An 18 year old rescue dog from South Wales has written a children’s book about his amazing life adventures and how he came to find his forever home in the Dulais Valley, Neath. The book has so far raised over £1000 for Llys Nini RSPCA Animal Centre.
Stevie Jones aka Stevie the Wander Dog from Crynant has had a very eventful life since being rescued over 17 years ago. He’s been a mountain leader, a school volunteer and even been an actor on the stage. He’s climbed many mountains to raise money for charity and even travelled around Europe in a campervan, always spreading happiness and making friends wherever he went.
Stevie came to live with the Jones family in 2003 where he soon became very popular in the village. Local children would knock on the door to see if Stevie was coming out to play or if he would like go on a sleepover with them. To which he was always very much obliging and loved all the extra fuss and attention. He was so good with children and would always be fully trusted due to his very gentle and calm nature.
It was this lovely, endearing nature that meant he was invited to work with children in many different scenarios throughout his lifetime. His best friend, Hayley, recalls as a teenager waking up to a buzz of excitement in the house one day. "Everyone was rushing around, Stevie was on the sofa getting his hair brushed by my mother and my father was busy making Stevie a packed lunch. What is going on? I asked. To which came the reply "it’s Stevie’s first day at school." It turned out to be his first day of many at the school in the years to come.
Hayley’s father, Alan Tudor Jones ex Headteacher would often take Stevie into school with him. Stevie was always a good morale boost for children practising for the school production or when attending revision sessions during school holidays. Stevie was also great entertainment for any of the children visiting the Head’s office. He even sat in on a few Governors meetings – he wasn’t allowed to vote though! Hayley now works at the school and has continued to ensure Stevie attendance in a wide range of the school events with her. These have included charity activities, the school fete, dressing up in various costumes for the annual fun run and many outdoor pursuit trips. He climbed Pen Y Fan many times on a variety of charity hikes. On one occasion in support for a school in Nepal that had been destroyed by an earthquake. His most rewarding time was the occasions he spent in the company of the pupils from the Study Units and he was equally astute in befriending pupils with a poor behaviour record. Many of the children would squabble over who got to pet Stevie or take him for walkies during breaktimes in the school. He always had time for all of them. On Duke of Edinburgh’s expeditions to the Brecon Beacons or Gower, Stevie would always make sure everybody was safe. If anyone walked off or fell behind he would stay with them until they caught up to the main group. On all activities he was in high demand with the children who couldn’t wait for their turn to hold his lead when hiking or to sit next to him by the campfire.
In 2010 he starred as ‘Sandy’ in the musical 'Annie' on stage in the Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot. His cousin Harriet was one of the orphans and they were looking for a well behaved dog to play the part. Stevie was the perfect dog for the job! He used to go to rehearsals with the Melyncrythan Amateur Operatics Society every week where he was a big hit with all the children and other actors. At home he used to watch the movie ‘Annie’ so he could learn his part and all the songs. His family temporarily called him 'Sandy' in an American accent around the house so he could get used to his stage name. So you could say “ Stevie was a method actor." The little girl who played Annie used to take him for walks so they could get to know each other. He thoroughly enjoyed himself; getting extra belly and back scratches from all the children and his fans during the interval. He was really sad when it was all over as he missed the excitement of the orchestra starting up and the curtain rising. He also missed playing with all the children.
In 2011 Stevie embarked on a European Gap Year adventure in a campervan. He loved travelling and sitting as the co captain in the front seat with his head out the window and hair and tongue blowing in the wind. He loved running along beside the bike, sailing on the canals and swimming after ducks in Amsterdam. He dined in fancy French restaurants and chased pigeons around the Eiffel tower in Paris. He hiked the Alps during the summer and skidded around on the snow during the Ski season. Hayley worked in Spain managing holiday villas where Stevie was always very popular with the guests. When she was busy cleaning the houses, she would often find Stevie swimming in the pool with the guests or taking a nap in a pile of laundry. He loved pulling Hayley along on her rollerblades along the paseo or going for long swims along the coastline at sunset. He even once had an encounter with a pod of Dolphins which he thought was absolutely thrilling. He would get very worried about other people jumping in the sea and would jump in after them to bring them back to shore. If people were body boarding he would swim in after them and pull them back to the beach by the cord of their board. He became very well known in the town, with local bar and restaurant owners who greated him with a bowl of water and a friendly 'Hola Senior Estevie!' if they saw him running by.
For years people had been telling Stevie that he needed to write a book about all his adventures but he was a very busy boy travelling Wales and still climbing mountains until he was 17 1/2 years old. He had a lot more time on his paws when he retired from being a Mountain Leader, so with the help of his best friend, he’s been writing about his adventures in his book :- 'Stevie the Wander Dog.' Originally, the book had been written as a lovely keep sake of Stevie for the family. However, during lockdown, they decided to turn it into a proper children’s book and spread a heart warming story whilst also raising money for a local dogs charity. For every book bought a donation is made to Llys Nini RSPCA Animal Centre, to help abandoned and rescued dogs, like Stevie, find their forever home. "We chose Llys Nini due to their exceptional work with caring for and rehoming animals. Their fundraising efforts have also been particularly hard hit by the Coronavirus Pandemic and we want to help in any way we can." The book has raised £1000 for Llys Nini so far and will continue to support this amazing charity and the invaluable work of the staff and volunteers at the centre.
Sadly, On 31st January 2021 the family said their final goodbye to Stevie as he drifted peacefully off to sleep at home surrounded by so much love. But not before he carried out his final best friend duty of walking Hayley down the aisle at a very small chapel wedding ceremony in December. Very proudly giving her away and upstaging the bride as usual.
In a tribute to Stevie, Hayley said :- “It was like winning the lottery the day we found Stevie – he really was a one of a kind dog with a truly unique character who brought out the best in everyone – including me! We have been very privileged to know him and we are so proud of everything he has achieved in his long life and the gentle hearted boy that he was. He somehow made me a better person just for knowing him. I really hope that Stevie knows what a special little boy he was, how much he is loved by everyone and the impact he had on our lives. He was so much more than our family pet. He was our friend, he was family, he was one of us! He has filled our hearts with joy and given us a lifetime of beautiful memories that we will cherish forever. We shall miss him dearly but we are so grateful for the 18 years we got to spend with him by our side. He stayed just about long enough to make sure I was safe and in good hands. So your job is done Stevie boy, You go on ahead now and I’ll meet you at the top of the mountain – good boy….”