Smorgasbord – Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Fourteen – Our new home and friends by Sally Cronin

51uI0kWA+ML._UY250_Last time we travelled with Sally and Sam across Ireland, the UK and through France and into Spain.. Sam would travel over 50,000 miles in his lifetime, not bad for a collie from Duleek.

Chapter Fourteen –  Our new home and friends

Late in the afternoon of our second day of travel we arrived at my new home in Madrid. David had bought an old house in the mountains about twenty miles from the centre of the city. I had a large garden to play in and wonderful walks around this pleasant complex of 1960’s summer houses, and the added bonus was the number of lady dogs in residence, who were open to some flirting and kisses through the fence on my nightly excursions with David.

In the evenings the pack would head out to the front terrace and some of us would drink icy gin and tonics, and some would just get ice cubes. I would lie on my rug and look out across the valley and when the dogs began to bark, I would join in and let them know who was king of the castle.

The garden was not as green as my home in Ireland but full of interesting smells… Next door chickens roamed around sometimes poking their heads through the hedge. I soon let them know this was unacceptable behaviour. In the heat of the day I would lie on the covered terrace and if it was really hot, Sally would put on the big wind machine and I would lie in front of it and dream of chasing rabbits.


The next year we also bought an apartment in the South of Spain and we would spend the winter months walking the beach and surrounding area. David was now at home all the time and it was dog heaven. My pack was together every day and for the first time in my life the days passed without a drop of rain.

This is when my previous experience with Henry became very useful as in Spain there are many more feral cats than in Ireland.

In our local area on the Costa del Sol was a band of feral cats that spent their lives rummaging in the bins and catching rats and toads. At first, on our night time walks before bed they would keep their distance, but Sally, who had taken pity on the skinny moggies would take down dried cat food pellets and roll them into the dark corners for the cats to chase and catch. She would talk “Cat” to them and despite the fact that we were in Spain, “Cat” is an internationally recognised language.

This game developed to the point where we would be followed on these night time excursions by five or six black, stealthy figures. After about a year some of the younger cats overcame their natural fear of humans and allowed themselves to be stroked and petted. One cat in particular stood out from the rest of the band.

She was a marmalade cat and had probably been the result of a union between a domestic male and a female feral cat. She seemed to have a litter of black kittens every three months or so and although Sally tried to catch her to be taken to the vet she refused to be picked up and put into a carrier. I did not quite understand why Sally wanted to take her, but I heard the word ‘vet’ and assumed it involved needles of some sort.

Anyway, one of her offspring was a feisty little black thing, smaller than the other kittens, who took an instant liking to me. By this time I was six years old and very well behaved and tolerant. At first she would come up close and we would stand nose to nose this tiny creature and I. Then she would leap high in the air and hiss at me as if she suddenly realised how big I was and what danger she might be in.

However after a number of weeks, Mollie as we called her decided that I might be huge but I was a great asset. She knew that the other cats, although unafraid of me by this point, still kept their distance, and by running in close to my legs she could get more of the rolling pellets without interference from the others.

Although she was Spanish, the basic cat language was the same and although she gave me fleas that took forever to get rid of, I hold her in great affection.

Now that I live in Madrid all year round I don’t meet many cats, just the odd domesticated one who has the temerity to sleep on the sofa on the terrace without my permission. However, I have to say that despite reports to the contrary, dogs and cats can be friends and my friend Henry is often in my thoughts as I get older.

Apart from feral cats, Sally also enjoyed the company of feathered friends. Many of whom lived on our local lake in Madrid. Every day on our walks we would take corn or grain to feed them, particularly in the winter months, and gradually the ducks and one goose became less afraid of us. They began to eat out of Sally’s hands whilst David kept me back slightly afraid that I might afford them treat status. On the contrary. My one delight was after they had all had a good feed was to make a quick pretend dash and watch them scatter back into the water. They and I both knew I was not going to catch them and the fact that they would wander up to me when chasing rolling corn, illustrated their disdain of my feeble efforts.

One bird however got a little too friendly with Sally for my liking. A goose, whose mate had died, adopted her and would fly across the lake from his roost to demand a cuddle and special feeding arrangements. He was a lot bigger than the ducks, and I felt that I might bite off more than I could chew if I got hold of him, so simply sat and glared at him from a safe distance. I won’t go into detail of my thoughts about him but safe to say it was a good thing that David held me back!

I did gain two new pack members on our arrival in Spain and grew to love them dearly. Antonio had worked as gardener at the house for over 30 years and David had retained his services to look after everything for us too. He was a short, stocky man with a very strong guttural tone to his voice and he spoke no English. However, we learnt to communicate very quickly and Antonio soon found out that one of my favourite pastimes was to chase a water hose and to catch the spray in my mouth. Since the garden needed watering every day this provided an hour of fun for me that I really looked forward to. I think that Antonio enjoyed the game too as he would spray the bushes for a few minutes then turn the hose on me. I loved this game and soaking wet I would try to run into the house to tell Sally all about it. For some strange reason she did not see the funny side of it and would grab me and rub me down with one of my old towels as I tried to shake all the water out of my coat.

I used to follow Antonio all over the garden including through the vegetable patch where he grew tomatoes and cucumbers to make sure that all the work was carried out properly – he never shouted at me although he might get a little irritated if I occasionally gave his leg a big hug just to let him know who was really the boss. Even though I am now at retirement age I still help him out every day and watch and wait for him to come through the gate.

My other pack member was Sinead who lived in Greece but who would come to our house in Madrid to look after me if Sally and David had to travel for work or holidays. Sally still did not want to put me in kennels so searched on line for a pet sitter. We were very lucky to find Sinead who I fell in love with instantly. She looked after me several times and I knew and Sally felt that I was completely safe when she and David had to go away.

We made other friends near our house and in the south who would join our pack from time to time for something called Cava and Tequila. All I know is that Sally makes sure that there are plenty of my favourites on hand for me to eat during the evening, such as cheese and very handy snack sized sausages, and special Spanish hams. The guests also help themselves to these delicacies but I don’t mind as they are part of my pack too. I have to ask of course if I can have something off the plates as just helping oneself is not polite, but I find that if I pass around to all the guests in turn and say “more” they all are most obliging at sharing the treats around.

My favourite time of year, as you already know, is Christmas and I love helping get the decorations put up and making sure the tasty ‘bits’ were up to scratch.

Usually after a very long dinner and way past my bedtime the music goes on and the dancing starts. At first I used to try and join in but it all became rather excitable so Sally now pops me up in her office behind a rather irritating wooden gate.

On the subject of music my favourite singer is Shania Twain who Sally introduced me to when I was a young puppy. Here in our house in Spain whenever she puts one of her albums on, I will rush up to the office from wherever I am, and Sally and I do a little line dancing. I go in and out through her legs in time to the music with a little barking in between. Great fun and it makes up for not being allowed to join in the pack dances.

However, I do have a party piece that I trot out every time we have guests in return for some small pieces of cheese. They have to ask who my favourite composer is and they run through the usual suspects such as Beethoven, Bach, and Wagner and then they say Shania Twain and I bark madly. Daft really but cheese is cheese.

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Stroy 2009

The final chapter in Sam’s story is next week…..

If you would like to browse through my books here they are.

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As always I look forward to your comments.. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord – Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Eleven – Favourite Walks in Ireland by Sally Cronin

51uI0kWA+ML._UY250_Last time we had two chapters together meeting other pack members and also learning about respect for our elders. Sam was passionate about one other thing in his life that even knocked sausages into second position…. well perhaps not!

Chapter Eleven – Favourite Walks in Ireland

Let me explain first and foremost what a good walk is all about. Unlike humans we dogs rely heavily on our sense of smell when we are out walking and you also have to understand that territory is everything to us.

For the first six weeks in my new home I was restricted to the garden of the house until I had received my final vaccinations against diseases that could harm me. It was important that I did not come in contact with other dogs, particularly those who might not have been vaccinated.

There are certain rules that need to be followed when staking out one’s own territory, and one of the most important is that one does not do any business near ones bedding, as this in not hygienic. I have met dogs in the last ten years who are confined to small spaces for long periods of time and they have no choice but to use the same space as their bathroom. They find this distressing and it stresses them.

I was lucky, in as much as I had my own safe enclosed space in the garden that Henry and I shared from time to time with Sally, who used to lie on the sun bed with us. Later, I also had the whole garden of two acres to play in. However, apart from marking the boundaries of the garden with wee which is acceptable, any other business had to be done in strategic places outside those boundaries, to notify any other packs in the area that there was a new boy on the block.

From the first time I was allowed out of the garden onto the lane that we lived on, I never pooped in my own territory again unless I was absolutely desperate or unwell. It simply is not done.

Anyway, during the time that I was restricted to the garden, Sally had been playing with me on a long lead. The leash was housed in a casing that extended to about twenty-six feet or could be shortened so that I walked by her side. This gave me the freedom to roam and sniff to my heart’s content, but when it was necessary I could be brought back safely. Here I am with my first harness and lead.

We practiced these manoeuvres in the garden, and when we finally went out into the lane I was already trained.

Although it was a narrow farm lane there was quite a bit of traffic at certain times of the day and Sally trained me to sit on the grass verge whenever we heard a car coming; allowing it to pass safely by us.

I had been viewing and smelling the lane through the gate for a couple of weeks and was very excited by the prospect of enlarging my territory. Apart from Henry I had not met any other animals and he had told me that there were several along the lane who were worth getting to know.

He warned me about two feral cats that tended to lie in wait for small rodents and any careless birds that might land. Also about a dog who lived around two bends who was not right in the head. Apparently he had been hit by a car when he was a couple of years old and he now had a terrible temper.

