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Arran’s chemo treatment #7…

Last week, Bill kindly volunteered to take Arran in for his chemo treatment. This week, as our appointment was in the morning, it was my turn to take him in. It was cold and wet yesterday, as is pretty common in Germany this time of year, although it’s not as cold here as it tended to get in Jettingen. Anyway, because it was chilly, I decided to wait until after chemo to take the dogs for a walk.

I was surprised when I got to the vet clinic and was invited to sit in the waiting room, especially since there were a couple of people in there. Up until very recently, only one person was allowed to be in there at a time. That meant sitting outside or in the car. But anyway, there were a few of us waiting, all of us masked, of course. I’m sure this is no longer a thing in the United States, at least not at veterinary clinics. Here in Germany, masking is still required at any healthcare facility, to include those that serve pets.

While I was waiting for the vet, a vet tech carried some lady’s dog into the waiting room. She was wearing low rise jeans. I don’t understand this trend, since most people seem to underestimate the sizes of their butts. The tech put the dog on the floor, and in doing so, caused her shirt to ride up, while her pants rode down. I got a view of about two inches of plumber crack… a half moon, if you will. I tried not to react, but again… I don’t understand this particular fashion trend.

The vet called for Arran, and because he was being balky about going into the exam room, the same vet tech picked him up. Arran squawked a protest. She put him on the scale, which revealed that he’s gained a little weight, mainly because he wants to eat all the time, and it’s hard not to give in to his demands. The vet said he doesn’t need to gain weight, but she’d rather him be eating than not, and lymphoma causes patients to go off their food. In early October, Arran kind of quit eating and lost weight. That is definitely NOT a problem now.

Probably because of his crying, the vet did a thorough check to see if his lymph nodes had enlarged. Then she listened to his lungs. I waited to hear bad news, but she didn’t have any. She drew blood, and much to my surprise, Arran didn’t protest at all. After dosing him with his first IV push of Vincristine, we were invited to sit in the same infusion room where Arran got his first chemo treatment in October. Arran usually lies down immediately, but yesterday, he was curious and was sniffing around outside of the door. He didn’t lie down on the bed until it was time for his third push of medication.

The vet told me that Arran’s red blood cell count is still low, but not any lower than it was on previous visits. She invited me to wait for the rest of the blood test results, which would be ready in about ten minutes, or she could call Bill. I decided to wait, since I didn’t have any other pressing business to attend to, and I know sometimes the vet plays phone tag with Bill.

The office was really busy yesterday, and people were coming in and out. One lady who was holding a plastic cage, had what appeared to be a guinea pig. She seemed charmed by Arran, and asked me if he’s a beagle. I answered that he is, although obviously he’s not all beagle. He has a pretty healthy dash of coonhound in him, which is where he gets his spots and cuddly personality. He also has some setter in him, which makes him pretty good at birding.

I am convinced that the hunter who bred Arran’s parents was trying to make the perfect hunting dog. Arran, however, did not make the cut, and wound up surrendered to a veterinarian in North Carolina, who gave him up to Triangle Beagle Rescue. There, he went through a few foster homes, and was adopted and returned by his first family.

It always amazes me when dogs end up with miracles… Arran is perfect for our family, even though he can be cranky and stubborn, and he does things like crap on the floor and raid our pantry if we don’t thoroughly “beagle proof” the house (especially since he’s been on Prednisolone). In spite of that, we’re about to celebrate ten years with him, should he make it to January 12… and it’s plain to see how much he adores us– especially Bill. It’s tough to see him with cancer, but he’s such a fighter, and once we go home from the vet, he’s living his best life.

I’ve noticed that Germans seem fascinated by beagles. When we came here the first time, back in 2007, we had two different beagles with us. At that time, it didn’t seem like there were many beagles here. People would stare when our dogs would bay. Nowadays, it seems like beagles are much more popular in Germany, but they are usually bigger and stockier than my American beagle rescues have been. Of course, Noyzi has no beagle in him at all, and it’s been fascinating to see how he’s different than my hounds have been.

