in English, Lapp and Reindeer. The sleigh was on its side where it had landed in the deep bushes. As he looked back he could see the path of destruction where he had flown through ploughing into the small trees and shrubbery and where they had bounced off a small mound before grinding to a halt where they now lay.
“Well Santa, that was not much of a landin’,” the small figure said as he climbed gingerly from inside an elder bush next to Santa. “And I’ve done me shoulder,” the elf pointed to his left arm with his right. He leaned towards Santa who gave it a twist and popped back in with a plop. That made the elf scowl even more.
Father Christmas tried with the elf’s help to get up onto his feet. His right leg, the one he was lying on, was not pointing the right way and was hurting a lot.
“Hmmph,” the Elf said, “looks broken to me.”
“Think you’re right,” Santa agreed. He could not get up so just tried to make himself comfortable. The miserable elf (whose name was Happy would you believe) wrapped a fur blanket round Santa and handed him a bottle of aspirin.
A hairy nose peered from over the front of the sleigh. “Ay up, how are you doin’ ’” said Prancer. Apart from a black eye he was ok.
“The others alright?” Santa asked. Prancer shook his head. “Blitzen has a concussion and Rudolph a broken nose. It’s even redder than normal,” the reindeer added.
Happy huffed loudly. “Damage check,” he called out. There were replies of “Bruised”, “Bumped” “Twisted ankles” and “Broke an antler” from the reindeer who shook themselves out of the snow. “Where’s Trevor?” asked Happy.
“Up a tree,” Prancer pointed with a bruised hoof to where a gnome dangled from a small tree by his braces. Happy and Dancer went over and coaxed the little elf from the tree who landed in a clump of snow. “I’ve broken a rib,” he squeaked (a strange high pitched voice even for a Gnome). As he spoke his bushy beard trembled.
“All in all”, said Santa,” It could have been a lot worse.”
Happy huffed again, “What do you mean – its 3 days to Christmas, you’ve written off the sleigh, got a broken leg, we’re two reindeer down, and our Santa Nav (that was Trevor’s job) is also unworkable.”
The fat man frowned. “Well putting it that way, we’re in a bit of a pickle.”
Rudolph stuck his head from the bushes, “’Ew could say that,” he replied very nasally, holding a hanky to his very red bloody nose.

 

Rubbish, Largest Rabbit, Greyhound, Brindle

Rubbish the Rabbit Hound. Looks suspiciously like a brindle coloured greyhound….

Rubbish and Scutter had been looking for berries when they first saw (and heard) the strange something flying across the sky towards them. They could make out some of the shapes including a large man in red and two other figures shouting. They appeared to be wrestling and pulling at the thing they were riding, it had flown over their heads and further into the forest. Rubbish’s eyes nearly popped out of his head with amazement as it had shot past. Scutter had ducked even though it had been at over tree height. They had heard the shouting, and then a loud crash as it had come to the ground.

