Our pandemic dog rescue story… part one

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As of yesterday, our home became a two dog household again. I never thought we’d get there, but we have. This series is about our quest to adopt a dog in Germany, which took us all the way to Slovenia and back over the weekend. Before I write about our travels, I want to offer a quick backstory about our experiences with dogs as a married couple. Please bear with me! It’s all about preserving history.

Bill and I have been dedicated dog rescuers since 2002. I grew up with dogs in rural Gloucester, Virginia, but mostly focused on horses until I went to college. Bill never had dogs, but his mom had many cats when he was growing up. Bill can’t have cats because he’s allergic to them. But he can have dogs, and he is a natural dog “parent”. In May of 2002, I had just finished graduate school at the University of South Carolina and it was time I had a dog in my life again. I told Bill I wanted a beagle. He agreed that sharing our home with a dog would be most acceptable, and beagles have been in our lives ever since.

All of our previous dogs have been beagle mixes of some sort. The first one, blue-eyed CuCullain (CC) was a beagle mixed with husky and he had incredible ice blue eyes. We adopted him in May 2002 and lost him after sixteen months when he contracted Mycobacterium Avium, an extremely rare and fatal disease in dogs.

All the dogs we’ve loved before– CC, MacGregor and Flea, Zane and MacGregor, Zane and Arran, and Jonny, whom we never got to pet.

Next, in November 2003, we adopted a dog named Flea, probably the closest we ever had to a purebred beagle. He was found on the side of a road in Chester County, Virginia, starving, covered with fleas and ticks, and heartworm and Lyme Disease positive. We had Flea for six years, and along with our third rescue, MacGregor, Flea came to Germany with us the first time. We lost him to prostate cancer when he was about twelve years old, two months after we moved to Georgia from Germany.

MacGregor, Flea’s sidekick, was a beagle-basset hound mix who was incredibly smart and funny, but terrified of people he didn’t know. He adored Bill and loved performing on camera. We adopted him in 2004, mainly because Flea badly needed a “second banana”. After a few weeks of “working it out”, Flea and MacGregor became best friends. We loved him for 8.5 years, until he developed a spinal tumor. We said goodbye to MacGregor in Raleigh, North Carolina a week before Christmas 2012, when he was about ten years old. CuCullain, Flea, and MacGregor all came to us from BREW in northern Virginia.

Zane, who was my very special friend, came into our lives a month after after we lost Flea in November 2009. We had just moved to Georgia and he was turned into Atlanta Beagle Rescue. His first owner had bought him at Petland and said she didn’t have the money to take care of him. Personally, I think she gave him up because she was too busy and he was in his destructive “teen puppy” phase. It took us about six months to turn him into a civilized pet, but once we did, he was an amazing gentleman. Zane was with us for almost ten years until we lost him on August 31, 2019 to lymphoma. He was almost eleven years old when he died. I think Zane was mostly beagle with a dash of Labrador Retriever. He never met a stranger and loved to play. I adored him and was crushed when we lost him.

We got Arran in January 2013, when MacGregor passed. He came from Triangle Beagle Rescue out of Raleigh, North Carolina, and appears to be a mix of beagle and German Shorthaired Pointer. He’s about eleven years old, and he’s sweet, cuddly, emotional, soulful, and very jealous. Bill is his favorite person, as evidenced by the many pictures I’ve shared of him on social media. Arran is a wonderful dog who doesn’t need a “second banana”. But I needed one.

We usually adopt a new dog within a month of losing one. Since we live in Germany now, it’s not as easy for us to adopt dogs. There are a lot of reasons for this. One of the main reasons is because local pet shelters don’t like to allow Americans to have dogs. Too many military folks have abandoned animals in the shelters here, to the point at which they don’t trust us anymore. Some rescues also don’t want to adopt to Americans because there have been cases of adopted animals being abused, abandoned, or neglected. Certainly, not all Americans are abusive to animals, but unfortunately enough of them have been that we all get painted with that broad brush in some parts of Germany. I didn’t want to buy a dog from a breeder, because I know there are so many dogs who need homes. So we waited about six months after losing Zane to try to adopt from a German rescue organization. That attempt to adopt was successful in that the rescue didn’t mind that we were Americans. Unfortunately, it ended with a needless tragedy.

Our brand new canine family member, currently named Noizy, was a much anticipated arrival. Noizy came into our lives in April 2020, a couple of weeks after a dog we tried to adopt escaped before he made it into our house. We were absolutely devastated about what happened to Jonny, the dog who was supposed to join us last March. You might say that, in a weird way, Jonny was a casualty of COVID-19 and extreme negligence. But when he died, he also helped save two canine lives– Noizy, and Max, an elderly cocker spaniel who found himself abandoned at our Tierpension when his owner died. The proprietor offered him to us, but since we had already committed to Noizy, I ended up sharing his story in a local Facebook group and Max was adopted by a teacher at the American school in Wiesbaden. I take comfort in knowing that losing Jonny meant that two dogs got new homes. Still, it was horrible what happened to him.

We were approved to adopt Jonny, a beautiful beagle mix from Sardinia, in mid March 2020, right around the time COVID-19 was getting really bad in Europe. Originally, we planned to drive up to northern Germany to pick him up from his foster family’s house. But before we could make travel plans, the local command issued General Order #1, which forbade us from leaving the Wiesbaden area. We let the rescue know that we couldn’t travel and offered to pay Jonny’s expenses until we could go get him. The rescue wouldn’t agree to that, but proposed that we could pay for a pet taxi to have him brought to us. Long story short, Bill ended up agreeing, and after hasty arrangements were made, Jonny was picked up by a pet taxi and driven to Wiesbaden overnight.

The woman who had brought Jonny to us had driven all night from northern Germany. She was exhausted, having told Bill that she had been driving for seventeen hours. For some reason, she had not properly secured Jonny with so much as a collar and a leash before she took him out of her pet taxi. She put him down on the ground, completely naked, and tried to use a lasso leash on him. The dog backed out of the lasso before it tightened, took off running, and soon found his way to the Autobahn, where he eventually got hit by a car. We found about it the morning after we lost him. The pet rescue found out first, because Jonny had a chip. I also got contacted by a club in Germany that helps the police inform people of their pets’ deaths. That was weird. Especially since he wasn’t really our pet yet. There’s a club for almost everything in Germany.