The vet later told us that Arran had a couple of slightly elevated liver and kidney values, but they are expected because of the medications he’s on. We’d love for him to have more red blood cells, but for now, he’s able to live with what he has. And once we got the results, Arran practically sashayed out of the vet’s office and back to our car. He knows which one is ours. I do have to help him get in now, but he can get out on his own, and once we were in the house, he ran around like a puppy, hoping for a cookie or two. He got a walk instead.

I’ve been doing an abbreviated walk route lately, mainly due to the weather and my own laziness. At one point of our normal route, there’s a narrow “Weg”, with dense bushes on either side. We were about a third of the way down the weg, when we encountered a woman with her dog. She stared at us, giving me a clue that she didn’t think the path was big enough for the five of us, so we turned and went back the way we came.

A couple of minutes later, we ran into another woman with what appeared to be a border collie. That dog was lunging and barking, as she repeatedly screamed “Nein!” I crossed to the other side of the street as we passed the lady and her agitated pooch. Finally, as we approached home, our next door neighbor appeared with her labrador, Tommi, who jumped into the back of her station wagon. Noyzi LOVES Tommi, so he jumped out of the car and they started to play. Our neighbor had carrots, so I correctly assumed she was going to go see her horse. I miss having a horse, but not on cold, foggy, wet days…

I do believe that if Noyzi and Tommi had a big backyard to play in, they would wear each other out!

Arran is hanging in there… and Noyzi has definitely developed a love of YouTube. Especially when I watch dog shows. He was enchanted by the Purina National Dog Show, where we managed to catch the toy dog division. I think Noyzi is pretty fancy for a street dog. He’s definitely well behaved and stealthy!

So ends another week of canine chemo treatment for our dear, brave, saucy Arran. He’s amazing.

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holidays

Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part one

I’ve been looking forward to November 16, 2022 for twenty years. That’s the day Bill and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. As some readers already know, I am Bill’s second wife. On some levels, I would say he and I have had a fairly easy time of marriage. We get along very well, and we genuinely love spending time together. We aren’t just husband and wife; we are best friends. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of dramas.

All year, I’ve been thinking about what we should do to celebrate our big milestone. Normally, I would come up with a fancy vacation of some kind, or at least a trip to somewhere we’ve never been, even if it’s not a luxurious destination. But then in September, I discovered that our beloved dog, Arran, had swollen lymph nodes. The diagnosis was B-cell lymphoma. We are now in our last days with Arran, who is a very special family member, and has a particularly close bond with Bill.

Originally, we thought it would be best to ease Arran into palliative care, but he’s repeatedly showed us he wants to fight. So he’s now undergoing chemotherapy, which has been kind of miraculous. He started treatment October 13th, and on November 20th, he’s still happy and spunky. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to board him. For one thing, we’ve come to realize that Arran doesn’t enjoy being boarded anymore. He’d much rather be with us. For another, I didn’t want to burden the Hund Pension with dealing with his medications, which aren’t that complicated, but do involve some risk. He takes a drug that requires gloves to dispense safely, and it’s not safe for his poop to be accessible to other dogs.

Finally, when we were celebrating our tenth anniversary in Scotland, Arran’s predecessor, MacGregor, had an undiagnosed cancerous spinal tumor that caused an emergency while we were traveling thousands of miles away. I didn’t want anything similar to happen this time. We lost MacGregor a week before Christmas 2012, just a couple of weeks after our return from our big anniversary trip. Arran, who joined our family on January 12, 2013, is named after a Scottish island we saw on that first trip to Scotland.

I decided we’d spend our big day in Ribeauville, France, which is about a three hour drive from us. We have been there half a dozen times since 2017, staying in apartments owned by Yannick Kopff, a Alsatian native and excellent host. Yannick is extremely dog friendly, and since our favorite of his apartments, Riesling, was available for our dates, we decided that was a good place to celebrate. I booked four nights– from Wednesday, November 16th until Sunday, November 20th, at Yannick’s Gites au Coeur de Ribeauville.

Meanwhile, we were also looking forward to seeing and hearing James Taylor perform a concert. Originally, the show was supposed to go on in February 2022. But COVID-19 numbers were too high at that time, and there were many restrictions in place. So James decided to reschedule his European Tour dates for later in the year. In our case, the Frankfurt show was rescheduled for November 8th. Perfect– a Tuesday night, over a week before our anniversary trip.