To begin with, and because I only had short legs, we only went to the bottom of the lane towards the main road. The smells sent me into overdrive as we passed the five or six houses that lined the lane. Each had its own distinctive scent, and inexperienced as I was, I knew that there were different humans and animals within each of these territories.

The most fascinating smells came from the house that was nearly opposite ours and the people who lived there owned greyhounds. They used to breed them in my early days and at certain times a tantalizing aroma would waft into my territory. Although I did not quite understand why, I would become very excited and boisterous.

When Sally saw that I was well behaved on the lead and was able to walk a little further, we started getting into the car in the mornings and heading out to the beach which was about two miles away. The sand stretched for miles and miles and we were both as fit as a butcher’s dog within a few short weeks.

This was a wonderful adventure as there were a mixture of grass covered dunes and nearly four miles of wide sandy beach. Other owners would be out with their dogs and I was introduced to lots of new friends over the next five years. My favourite friend was a little white terrier called Abby who would see me from miles away and come rushing up to me.

As I got bigger it got more difficult for her to reach my nose to kiss so she would have to jump up and down to get a good lick in. She would run in and out of my legs in excitement and try to get me to chase her. She was much faster than I was but I loved our games. I still miss her today.

I am afraid that I did continue to be very particular about food and drink even when out for a walk. I like many dogs believe that stagnant water can be harmful to you.  This is why, from a very early age, I would always head for the side of the house where the garden hose was stored to be given a drink from a running tap. Of course Sally and David would often take advantage of the situation and begin to spray me with water which was slightly annoying. However, one of my favourite games was to snap at the spray as they swung the hose around getting thoroughly soaked in the process.

Anyway, I am side-tracked again. When out for a walk of course there was no handy hose but Sally and David used to carry water bottles for their own use. It did not take me long to establish with gentle nudges and the use of the “tongue hanging out side of mouth, obviously I am thirsty” technique to train them both to let me drink from the bottles myself.

For some reason they were reluctant to share with me, I cannot imagine why, so I ended up with my own bottle and at frequent intervals during my walks, especially in the heat of the Spanish sun I would keep myself hydrated.

I was really lucky that when we moved to Spain I would be able to enjoy the same sort of beach on the south coast and for me there is nothing like a walk by the sea with the feel of sand between your toes.

So in the mornings it was the beach and in the afternoons we would go out in the lane. Each week we would walk a little further until at six months old I could walk for an hour easily.

I was never afraid of being in new surroundings and did my best to leave my mark to let other users know who had visited. I considered the lane to be an extended part of my territory and as there were only one or two dogs who walked it regularly it became a competition as to who could mark the most. At that time I was still peeing like a girl and it was not until I was eighteen months old that I suddenly found myself cocking my leg in the air. This allowed me fantastic opportunities to pee higher and higher over other dogs’ markings and I was confident that I was top dog in the area.

That was until the day that the mad dog on the second bend on the lane escaped from his garden and attacked us.

We were walking along minding our own business but I have to say that I found it hard to resist marking the hedge on the bend where the dog lived because he used to go wild and race up and down desperate to get out and show me who was boss. I had passed that way so many times that I was very blasé about the whole thing. After all he had never got through the fence before and young and cocky as I was I enjoyed winding him up.

We had just passed the edge of his territory and had left him barking in our wake when we both heard the sound of wood cracking. We turned and looked behind us and were horrified to see a large black dog, with teeth bared, charging up the road at us.

I had been on an extended lead but Sally rushed towards me and shoved me between her legs and faced the oncoming dog. He ignored her and leapt on me trying to drag me out and under him. Sally was screaming at the top of her voice hoping that the owner would come out of the house that was a good fifty yards away but she could see that despite my thick fur I was going to be killed if she did nothing.

Sally would never harm any animal but she knew she had no choice and pushed the dog hard in the side. He yelped and moved away but decided that he was not going to give up. He leapt in the air and as he did, Sally grabbed him by the ruff and threw him into the ditch. I do not know where she got the strength but the dog obviously decided that this combined with the shouting and screaming that she was doing meant that she was a larger and more dominant dog than he was. Addled though his brain was he retreated back into the safety of his home and we ran past his territory to the safety of our own stretch of lane.

Shaking we went into our garden, locked the gate and retreated to the house. Sally knew the owner of the dog by sight and when she next saw him in the lane in his van, she stepped into the road and stopped him. She told him in no uncertain terms that she would report him and his dog unless he assured her that he would ensure that the dog was completely unable to get out of the garden again.

True to his word he reinforced the entire fence around his house and in fact a year later became our gardener and a good friend. He loved his dog despite him being vicious with strangers and other dogs and Sally understood how difficult it would have been for him to have the dog put down.

Despite the new security for the dog it was two years before I would even go past that corner, and I always stopped and turned around. Even when I was much older I would only go past the bend if David was with us reckoning that as the Alpha male of our pack he would only pass if it was safe to do so.

I am happy to say that has really been the only time that I have found another dog to be simply vicious. As I have got older I have found that I am getting a little intolerant of uppity youngsters myself and in my own youth I was told off from time to time by older dogs who wanted to teach me some manners. It is true to say that their bark was worse than their bite and I am grateful to them for educating me about social graces.

Over the next five years I got to explore a lot of Ireland as David was a mountain runner. We also went to Wales across the sea in a large smelly box, where I had to stay in the car alone.  I was of course extremely brave, but just in case Sally left me with a pig’s ear to keep me busy. Our favourite places were sandy beaches where we could paddle in the water. Life was good.

As you can tell apart from that one unfortunate experience when I was young, I had a wonderful variety of walks each day, and I knew every inch of them intimately. After five years all this changed, and after spending at least half my life sopping wet, I was to move to a very different territory with strange smells and hot sun, and I will tell you more of that adventure later.

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

Thanks for taking a walk with us and I hope that you will join us next time for my favourite car rides.

If you would like to browse through my books here they are.

You can find all my books at these links:

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More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

As always I look forward to your comments.. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord – Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Eight -Language

51uI0kWA+ML._UY250_Last time Sam talked about his favourite things including snow, sausages and cheese and he made every effort to make his needs known.. and now he shares his efforts to learn ‘Human talk’

Chapter Eight – Language

My pack was made up of the alpha pair, Sally and David. As I have already mentioned both of them talked to me all the time.  As well as words designed to let me know my role in the pack and behaviour expected from me, I began to understand the tone and meaning of many other words as well.

It is a common theory that animals do not understand human speech except for specific and relevant words such as sit, wait, down etc. This is a misconception because if you have been talked to continuously over a period of time you do begin to attach meaning and actions to certain words and sentences.

For example, it is no secret that dogs, and I have to include myself, are quite self-centred and are only really interested in what is in it for them or this case me.

At only a few months old I was beginning to isolate certain words that applied to my well-being, specifically the well-being of my stomach. For example, my favourite treats in the world cheese and cooked sausages. The latter was an occasional addition to my training sessions and they were, Sally assured me low fat and healthy enough for me to eat from time to time. Personally I could have eaten them every day but she assured me that I would soon grow tired of them. This was one of those rare times when I felt that she perhaps did not understand my needs quite as much as I wanted her to.

Anyway, I would begin to listen to conversations between humans carefully to determine when I might be able to partake of my favourite foods. Even if I was in semi-sleep mode, which for the uninitiated is flat out with eyes open but in a dream state, I could recognise the key words.

Let me demonstrate. “I thought that we might have chicken tonight with cauliflower and cheese sauce.” Or perhaps; “I went for a walk at lunchtime and I saw that the butcher has begun making home-made sausages.”

I think that you get the idea. Now, as I got older I learnt more vocabulary and I certainly knew more that the sixteen words the vet had predicted I would know eventually.

I knew the names of all my toys. When I was six months old Sally had bought me a football but it only took half an hour to puncture it. Although we now live thousands of miles away from my home in Ireland I still have that ball and some of the other toys I was given. Apart from Ball there is “Santy” (a rather portly plastic Santa Claus), Squeaky and Precious. The latter got its name after we all sat through the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and you have to lisp on the middle of the word.

At ten I now have a very extensive vocabulary including not only my favourite things that are important to me such as Car, Walk, Play, Football, and Chase, but words that also get me wound up like Flies, Magpies, Gaston (my next door neighbour here in Madrid, who is a large and stupid Pyrenean Mountain dog), and Cats (not the wild kind, but domestic variety who are very arrogant and self-satisfied and ask to be chased).

I was only a few months old when I began to string words together and although I sometimes would get wildly excited over nothing in the last ten years, I have really got into the whole conversational thing.

Sally often whispers to David in an effort to avoid ‘a certain somebody’, as she refers to me, getting any ideas but she still does not have enough respect for my hearing as she should do.

Apart from things in my life, I also know the names of all the people too. The other day Sally mentioned Henry to David and I could tell from her voice that she still missed that smelly old boy. I immediately went up to her and looked up to see if there was something else that she might say about my friend. She just looked at me, stroked my ears and said. “Where do the years go Sam?”  Good question.

But understanding of human words and emotions is only part of my ability because after a year of being bombarded with vocabulary an event occurred which ensured that I would be even more immersed in the human language.

David was offered a job in Madrid, Spain and it became too good an offer to turn down. Sally and David had often worked and lived abroad for their careers and had always moved homes and countries together. In seventeen years they had lived in England, America, Belgium and Ireland but this time there were other considerations to be taken into account.