“Wow,” Scutter said. “What was that?”
Rubbish smiled and, scooping the rabbit up onto his back shouted, “Let’s go and find out”. With that he ran along the snowy path into the woods, following the trail of fallen twigs and branches and bits of broken flying machine. After a short while they came upon the scene of destruction. They could see the fat man on his side, the two little people and the funny dogs with antlers.
“Can we help?” Rubbish asked coming carefully across to the gentleman. He looked very familiar but Rubbish could not think from where.
“Thank you, Rubbish,” he said. “I’m a bit stuck here. Broken leg and some of the reindeer are also injured.”
Rubbish was surprised. How did the man in red know who he was?
“Is that Scutter with you?” Santa asked. Scutter nodded in reply, also amazed that he knew who he was.
“How do you know us?” the astonished rabbit-hound asked.
“I know all of you. And that you have been a bit naughty, young Scutter, but mostly nice,” in spite of the pain he was in, Santa smiled.
Rubbish recognised the old man – he was the same as on the cards that the Maid and the Butler put on the mantelpiece at Christmas. “Excuse me sir, but are you Father Claus?”
Santa nodded. “Can you get us some help?”
Rubbish thought for a second and then replied, “I’ll go get Finn and maybe the Maid and Butler who can help get you and the reindeer out.”
Happy coughed loudly, “Not a good idea, involving humans.”
Rubbish looked curious, “Why not?”
“They are not to be trusted, and they don’t believe in Father Christmas,” the grumpy elf replied.
At that Rubbish shook his head, “You can trust the Maid and Butler. They are not like the rest of the People. They are good.”
Santa agreed, “Yes, they are. OK young Rubbish, you may go and get them.”
The reindeer had begun to unclip themselves from their harnesses now and were gathering around the sleigh, apart from Blitzen who was still bit dazed from the bump on his head.
Rubbish turned to head back to the garden.
“I’ll stay and help,” Scutter told him. I can try and get Mr Santa comfortable and get some moss to stop that deer’s nose bleeding.”
“OK called Rubbish as he sped off, “I’ll get help!”
From where Santa lay he could see the greyhound give a stretch and fly off into the woods.
“Ooh, I’m cold” squeaked Trevor.
“Shurrup,” grumbled Happy. With that there was a shlumping sound and a dollop of snow slid from a branch above and landed solidly on his head. ”Thanks for that!”

Finn lay on his chaise longue (an old settee he had made his own) in the conservatory. There was Beethoven on the CD player and the old deerhound was chilling out nicely. He lay there, his shaggy grey coat making him look like a very relaxed old rug that had been laid out over the settee. If it weren’t for the occasional snore you would have been excused for not realising he was alive at all!

“What ho!” a distinctive voice full of polished rounded vowels called, making Finn raise his head. The smell of bad breath, liniment and tuna had already given Finn the clue that it was Jeffery. In walked, joints creaking as he did so, the ancient marmalade cat. “Another wonderful day, old boy!”
Finn stirred. “Morning Jeffery,” he murmured sleepily. “Pull up a chair.”
There was a bit of puffing and wheezing as the old cat clambered up onto the armchair next to the dog.
“Rubbish about?” Jeffrey enquired.
“Out with the rabbits,” Finn answered.

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

The Mighty Finn and Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat

These were the three musketeers, the Mighty Finn, the great big hairy deerhound, wise and as gentle as he was strong, Jeffrey the ancient marmalade cat, as brave as a lion but as creaky as a very worn old door, and Rubbish the greyhound, the largest rabbit in the woods. Rubbish had been abandoned and found by the rabbits as a small brindle-coloured puppy and had grown up thinking he was a rabbit as did they. When the rabbits asked his name, he said it must be Rubbish, as that’s what the people who threw him out had called him. Only after he met Finn did Rubbish discover he was in fact a greyhound, and together they had rescued the rabbits from the clutches of an evil old fox and his weaselly villains. Rubbish was declared to be a Rabbit hound and they protected the warren and the other animals in the forest from harm.
“He left a while ago to pick berries with Scutter. They were meeting Bramble and Daisy I think.” These were two of the youngest rabbits who followed Rubbish around adoringly. Jeffrey called them his fan club!
As they sat there, the old friends just enjoying each other’s quiet company (apart from the cat’s wheezing) there was suddenly a flash of activity across the garden. The old green door swung open and a brindle greyhound sped down the red brick path towards them. Finn sat up and Jeffrey clicked upright too. Rubbish skidded to a halt in the doorway.
“Mr Finn, Mr Finn! There’s been an accident. Its Father Claus and the deers, and some elves, he’s broken a leg, the sledge too and things. You gotta come quick!”
Finn shook his head, “Young pup, slow down, take a deep breath and start again.”
The greyhound did indeed take a very deep breath and began to explain all he had seen. Finn and Jeffrey took everything in and exchanged some quick words. “OK. I will get the Maid. Jeffrey, you go back with Rubbish and I shall organise transport and medical help.” Jeffrey reached into a pocket in his fur and pulled out an armband with a red cross on it, “No problem Old Chap – I have my scouting First Aid badge!”
“Rubbish – I’ll meet you at the gate. I’ll just pop home to get my first aid kit.” The moggie trotted out the door and through a gap into the garden next door. By the time Rubbish had taken some more orders from Finn and walked to the garden gate Jeffrey was there with an old leather first aid kit. Jeffrey climbed onto the greyhound’s back and they trotted off down the path back towards the sleigh.

