This month we are delighted to interview Hampstead-based Ruth Craig a writer and illustrator of the children’s bedtime favourite Enough is Enough which aims to help young children feel comfortable around dogs. She enjoys visiting schools to talk about our furry friends and all things canine.
Can you tell us about what readers can expect from the book?
Enough is Enough is suitable not only for young readers but for all ages as there are gentle parallels between the dogs and humans and to those things that keep us calm and contented.
It’s a children’s illustrated rhyming picture book about a puppy who learns new skills, combats his fear and makes new friends. The rhyming *tail* has hand-painted drawings and a sprinkling of fun to slowly uncover every time the book is picked up.
Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write your new book Enough Is Enough?
I was inspired to write a story for children wary of dogs and for those who love them.
I have noticed that I am approached a huge amount when I am out and about with my 3 pups. Children often like to approach and talk to me about the dogs and some are extremely fearful. I believe that those children who are more cautious have a sensitivity to meeting something new and unfamiliar if they have never been in relaxed close proximity and once they have that opportunity, it is much less stressful for them and the dogs!
I’ve found that over the years with numerous young children visiting my home, with the right conversation to understand the language of dogs, they grow in confidence and often end up being those with the closest connection and love for the furry beasts.
During the pandemic, staying at home with my busy household of 4 teenagers and 3 dogs I began to illustrate the book as a distraction from juggling the trials and tribulations of GCSE/A level angst, the dreaded Algorithm, cooking burnout, teenage hormones, barking dogs and a dodgy internet connection.
Did you have a special place where you wrote the book?
I was lucky enough to build a sculpture studio at the bottom of my garden just before the pandemic hit. I cut the ribbon mid-February. It was a sanctuary for me to escape to during the first lockdown where I taught myself to merge my painting with digital art and escaped into the world of Cody the Cockapoo!
You are a self-taught illustrator, so what came first the content for the book or your drawings?
Living with a Cockapoo, Pug and Bernese mountain dog is never a dull moment. We have so much fun together and an understanding of the way the busy household runs. I have always attempted to train the dogs as much as I could to make life easier, calmer and quieter, although Chrissie and Fleur from Hampstead Hounds have made a huge difference to all of us with routine and understanding of their very particular needs!!
I started to write in a quiet moment one day when I was thinking about my relationship with Cody and the difference he has made to our lives. He was a rescue dog and came about 8 months old (but we are not sure), it felt at the time as though he had flicked a switch when he came. I was very grateful to him and the words came from that love. As an artist I visualised the pages as I wrote the book but as I had no experience, had to convince my publisher that I could do it.
How did you meet Christiana from Hampstead Hounds?
We had had the experience of returning from a holiday and finding that our dogs had not been cared for very well. When we picked them up, their behaviour was odd and they were very stressed. We wanted to find support that centred dogs and their environment around the care.
One of the things we were drawn to were that Hampstead Hounds stay in your home if you are away, they come to your door for the walks and everything is on foot. I had also had the experience of Cody running away from a dog walker out of the boot of their car many years before. He didn’t know the dog walker and she had picked him up and driven off, I realised afterwards how frightened he must have been to bolt as soon as he could. It makes sense with a nervous dog to keep it stable and simple.
When we first met Chrissie, she and Fleur came over to meet the dogs and it was immediately apparent that she was very wise and sensitive to my 3, this was a relationship that all of us wanted to invest in. Actually, I found out recently that Chrissie and I were at the same school, although in different years. We may well have met before in the school corridor in a school uniform!
You live in Hampstead can you recommend any nice places to go for anyone wanting to visit?
The Heath is a magnificent place to walk, I love it, the history and delight upon noticing new gems every time I’m in my Happy Place – there is something for everyone. Birdsong and trees rustling with the wind in my hair. Oh, and the time I found a magnificent Amanita Muscaria, an iconic red and white spotted toadstool, can I go on?
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to write/publish their own book?
Discipline and routine were really important. I constantly re-edited the pages and was entirely focussed on the project whilst writing. I enjoyed the process, but I had to be in the right headspace and when I was, it was very natural. If it is really what you want to do, you will find the time.
Enough is Enough by Ruth Craig is available at all good book shops.
If you are looking for a trusted dog sitter this summer contact Hampstead Hounds for further information on our services