They had only owned the house for a couple of years and would barely break even if they sold up now and also Sally had only just bought a business in the local town and was in the process of building up a successful dietary practice. It was decided eventually that David would go to Madrid and that they would alternate visits every three weeks at the company’s expense and Sally would find someone to look after me for these few days at a time.

It was a wrench for them both but at least Sally had me. Apart from when she was working in the mornings, she and I spent all our time together and apart from an occasional night out with her girlfriends, I was her friend and confidante.  It was my job to look after her and make sure that she was happy.  Without David to talk to she talked to me all the time, and although I already had an extensive word base this immersion therapy gave me a great many more.

This is the time that I wanted to improve my ability to communicate back and the result was my first spoken word.

The three of us had already established a very effective method of communication using body language, eyes and tongue. Well I had, they continued to use the spoken word. For example, if you want a drink or some ice (perfect for cooling a dog down on the one scorching day in an Irish summer), you lick your lips and hold your mouth slightly open indicating extreme thirst.

If you particularly like a morsel of food and you want more then you lick up as far as you can to your eyebrows once or twice to demonstrate that this is delicious and further examples would be appreciated.

If you are desperate for a wee or other business you put your paws up onto the sofa between a person’s legs and hold your face up close to theirs and stare them out. If this does not result in the desired affect then you whine deeply in your throat with a rising pitch at the end to indicate a question. “Do you think that I can hang on to this for ever and are you getting the message?”

If I was in the garden and wanted a game of chase, which was let’s face it is most days, then a sharp but restrained nip on the back of the calf usually resulted in a thoroughly satisfying gallop through the bushes.

They enjoyed the game as well and knew that the more arm waving and barking they did the more I liked it. It was standard pack practice and I was delighted that my instincts were so closely aligned to theirs.

However, as I grew older and was no longer a growing puppy, some of the goodies that I had come to enjoy seemed to be reduced to the occasional treat. I have to admit to playing on the common collie predilection for pickiness when it comes to eating and I am one of the few breeds that can affect disdain when a perfectly good bowl of food is presented.

Give them their due they were fast learners and discovered that if I knew that I would be offered a small morsel of cheddar, I would eat all my dinner. All was well and good but the scarcity of the offerings made me contemplate another strategy.

As I have already mentioned I do not have a voice box and it is virtually impossible for me to annunciate human language but I learnt to give a very good impression.

The first word I learnt to say that was understood was ‘more’ needless to say. I really had to concentrate and it usually involved several parts of my body. I would crease my forehead, lick my lips, wag my tail and from deep in my chest produce the sound of ‘mawgh’. As you can imagine this became one of my party pieces and when David and Sally had friends over for dinner on his visits home.  I managed to obtain several pieces of after dinner cheese from all the guests who felt very honoured that I spoke to them personally.

I have to say that eight years on and I have had to modify this particular word as with any middle aged dog my waistline has expanded somewhat. This is also due to having my teeth cleaned by the vet three years ago but more about dentistry later.

Back to ‘more’. About a year ago I was particularly intent of achieving a further portion of my favourite after dinner treat and I had been told three times to go away and find my bone. Usually I did this as I am well aware of pack etiquette and one does not want to push the alpha female too far as she is very good at the ‘hot tongue, and cold shoulder routine’ that reminds you of where you are in the pack.

On this occasion she was involved in a television programme and her directives to move away were slightly more offhand than usual so I pushed my luck.

The result was a frosty look to encourage me to mind my manners and a gentle sweep of her arm that indicated that I should move away. I do wish she had not watched so many episodes of the Dog Whisperer, that woman has a lot to answer for. Anyway, I ignored the instructions and she turned to me and looked my right in the eyes.

“You are beginning to sound like Oliver Twist and if you don’t stop pestering me I will call you Oliver in future.”

She obviously considered this Oliver chap to be quite something if she was willing to call me his name.

I scrunched up my forehead and really concentrated. I licked my eyebrows and wagged my tail vigorously.


“Pardon.” I had certainly got her attention now.

“ORH,EE,VA.” I emphasised.

David who had been trying to watch the programme throughout this exchange turned the volume down on the remote control.

“Did he just say Oliver?”

Right on brother and they were so impressed it resulted in an extra treat, my favourite next to cheese, a hard-boiled egg.

I now no longer bother with the short but ineffective ‘more’ and get right to the point with ‘Oliver’ after my dinner.

I also developed another word that stemmed for an everyday activity. I have already told you about the ‘greeting rug’ which is used to have a pack greeting when we have been apart.

David and Sally would always use a word over and over when we hugged and stroked each other and it was ‘hello’.

One day when I was about six years old, I felt the need to reciprocate and began responding with my own version which sounds somewhat like ‘hayyo’. Sometimes it comes out better than others depending on my level of concentration and I do get a real charge from uttering this word when we meet people on our travels.

There was one particular occasion when we were staying in our apartment on the Costa’s, where you find a lot of people who talk like David and Sally, unlike here in Madrid where I cannot understand a word people are saying.

We were out for their morning walk which they insist on taking rain or shine and this couple were coming towards us arm in arm. As they reached us the woman stopped and greeted us.

“Hello, what a beautiful dog.”

“Heyoo.” I greeted her back wagging my tail.

Just as well she was hanging onto her husband’s arm, to say that she jumped two feet off the ground is a bit of an exaggeration but you get my drift.

“Did he just say what I think he did.” She looked at me awestruck.

“Sam, say hello nicely to the lady,” Sally prompted.

“Heyoo.” I uttered again and was rewarded with much petting and admiration.

This has inspired me to try and use other words, not all are successful but it is a work in progress and combined with my other effective methods of communication, I feel that I probably do better than most dogs in achieving the right balance of food and comfort.

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

If you would like to browse through my books here they are.

You can find all my books at these links:


Amazon UK:

Smashwords for Epub:

More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

As always I look forward to your comments.. thanks Sally

Sam, A Shaggy #Dog Story – Chapter Four – Henry’s Story by Sally Cronin

Last time we left Sam at 14 weeks old given more freedom in the garden which led to him meeting his first real friend.. Henry now settles down in Costa del Sam to tell him his challenging story.

Chapter Four – Henry’s Story.

“Okay young’un,” Henry grinned toothlessly. “Time for the next instalment.”

With that he fell rather than leapt arthritically down onto the grass and sauntered over to a sun bed that had just caught the first of the morning sun peeping over the house.

He lay down and stretched and I moved over closer for a good sniff.

Henry lay still whilst I examined nearly every inch of him. There was definitely a lifetime of smells on that cat and I could tell that grooming had not been his main focus recently if ever.

Finally satisfied that I would now know him anywhere I settled down and looked at him expectantly.

“Happy now?” He sighed theatrically. “Did you want to hear my story or not?”

I nodded my head and rested it on my paws as I waited to hear this strange creature’s tales.

The telling of this story took many days and what I didn’t realise at the time, was that our friendship did not go unnoticed. The kitchen window overlooked my play pen and neither of us saw the smiling face that looked down at us through the glass.

It would take too long to relate all the adventures that Henry experienced but I will try to give you an idea of how he became this bedraggled and toothless creature and one of my best friends.

Henry was about ten years old which is getting on for a feral cat. He had not begun life in the wild having been born, one of ten kittens, to a farm cat called Maisie. She was a great mouser by all accounts and this last litter was a surprise as she had not had one for over four years and the farmer thought she was too old.

Anyway, one by one his litter mates were either given away or sadly in one case taken by a fox. At last it was just him and his youngest sister that were left and the farmer felt that they would be a useful addition to the three other adult cats who patrolled the farmyard in search of mice and rats. There were two dogs that had been puppies when Henry was born and they had become friends over the years, hence his ability to speak Dog. Most young animals if brought up together will live happily side by side and apart from an instinctive and unspoken method of communication they will learn each other’s language too.

Henry gave great service at the farm until he was about nine years old when the farmer died and the buildings and stock were sold off. The new owners were not going to farm and they knocked down the old barn and outbuildings and laid down concrete.

The other two cats drifted away as the mouse population decreased. The dogs had gone to the farmer’s son miles away and the new owners brought in two large and mean looking Dobermans that could not speak Cat and only wanted to chase and eat him.

Henry soon realised that there was no job for him with the new people and reluctantly decided to leave the only home he had ever known.

With a last look over his shoulder he walked through the hedges, across fields and tried to find somewhere he could find food and shelter.

By the time he ended up in my large garden, Henry had travelled miles across the county, stopping at what working farms were left, catching a few mice here and there but usually forced to move on by younger and stronger cats on the premises.

He had to fight to eat on most occasions and eventually after several months he was tired, sick and hungry and decided to find himself a bush to go to sleep under. His intention was to let nature take its course which is often the way for animals if allowed. He had endured enough and not ever having really bonded with humans he knew no other life. He had never sat on a warm lap and felt a kind hand or been given food instead of catching it himself.

The large garden with its hundreds of bushes and trees seemed a peaceful and unpopulated place in which to end his days and apart from the hunger that grabbed at his belly he lay down his head and closed his eyes.

My mistress, Sally had been in the garden walking with a man that she hoped would come with his ride on mower and cut the acre and a half of grass a couple of times a month. She knew that with her new business she would also be unable to keep up with the weeding and was willing to pay someone else to do this onerous task.

She and the man were moving between some of the bushes to inspect the large privet hedge that separated them from the neighbours when she stopped and motioned the man to move back.

She knelt down and gently lifted a branch out of the way and was about to tell the man that she thought the cat was dead when she saw its chest moving up and down.

“He’s come here to die.” The old man from down the lane leant over her shoulder and shook his head.

“He won’t last the night, better leave be and I will take him away when I come down tomorrow to mow the grass.”