On November 7th, we got the news that James had to postpone several concerts, including ours. He finally got COVID, and was advised to rest in Zurich, Switzerland for a few days. We watched anxiously, as four shows were eventually canceled because they couldn’t be rescheduled. However, Frankfurt’s venue was open for November 19th… last night. We were supposed to be in France last night, but we decided to come home a day early to catch James’s show… and I’m really glad we did that, because it was a great show, in spite of James’s brush with COVID.

I don’t have a lot of exciting stories to tell about our most recent trip to Ribeauville. November, just before the Christmas markets, is the “off season”. A lot of places were closed in preparation for the frenzy that is about to hit the village. I don’t know how big their market was in 2021, but I’m pretty sure it was canceled in 2020. I have a feeling this year’s markets will be bigger, and I could see that people were preparing. But, in terms of having a lot to do while we were there… I can’t say that we did. On the other hand, we did try a couple of restaurants we had never tried before, and Bill tried a dessert that is a local speciality that we never had before.

This was also Noyzi’s very first trip with us, aside from when we went to Slovenia to pick him up in 2020. Ribeauville was a good choice, because it wasn’t too far away, and because Yannick is so good with dogs in his properties. It was a fruitful trip for Noyzi, too, since he finally learned to poop while on a leash. This is a big deal, because it will make traveling with him much easier and less worrisome. Eventually, we may have to take him back to the States, which means for his own health, he needs to know how to relieve himself when he’s not frolicking in the backyard. He did seem to learn the lesson on our trip.

Aside from taking pictures of the always beautiful village of Ribeauville, binge watching Netflix and cheesy French game shows, eating lots of French comfort foods, drinking Alsatian wines, and being together, we didn’t do much on this trip. It was a good opportunity for Bill to sleep. We also picked up some gifts for his daughter and grandchildren. The beauty of Ribeauville is that we’ve been there so many times that not doing anything doesn’t seem too much like a hardship. By now, the village feels like a second home, even if our last visit was in January 2020.

So… over the next couple of days, I’ll write up this trip and James Taylor’s concert. I don’t think I’ll binge write today, because frankly, I just don’t feel like it. The weather is kind of crappy and I feel like hibernating. But we had a great time, and I’m grateful we could do it. I hope we can do it again.

If you’re interested in reading about our latest trip to France, I hope you’ll watch this space for updates… Meanwhile, here’s a video I made a few days ago in honor of our anniversary and James Taylor’s show. He didn’t do “Secret O’ Life” last night…

This song has really grown on me over the years. It seemed like a good one for 20 years of marriage…

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Beef ‘n Beer… A new spot for us in Hofheim…

We woke to a foggy morning, which made us less interested in going to a wine tasting in the nearby hamlet of Hofheim. We did need to go out, though… or really, I needed to go out. So we decided to stop by a Hofheim burger joint called Beef ‘n Beer, which is right next to a mall called the Chinon Center. Two hours parking there cost one euro!

The restaurant’s Web site tells me that there are two locations, the one in Hofheim, and one in Kelkheim, which is a place I have yet to visit. With a name like Beef ‘n Beer, we were thinking maybe they’d have a list of beers to try, but alas, the beer selection was not that impressive or expansive. However, the restaurant doesn’t take an afternoon pause, has a full bar, and offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and main dishes.

We ended up having to search for parking, because a lot of people were out today. We managed to snag a spot on the top level of the parking garage at the Chinon Center, then it was easy to walk to the restaurant. An attractive waitress invited us to sit anywhere we wanted. She didn’t speak English to us, but I did hear her speak perfect English to another patron. I’m not sure he was American, either. He could have been from Sweden, for all I know!

I ended up ordering an Avocado Burger, which was a burger with bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce and avocado slices. Bill had The Original Australian, which was a sandwich on a sub roll with Argentinian beef strips, fried onions, tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce. Both sandwiches came with steak fries and cole slaw.