Finn sighed, “OK, here goes. How do I get them to understand me? Lassie time again!” He slid off the settee and walked into the kitchen. The Maid was busy baking and the Butler sat at the table reading the paper whilst waiting expectantly for a Welshcake to come his way.
“Excuse me, you two,” Finn called. They turned towards him. “Just wondered, could we get out the Landrover and take a spin into the woods? Been a bit of an accident and we need transport.”
“Aw,” said the Butler, “He wants a cake! Sorry Finn, they aren’t really for dogs but I’ll see what I can do.”
The Maid smiled and threw him a piece of broken Welshcake that had been cooling on the side. Finn sighed and shook his head, “That’s the problem with me speaking dog and them speaking human. They can be so dim.” He did eat the piece of cake, (well, it was the polite thing to do).
Pantomime time. Finn spun around to get their full attention and did an impression of Father Christmas, a sleigh, then lay on his back waving his paw in the air in a broken and painful way.
“Aw, he’s so clever,” the Butler said. Finn just rolled his eyes. “They really are thick,” he muttered to himself.
It was the Maid who got it, “He wants something,” she said. Finn nodded. “Do you want us to follow you?” Finn nodded again, and then nudged the keys on the hook by the back door. “The Landrover?”
Finn barked. The humans scrambled about to get themselves sorted and within a few minutes they were sitting in the Landrover outside. Finn sat in the passenger seat, the Maid behind and the Butler driving.
“OK, now where,” the Butler asked. Finn barked, “Follow me,” and pointed his paw towards the track leading into the woods.
“Better go where he’s pointing,” the Maid said. So off they drove, two bemused people with a deerhound navigating.