She looked sadly down at the dirty bundle of skin and bones and tears welled up in her eyes.

She could not bear any animals to suffer and she could see that this cat had been through the wars and had probably had a very hard life.

After the man had gone with a promise to return first thing in the morning, She went back inside the house and filled a shallow bowl with warm milk and crumbled a little bread into it. Returning to the cat under the bush she moved the dish as close as possible and carefully stretched out her hand to stroke the top of its head.

She felt a little movement beneath her fingers and continued to carefully stroke the dirty fur down to the tail. She saw the little black nostrils twitch and decided to leave the cat for a little while to see if it might be enticed by the milk.

An hour later she came back and found herself staring into two brown mottled eyes that were red rimmed as if the cat had been crying. As she leant forward to pick up the empty dish the animal moved backwards slightly in fear but gently she moved her hand around its side as it watched her carefully with its eyes.

Slowly she stroked the trembling animals matted fur until its head dropped onto its paws and she felt a slight vibration beneath her fingers. Satisfied that it would now accept her help, she placed another bowl with some newly acquired tinned kitten food in front of the cat. It would need very high nutrient packed food quickly if it was to recover enough to survive the night and despite being just skin and bones she had seen the glint of survival in its weary eyes.

Henry seemed lost for a minute or two as he stared into space as if reliving the dark days again when he was lost and so hungry. He turned his head and looked at me and then surprised me with some very interesting information about my mistress.

“You know young’un she can talk cat.” He nodded his head a couple of times.

” At first I thought there was another cat nearby but the sound was definitely coming from her. The language was strange and a bit mixed up but I understood that she meant me no harm and I sensed she was trying to tell me I was safe.”

Henry went on to tell me how he believed that Sally must have had a cat before and learnt to communicate when very young which is the best time to learn Cat and Dog language. She was a bit rusty but over the time he had lived in the garden they had often enjoyed conversations although he said it was a bit like a couple of foreigners trying to make themselves understood in a strange country.

Anyway on with Henry’s story of their original meeting.

Although the Irish summers are not known for either their consistency of sunshine or warm weather, that particular week of Henry’s arrival, was dry and the earth retained the heat of the day. She had put down a bowl of water and some more food in the early evening and felt that the weather would not be a problem. She was however concerned about predators as she had seen fox tracks and knew that there were rats and other cats that prowled the lanes and gardens.

She was also well aware that sometimes nature had to be allowed to take its course and felt that at least she had given the cat a fighting chance. Fingers crossed she went back into the house and waited for the morning.

The next day the cat was still in the same position but it was looking much brighter and somewhat expectant as it looked steadily at the bowls that she carried in her hands. She placed them on the ground in front of it and stretched out her fingers to touch the dirty coat. This time the cat did not move and she spent several minutes talking Cat softly to it and gently massaging its fur. Happy that he seemed more alert and was purring at her touch she left him to eat breakfast and rest in his sunny spot.

At this point I swear that Henry had tears in his eyes. He sniffed and tossed his head and glared at me.

“Don’t say a word, do you hear?” He growled into my face and I shook my head vigorously.

After a moment he collected himself.

“That was a year ago, and I don’t have to tell you that I recovered and have been living here ever since.” He raised a paw delicately to his whiskers and then rubbed up behind his ear and down to his mouth.

“She feeds me every day and I let her stroke me from time to time as it obviously gives her pleasure, and of course I earn my keep because I can still give the odd mouse and rat a run for their money.”

I was impressed and had a whole new opinion of my mistress. Instinctively I had adopted both Sally and David as my pack when I came into their den and she was making it quite clear that they were the leaders of the pack and I was number three. I wondered where that put Henry but I suspected that he was probably a lone wolf.

Henry stretched out on the sun bed and I popped into my paddling pool for a cool off as the day had now got quite warm. I could see that Henry was dropping off to sleep and it was not long before I got out of the pool and joined him beneath the bed in the cool shade.

Both of us were unaware that Sally had come into the play pen until I felt the bed move above my head and saw two legs over the edge.

“Hi Henry, how are you doing you old moth eaten love.” She then made some rather strange noises that Henry responded to in kind.

This I had to see and I squirmed out from under the bed to see Mr. Indifference rolling around on his back and purring so loudly that the bed vibrated.

I knew that Henry was not allowed into the house and when I saw how dirty he was I could understand why. As I watched this playful interaction between my mistress and my new friend I saw her hand go to the back of his neck with something between her fingers. A few drops of liquid fell onto his fur and I saw that she was wearing something that covered her hand. She gently massaged Henry’s neck while he wriggled in delight and then she looked at me as I sat with my head cocked to one side.

“That should keep the fleas off him for another few weeks and you too my darling.”

I was not sure what fleas were at that point but I jumped up and put my paws on her lap and laughed up into her face.

“Sometimes Sam I think young as you are, you understand every word that I say.”

She removed the covering on her hand and stroked the soft inside of the top of my ear which I loved. My eyes closed in ecstasy as I surrendered to her touch. For me this was perfect, the leader of my pack paying me so much attention and a new best friend.

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

I hope you will pop in again next weekend for another two chapters of Sam’s memoir.

If you would like to browse through my books here they are.

You can find all my books at these links:


Amazon UK:

Smashwords for Epub:

More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

Thank you for dropping in and as always I value your feedback. Sally.

Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Three – My First Real Friend by Sally Cronin

51uI0kWA+ML._UY250_Last time Sam arrived at his new home and began to get used to managing his mistress and master to ensure that he had the appropriate food and attention due to him……

Chapter Three – My First Real Friend.

It may surprise you to know that I learnt to speak Cat before I fully understood human talk. When I was twelve weeks old Sally took me to the place with the strong smells again and I remembered the sharp pain that I had experienced last time and was ready this time.

I did not understand the word that the man who gave me the sharp pain said when I sank my teeth into the soft part of his hand but it was very loud.

By this time I had learnt quite a few words as Sally and David talked to me all the time. At first I only got the basics like ‘sit’ and ‘good boy’ which always seemed to be accompanied by a small piece of chicken and because this treat was my favourite at the time I made a point of remembering these words as it obviously pleased her.

What I did not understand at the time was the conversation that Sally had with the man with the sharp object. He apparently told her that I would end up with a vocabulary of about fourteen to twenty words. How wrong can a man be.

However, on our return from this visit, to what I now know to be the vet, I was allowed a little more freedom and was introduced to the front garden of the house.

The previous owners had built the house in the middle of a two acre plot with nearly an acre of garden to the front, half that again at the back as garden then the remaining left as wild meadow.

The cultivated part of the property was laid out with hundreds of bushes and trees as the previous owners both belonged to families with garden centres who had obviously been very generous. The one drawback was the size of the lawns which required the hire of a local odd jobber with a wonderful smelly monster that he rode up and down on and which belched regularly. One of my favourite games was slipping out of the front door unnoticed and barking encouragement to monster and driver as they drove slightly crookedly across the lawn.

It was a wonderful playground for a young dog but the reason I had not been allowed to play out there until now was because another dog was also using it as his territory. He would crawl under the flimsy fence whenever he felt like it and for months I thought his name was “That Bloody Danny” since that is what my mistress called him each time she saw him peeing on her begonias in front of the house. His name was actually just Danny and he was a rather daft Spaniel who was also rather lacking in manners but more about him later.

There were also other creatures that used the gardens and meadow at the back of the house, such as foxes, feral cats and rabbits all of whom might have been infected with disease. Hence my fenced off area by the kitchen door with my kennel, sun beds and pool, affectionately known as Costa del Sam and one of my favourite summer hangouts. Funny that I would end up living on the Costa del Sol when I was five years old.

Back to my new found freedom. I was due to have a final vaccination at about fourteen weeks but the vet said that I should be safe enough in the rest of the garden.

Sally and David had been living in the house for about a year when I arrived and I did not know that I was not the first four legged person on the premises.

One morning Sally left me outside the front door for a couple of minutes whilst she went back inside for one of my new balls to play with. The moment that she stepped through the doorway I heard a strange sound coming from around the side of the garage that was joined to the front of the house.

“Pzzt.” It was a sound that I was unfamiliar with and being young and foolish I immediately tottered towards the side of the house.

I poked my head around the corner and found myself nose to nose with a rather mucky, aromatic, white and ginger creature with one eye that seemed to move independently of the other.

I leapt in the air and shot backwards convinced that this very smelly individual was going to attack me.

“Calm down for goodness sake otherwise she will be out here.”

I got every other word of this because despite this creature’s efforts to talk Dog he was disadvantaged by only having two or three teeth and he lisped rather badly.

“I’ve been waiting for you to be let out here, you’ve got it cushy haven’t you in your little pad out the back?”

I was beginning to understand a little more of this garbled delivery and wondered how this strange creature had managed to learn to speak my language.

It was almost as if it read my mind because it turned around and waving a rather bedraggled ginger tail in the air he looked over his shoulder.

“I grew up around sheep dogs and learnt how to talk to them very early on.” The creature strode off around the back of the house with me in tow, totally mesmerised.

As soon as it got to the back garden it turned and sat motioning with its head for me to do the same.

“She gave me the name of Henry, don’t ask me why but as she saved my life it was the least I could allow her to do.”

I was fascinated but at that moment Sally began calling from the front of the house and she sounded rather panicky.

“Sam, Sam where are you?”

Henry cocked his head in her direction and winked at me.

“Don’t worry I will carry on with the story next time you are in your play pen, off you go now before she gets hysterical.”

I turned tail and raced around the side of the house and wagged my tail beseechingly at her.