The Avocado Burger was good, but I couldn’t finish it. It also had a molded patty, which I don’t usually like the texture of, though it wasn’t too off putting at Beef ‘n Beer. Bill loved his sandwich. I think I might order that next time, or come hungrier and try one of the main courses. They have steaks, salmon, dorade, and even spare ribs.

I enjoyed the chilled out ambiance in the restaurant, which included comfortable bench seating and cool music. It’s also a dog friendly place. One guy brought his two dogs with him, and I almost tripped over his sweet black Labrador as we entered the place. In warmer months, there’s a small Biergarten area, too. Bill and I both commented that we expected more of a beer selection, but they had stuff we were happy to drink. I’m sure it pleases the local clientele.

Lunch came to a little over 36 euros, which Bill paid for with cash. He could have used a card, too, an option I see is spreading rapidly in Germany. For the longest time, paying with a card wasn’t such a common thing to do here. I guess COVID changed that somewhat.

After lunch, we walked downtown to see if anything was going on. We ended up stopping in a little hole in the wall Fair Trade shop, which offered coffees, teas, condiments, soaps, baby clothes, and wines, all of which came from Fair Trade sources. We bought some coffee, soap, almond butter, wine, and chocolate. How many times have we walked past the Weltladen without noticing? I don’t know, but I will make a point of stopping in again. They have some cute stuff! I love Hofheim, too. It’s a nice town.

Then we completed the loop around Hofheim and took a short rest near the Wine Chalet. For once, we didn’t partake of any wine. We just sat there, enjoyed the change of scenery and lovely cool fall temperatures and colors, as well as a little irreverent graffiti. I feel like I’ve almost missed the fall this year, as worried as I’ve been about Arran.

Speaking of Arran… below is a video of how he and Noyzi welcomed us home…

That chemo is good stuff.

Wednesday, we’re going to Ribeauville, France for our 20th wedding anniversary. Originally, our plan was to stay until November 20 (Sunday). However, we were supposed to see James Taylor in concert in Frankfurt on November 8. He came down with COVID and had to cancel several shows. Poor guy has been stuck in Zurich all week… which is not such a bad place to be stuck. He was able to reschedule Frankfurt for November 19th. So, if the show is still going on next Saturday night, we’re going to come home a day early and see him play. We have second row seats, after all. Not sure that will ever happen again! If he has to cancel again, we’ll stay in France for another night. Either way, we’re paid up, and we have appealing plans.

It’s nice to have first world problems.

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Health

Chemo treatment number five!

Here’s a short Veteran’s Day post to update everyone about Arran. He had his fifth infusion of Vincristine yesterday. We also got the first bill for his first two treatments on October 13th and October 20th. I thought some readers might be interested in knowing what chemo for dogs costs in Germany.

Arran is still doing very well. We took a short walk yesterday, mainly because I had things I needed to do. On Wednesday, he demanded a longer walk. When I told the vet, she was delighted to hear it. He also gained a little weight last week, because we gave him a little more food. Last week, he had lost weight, and the vet said he wasn’t too skinny, but seeing him lose weight worried her a little. But his weight loss isn’t because he doesn’t want to eat. On the contrary, he wakes us up in the middle of the night and insists on eating. So, when he gained a little weight, we showed that he can gain weight, which the vet was glad about, although he doesn’t need to for health reasons.

She did a blood test that indicates that he’s making improvements internally. His red blood cell count is still low, but it’s higher than it was in the previous weeks. He is not in remission yet, but he’s definitely much better than he was a month ago. And, like I’ve said, our goal is to get him to January, and his tenth year with us. Whatever else he gets is “gravy”.

Below are two photos from yesterday…

He looks a bit more relaxed this week. Arran shrieked once when the vet put in the catheter, but she was very pleased by how well he tolerates the treatments, which last about 30 minutes. Sure, he’d rather be somewhere else for those 30 minutes, but once they’re over, he can take walks, eat, play with his toys, and catch peanuts, like he did last night…

He’s feeling much better now!

I also want to share the bill we got yesterday. I posted it on Facebook and shocked my friends! In the USA, this would have been much, much higher.

