Category Archives: Uncategorized

Help the Galgos & Podencos

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

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

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

Hi Fidelity – The Vinyl Countdown?

Hi Fidelity?

 

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

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

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

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

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

bto 2

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 Hounds – New Year, New Work!

So What are the Crafty Dogs doing this coming year?

 Happy New Year to you all!  Firstly, I’d like to apologise for the technical hitch that meant that I could not post the last parts of the Christmas Story – How Rubbish the Rabbit Hound Saved Christmas – on the SWEP blog.  However, if you go over to the Crafty-Dog-Cymru.co.uk website the whole story is available as a free download for you to print off and share. 

 

Green Man, Glassware, Tankard.

Green Man Tankard

So what are the plans for the Crafty Dogs for this year, and how will we be helping the greyhounds?  Firstly, we will be extending the range of shops from which people can buy our products across South and West Wales; the jams and chutneys, the glassware and the books.  We have had such interest that its been phenomenal.  Up to Christmas we had orders for glassware with individual images (horses, dragons and an owl!) which, on top of the Christmas Craft Fairs we were attending, meant we were incredibly busy.  Creative artwork is just that; individual pieces of hand-made work, each one unique.  And each one signed.

 There are new varieties of jams in production, and some existing ones will be tweaked.  We are looking for new sales venues – if anyone wants to stock our jams or chutneys, message us on the website mentioned above.

 Books – after the success of the last 2 books, and the Christmas Story, we are looking at bringing out a new book which will be a collection of shorter stories about the Largest Rabbit and its characters in the summer.  There are also plans to translate The Largest Rabbit into Welsh – but in this case, South Walian Welsh.  This is in the very early stages but it might be a goer.

 

Greyhound, greyhound rescue, Crafty Dog,

Penny the Crafty Dog relaxing

What about the doggies?  As usual we will be promoting Greyhound Rescue Wales at the Craft Fairs we attend, and wherever we can we’ll be taking Penny the Crafty Dog herself.  The blog will also be giving out some advice about living with a rescued dog.  Future articles will deal with doggie diets, fostering, how to get a pet passport, and the cat friendly hound.

So, look out for the blogs over the next few weeks.  If you have a question, post it on the comments here and we’ll try and answer it, be it glassware, jams, books or greyhounds.  Keep jammin’!

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

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…

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

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

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

Dragon 1

Welsh Dragon Pint Glass

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

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

Hot Chilli Jam

The Original!

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

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

Hot Chilli Extra Hot Jam

Extra Hot Chilli Jam – Phew!

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

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

Luxury Apple Chutney Calvados

Luxury Apple Chutney with Apple Brandy

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

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

jams, crafty dog, preserves

Crafty Dog Jams

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

 

New Blog – How Penny became the Crafty Dog!

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

greyhound, Penny, Crafty Dog

You can teach a greyhound to retrieve!

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

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

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

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

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

Low flying greyhound!

Low flying greyhound!

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

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

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

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

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

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

greyhound, Penny, rescued hound

Penny cross-country