“There you are, good boy, I was worried something had happened to you.”

I desperately wanted to please her and when she picked my up I licked her face noting that she had just eaten something sweet and tasty.

After we had played ‘roll around on your back and get your tummy rubbed’ and ‘chase the ball’ Sally put me in my play area behind the house whilst she walked around the house with a large animal that made sucking noises. I had already demonstrated that I found the long cord attached to this monster rather biteable so she put me outside whilst she played with it herself.

I had only just settled my self down with one of my rubber toys that I enjoyed impaling with my small teeth when a ginger and white blur leapt up onto one of the wooden posts of my enclosure and from there to the top of my kennel.

Thank you for coming to read my story.. next time Henry spills the beans on his dramatic life so far.

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

If you would like to browse through my books here they are.

You can find all my books at these links:


Amazon UK:

Smashwords for Epub:

More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

Thank you for dropping in and as always I value your feedback. Sally.

Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Two – My New Home by Sally Cronin


Last time Sam had met his new mistress for the first time at three weeks old and had his first experience of the vet… not without blood being drawn!

Chapter Two – My New Home.

That was to be the last time I would be with my mother and sisters as the next day my new mistress arrived to take me away. I was too excited at seeing and smelling her again to notice that we were leaving my family behind. I was a little afraid when I found myself on her lap in one of those large smelly boxes again,  but this one seemed to be not quite so odorous or noisy and I found that if I tucked my nose up under my mistress’s chin I felt safer.

It was a longer trip this time and I dropped off contentedly after a little while. I woke when I felt a strange vibration under the box as if we were travelling across a very rough surface. We stopped and the man I now knew to be my new master got out of the box and came around to open the door for us.

“Well Sam, you’re home.” The ground crunched under their feet and we moved towards a much bigger house than my home had been. The front door was opened and the man went in turning with a small box in his hand. A flashing light made me blink and then my mistress carried me across the threshold into my new life.

My new house was detached and stood in the middle of two acres of garden and wild meadow. I did not know it then but the grounds surrounding us would provide me with not only a wonderful place to play and explore but also would be where I met my first and best friend.

At first I was in awe of the wide spaces that made up the inside of my new home. Shiny lino floors in the kitchen and wooden floors throughout the rest of the house made it tricky to keep one’s feet and us Collies are not known for our ability to accept slippery surfaces underfoot. Some say we are too bright for our own good and this is apparently obvious when you consider our reluctance to trust in anything new be it surroundings or food.

Up to this point I had enjoyed 24 hour milk on tap and because I was a growing boy and hungry all the time, had tolerated the hard and rather tasteless pebbles that my old master had served up three times a day for my sisters and me. Because Ireland is a little wet, an understatement I can tell you, our food was served in three small dishes under a plank laid across two oil cans. This kept the food dry and our heads as well when we ate.

My old master had given my new family a packet of the pebbles so that I could stay on the same food and not get an upset tummy.

Despite only being eight weeks old, I felt that perhaps it was time to establish my independence and although I was now hungry and missing both milk and my regular meal I declined the bowl of food that was put down in front of me and looked up at my new boss with a determined expression on my face.

This minor rebellion was to have long term affects and I can tell you in the next few days I was delighted to be offered all sorts of new and tasty treats in an effort to get me to eat. One of the main issues was that I did not like being out in the open when I ate. In my old home I was used to being under the plank which was enclosed and rather dark. Finally in desperation my mistress, who I had heard my master call Sally, put a dish of chicken breast and scented rice in a bowl in the fireplace. Of course there was no fire in the grate and the smell of the warm chicken enticed me to clamber up onto the tiles in front of the chimney breast and sample this latest offering.

It was definitely found to be more acceptable than the pebble dash and previous offerings and I was hungry enough to concede defeat.

After eating my meal I backed out of the fireplace and turned around triumphantly to establish with my new family that this indeed was acceptable food for a Collie. Instead I was met with hysterical laughter and the sight of my new master and mistress rolling around on the floor. Unfortunately I was unable to see the funny side of this behaviour but there again I could not see my face which was now covered in soot.

There were a few other events that I did not find particularly amusing including Sally’s persistence in putting me outside the back door, rain or shine immediately after I had eaten despite my being very tired and ready for a nap. It seemed to please her enormously if I had a wee wee and she got ecstatic if I did a fragrant package as she called it. There was much hugging and kissing before I was finally allowed to retire to a warm spot in the house for a much needed rest.

I spent a great deal of time exploring the downstairs of my new home as at that time my legs were still too short to get up the stairs, but from the aromas that wafted down, I felt that in time this area of my territory was going to provide a wonderful playground for me.

My own room in the house was the utility room and I must say my first night I felt rather scared and concerned. I was used to curling up with my mother and sisters at night, waking occasionally for a drink of warm milk or a wee outside in the yard. However, Sally had done a fair job of fitting out my new bedroom. There were layers of the local paper on the floor that stretched to the back door of the house. I had a fleecy blanket in the corner with some chewable toys and a rather lovely soft jumper that exuded her particularly comforting scent.

There was a lattice gate across the door into the kitchen where a dim light had been left on. I was warm enough but very lonely and for the first half hour I must admit that I did have a little cry to myself before falling into an exhausted sleep. It had been a very long and tiring day.

My mother trained me not to wee or do any other business in the straw where we lay so during my first night I was at a loss what to do when I woke up in the middle of the night.

I had no idea how long I would be there before Sally and my master David came down in the morning and I hoped that they were not the sort of people who liked a lie in.

Of course I could not tell the time but I do know that I tend to wake up at sunrise and go to sleep when it gets dark. It was mid summer so the sun came up very early and I stood by the back door somehow knowing that I needed to get through it to a yard or somewhere where I could wee. Eventually I could hold on no longer and I am afraid that I wet the newspaper on the floor. Just as I finished Sally appeared and viewed the pool in front of the back door.

“Never mind Sam, you have done very well and it is my fault for not getting up sooner.”

Quite right but very gracious anyway. With that she opened the back door and we had a very pleasant trot around the back garden and I thought I had better take the opportunity to complete my toiletry while I could.

The next morning I held on desperately and true to her word, Sally appeared just in the nick of time and I never wet in the house ever again.

Now a little bit about the garden. Our house was set in the middle of a two acre plot with a house next door and a field on the other side. The back of the plot was left to wild meadow that in the future would prove to be a delightful playground chasing butterflies and rabbits through the long grass. But because David and Sally thought I might get lost on my own out there, they had fenced off quite a large portion of the garden just outside the back door and this enabled me to be let out on my own in the warm summer sun.

Some enterprising school boys had a lucrative business making hand made kennels and misguidedly Sally thought that this would be top of my list of things to have. It was enormous in preparation for my adult my size but I never really liked it. David spent an entire afternoon climbing in and out of the dog house trying to entice me in but I felt that like my food I had to establish right from the start that I was not really a dog and would not be using this type of structure at any time in the future.

Sally used to come out with me in the afternoons and there were two sun loungers and my favourite toys and a paddling pool. Whilst she lay out in the rare Irish sunshine, I would sit in my pool and cool down. Instead of the kennel I would crawl under the sun lounger and snooze in the shade. It made for a very pleasant few weeks while we waited for my next set of jabs.

My humans had continued to experiment with various dog foods and fresh chicken and eventually we made an acceptable compromise. I even began to eat my meals away from the fireplace although I have to say that it was not until I was nearly eight years old that I tired of winding them up with my picky eating habits. Even today I have them very well trained and I have to say I am extremely well provided for.

Anyway, back to those first few weeks and some of the adventures that awaited me and the friends that I would meet coming up..

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

My books

You can find all my books at these links:


Amazon UK:

Smashwords for Epub:

More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

Thank you for dropping in and as always I value your feedback. Sally.

Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter One – In the Beginning by Sally Cronin

It is two years since I shared my book Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story.  He arrived in our home in June, although we met earlier when he was only three weeks old, and over the next few weekends I will be sharing his story again.

51uI0kWA+ML._UY250_Chapter One – In the Beginning.

I was only three weeks old when I first met my mistress on an unusually warm Irish spring day in May. I was busy drinking milk at the time and barely lifted my head when I heard voices in the back yard where I had lived since I was born.

It was warm and comforting lying next to my two sisters as we snuggled close to my mother’s fur and from time to time a gentle lick would dampen my fluffy coat lovingly.

I was already bigger than my sisters but my mother was determined that we should all be treated with the same care and attention as each other. She was an experienced mother and she knew how to raise strong and healthy babies. This would be her last litter and she lay quietly and contentedly in the straw lined kennel.

Full of milk and very sleepy, I sensed movement in front of our home and lifted my eyes blearily. I could just make out two very large shapes but was not afraid as the smell from one of them was familiar.

Since the day I was born I had been picked up daily and held high in the air whilst a deep voice rumbled into my small ears and a strong but unthreatening scent filled my nostrils. I have no idea what the voice was saying but it sounded kind and I had no fear of it.

I was also used to a smaller body with little hands that pulled at my fur and tickled my tummy. I loved these small hands and the chuckling sounds that the shape made as it played with me and my sisters.

This new being was different and despite my desire to fall asleep after my lunch, I pricked my ears up and turned my face in its direction.

I heard two voices making soft sounds and then felt myself lifted up in the air and held closely against warm and human scented skin that was different from the smells I was used to.

I snuggled in against this scent and fell asleep hearing a soft voice saying a word that seemed to echo in my head. This was the first time that I heard my name and I have been called Sam ever since.