This bill is equal to about $285.14 in US dollars, since the dollar and euro are about equal in value right now. It covers two IV push treatments of Vincristine, 20 Endoxan tablets (another chemo drug), 20 Prednisolone tablets (20 mg), 40 Prednisolone tablets (5 mg), two blood tests, catheterization, hygiene, and 19 percent tax. The tax we could get refunded, since we are Americans here on SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) status, as opposed to being “regular residents”. All we have to do is turn in a VAT form (value added tax) to omit the taxes (45 euros). I’m not sure if we’ll bother.

Since this bill was tallied, he’s had three more treatments. I predict the bill is still under 1000 euros. It’s crazy that veterinary and other medical care in the United States is so expensive. However, I am really glad Arran is able to access this treatment now. He’s still very sharp and wants to live, and this treatment is giving him the chance at a good quality of life for however long he has left.

Well… Bill has called me to breakfast, so off I go. I think we’ll have a nice holiday weekend!

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Wine stand in the dark… and Arran burns some rubber in the house!

Last week, we changed the clocks in Germany. That means that when the wine stands start at 6:00pm, it’s already dark outside. For the past two years, the wine stands weren’t happening, anyway, due to COVID-19. In 2019, I seem to remember that the stands ended at the end of October. Since the weather is milder these days, I guess they decided to keep them going.

Bill and I went last night, noticing that there weren’t as many people attending. There was also rain yesterday afternoon, so most of the benches and tables were wet. Still, it wasn’t super cold outside, and going to the wine stand gave me the chance to wear my new NOVICA alpaca sweater. It’s a lovely dark greenish blue, and it fits very well, but it’s not the kind of thing I can comfortably wear when there isn’t a chill in the air. I didn’t even need a jacket last night, because the sweater was plenty warm!

We had a few glasses of local wine and enjoyed seeing some people. We even ate at the wine stand… Currywurst for Bill, and Brat with Brotchen for me. I didn’t like the mustard, though. It was a little too strong and bitter. Fortunately, it wasn’t as strong as Russian mustard, which will clean out your sinuses. I had neighbors in Armenia who took great delight in watching me react to Russian mustard. That stuff is nuclear!

Below are a few photos from last night, as well as a video of Arran and Noyzi, who were VERY happy to see us come home afterwards. Y’all can see how Arran is handling his chemo… basically, like a champion. He was loving Bill like old times last night. The first two photos of the first gallery are from a walk I took with the dogs the other day. I was enchanted by the bright purple berries and our own Klingenbach, which is full of water now. It’s crazy how fast droughts improve once summer ends. My hair matches the berries. Bill and I took advantage of the festive ambiance to get new photos. I’m not wearing makeup. The older I get, the more I look like a fat blonde version of my sister, Becky.

Arran was feeling fine last night! He’s such a scrapper!

Noyzi was very happy to see Bill. They’re finally buddies!

I’m not sure what we’ll do today. There’s an art exhibition going on in our neighborhood featuring art by local artists. We might visit that, especially since it’s free and close to home. Maybe we’ll go out to dinner, too, since we haven’t done that in ages… Bill is still recovering a bit from COVID– just annoying gunk and coughing. I, on the other hand, got a reminder last night that I’m not yet menopausal. SIGH…

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Health

Canine chemo treatment number four…

Yesterday started out sunny and pleasant, but later became overcast and a little depressing. I took the dogs for a walk, noticing that some kind of event was going on at the local church. A lot of people were dressed in black. I wondered if maybe there was a funeral going on, even though our town has a cemetery with a chapel.

It was Thursday, which meant that Arran had a chemo appointment in the afternoon. It was his fourth. Arran has been doing surprisingly well with the lymphoma treatments. He willingly scarfs down his medications, mainly because he’s always hungry due to the steroids, and because I wrap the pills in yummy things like chicken, peanut butter, or beef.

Arran and I got the vet’s office early and met a couple of local ladies who thought he was adorable. They asked me many questions, and we were hampered by our masks and our mutually terrible German/English skills. That is, they spoke perfect German and limited English, and I speak perfect English, and very limited German. But I did manage to tell them a little about Arran, and one of the ladies told me about her dog, who is 12 years old and was evidently at home.