Complicating matters was the fact that a couple of people in Bill’s office were sick with COVID-19, and we found out about it the morning Jonny ran away from us. Bill was forced to quarantine just a couple of hours after Jonny escaped. We couldn’t look for him ourselves, but even if we could, he didn’t know us at all. He’d never even so much as sniffed us. We never petted him. I don’t think we would have been able to catch him, even if we could have found him. It was just heartbreaking; he was only about ten feet from our front door when he escaped.

I will never forgot how absolutely horrible that experience was… I definitely learned some lessons from it. In fact, as I type this, Bill is heading to court to testify about what happened to Jonny. The rescue sued the pet taxi driver, who refused to take any responsibility for what happened. (Edited to add: I just learned that at the last minute, the pet taxi driver decided to settle and Bill didn’t even have to be at the courthouse today… so basically, we rushed back to Germany for nothing. Oh well. At least she finally took responsibility. Wish they’d told us sooner.)

Anyway, last spring, I was feeling distraught about the Jonny’s sudden death. Bill and I don’t know how much longer we’ll live in Germany, and it seemed impossible to get another dog. I’d had my heart set on Jonny. Thanks to COVID, my reluctance to buy from a breeder, and German prejudice against Americans adopting dogs from Tierheims (even if it is justified), it seemed like we’d be a single dog household until we eventually depart Germany, and I have no idea when that will be. One day, I posted on Facebook that I really wanted another dog.

Within minutes of my post, my friend Mary sent me a message. She said she could put me in contact with an American woman who rescues dogs. Before I knew it, I was chatting on Facebook with Meg, who had lived in Kosovo, a tiny breakaway nation that was once part of Yugoslavia and is not recognized as its own country everywhere. Meg now lives in Germany, but still has many dogs in Kosovo who need homes. She is very committed to seeing that the dogs she rescues all get the sweet life off of the streets of Kosovo.

My heart was already kind of leaning toward adopting a dog from the East, even before we lost Zane. I have another Facebook friend named Trish who used to live in Stuttgart and was also living there when we had our latest Stuttgart stint. Trish adopted a beautiful female dog from a shelter near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Trish had said her dog, Phoebe, was the “best souvenir ever”. I had watched in delight as she posted pictures of Phoebe, who went from homeless Croatian street dog to beloved canine family member. I was inspired, even if I’m really used to beagles.

Anyway, after establishing contact, Meg sent me pictures of the dogs she had… and when I saw Noizy’s face, he made an immediate impression on my heart. I asked Meg about Noizy and she gave me some of his details. I told Bill about him and shared his story and photos. But we knew it would take awhile before Noizy would be part of our household.

First, he’d need to pass a blood test. Then there would be a four month waiting period after the test. There was also COVID-19 to consider, with borders opening and closing at varying intervals on a weekly basis. COVID-19 also made it temporarily impossible to export Noizy’s blood sample to a veterinary school in Germany, where it would be tested. Planes weren’t flying for awhile in the spring, and that was the only way to get the sample out of Kosovo. I think that logistical hassle added a month to the wait. Then the transportation had to be arranged.

All told, we’ve waited almost six months to bring Noizy home. There were times when it seemed like he’d never get here. Sometimes, I wondered how we were going to coordinate everything to get him to Germany, especially given the COVID-19 situation and the grim news reports about how there will be a second wave.

Noizy arrived last night after a very long, yet whirlwind, two day journey from his homeland. This series I’m going to start today is about that journey. I’m going to include the usual hotel details, as well as what little I got to see of the places we stayed, but this trip wasn’t about sightseeing. It was about expanding our family to a very special dog whom I hope will have a long and happy life with us. I’m sure this is just the first of many stories I’ll have about our new family member, a big dog from a tiny country… who came to us all the way from Kosovo and has already made a home in our hearts.

Post pandemic trip number two– Eagles and wolves and goats, oh my!

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Saturday morning, we decided that after breakfast, we would visit Gerolstein, the land of famous bubbly water that drew me to the Eifel in the first place. After taking the slow elevator to the reception area of the hotel, we walked into the hotel’s restaurant/bar area and found our assigned table, still with its personalized ceramic nameplate. I ripped off my mask, and Bill fetched some Brötchen. A lady came around to take our preferred hot beverage order. We got a Kännchen of coffee, and I put the mask back on for a trip to the buffet. I was actually kind of surprised that they were doing a buffet breakfast, given that so many practices have been altered due to the virus. I did notice that the staff was rather strict about the mask use. One guy was kindly but firmly reminded as he approached the buffet. He dutifully put the mask on and went looking for his morning Wurst.

Besides the usual breads, cheeses, sausages, smoked salmon, and fruit offered for breakfast at a lot of German hotels, the Hotel Zur Post in Meerfeld also offers hard boiled eggs. Bill and I had them all three mornings and they were perfectly done. Bravo to them for that. When we were in Strasbourg, France back in February, I was served an almost raw egg at breakfast. I was pretty grossed out by it. But that place made up for the egg fiasco by also having really excellent brownies at breakfast.

We weren’t totally sure what we were going to end up doing after we visited Gerolstein, so Bill and I took along our bathing suits. I knew that I wanted to visit the Vulkaneifel Therme in Bad Bertrich at some point, and I wasn’t sure when we’d do that. The trip to Gerolstein took us in the opposite direction of where we’d need to go to get to the Therme, but you never know when you’ll run into a good swimming hole.

The drive to Gerolstein from Meerfeld was extremely pretty. We even pulled over so I could take a few pictures of the stunning countryside. I also played around a bit with the features on my digital camera, which doesn’t get used as often as my iPhone camera does.

As we were heading toward our destination, I read a news article about a German “Rambo” who was on the loose in Oppenau last week. I mentioned in a previous post that we were once in Oppenau and needed to call for help, but were unable to get a cell signal. We had just visited the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle (All Saints Waterfalls), which are located in the Black Forest near Oppenau, when we came upon a motorcycle accident. A group of bikers had come around a sharp corner too fast and one of them went over the side of the road. It must have happened literally minutes before we encountered it. One of the bikers asked if he could use my phone to call an ambulance. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no cell signal whatsoever.