The days passed quickly and my sisters and I became more adventurous with lots of rough and tumble and nipping at heels and tails. We were allowed into the kitchen of the house from time to time and we spent more time with the little person with the sticky hands who chased and cuddled us as many times as we let her. We soon learnt that there were certain behaviours that were not considered acceptable; most of which involved teeth and making puddles on the kitchen floor.

My mother was content to let us roam around the house as she lay in a sunny patch of the yard where she rested away from her noisy and growing brood. We still pestered her for milk from time to time even though we were now eating some small dried pellets as well. They tasted funny and we all still preferred lying side by side close to our mother whenever we could, but I sensed that she was beginning to get impatient with us and would often stand up and move away.

I was getting used to my new name as my mother’s master started using it whenever he came into the yard. One day I heard his deep laughter as his small daughter also called to me. I did not understand at the time but it seems Sam was the first word that she ever said bypassing Dada and Mama in favour of her best friend. Trouble was she called my two sisters Sam too; which must have been very confusing for them when they went to their new homes and were given different ones.

Anyway, back to my new mistress and her husband who had never seen me before. As soon as I heard my name I bounded over to the two of them and was made a wonderful fuss of. My new mistress picked me up and tucked me into her neck which I licked and savoured. I remembered her scent from her first visit but this time my eyes were open and I was able to look into her eyes as she gazed down at me.

“Hello Sam – you’ve grown so big.” She looked over to the man and held me out to him.

“Here you go darling, meet Sam,” she said passing me into his strong hands.

I looked up into a face with kind eyes and warm smile. I felt safe and secure high up off the ground and as they talked to each other, my mistress stroked my head and back gently, reminding me of the loving licks of my mother. I stayed happily being fussed over as the voices rumbled above and around me and almost dropped off to sleep but all too soon I was back on the ground and was soon involved in a rough and tumble game of tag with my sisters.

When I was eight weeks old my sisters and I were placed in a box with mesh over the front and taken away from our mother. As we left the backyard we cried out to her but she seemed to recognise that this was just a temporary separation and settled down into a patch of sunlight by the wall.

We were placed on a seat inside a bigger box that made a very loud noise and had too many smells to identify. I smelt my mother and also the man and child but there were also harsh scents that hurt my nose. My sisters and I huddled close together and shivered at the strangeness of it all, but thankfully within a short space of time the noise stopped and the man got out of his side of the box and came around and opened the door on our side. The movement as he carried us made us feel quite sick and we were pleased when we found ourselves on a floor looking out of the grating at several pairs of feet.

We also smelt dog smells and another smell that stirred up some instinctive sense of mischief. I edged towards the grating and looked through; straight into the eyes of a large furry bundle in a cage opposite me. To my surprise it arched its back and hissed at me through the bars and I shot backwards landing on top of my smallest sister who nipped me on the ear.

After what seemed like ages the man picked us up and we swayed into another room that had sharp pungent smells that tickled our nostrils. I sneezed and heard the man laugh as he opened the mesh door and took me out.

He held me firmly on a cold metallic surface that smelt sharp and acrid. I sneezed again and then felt a new pair of hands grasp me firmly and a strange object was placed against my chest.

A deep voice rumbled in my ears. “Sounds very good Patrick, he is a fine fellow, are you keeping him to show?”

“No, while I was away on a trip to the North a lady came to see him when he was only three weeks old, paid for him there and then and my wife promised she could have him.”

There seemed to be disappointment in the man’s voice but he was an honest man and had never cheated anyone in his life.

“Pity, I think he is going to be a very special dog when he is fully grown. He has a different look about him, almost as though he is listening to everything we are saying.”

I was actually, although I couldn’t understand the words they were using, I was getting a handle on tone and emotion in voices and I sensed more than anything else what was being said.

However, these senses of mine went into overload as I felt something very sharp go into my skin at the back of my neck. Ouch, that hurt and I turned round and nipped the hand holding me firmly across my chest.

“Ouch,” responded my master’s voice and both men laughed as they examined the small puncture wounds in his hand.

“Ye he is going to be a feisty one alright.”

Despite the sore patch at the back of my neck I began to feel a little sleepy from all the excitement and as one by one my sisters were taken out and put on the table, I curled up at the back of the box and only woke when we were placed next to our mother in our kennel.

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

My books

You can find all my books at these links:


Amazon UK:

Smashwords for Epub:

More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

Thank you for dropping in and as always I value your feedback. Sally.


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair Extra… I nearly forgot to promote my own books!!!

Here are my some of my current books that I would like to share today.  I have also included some of the reviews for the books on Amazon and by bloggers.  The icing on the cake..

All except for Just Food for Health are available in E-versions for most readers. You can buy all my books from my own bookstore at the links beneath the titles below but also on

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:


More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

My latest book was published on July 27th 2017 – What’s in Name – Volume Two – Stories of life and romance. The print version of combined volumes one and two is available in the UK and Ireland

About What’s in a Name Volume Two

Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.

Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.

Meet Queenie and Rosemary who have both lost their husbands and must face a very different future. One that will take courage and the use of new technology.

Sonia is an entitled princess whose father has reached the end of his tether and Theresa has to deal with a bully in the checkout. Usher is an arrogant narcissist with a docile wife and is used to getting his own way and Vanessa worries about the future of her relationship with her teenage son.

Walter is a loner and is happy with just his dog for company, Xenia is the long awaited first baby of a young couple. Yves is a dashing romeo who has the tables turned on him unexpectedly and Zoe… Well she can see into the future.

In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.

The most recent reviews.

What’s in a Name? Book 2 is a wonderful collection of short stories that will touch your heart. You will find romance, tragedy and heartache. Each story is titled with a male or female name which continues alphabetically from Book 1.

Sally Cronin is a consummate storyteller who has the innate ability to weave a fascinating tale that grips the reader from the first sentence. This reader felt lifted when the characters were exuberant and crushed when they had heartache. If an author can enable a reader to feel the joy and angst along with the characters she has created, she is an exceptional writer!

My favorite was the first story about Kenneth. This story touched me deeply as Kenneth watches the love of his life dancing on New Year’s Eve. I don’t want to give anything away by saying too much. Each story tells an unforgettable tale with a twist at the end. Surprises and twists abound in these fabulous stories. I couldn’t put the book down.

Sally Cronin has many other entertaining books to offer. Several of them I have read and highly recommend them all.

 You can buy What’s in Name- Volume Two:


What’s in a Name – Volume One – Short Story Collection.

Twenty colourful stories of people who have been given the names of the great and legendary and find it a challenge sometimes to live up to them.

The latest review for the collection

What’s in a Name by Sally Cronin is an absolute gem of a book. Cronin is a gifted storyteller, and readers are sure to be moved and intrigued by this collection that was inspired by real-life occurrences. These are stories that will move you and stay with you long after you finish. I read through this collection in one day and have revisited it many times since. A book so enticing is a true testament to the skill of an author. To keep a book near, allowing one to relish in the many emotions it is sure to evoke, ultimately speaks to the treasures held within.

The characters come to life, and it’s impossible not to think of similar people we have met along our own journeys. I laughed and cried, found solace in heartfelt reflection.
A highly recommended read. This is a gift for the soul.

 You can read the reviews and buy the book:

and on Amazon UK:

Also now in print available in the UK and Ireland only.

Amazon UK:


Sam – A Shaggy Dog Story – for dog lovers

Millions of families around the World believe that their pet, dog or cat is the most intelligent, beautiful and loyal friend that anyone could have. And they are absolutely right.

If only our pets could talk how much richer the world would be, and funnier.

One of the recent reviews for Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story

Brigid Gallagher rated it 5 stars on Goodreads.

Sally Cronin fell in love at first sight with Sam, a collie puppy. I must admit I too fell in love with Sam from the moment I saw his photograph on the cover of Sally’s book!

“Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story” is a delight from start to finish. Sam recounts meeting Sally and her husband David for the first time, finding his forever home with them, and settling into life as an “only child”.

He meets Henry a feral cat, who fathers three fine kittens with his lovely partner, and Sam tells us many tales of their friendship in his own doggy style. He enjoys long beach walks where he befriends Abby a white terrier, plays in deep snow on his second winter ” like young puppies getting soaked and exhausted in the process,” and enjoys road trips with Sally in her sporty car.

Sam eventually moves to Spain, where he enjoys chasing water hoses and amusing guests with his party piece of asking for more or “mawgh.” One day Sally is busy with work and tells Sam “You are beginning to sound like Oliver Twist, and if you don’t stop pestering me I will call you Oliver in future.” Sam replies! “Oh, Ee, Va” which becomes more emphasised as “ORH,EE,VA.” He earns a favourite food reward.

Sally’s writing style is gentle, warm and full of humour. Sam’s photographs will delight you, and his words will leave you feeling blessed that you bought Sally’s book

Amazon US Author Page:

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Size Matters – Especially when you weigh 330lbs


If I could communicate just a single message to you it is that
obesity, and the misery attached to it, need not be for life.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Tina rated it 5 stars

Size Matters is Sally Georgina Cronin’s no-holds-barred, true-life story of her journey from near-death obesity to vibrant health.

I first was struck by the author’s willingness to share so many personal things most of us would hold to dearly as private; things that would humiliate; things we’d be hard-pressed to look in the mirror and admit even to ourselves. I knew anyone willing to bridge this gap must be someone with integrity and a deep concern for her fellow human beings.

I wasn’t far into the book before finding the encouragement I needed. The last paragraph of chapter one said it all: “What began as a painful journey into my past became an exciting adventure in the present with expectations of a much brighter future.” Above all else, I wanted a bright future. And Ms. Cronin’s approach proffered that hope.