My dog was totally eating up the attention, trembling a little either due to nerves, or the slightly chilly weather… or maybe both. He willingly went to the ladies, and enjoyed being the center of attention as they called him “Schatzi” and petted him. He’s still such a gorgeous dog, with a beautiful, lush, thick, glossy coat. But he’s also clearly an elderly gent.

For a moment, I wondered if I should tell them why we were there, but then realized that people can be judgmental about dogs getting cancer treatments, especially when they’re as old as Arran obviously is.

I will admit that Arran did look a little sad and scared at the vet’s office, and maybe some folks might think it’s wrong for him to be subjected to cancer treatments. What other people don’t see, though, is the way Arran is the rest of the time, when he’s not at the vet’s office. They wouldn’t have seen him jumping excitedly when I held up the dog “seatbelt” before we left the house, or dancing around for his food, or on his morning walk, when he wanted to go the long way… They wouldn’t have seen him giving me sweet beagle kisses at the table, or snuggling with Bill. Obviously, Arran isn’t sorry to be alive.

In the end, I decided to keep my mouth shut. It wasn’t their business, anyway…

Before long, the vet called us into her office in Haus B, where we had the conversation about Arran’s slimmer physique. She drew some blood, then inserted the catheter and gave him his first dose. Then, we went back to a chair where she had set up a bed for Arran. He laid down and, just like a champ, took the next two IV push infusions. Half an hour later, we were done. Arran was happy to get into the car and go home, where he enjoyed his evening rations and a nap before his favorite person came home from work.

In the past few weeks, Arran has lost a couple of kilos, which he could easily afford to do. He gained a lot of weight during the lockdowns and was, at one point, up to about 19 kilos. Now he’s getting back to his fighting weight, but I think we’re going to either get him regular food, or feed him more of his senior food. Last week, he weighed 17.6 kilos– down from 17.8 the week prior, and yesterday, he was 17.2 kilos.

The vet asked if he was eating. I said, “Yes! He constantly wants to eat. Should I feed him more?” She said no, that he’s not too skinny yet. I guess the disease and the treatments are making him use more calories. That, and he’s moving more, because he’s not so lethargic.

Arran is still not obviously suffering from the treatments. Yes, he wants to eat all the time, but that was also true before he got sick. The one change is that now he’s more insistent, and he gets us up in the middle of the night because he’s hungry. This morning, he woke us at 2:30am. He wanted some of our breakfast a little later, too. Now, he’s gone back to bed, as I listen to a classic jazz song and wonder if I should try to record it.

I love fall. I like to savor these cozy days. Especially since I know that our time with sweet Arran is growing shorter. But I can’t say that I’m sorry we’re giving him this extra time. I think he’s grateful for this time, because he’s still engaged with life. I don’t regret treating him. I know that if we hadn’t done this, by now he would already be a memory.

Below are a few photos of Arran taken during her chemo treatment… This represents about a half an hour of his week. The rest of the time, he’s decidedly more cheerful and cute, as he appears in the last photo, sitting on the bench of our table. Two weeks ago, he couldn’t jump up there by himself. Now, he can jump up there, and on our bed, where he’s gone back to sleeping.

He’s not done fighting yet. So we’re going to help him for as long as he wants to fight.

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holidays

Pumpkin project!

Yesterday, since it was cloudy, Bill went to the local market to pick up some pumpkins. We have new German neighbors who have small children and they asked us to celebrate Halloween this year. So we obliged, although it wasn’t easy to find pumpkins. Halloween is becoming more and more popular in Germany, especially in areas were a lot of Americans live. Bil had to go to three stores to find suitable pumpkins for carving. The local farm near us was having a corn maze/Halloween fest, so he thought he might get lucky there. But there was nowhere to park! All the kids were celebrating Halloween!

I remember our first year in Germany, back in 2007. We were living in a hotel on Halloween, although it was our last night there, as we moved into our first German house on November 1. The following year, we had people ring our doorbell, but since we didn’t know if Germans celebrated Halloween, we were completely unprepared. Then in 2009, we had to move back to the States prematurely.

In 2014, we came back to Germany and lived in Jettingen. That year, we had candy, although I’m not sure if we carved a pumpkin. A pair of German teen boys in rather lame costumes rang our bell. That was it for trick or treaters. Ever since then, if we’ve been home, we have candy just in case, but we don’t usually bother with jack o’lanterns. Last year, we were Croatia on Halloween, which was a marvelous place to be. Croatia in the fall is glorious, as you can see here.