I was reminded of that lack of cell coverage when we were in the Eifel, but I was reminded of Oppenau because my German friend told me about the German Rambo guy… a heavily armed reclusive man named Yves Rausch who was running amok near Oppenau after having held up four German police officers and stolen their weapons several days prior. As we were headed toward Gerolstein, I read about how he’d been “rolled up” by the police… Oppenau would not have been a bad place to visit over the weekend. It’s very beautiful there, too… but no longer so close to get to as it was when we lived near Stuttgart.

We found a public parking lot near Gerolstein’s Kyllpark, which is notably good for kids. We didn’t plan to visit this park; it’s just where we happened to land. I was kind of delighted by it and got some pictures on a walk Bill and I took. It’s been too long since we took a walk in nature, although if I were going to plan a nature walk, I probably wouldn’t necessarily start with the Kyllpark, unless I had children with me. Bill, of course, has a big kid with him at all times… 😉 Here are some photos.

After our walk, we headed into town and walked around a bit. I needed to pee and did see a sign for a WC, but never ended up finding it. It was close to lunchtime, so I thought maybe we’d have lunch in Gerolstein. But we ended up just walking around some more, taking in the sights. At one point, we stopped for a rest and social media break and I started talking to Bill… then got off on a ranting tangent. He gave me this face…

I finally said, “Let’s move along, so you can recover your dignity…” I am very lucky to have a husband who indulges me so much.

I got some more photos of Gerolstein, which is, in fact, a nice little town with plenty of things to do… but I’m kind of glad we stayed in Meerfeld, because it was a lot prettier and its location forced us to move around the area more. Staying in a town like Gerolstein would have been very convenient. Maybe too convenient… There’s a lot to do in and around Gerolstein, though, and we would come back for another visit.

I never did manage to find a toilet before we got back in the car. Luckily, we picked a direction that took us right past the Gerolsteiner water plant… and up the hill to the Eagle and Wolf Park at Kasselburg Castle. I was pretty glad to see it, since this was another place we’d hoped to encounter during our trip. We were lucky enough to run into it by chance, and wonder of wonders, it had a place for me to pee in private. An added bonus was the amazing castle, as well as seeing animals. I love going to animal parks, especially if I get to feed the animals, too. This particular park is very well kept and offers stunning views as well as fun animals!

The Eagle and Wolf park costs 9 euros per adult and 6,50 euros per child over age 4. However, they do offer family cards for 35,00 euros, as well as group rates and special admissions fees for people in certain categories, such as the disabled. Dogs are not allowed, and there is a snack bar in the park, as well as an adjacent restaurant that one can visit before or after visiting.

We weren’t allowed to go into the imposing tower on the grounds, which suited me fine, since I can guarantee many steps were involved. However, we did walk around the castle ruins and visit the birds of prey/raptors. Some of them were a little depressing to look at, if I’m honest. They were completely still in their cages with lanyards attached to their legs. I was prepared for that, having read reviews on TripAdvisor about a similar place in Kintzheim, France. Some reviewers commented on the birds being attached to lanyards and the people who run the French Eagle Park explained that after eating, raptors sit motionless on their perches for hours. I also know that the birds are trained and do flight shows almost every day, so they do get to fly… and some of the birds were a little more animated, too. I got a kick out of a pair of randy owls in the palais area who kept flirting and cleaning each other’s feathers. The owls were not attached to lanyards, as they don’t tolerate them. They were aviaries and were more active. They all looked healthy.

Although my stomach was growling a little, we ended up walking the long way through the park, visiting the wolves. This Kasselburg park has Timber wolves and a couple of Arctic wolves. I saw the Timber wolves napping and I caught sight of one of the Arctic wolves, who was on the move, so I didn’t get a good picture. They also had wild boars, who were clustered together rooting around and eating something…. probably worms.

I was pretty grateful when we finally encountered the deer, which visitors are welcome to feed. You can buy a box of food from the machines at just one euro each. It’s worth it to interact with the very friendly and adorable goats, deer, ponies, and geese. Here are some photos of our visit to the park… which took us on a six mile hike. Been awhile since I last did that, and I must admit, it wore me out.

Just after we left the woods, we heard what sounded a little like donkeys braying… but I knew they weren’t donkeys. It wasn;t until we rounded the corner that I saw the source of the hubbub. A small group of deer were standing in the shade. I’m not sure if they were fighting or fucking, but they were sure making some noise! I think it might have been the first time I have ever heard deer making animal noises. I didn’t have much time to think about that, though, because I was soon met by my first beggar of many…

By the time we were finished feeding the animals, we were definitely ready for refreshment. So we went next door to the Restaurant Forsthaus Kasselburg, which offers traditional German food and beautiful views. It was a good place to stop for refueling. In fact, we were so well fed that we managed to skip dinner on Saturday night…

The restaurant offered reasonable prices, as well as a fun “sprinkler show” in the dining room, complete with cheesy Muzak. That’s really the only way I can describe it. It looked like the indoor dining room had a stage, and there were sprinklers in front of it, along with lights. I’m sure when the weather is less beautiful, the inside is nice to dine in. No one was eating inside, though… better for virus protection. I noticed that besides contact tracing (leaving your name, address, and phone number) and wearing masks, this restaurant also routed access to the bathrooms so you go in and out through different doors, thereby lessening the chance of exposure to the virus or other people.

By the time we were finished with lunch, it was mid afternoon, and we were pretty tired. I wanted to go swimming in the hotel’s awesome spa pool and visit the Meerfelder Maar close up. More on that in the next post.

New toy causes odd reaction in Arran…

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Since we’re stuck inside for the time being, Bill and I have been doing a lot of shopping. German businesses have predictably adapted to stay afloat during this challenging time. For some reason, Bill has been getting lots of ads on Facebook for meat. Pork, beef, and other butchered delights are being offered by local Metzgereien, complete with free delivery. He’s also getting ads for coffee. We’ve now fully stocked our liquor supply… which maybe we shouldn’t have done, but our mint plant has really taken off and maybe I’ll want to have a mojito or something.

I figured now was a good time to try new kitchen gadgets, so I decided to get us a pizza stone and an air fryer. The air fryer is an appliance I’d been wanting to purchase for a long time. I bought a Philips model, XXL, which is bigger than the basic, and one can also purchase baking and pizza attachments for it.