In the forest Happy and Trevor had despite their injuries, managed to get the reindeer together and, using harness as a rope had pulled the sleigh upright. Santa had managed to get clear and was now propped against a tree and looking down at his mangled leg. The magic aspirin provided by the Elf Service was working and he could not feel any pain. Even when Donner (lovely girl, for a Reindeer, bit a bit dim and clumsy) had slid on the snow and fallen over him. Trevor was really concerned that it was so close to the big night and now the Big Man was injured.
“I’ll be ok,” he kept reassuring the others. “I’ll take a few aspirin.”
Happy grumbled, “Don’t be daft! Driving a sleigh whilst under the influence… Not a chance.”
Rubbish and Jeffrey bounced into the clearing, the old cat rolling off and popping up in front of Father Christmas.
“Well bless my soul,” the ginger moggie exclaimed. “Father Christmas himself!”
Santa grinned broadly, “Ah, Mr Jeffrey Jeffrey himself!”
The cat was immensely pleased that the man in red had known his full name. “It is indeed, sir. Now what can we do to help? I have bandages!”
“Bye dose is beeding,” a muffled reindeer voice announced. It was Rudolph with his dripping red nose. Jeffrey went over and unwrapping what seemed like a mile of bandage, found a pad which he applied to the reindeer’s nose. The bleeding soon stopped but it was clear that the reindeer’s nose was broken.
“You won’t be doing any directing,” muttered the happy elf.
Rubbish looked around. “Santa, Finn is on his way, and the Maid and the Butler. They don’t speak animal but you might be able to understand them. They’ll get you back on your feet,” then Rubbish saw the twisted leg. “Or maybe not…”
They could hear the sound of an engine coming, the rough diesel rumbling and crunch of snow and twigs being crushed under wheels. In a few minutes the old green Landrover appeared and made its way up the track.
As Finn guided the Landrover through the snow along the track the Butler and Maid had been amazed by the long line of destruction, with the broken branches and bits of wood from the sleigh, “Whatever happened here?” the Butler asked his wife.
The Maid shook her head, “I’ve no idea but I’d guess it was a small plane. It was incredible that Finn knew and also knew to fetch us.”
Finn grinned. “He’s a clever old boy,” the Maid added, ruffling his head.
There was a low mound ahead and the Landrover climbed it and then dropped into a clearing where the sight made the two humans swear (in an incredulous way). They could not believe their eyes, for in front was a battered sleigh, two little people in what appeared to be fancy dress, five reindeer (one with a bandaged nose) and under a tree next to Rubbish, lay Father Christmas. Or rather someone dressed like him, but with a broken leg.
The Maid stepped out first, and then Finn trotted over to Santa. The Butler came last.
“Oh thank you so very much, Kath, and you Sam. You’re so very kind for helping me,” Santa smiled.
Both Maid and Butler were surprised to hear the old man use their names – they didn’t know him did they?
“What happened?” the Butler asked.
The Maid went across to gather the reindeer and check the one with the broken nose. Jeffrey had bandaged it expertly.
“Test flight of the new sleigh, “Santa explained. “Went really well until we hit turbulence. “
Happy called over from where he stood by the sleigh, “Looks like a duck hit us.” There was a small clump of feathers where a very large bird had clipped the sleigh.
The Butler thought that as hoaxes or tricks went, this was a really good one.
“Looks very realistic,” he told Santa. “The guys at the pub put you up to this?”
Kath was stroking the reindeer who looked remarkably lifelike and real to her, “Sam…?” she replied.
Santa laughed. Finn shook his head and tutted.
“Here, Sam, as sensible as ever. Let me prove to you who I am.” Santa closed his eyes and muttered something under his breath.
Finn looked at the Butler.
“Well?” Sam asked.
Santa smiled. “Just wait,” he answered.
“I don’t see anything old chap,” a voice said.
Sam turned to face Finn, “D..did you just say something Finn?”
Finn looked at Sam, “Yes old chap, as usual. I say a lot but you never understand me,” he said.
“You’re speaking English,” Kath added.
“No, we’re speaking animal,” a younger voice piped in. It was Rubbish.
“How can we understand you?” the two humans were amazed.
“I have given you the gift, as a thank you for helping us. And it will also make things a lot easier to organise if we can all understand each other,” the man in the red suit added. “And it may help make you believe that I am who I say I am.”
It was hard for the Maid and the Butler to believe that this really was Father Christmas, that they were helping with the real flying reindeer and that almost as amazing, their Finn and little Rubbish could talk, and the old cat Jeffrey, who seemed to have an opinion about everything.
“I wouldn’t lift him like that old boy, “Jeffrey said as the Butler got under Santa’s right arm and the Maid under his left. They carefully walked Santa to the Landrover.
“We’ll get you back to our house,” Kath told Santa, “I can look at your leg there and get a doctor,” Santa shook his head at his suggestion, “and we can get the reindeer sorted too.”
“They can rest in the barn,” Finn said.
“Okay,” Santa agreed.
“What about the sleigh?” asked Rubbish.
“I’ll bring a tow rope and drag it back to the farm,” the Butler said. “We’ll take a look at it there and try and sort it out.” He was not so sure about that though – he had no experience of magic machines. Diesel engines he could do, flying sleighs would be a bit trickier.
The reindeer climbed up (some rather gingerly) onto the flat back of the Landrover. Happy and Trevor climbed in with the humans and Santa. Jeffrey sat amongst the deer, Rubbish and Finn trotted home. They were back at the garden before the Landrover and the casualties. They were all unloaded and everyone given a bed, mattress or patch of straw for the night.

  • Will Santa be able to get the presents out?
  • Will Santa even be able to get into his sleigh?
  • Will Christmas have to be postponed?
  • Read Part 2 next week!

 

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

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

Illustrations copyright Jacs Little Welsh Studio/Crafty Dog Books Cymru