Anyway, below are some photos of our pumpkin project. I think they turned out okay. Bill is going to go get some American candy, and hopefully our neighbors will ring the doorbell tomorrow night. Otherwise, I’ll end up doing what I do every year for Halloween, and eat all the candy myself. God knows, I don’t need to be doing that! Our jack o’lanterns aren’t very menacing. I’m not that good at pumpkin carving.

We have pretty nice weather today. The sun is out, and it’s not too cold. We probably ought to go out and do something fun, but Bill is still resting up after his bout with COVID. Except for a little fatigue, he’s fine now, and will be headed back to in person work tomorrow. Meanwhile, our sweet Arran continues to improve on the medication he’s getting for lymphoma. Yesterday, he even started jumping on the bed again. The chemo regimen is obviously doing some good for him as he enjoys what will probably be his last fall season. We continue to cherish our time with him and marvel at what a trouper he is. I’m grateful that we’ll be able to enjoy his company for a little bit longer.

Today is also the first day of standard time. Next week, everybody in the States who change the clocks will be moving their clocks back, too. I think if we have to change the clocks, it’s better to do it before Halloween. That way, it’s dark enough for a proper Trick or Treat experience. That’s how it was when I was a kid, anyway.

Anyway, if you celebrate, Happy Halloween!

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Health, markets

Chemo, COVID, and another weekly market…

This week has really flown by. Here it is, Friday morning, and it’s time to write another blog post for my “travel/German living” blog.

Last time I posted, I mentioned that Bill wasn’t feeling well. In that post, I wrote that he was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue from two back to back TDYs, and some kind of respiratory illness that wasn’t COVID. Well, it turned out we were wrong. Bill went to work on Monday, and learned that a couple of his colleagues who had been at the conference in Bavaria had come down with COVID. Since he still wasn’t feeling well himself, Bill decided to test. Sure enough, he had a positive result, so he’s been working from home for the rest of the week.

He’s actually feeling fine now, and never got very sick with the virus. He didn’t have a fever at all, never lost his sense of taste or smell, and aside from some coughing and fatigue, hasn’t been much worse for wear. Yesterday, because he’s over the virus, he took Arran in for his chemo treatment, and we attended the weekly market, although we made sure to stay on the periphery of the crowd. He’s working from home today, too, because his boss told him to, but he’s pretty much recovered from the sickness. I haven’t been sick at all, perhaps because I had COVID myself back in July. While Bill was at the vet’s office, he was masked, as everyone is required to be in any healthcare setting in Germany.

Arran is still doing well with his lymphoma treatment. His blood test didn’t reveal any progress, per se, toward technical remission, but we can see a difference in his energy level. For instance, a few days ago, I was eating a sandwich on my bed, and Arran managed to jump up on the bed by himself. He has pretty much quit doing that lately, but before he got sick, he always slept on our bed. He’s also been jumping up on the bench of our Eckbank Gruppe, which he always did when he was well. I know a lot of people wouldn’t want a dog sitting next to them on a bench or sleeping in bed with them, but for us, it’s a normal thing. I’m just glad Noyzi doesn’t do it, because he’s a lot bigger and hairier.

We had gorgeous weather yesterday for the market, so we went down for about an hour or so. We got some cheese, cold cuts, and beautiful produce. Maybe I’ll make a homemade tomato sauce today and we’ll make lasagne or manicotti. Of course, we also enjoyed some local wines, and waved to our neighbors. I really love the weekly market. I know the markets are common in larger towns, but our little neighborhood is unusually close knit, so the market is intimate and convivial.

Our town manager is always there to oversee everything, too. I think he does a great job. He’s very active on social media, and approachable. This is something we didn’t experience when we lived near Stuttgart. I didn’t know who the town managers were in our previous neighborhoods, nor did we have weekly events like we do in Breckenheim. But then, I don’t know if what we have in Breckenheim is the norm for the Wiesbaden area, either. I’ve noticed there’s been an uptick in events here just over the last year or so, but then, we did have to deal with COVID restrictions. Anyway, Bill and I both really like that they do these events here, and we have enjoyed meeting some of the locals with whom we share space.