A new toy… takes up a lot of counter space, so it must live downstairs in the basement.

We tried it out last night. Bill cooked chicken leg quarters. They turned out deliciously, but after we ate dinner, we noticed a strange adverse effect on our dog, Arran. As Bill was clearing the table, I noticed that Arran didn’t seem to be feeling very well. He looked almost like he was about to have a seizure. He has had a couple of seizure like “spells” in the past, although they have been years apart. It looked like he was going to have another one last night.

Poor Arran had a frightened, confused, and sickened look on his face, like he might vomit. His tail was tucked between his legs, and he moved very slowly, as if he was off balance and on the verge of collapse. He started trembling, which automatically made me think of awful reasons why dogs suddenly start to shake. A friend of mine recently lost her dog to kidney failure, and trembling was her dog’s most prominent symptom. I worried that maybe Arran was trying to tell us something awful… He’s ten years old and seems very healthy, but I know all too well that dogs can have silent diseases that suddenly take them. Our dog, Zane, was diagnosed with lymphoma and died a week later.

Then I wondered if maybe the air fryer had something toxic in it that had poisoned Arran. I even looked up xylitol, which is a sweetener that is deadly to dogs. I wondered if he’d somehow gotten ahold of some. We even considered calling the emergency vet, then wondered if they’d be open during this cursed coronavirus crisis. I was very worried that we might experience another tragic canine loss.

But then I went Googling, and I came across this fascinating Reddit thread. About a year or two ago, many people posted about their dogs’ strange reactions to air fryers. The behavior they were describing was very much like what Bill and I witnessed in Arran last night.

Evidently, what Arran experienced after dinner is not uncommon in dogs when their humans start using new appliances. The air fryer was very quiet to us, but as a dog, Arran can hear things that we can’t. After reading the Reddit thread, it occurred to me that the high, whirring, fan sound of the fryer must have disturbed Arran’s inner ear, which would have affected his balance and probably made him feel sick. For him, it must have been like he was trapped at a super loud disco or something, and it just took awhile for his ears to quit ringing. That would explain his odd behavior last night. Thankfully, about an hour after we were finished eating and after lots of hugs and reassurance from Bill, Arran was back to his normal self. He’s just fine this morning.

People commenting on the Reddit thread wrote about their dogs not liking the Instant Pot, smoke detectors that beep, or other appliances that make a high pitched noises. We do have an Instant Pot, and Arran doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. In fact, he loves it when Bill gets it out, since he uses it to make homemade dog food. But clearly the air fryer is a problem. Fortunately, we have a fenced backyard Arran can hang out in, as well as a large house with distant rooms we can take put him in when we use the fryer. Or, I can just take him for an extended walk… which he loves and I desperately need to do more of for my health’s sake. According to the Reddit thread, just getting the pet away from the appliance when it’s operating is enough to prevent this odd attack.

For more reading about how our latest technology drives pets insane, click here.

Feeding frenzy at Wildpark Pforzheim…

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Today, Bill and I discovered yet another kid friendly local attraction that we should have discovered years ago.  I am not sure how we missed it after being in this area for a total of five years.  Nevertheless, this afternoon we visited Wildpark Pforzheim for the very first time and we both had a blast.

The Wildpark Pforzheim is a really cool park full of wild animals, many of whom are no longer all that wild.  Quite a few animals at the park can be fed zoo feed, which you can purchase at the park.  A few animals can also be petted in the petting zoo.

Amazingly enough, there is no entrance fee for this park.  You just pay for parking– five euros for three hours (ETA: I’m told it’s only two euros on weekdays).  And, if you want to feed the animals, that’s another two euros.  Naturally, there’s also a biergarten.  I think we spent a grand total of 21 euros for parking, one little bucket of food, and a snack of wurst, fries, and beer.  We did pay six euros total as a pfand for the beer glasses, but that was refunded after we returned them.

Anyway… here are some photos I took today, along with some lightweight commentary.  I think this will go down as another great weekend activity, especially if you have kids who love animals.  Dogs are also allowed at the park, as long as they are on a leash (though I did see a couple who weren’t).

This is the entrance to the park.  It’s a surprisingly big place.  Several parking areas are available, but it was still a bit crowded today.

The first thing Bill did was buy some food.  You can buy it at a stand near the biergarten, or at one of the many machines scattered around the park.  The animals that get this food are quite ready for you to offer it to them.

 

The animals that can be fed will have green signs on their enclosures.

The ones that aren’t allowed to be fed will have red signs.  Be careful with this.  If you get caught feeding animals that aren’t supposed to be fed, you will be stuck with the vet bill and kicked out the park.

 

Bill being the good provider…

There are cool carvings all over the park.

These two alpacas were very keen to be fed.  They stuck their heads out in an attempt to vacuum some food from my outstretched palm.  

A honey exhibit.  We stopped in on the way out of the park.  They show you how they collect it and sell some products there.

A very friendly creature… followed me eagerly down the fence line begging for food.

This one was not quite as eager.

I love donkeys and they had several lovable ones at the park.

The Highland cow was a little bit tricky.  Basically, the mouth opens, the tongue sticks out, and you dump some food on it.  

In the honey bee exhibit…

There were also a couple of aquariums.

 

A fish otter… sleek and shiny slips out of the water.

This deer got the last of my food.  She was working it.

So was he!  

A cooperative owl.

Wild cats…

The Wildpark Pforzheim also has a small ropes course, complete with ziplining, rope bridges, and climbing walls.  

I wish I were more athletic.  Parts of this really looked like fun!  

Smaller kids also have lots of activities to occupy them.  I took notice of several play areas for kids under age twelve.  The equipment was very sturdy looking and was well attended by happy children.

Kissing geese.  The animals in this area had signs on their enclosures showing the people sponsoring their care.

Donkeys grooming each other.

These two started butting antlers after I gave them a snack.