I’m not going to detail the specifics of this book, because a peek inside on Amazon will show you the table of contents and highlight the details of the program she developed. What I want to shine a light on is the inspiration she exemplifies and offers to all those battling a weight problem.

She knew almost any help given by the medical/scientific/etc. communities would offer template approaches to weight reduction, approaches she and many others have tried and failed at miserably. Because her health was in such jeopardy, she needed not only to urgently change her eating habits, but also to have the results be permanent. Thus began her journey within and her search for a sustainable healthy future.

It’s difficult enough to put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis in this fast-paced technological age. Everyone is multi-tasking and running fast to stand still. So when we find ourselves faced with a life-threatening condition, fear leads us to seek a quick fix. But quick fixes are almost never permanent and almost always detrimental. The author recognized this and strove instead to find her own way back home to herself.

Although despairing and contemplating suicide, she reached deep inside and found a way to kindle her common sense, which provided the ladder needed to climb out of the pit into which she’d dug herself. Admitting her weaknesses and acknowledging her strengths, she put the totality of herself into turning her life around. Plying patience and dogged determination, she climbed out of the suffocating abyss and surfaced into the fresh air of a promising and vibrant life.

I have never been obese, but I have carried extra weight at different times throughout my life. Taking off 10 or 15 pounds is hard enough. I can only imagine the devastation one must feel when facing the necessity of a 150-pound weight reduction. And I use the word “reduction” rather than “loss,” because I think the mind always seeks to find that which has been lost.

In my opinion, this book is not only a comprehensive text for permanent weight reduction, but also a “how to” guide for breaking the shackles of destructive behavior and tenaciously moving forward.

When asked in grade school to name five people who inspire us, most children look to either their families or noted figures in the world. And yet there are so many working humbly behind the global scenes who seek neither notoriety nor acclaim. I believe they’re referred to as unsung heroes.

This review is as much an acknowledgement of the author’s positive contribution to the world as it is of her all-inclusive approach to weight reduction in this outstanding book, which I highly recommend. Shed an ounce of weight, gain a pound of self-confidence. Sally Cronin is an inspirational example for all

 Turning back the clockAn anti-aging programme.

Living forever is not an option!

However, feeling younger and looking younger is an option available to all!

The maximum lifespan a human being can currently expect today is around 120 years. However, not many of us really want to be even 90 or 100 years old, if it means that we are going to end up filled with medication and tucked away in a corner in some nursing home, unaware of our surroundings.

Making healthy diet and lifestyle choices as early as possible will help you get as near as possible to your maximum age whilst enjoying good physical and mental vitality. In my latest book I not only take a look at the physical aspects of aging but also the mental and emotional issues that we should address earlier rather than later.

Amazon US Author Page:

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Flights of Fancy – Short Story Collection


A few years ago I produced an audio CD of 6 short stories and today these stories and another five stories plus my novella The Sewing Circle are published in Flights of Fancy.

Ghosts hint at a chance of coming back to say goodbye, exact a little payback, or simply to help someone else carry on living. Romance is not just for the young and nor are second chances. As for revenge, well … never underestimate a group of elderly ladies with contacts from the past!

One of the reviews for the collection

Sally’s lovely little collection of short stories and even a novella offers a variety of everyday life situations and then some. From romance to insecurities (body issues, anyone else?) and even a psychic bird, Cronin’s writing is sharp and edited to perfection. Perfect for a quick read or a great way to pass a few afternoons. This is the first I’ve read of hers, it won’t be the last.

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Just an Odd Job Girl

 Imogen was fifty!


Life is unpredictable and will often throw you a curve ball that knocks you out of the park.

For Imogen this curve ball knocked her out of a twenty five year marriage and a lovingly renovated home into a single life at age 50. She had been a very contented wife and mother of two children, who for every one of those 25 years had thought her husband had been equally as happy. It was a shock to find out that she had been delusional and replaced so easily.

Her confidence was non-existent. She had forgotten any skills she possessed and was totally unprepared to enter the modern job market. Or so she thought.

One of the recent reviews for the book

on 11 October 2017

Her husband of over twenty-five years announces he has found himself a new and younger woman; a fast-tracker, as Imogen dubs her. This is a girl who is out to get man who has already established himself and made money, rather than marry someone of her own age and have to struggle their way to the top together.

Not only does Imogen lose her husband, she is left with no choice but to move from the family home and re-jig her life completely. It’s a daunting task; the children have flown the nest and she hasn’t worked in years.
Alone in her new little home on the edge of Epping Forest Imogen browses the local newspaper and comes across an ad from an employment agency. She telephones, makes an appointment, cobbles together something to wear and, for the first time in a very long time, compiles a CV.
The adventure begins.
From here the story takes Imogen to her interview, where Mr Jenkins ( call me Andrew) invites her to talk him through all the jobs, and there are quite a few, that she has previously undertaken.
Each chapter then describes unlikely and varied forms of employment. There is a lot of humour in the writing, but also some pathos too.
I won’t reveal the ending but, though it came as no surprise, it was just what was needed for this story, with a little comeuppance for the dastardly husband thrown in.

Reading a book like Just an Odd Job Girl by Sally Cronin reminds me that I should do this more often -I love thrillers and dark stories but a little lightheartedness, occasionally, goes a very long way.

Amazon US Author Page:

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Forget the Viagra – Pass me a Carrot… Men’s Health Manual –

51X6tXcHZRL._UY250_The latest headlines in the Media recently are constantly highlighting the fact that men are at risk as they ignore early symptoms of life threatening disease. Cardiovascular and Prostate disease if caught in the early stages can be treated and managed but surveys indicate that men do not know what symptoms they should be looking for.

Despite the title, Forget the Viagra, Pass me a Carrot! is not just about the physical causes of sexual dysfunction and the dangers of taking a drug that is bought without medical consultation, but about men’s health in general. A workshop manual takes the working parts, describes how they function, what can go wrong and how to prevent problems in the future. This men’s health manual – does just that – takes all the major organs, illustrates how they work, the symptoms to look for and also how to avoid the problems in the first place.

It is never too late to make changes that can give your body a great chance at a long and vital life.

Review – J.E. Spina September 2016.

This book was chock full of information on the workings and processing of the human body. Sally Cronin, the author, has produced an incredible resource for all. Everything you ever needed to know about diet, exercise, super foods, vitamins, what’s good and bad for your body and even how to breathe more effectively to keep your body working better.

There is a lot to take in but I felt that I gained an enormous amount of essential information that I always wanted to know.

Sally is a wonderful nutritionist who takes her profession seriously and is always available to answer questions or lend a hand to her clients. She also has a fabulous blog which I follow religiously. I love her books and look forward to more from this talented and articulate author.

Amazon US Author Page:

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 Tales from the Garden

Newsflash: Tales from the Garden will be available in Spanish in the next few days!


Fairy Stories for children of all ages, from five to ninety-five that will change the way you look at your garden, forever.

With over 80 photos/illustrations, “Tales from the Garden” by Sally Cronin,reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees.

You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories.

The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here.

One of the reviews

Magical!  on April 1, 2017

Author Sally Cronin mixes imagination, whimsy and magic to create this charming collection of short stories. Each tale takes place in the garden and lovely photos contribute to the enchantment.

First, we meet the Head Guardians of the Magic Garden. These powerful stone creatures introduce us to the fairy kingdom that lies under the old magnolia tree. According to the Guardians, which look like magnificent Lions to me, once every 500 years some very special people are allowed a glimpse into the magical world of fairies.

The Guardians let us peak at the inhabitants and learn more about their lives, which are quite entertaining. We meet the Dwarves Stoned Band, the King and Queen of the Fairies, the one-eyed pig, and other friendly creatures, and we watch them all cavort and celebrate birthdays and hold summer balls.

My favorite fairy tale story told how the garden folk fought against the Winter Fairy, thanks to the help of the Dragon, who has his own internal combustion system. But, the story that I loved the most is about Mollie (The Duchess) Coleman. Author Cronin’s mother tells about her favorite gardens through the years. Mrs. Coleman liked pink flowers, and believed in being dressed and ready for her say by 9:00 each morning. She closes her recap by saying, “If you catch sight of me perhaps you could do me a great favour and pop a large cut-glass tumbler of whisky and water, no ice thank you, on the table beside me.”

My pleasure, Mrs. Coleman. I would have loved to chat with you and savor a whisky in your lovely garden.

Sally Cronin writes with a warm, friendly voice and creates fairy tales with a modern feel to them. I highly recommend this delightful collection. Readers will enjoy relaxing in their own gardens, as they read these pleasant tales and gaze at the photos. This would also be a wonderful book to read to the youngsters in your life.

My mother read fairy tales to me and I believed in the wee folk. I did look for them under flowers and under the forsythia branches. Tales from the Garden continues the delight!

Amazon US Author Page:

Amazon UK Author Page:

Thank you for dropping and if you have any questions about the books please do not hesitate to contact me..If you live outside of Ireland and the UK and would like a copy of the print edition of What’s In a Name with both volumes then we can make arrangements..

Merry Christmas.

Smorgasbord Pet Health – Christmas dinner for four legged Family and a FREE book from Sam, A Shaggy Dog

My usual Christmas post with some recipes for the fur family but this time Sam would like to share his story with you. If you would like a FREE Ebook of Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story, then please email me and let me know if you would like a Mobi for Kindle or Epub for all other devices.

If you have already read Sam’s autobiography then perhaps you might like to send a gift to another member of your family who might love dogs.  Offer is available from today through to midnight December 24th. Please email

Here is one of the recent reviews for the book.