I’m not certain, but I think these pacifiers are left by people looking to have kids.  Someone can correct me if I got the wrong idea.  They were over by the chickens.  ETA:  My German friend Susanne has corrected me about the pacifiers.  Here’s her explanation…

 

LOL – I have to correct you, because you got the wrong idea about the pacifiers.  You even have the answer written on one of your photos. It’s a so called Schnullerbaum. An idea born in Denmark (1920’s). It’s for the children to help them to say goodbye to their pacifier often combined with a nice ceremony. ‘Ich bin jetzt ja schon groß und lasse meinen Schnuller los. Dem Taubenhaus geb ich ihn her, jetzt hab ich keinen Schnuller mehr! Die Tauben haben ihren Spaß: und ich geb jetzt ohne Schnuller Gas! – oder so ähnlich, couldn’t read the whole text because of the pacifiers. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schnullerbaum

Ein Schnullerbaum dient der einfacheren Schnuller-Entwöhnung eines Kleinkinds. Es kann sich sowohl um…
DE.WIKIPEDIA.ORG

I loved the owls.  They were so majestic!

There was one mini horse…

A good snack for after our walk.  They also had ice cream, soft drinks, and wine.  The nearby bathrooms were clean and ample and there was no Klofrau looking for 50 cents.

Another play area for small kids.  

I do love animals very much, but even I was surprised by how much fun I had interacting with all of them at the Wildpark today.  Most of them were really tame and happy to take food gently.  A few were bonafide hams in front of my camera.

Bill and I were marveling at how many awesome things there are to do in Germany… and how little they cost to do.  I was telling him that in America, it would probably cost $40 a person to attend a place like this, plus parking, overpriced food, and constant encouragement to buy souvenirs.  Also, there would be a lot less animal feeding going on and constant supervision by bored minders.  I love that here in Germany, there are places like the Wildpark where people are trusted not to be stupid… and you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have a good time.

So… I highly recommend the Wildpark Pforzheim, especially if you have youngsters who love animals.  It’s a really good time!  I think I liked it even more than Monkey Hill.

I found my thrill at Monkey Hill– Affenberg Salem

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Bill made friends with a monkey today!

Sometimes I see people suggesting fun activities for people with kids.  Then I feel sad because I don’t have kids, even though I am a big kid myself.  I kept seeing people referring to a place called Monkey Hill down near the Bodensee and commenting on how much fun it is to visit there and feed monkeys.  It sounded like something I’d love, even though I don’t have any wee ones.  Luckily, I have a very indulgent husband.

Although the weather was a little chilly this morning and there were clouds in the sky, we decided we were going to go see some primates come hell or high water.  We left the house at about 11:30am and headed down 81.  After driving past the lake and through a few quaint towns, we arrived at Affenberg Salem at a couple of minutes past one o’clock.  The parking lot was full of cars.  Some guy gave us a dirty look because Bill accidentally turned a way he wasn’t supposed to.  I returned the dirty look and laughed hysterically when the guy saw me glaring at him and reacted with surprise.

You gotta finish your smokes, food, and drinks before you enter.

We found a parking spot and paid nine euros each for admission.  Then we set off into the park, where ducks, swans, fish, water bats, and other water fowl cavort in a large lake.  Not having been to Monkey Hill before, I wasn’t sure when we’d be seeing the monkeys, but I had a good time feeding the huge fish with the free food provided.

One handful, please!

Loads of huge carp in this lake.

Feeding frenzy!

Stork nests are everywhere!

They have bats, too.

I was getting a kick out of the territorial swans.

Ever present rapeseed will soon turn my nose into a faucet.

 

As we approached the area where the monkeys were, a lady announced the rules in German.  Somehow she knew we weren’t German and offered us a book with the rules translated in English.  It was good to read them, since the monkeys are smart and engaging with them improperly can lead to disaster.  She said her trusty book had the rules translated into about 30 languages.  I guess they get people from all over the place, although I didn’t think the park was super commercial the way Apenheul in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands was.  Although Apenheul is larger and has more types of monkeys than Monkey Hill does, it’s also more expensive and not as interactive.  Apenheul felt more like a theme park.

The signage in the park is translated into German, French, and English.  They also use a lot of illustrations.  

This dude was sitting at the beginning of the route.  I guess he was the boss.  He got a lot of attention.

These monkeys were all sitting on the route, waiting for people to hand them pieces of the free popcorn the handlers pass out.  When you give it to them, they take it very gently.  I felt like I was handing popcorn to a small child.  

Touching family portrait.

Spot the monkey in the photo!

It’s not a bad life.

This was an interesting graphic showing everybody typical monkey behaviors.  Bill got a kick out of #9.

I had only one piece of popcorn left.  It was small and one of the employees told me in German, then English, that the monkeys don’t like the small pieces.  Oh well.  If you visit, I recommend rationing your popcorn.  You will run into monkeys along the trail who will be hoping for a treat and aren’t at the top of the pecking order.  Also, if you understand German, you can stop and listen to the keepers talk about the care and feeding of the monkeys.  I found myself understanding snippets of things I heard.  It reminded me of tuning in to a staticky radio station.  I’d catch bits and pieces of things and the rest was all distorted.

Welcome to the Monkey House.

I didn’t see any snakes.  I’m glad.

There are deer here, living a nice lifestyle.

So many storks!

After you stroll around the monkey park, you can stop by the biergarten for lunch.  There are brats, schnitzels, pretzels, cakes, and all manner of beverages.  There’s also a play area for kids aged 3 to 12.

I was intrigued by the trees.

Parking and bathrooms are free of charge, too!

 

We had a great time at Monkey Hill, though we didn’t spend too long there.  They have a few indoor activities to include a film room.  There’s also a large gift shop, though we skipped it.  Obviously, this activity is very popular with kids and we saw a lot of them today, although it’s also fun for big kids.  I did see some people with strollers, too, though I don’t think you’re supposed to take them into the monkey enclosure.  This activity doesn’t have to take long, either.  We were there for less than two hours, although we could have taken more time to enjoy the park.  Afterwards, if you’re not ready to head back to Stuttgart, you can always go check out the lake.  Monkey Hill is very close to the Bodensee.

It was fairly crowded today; I imagine it gets packed in warm weather.  The park is a great activity for Sundays and holidays.  Below is a video I took of some monkeys playing.  I could have stood there all day and filmed their antics.

These monkeys were a lot of fun!

Making dog food with the Instant Pot…

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Arran

Zane

 

Here’s a non-travel related post that I’m putting up because I know many of my readers have an Instant Pot and/or dog(s).  Making homemade dog food is one way to put that gadget to good use.  If you just want to see the way we made the food, skip past the first seven paragraphs of this post.  😉

At the end of October 2016, my eight year old dog Zane had a mast cell tumor removed.  In July 2015, my other dog, seven year old Arran, also had one removed.  Neither tumor was particularly aggressive, although Zane has shown signs of being more affected by mast cell cancer than Arran has.  Mast cell tumors are a sign that a dog’s immune system has gone a bit haywire.  Some dogs only get one tumor and that’s it.  Others can get very sick from mast cell tumors and die within weeks.  I realize that not everyone has heard of mast cell tumors, so here’s a link to an article offering a basic explanation of what mast cell cancer is.  Mast cell tumors are extremely common in dogs, so all dog owners should know something about them.  Some breeds are more susceptible to mast cell tumors than others are.

Before Bill and I had Zane and Arran, we had two other beagles, Flea and MacGregor.  Both of them died of different cancers.  Flea had prostate cancer and MacGregor had a very malignant spinal tumor.  Although neither Zane nor Arran are anywhere near as sick as either Flea or MacGregor were, I have about had my fill of canine cancer.  I have recently made some changes in my dogs’ diets to help them live as long and as well as possible.

MacGregor (left) and Flea (right) when we lived in Germany the first time.  Both were claimed too young by canine cancers.

When Arran got his mast cell tumor in 2015, the first thing I did was switch dog foods.  I stopped buying any grocery store brand food and got them the senior formula of Orijen, which is an expensive grain free, high protein food made in Canada.  I order it from Amazon.de, but I have heard it’s also available at local pet stores here in Germany.  There are other good quality commercial foods available, too, and they are a better bet than cheap grocery store brands.  That being said, it’s a good idea to stay away from kibble if you can.  Although feeding kibble is very convenient, it’s not the best thing to give dogs who have cancer, even if it’s really high quality stuff.

Next, I put the dogs on what is known as Cleo’s Diet.  It’s a high protein, low carb diet for dogs who have mast cell cancer.  Basically, it consists of mixing a little bit of ricotta (or cottage cheese, if you prefer) with either fish or krill oil and feeding it twice a day with high protein dog food.  I give Zane Tagamet (an antacid for humans that I get from Amazon) at each meal and both dogs get daily Benadryl (an antihistamine), although Zane gets more than Arran does.  The Tagamet is important for Zane because mast cell disease gives him an upset stomach.  Both Tagamet and Benadryl block histamine.  Dogs with mast cell disease release too much histamine, which can cause tumors and make them feel sick.  The medications help block some of the excess histamine and heparin that can make the cancer worse.  Tagamet also has some anti-cancer properties that can help prevent cancer cells from attaching to internal organs.

I also give my dogs CBD oil (made from hemp).  Zane, in particular, has really done well on the CBD oil.  It obviously makes him feel much better by reducing inflammation and pain.  I have also used CBD oil on myself to rather amazing results.  It helped me get rid of a stubborn skin lesion I’ve had for months.  I get my CBD oil off of Amazon.de.  Anyone who wants to know which one is welcome to hit me up on my blog’s Facebook page or on my personal page if you know me on Facebook.

A lot of people swear by raw food diets for their dogs.  I do not give my dogs raw diets because they are not recommended for dogs with mast cell disease.  Mast cell cancer screws up the dog’s immune system, so raw diets can expose them to pathogens that might make the condition worse.  Instead, for us, the focus will be on not overcooking the food.  Homemade dog food isn’t just for dogs who are sick.  A lot of people feed raw or homemade diets to preserve their dogs’ health.

There are a lot of great groups on Facebook for people who have dogs with cancer or other illnesses.  There are also groups for making homemade food.  Since I got us an Instant Pot at Christmas, Bill and I decided to use it to make some homemade dog food yesterday.  At some point, I may take my dogs off commercial food altogether.  I bought our Instant Pot on Amazon.de, but it’s also available on Amazon.com.  It costs about $100 and you can get one with either 110 or 220 voltage.  I think there are two versions now.  I would opt for the higher speed one, as it also makes yogurt.

I thought some readers might be interested in seeing how we made the food.  It turned out well; the dogs love it and we can even try it ourselves.

The ingredients we used:  Fresh turkey breast, kale, spinach, broccoli, brown rice, lentils, water, salt, turmeric, and black pepper.

Bill prepares the ingredients.  We chose turkey as our protein source because Zane is allergic to a lot of things, including beef.  He seems to do okay with chicken, but we decided that since chicken is also a common allergen in dogs, we’d try a more exotic meat source.  We also have some rabbit that we’ll use at a later date.

The Instant Pot.  I was inspired to buy this handy appliance after reading rave reviews from one of my local Facebook friends who is a mom of three young kids.  Bill loves it for a lot of reasons, including the fact that it makes perfect hard boiled eggs.  The Instant Pot also makes yogurt.  I don’t eat yogurt, but it is a very good thing to have on hand for dogs with sensitive stomachs.  Bill likes yogurt, too.  Next Instant Pot project will probably be yogurt making.

Green vegetables are very important for a cancer fighting diet.  I picked up broccoli, spinach, and kale.  As you can see, they are of the frozen variety for now.

Arran was curious about what was going on.

One pound of turkey breast from the commissary, along with 1-1/3 cups of brown rice, 1/4 cup lentils (which we bought at a vending machine), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, and handfuls of the greens.  We could have also added a sweet potato and a regular potato.  Because we’re trying to avoid excessive starch, we omitted those ingredients.

We put the lentils and rice in the pot.

Bill cuts up the turkey.

Spoons out the turmeric, which is another powerful weapon against cancer.

A little salt.

Added to the pot, along with black pepper.

Next we added handfuls of the kale, spinach, and broccoli.

We added 3 1/2 cups of water…

and the turkey…

All set now.

I had made a video to go here, but the sound on it didn’t turn out very well.  I’ll have to try making one the next time we do this.  Bill set up the Instant Pot to run for 25 minutes on high pressure.  It actually takes a bit longer than 25 minutes because the pressure has to build and release.

This is what the food looked like after it had been pressure cooked for the allotted time.

It was a little bit soupy at first, probably because we used frozen veggies.  The rice eventually absorbed all of the extra liquid.

The end result was six cups of dog food.  We have already given the dogs a couple of very small servings to see how they react to it.  So far, they love the taste.