Do You Speak Dog? on October 2, 2017

Sam: A Shaggy Dog Story is one of the most delightful books I have ever read. Sally Cronin gives her Rough Collie a voice, allowing him to narrate his own tale.

A few of the things Sam tells us about are his friends (cat, dog, and human alike), his favorite things (sausages, cheese, ice cream, snow), his job as security consultant, car rides while singing along with Sally, and walks along the beach.

Sam is very observant and intelligent. He learns to understand both cat and human vocal sounds. He also learns to speak a few human words! Mawgh is more; heyoo is hello; and Orh, Ee, Va is Oliver. ‘More’ and ‘Oliver’ are interchangeable, as they both indicate he would like ‘mawgh’ of a delicious treat he had just enjoyed.

Sam’s introduction to cats is very positive. When he is still a puppy, Sally and her husband David – the alpha humans in Sam’s pack – adopt a feral cat whom they dub ‘Henry.’ Henry teaches Sam many worthy things about life, and they become great friends. Also, a feral mama cat has kittens on Sam’s property, and he dubs himself their guardian. These experiences prepare Sam for when Sally brings home two kittens. He readily steps up to the plate, nurturing and protecting them.

Sam’s story is heartwarming and humorous, sure to amuse and delight adults as well as children. I read this book in one sitting and was disappointed when it ended. I wanted more, and so will you.

What I appreciated most about Sam’s story is that it leaves the reader with a heightened respect for nonhuman animals. They think and feel as we do; and anyone who thinks otherwise will be hard-pressed to hold on to that opinion after meeting Sam. I would like to see this book offered for sale through animal rights and humane organizations around the world. And for me, that is the highest praise…

You can read more reviews by clicking the cover.

I thought that we could not talk about Christmas without preparing something for the pets in the family. In the old days, and that was in fact only about 30 years ago, pets were fed on scraps as they had been for the thousands of years as our companions.  I appreciate that most of the animal foods available today may be rich in nutrients and full of vitality but I am afraid that I steer clear of dried food and prefer to go the natural route.

Sam our Collie established as soon as he came through the front door at 8 weeks old that the pellets that had been supplied by his breeder were inferior and he was now prepared for the good stuff.

He was not motivated by food in general, just specifically.  Mature cheddar (only the best), chicken giblets (crunchy and with a hint of corn) Ham (unsalted but roasted) and of course sausages (any variety, any temperature, any time)  I still find the occasional desiccated remains of a sausage tucked down deep in a sofa which probably says more about my housekeeping than his food storage habits.  He also in his last couple of years developed a taste for warm, peeled hard boiled eggs and would stand for minutes holding it in his mouth, whining lightly. He would make for the door to the hall in preparation for stashing for later but then he would return and sit with the egg between his paws.  He would nibble off the top of the egg and then suck the yolk out.  The look of bliss on his face remains in my mind today and I miss the old codger.

He never did take to dried food – he would deign to eat the very best of it in a small bowl beside his water.  He finally settled on Basmati rice (any other variety of rice that did not have that distinctive aroma was rejected) chopped cooked chicken and giblets, some carrots and green veg with a little salt free juice from the chicken.  I know some may say he was spoilt rotten but he was bright, intelligent and healthy his entire life and he always politely waited until we had started our meals before beginning his.  A perfect dinner guest.
Here are a couple of favourites that we prepared for Christmas – we fostered some cats in our time and had a small feral family in our garden in Ireland that also partook during the festivities as payment for the rats caught and left on my doorstep!

It is tempting to give pets the same treats that we enjoy but I am afraid that at Christmas treats like human chocolate are extremely dangerous. Chocolate is poison to dogs and can cause them to fit.  You can buy pet friendly chocolate treats at the pet store although I have never found cats too interested in it.

Too many high fat and sugary tit bits can also have a detrimental effect on a dog and cat’s digestion – and their first instinct is to vomit before producing rather evil smelling poop. To be on the safe side, only give your dog different foods infrequently. Having said that, most dogs and cats are used to turkey and chicken so the following recipes should be fine.

Spread the food over a couple of days, as you can store cooked turkey for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Give your pets a small amount on day one; say Christmas Eve, a little more on Christmas day and Boxing Day.  This is particularly important if your dog is only used to dried food as their digestion may not be able to cope with too much of this richer dish.

These days there are a number of ways to buy turkey all year round, not just at Christmas. You will need minced turkey for your dog’s treat and turkey breast for the cat (nothing but the best). In case you are wondering about the addition of a little seasoning to taste, both these recipes are perfectly good for humans with a little tarting up!


Christmas Turkey Loaf for the Dog (and his guests)
Enough for 6 servings for a small dog and 4 servings for a large dog.
2 lbs. of minced turkey.
4 oz. of cooked and minced mixed vegetables (left-overs)
1 teaspoon of garlic powder (anti- worms and fleas – and good for humans too)
1 egg
8 oz. of oats
3 oz. of cooked rice
Mix the turkey, vegetables, garlic powder, egg, rice and oats together thoroughly. Put into a greased pan (use a little butter) and pat down the mixture until level. Stand in a roasting dish of water in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook for around 1 to 1½ hours and then cool. Cut into portions and serve with a little salt free gravy. You will probably be asked for second helpings and third with a small piece of cheese to finish off!

three cats
Turkey Surprise – For the Cat  (The cat is likely to be very surprised if it is not out of a tin!)  This is my Irish lot queuing up for lunch……

Should provide 4 servings if you can hide from the cat. If not it will probably disappear very quickly.
1 turkey breast cooked and finely chopped.
3 oz. of cooked carrots finely diced.
2 oz. of finely chopped cooked spinach
3 oz. of finely chopped green beans
3 oz. cooked rice
Unsalted chicken broth.
Mix everything together with enough chicken broth to bind the ingredients. Serve when lukewarm and watch your fingers.

sam photographs 239

Happy Christmas to all my furry blogging friends out there.. look forward to you dropping in to see me in 2018

A strange encounter this morning that brought a smile to my face. #Cats

I woke up early this morning and decided to get on with some writing. I got to the bottom of the stairs, and thought I was seeing double.

Some years ago I bought a rather regal black cat figure for my mother, which resided on the fire surround, and seemed to watch us wherever we were in the room.

When my mother died we took the cat back to Madrid with us where he went on to star in Tales from the Garden. When we returned to Ireland he came with us, and is now inside our hall, by the front door, as a welcome to visitors. He is tucked into a corner, with just his face visible through the glass surround.

However, this morning, he had company.


When we first moved in to the house last June, and were decorating, we would leave the front door open to air the place out. One day a black cat walked in, and as we stood watching carefully, he or she, inspected the downstairs of the house, and then left again. As it left, it looked at us both as if to say ‘You’ll do’!  Since then I have seen him (he is quite big and beefy) a few times, but he has run off into the bushes if I have approached him. However, from time to time I catch him checking us out.  A few weeks ago I looked out of my office window to see him sitting watching me through the glass for several minutes before wandering off. He looks well fed but my guess is that he has been feral for a long time, and well able to catch his own dinner in the farmland around us.

Clearly he had caught sight of my stone cat and was checking it out, probably for gender! I slowly moved my boy around to face the window, and went off and collected my camera from the office. I returned and sat on the bottom step of the stairs and watched to see what would happen.

I took several snaps of the two of them and then decided to try my own luck with our visitor. I went and got a saucer of warm milk, opening the front door carefully, only to see him darting under the car. However, once I was back inside and had resumed my seat he crept back out, and emboldened by his new friend, finished the offering with much relish and licking of whiskers. I think it has been a long time since he had enjoyed that delicacy.



I believe black cats are lucky, and in fact I like all cats. David is allergic to them so we have not enjoyed the company of a house feline. However, over the years, a number of feral cats have seemed to find me, and in our last house in Ireland, I discovered a dying cat under a bush in my garden. He was Henry who starred in Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story, and went on to father two kittens with a young floozy who turned up in the garden one day.

Henry and Sam were great pals but the cat would never come into the house, preferring to sit on my lap in the sunshine having a brush or lying on the sunbed with me. He was completely feral and would disappear when strangers arrived and bless him, he did have a particularly pungent aroma.

Sam checking out Henry’s grooming (or lack of) habits.. ‘Mate, you need a bath’

Sam and Henry taking advantage of the Irish sunshine

The black and white Floozy and Henry’s offspring.

The Floozy would not let me touch her, but when I arrived home one day from work, I found her two kittens, who were a few weeks old at the time, on the front door mat. They both had their eyes caked shut with infection, and I looked around to find their mother under a bush watching carefully. I picked both the kittens up (with strong gardening gloves as they were spitting and scratching hellions) and with Sam overseeing the operation, I gently washed their eyes with warm, lightly salty water. I then put them back out on the mat and she collected them.  This went on for a week until one day there was just one kitten who still had a minor infection. His mother and sister watched from under the bush until I put him back down again and he was collected. The next day there was no kitten for me to tend to but they would follow me around the garden at a distance as my guard of honour.

As you can see from the photograph they lived to grow into strapping and healthy cats. We lived on a couple of acres down a farm lane and there was an abundance of rats which provided them with plenty to eat. I did however supplement with scraps and also popped in some anti-parasitic herbs and worming tablets regularly. They would often leave me a gift on the doormat. Usually a very dead and large rat and I was not sure if I was supposed to cook it for them or for me!

I usually rewarded this gift with their favourite treat which was raw liver…

Anyway, I will be interested to see where my relationship with the black cat develops, but I will keep our stone cat facing outwards, and I suspect that he might be back to visit his new friend, and for a saucer of milk again tomorrow.

©images sallycronin