I am going to add links to a few great books for those of you who may be facing the same dog cancer battle we are, as well as links to some good Facebook groups.

Edited to add: Zane and Arran are still with us on February 8. 2018.  They still love this food and are as healthy as ever!

The Dog Diet Answer Book by Greg Martinez, DVM

The Dog Cancer Survival Guide by Dr. Damian Dressler

The two above books are good guides to learning about canine cancer.  The book below is a great book for learning about canine nutrition and homemade dog food.  The vet who wrote the book below also has some fabulous YouTube videos.  I recommend looking him up.

Canine diet and cancer Facebook groups I’m in…  All four have been helpful, but I recommend following them sparingly, because some of the stories and pictures are really sad.  On the other hand, there are also some great uplifting stories about dogs who have been helped naturally.

Holistic Help for Dogs with Mast Cell Cancer

Homemade Hope/Holistic Healing for Dogs with Cancer and Illness

Home Cooked Diets For Dogs

CBD Dog’s (for dogs with cancer) in honor of Crixus James Slygo Smith

Edited to add: I have left all but the first group: Holistic Help for Dogs with Mast Cell Cancer and the third group, Home Cooked Diets for Dogs.  The other groups were helpful, but my Facebook feed was getting clogged with sad stories about sick dogs.  Those two groups work best for us at this time.

Hopefully, this post will be helpful to readers who are also dealing with canine cancer.  My next post will be back to food and travel, as we are heading to France today!  And yes, Zane and Arran are coming with us!  Stay tuned!

Results of our German veterinary surgery adventure…

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I took my dogs to the vet yesterday.  Arran needed to get his stitches taken out after the surgery he had two weeks ago.  Zane was along for the ride, but also got his routine allergy shot because we were close enough to the next month.  Arran’s surgical wound from his surgery has healed nicely and he even removed three of the stitches on his own.

The vet removed the remaining three stitches, then gave me the news about the pathology report.  Unfortunately, I was right to be suspicious about the growth on Arran’s head.  It was a mast cell tumor.  The pathologist graded it at 1.5, which means he thinks there is a chance the cells could spread.  However, the tumor had clean margins, meaning there was no sign of cancer cells in the skin surrounding the tumor.  It was also a very small growth, maybe the size of a medium sized pea.

The vet explained that we could put Arran through tests to see if chemo would be useful for him.  But, she said the pathologist said if Arran were his dog, he wouldn’t do that.  It would likely involve a bone marrow tap, which would be stressful and painful.  Moreover, chemo has limited results with this type of cancer.  There is a chance that the surgery was curative, but unfortunately, mast cell tumors tend to recur.  I will have to watch him closely and have every new growth tested and/or removed.

I don’t know if I could say Arran has cancer like I could with the two dogs that preceded him.  My old dogs, Flea and MacGregor, had prostate and neural sheath cancer respectively.  Flea was diagnosed by the same German veterinarian when we lived here back in 2009.  We brought him in because he was having trouble peeing and pooping.  She initially thought he’d gotten into something that upset his stomach until she checked his prostate and realized that it was hard and irregular and looked like a map of Russia.

Both Flea and MacGregor had their diseases for awhile before we knew what was going on, so there was little we could do for them other than keep them comfortable.  Arran, on the other hand, is very strong and healthy, and as far as I know, the cancer was removed when he had his surgery.  Or, maybe it wasn’t.  Only time will tell.  But then, when it comes to life, there are never any guarantees.  Even if he’d never had a mast cell tumor, he could die in an accident at any time.  Or he could die of something totally unrelated to the growth on his head.  It does look like we caught the tumor early, though, so this news isn’t nearly as horrible as it could be.

Another bright spot in this drama is that the vet bill was very low.  Yesterday, I got the comprehensive bill for the surgery, toenail clipping, a couple of allergy shots for Zane, pathologist’s report, and prescription drugs.  The bill for all of that was the US equivalent of about $250 before VAT.  Since our vet accepts a VAT form, we didn’t have to pay that.  Even if we had, it still was a lot cheaper than similar service in the United States.

Arran this morning.

Well, I’ll just have to keep an eye on him.  Luckily he’s both cute and sweet.  Anyway, let my story be a lesson to you.  If you find any weird growths on your dog or anywhere else, it’s best to get them checked out before they turn into something sinister.  I am glad I didn’t acquiesce when the vet said maybe we didn’t need to remove that growth.

Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg… part 9

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Yesterday, we moved on from Apeldoorn to Haarlem.  Originally, I had planned to stay in Amsterdam, but Rick Steves advises that Haarlem is much homier and friendlier and less crowded.  Also, I found the hotel prices were much more affordable.  Before we went to Haarlem, we decided to visit Apenheul, a special zoo that is home to monkeys and other related creatures.  I knew it would be a very kid friendly place, but it was also fun for us to explore.  We got there fairly early.  As it turned out, getting there somewhat early was a good thing.  The park wasn’t too crowded and there was plenty of parking available.  It was 17,50 euros for each ticket, which was less than I was expecting.

We saw gorillas, ring tailed lemurs, orangutans, and other adorable primates, many of which were free range and allowed to walk among the masses.  Most of them didn’t mingle too much with park visitors, but there were a few that were practically tame.  Some people carried monkey bags with them because if you aren’t careful, they can get into your stuff.  We had no such trouble.  The only trouble we had involved rain, which got a little harder as we were leaving the park.  We got out of there at just the right time.

It took about 90 minutes to get to Haarlem.  Once we did, we found the hotel and the vast parking garage located right next to it.  We checked into the executive suite I booked.  I was lucky enough to have a $150 coupon, so it was really a steal.  We are staying at the Carlton Square Hotel, which features a full and complimentary minibar.  And when I say full, I mean full.  There are generous decanters of whisky and cognac as well as vodka, gin, wine and beer.  There are also soft drinks, peanuts, and chocolates…  We stayed at the Carlton George Hotel in Glasgow and The Dominican hotel in Brussels.  Both are sister hotels, but only the Carlton George had a free bar in it.  The Carlton George wasn’t as nice as this hotel is.  I have decided I like this chain, though.  I would have booked their Amsterdam property, but it was too pricey.

Nice bed.

After offloading our stuff, we went to a local restaurant and enjoyed some beer and burgers.  Just across the street is a coffeeshop, where one can buy weed.  Bill was a little put off by it, but I read up on it and it actually gets pretty good ratings.

Later, we went to the hotel bar, which offers a nice selection of whiskys and great 80s music, which did a lot to make me feel less old.  Bill and I downed a few rounds as I said goodbye to my 42nd year on the planet…

Vienna, Austria Part 3… new friends and ditched concerts…

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On Friday morning, Bill and I got up and had breakfast at the hotel.   It was priced at 20 euros a person, though no one was keeping track of who was eating.  I have to admit, the spread was pretty nice.  They had all kinds of fruits, breads, meats, cheeses, and prepared breakfast foods.  One could also enjoy a nice glass of prosecco, though it was a little flat when I tried it.

Breakfast at the Falkensteiner…

Bill and I never have an agenda when we visit new places.  We like to wander around and listen to conversations.  We like watching people, too.  We almost always end up in a situation when we do this.

Friday morning, we were still planning to go to the hokey concert Adrian the ticket hawker had told us about.  I like classical music, though what was on the playlist were mostly well known pieces that Bill and I have heard a thousand times.  I thought it might be fun to attend the show, though honestly I could have taken it or left it.  Bill was charmed by Adrian, who was probably more entertaining than the musicians would have been.  He was certainly funnier.

We walked another three or four miles back into Vienna.  We took a look at an anti-war memorial…

Next, we ended up at the Spanish Riding School just in time to watch them take the stallions out for a workout.  I even made a video!

This was a delight!
 

Here is a video of them actually performing.  We didn’t go see it because I knew it would make me feel too horse crazy.

I spent a good portion of my childhood and adolescence around horses and I never tire of the smell.  Watching the Lipizzaners on their way out of their cozy stable made me really miss having horses in my life.  Maybe someday, if and when we stop moving so often and traveling so much.

The Austrians recognize the Genocide…

Just outside of the riding school is where a lot of horses and carriages hang out.  Bill and I don’t often do the carriage rides.  We did one in Seville back in January 2014, only because once again we got cornered by an aggressive salesman.  The rides in Vienna weren’t nearly as assertively sold to tourists and I was content to just take some pictures.  Then we noticed a church very close to the barn which had a sign commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  Having lived in Armenia, I decided I needed to have a look, so we went into the church for a little while.

As is his habit, Bill got a bit emotional during our few minutes in the church.  This one in particular was very peaceful and pleasant, which is more than I can say for St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

More photos from near the church and the Spanish Riding School…

My feet were hurting because I wore clogs that were a little too big for my feet.  I needed to sit down for awhile, so we visited our first Viennese coffee shop.  The place was adorable.  The waiters were pleasant older gentlemen in tuxedos.

Bill soaks up the atmosphere.

I had a Maria Theresia, which is strong coffee with orange liqueur, whipped cream, and chocolate dust.

He started with a Melange.  Note the glass of water.  In Vienna, as long as the glass has water in it, you can sit.

Next, I had an Irish coffee…  Bill was good and had mineral water.

The outside… we visited here twice on Friday!

 

We rounded a corner and I took photos of fancy cakes…

And then, I realized it was time for lunch…

We ended up at this amazing Italian place near St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  It was tiny, but very authentic.  Bill ordered a bottle of pinot grigio.  I had a delicious branzino (sea bass) with spinach and Bill had saffron pasta with shrimps.  It was a delightfully long, luxurious, and delicious lunch.

We wait for our food.  The store next door was having renovations done, so it was a bit noisy.  A few times, we laughed because the saw sounded a bit like loud farting.

This fish was amazing.  The server (and I think one of the owners) brought it out on a silver platter and deboned it right there in front of me.  I watched her lift the bones out of the filets as if she was removing a violin from its case.  

I liked Bill’s pasta, too.  It tasted homemade.

I got my greens!

Well worth visiting if you go to Vienna…  this is a very authentic place.  I suspect the owners are from Venice because I noticed a lot of masks on the walls.  ETA: Apparently, they are from Bari.  Also, almost everyone else who came in was speaking Italian.  I could tell this was a well-regarded restaurant among local Italians.

After our sumptuous lunch, Bill and I went into St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  We had to dodge several ticket hawkers.  Then, when we went in, the place was crowded, noisy, and not all that spiritual.  I saw no tears in Bill’s eyes this time, but I did manage to get a few photos.

German cartoons…

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There’s a German lady I “know” from the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard who reads my blogs from time to time.  She says she enjoys reading about my adventures in her country.  She caught up with me on Facebook the other day and joked that I might want to learn Swabish.  She got her point across with links to a couple of cartoons.

Meet Äffle & Pferdle, a couple of Schwabish cartoon characters.  They were originally created in the 1960s as mascots to represent what was then South German Radio Broadcasting (SDR) and is now the SouthWest Radio Broadcasting (SWR).  They were used as commercial bumpers on early evening television as representatives of Swabish culture.  Originally, it was just a horse– Pferdle– who was used, since Stuttgart’s coat of arms features a horse.  The ape, Äffle, was later added and the two’s adventures were introduced to the German television audience.

According to the link above, Äffle & Pferdle are no longer a fixture on German TV because the people who created them eventually died.  Also, German television, just like American television, is more commercial and the cartoon spots no doubt ate up valuable spots that could be used by paid advertisements.  I have to admit, though, that I find their cartoons very charming and entertaining, even as my fledging German skills aren’t quite enough to understand everything they say.

Here, they’re singing about “Banana Blues”… that’s about all I can understand.

 

“Auf der Schwäbsche Eisebahne”  I love the dancing goat!

 

These cartoons were so cute that I had to find some more.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll pick up some Swabian dialect after all…

“Lasagnen Blues”… looks like they added to the “Banana Blues”…  My German friend says this was a remake due to horsemeat being found in the lasagna at Real.

 

I could watch all day!

 

Äffle & Pferdle remind me a little of Rocky & Bullwinkle, an animated show I loved as a kid.  Like Rocky & Bullwinkle, they also appeal to adults, which makes them great characters as far as I can tell.  What better way to get lifelong fans than to engage people of all ages?  Besides, this is a great way to get to know the local culture.

They’ll teach you math, too!