Below are some photos from this week. First, are a few shots of our Arran, who is obviously feeling much better. Bill asked about the bill for his treatment so far, and the vet said there’s no pressure to settle up at this point. As Americans, we are allowed to use a “VAT” form, which exempts us from having to pay local taxes for the treatment. Whether or not to accept VAT forms is voluntary on the part of local merchants, since it involves paperwork for them. But it sure is nice for us when they do that, especially for expensive things like non-routine veterinary care, or big purchases like furniture.

This week, I read an article in the Washington Post about a woman who got expensive cancer treatment for her dog. She got a lot of rude comments from people, which I ranted about. Last night, she left me a very nice comment on my post, which you can read here. In any case, so far Arran is doing well, and we’ve been enjoying some priceless time with him. I also don’t expect that his care will cost as much as it would in the United States. As soon as we have a bill, I will confirm or deny that expectation for the curious.

And here are some shots from the market… Someone had some heavenly smelling bread. It smelled like garlic bread. I never did find the source, but they were also selling waffles with powdered sugar that reminded me of the early 90s, when I worked at Busch Gardens making waffle cones. I worked in “Germany”, and wore a dirndl. Little did I know what the future would hold.

Bill found some lovely Italian cheeses and cold cuts, as well as gorgeous, colorful produce… but I was there for the wine.

For some reason, the editor isn’t letting me put comments on the photos… Luckily, most of them are self explanatory. I did notice the Gastatte sign for the first time yesterday. Breckenheim has little signs on its historic buildings, as well as “stumbling stones” (Stolpersteine), placed in honor of local Jewish people who were victims of the Holocaust. The stones are now making appearances all over Europe. You can search my blog for more information on those.

Since Bill is feeling better, maybe we can get out of the house this weekend. We do have plans to carve pumpkins for Halloween this year, since we have new German neighbors with small children who requested it. I’ll post about that when the time comes. 😉

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Arran’s second round of German style chemo… So far, so good!

As I wrote on my main blog yesterday, I was kind of dreading yesterday. When we still had Zane, I took him to the vet all the time for allergy shots. It got to be quite a grind, which I found kind of nervewracking. That was when we still lived near Stuttgart, and our vet was a several miles away. It wasn’t a big deal to drive there, obviously, though I don’t do a lot of driving anymore. I’m not sure why I’m like this now. Before I got married, I used to drive all the time. But then I got sucked into this stay at home wife gig, and I don’t get out much anymore. It’s not because I can’t go out, though… more like I choose not to. So, having to drive Arran the very short (even shorter) distance to the vet is kind of anxiety producing, especially in the COVID era.

I made a point of not getting to the vet too early yesterday. Noyzi demanded a walk, so I gave them one. Then I put Arran in his “seatbelt” harness and loaded him into the Volvo. Ordinarily, I would have driven my Mini, but it’s parked in the garage, and accessing it would mean moving the Volvo out of the driveway and getting my car out. And while Arran fits fine in the tiny back seat, getting him in the car when he’s mobility challenged, and there are only two doors, isn’t that easy. It’s a lot simpler to put him in the Volvo, since he doesn’t have to crawl over the driver’s seat to get in the backseat. I no longer have the upper body strength to simply drop the top and put him over the car door. There’s also a concrete barrier on our driveway that makes it harder to access the backseat.

We got to the vet at about fifteen minutes before our 11:00am appointment. I picked up a beeper from the receptionist and sat in the car with Arran until it went off. It was noticeably chillier this week than it was last week, although the skies were as overcast. Arran slowly ambled into Haus B, a part of the vet clinic I had never been in before. Arran’s regular vet wasn’t in this week, so another vet gave him his treatment. I liked her. Weirdly enough, she kind of reminded me of Mick Jagger. No, not necessarily because of her looks, but more in the way she carried herself. And her face and coloring bears a slight resemblance to his. I know that’s a weird observation, but I don’t mean it as a put down. I think Mick Jagger is an amazing force of nature! Anyway, she seemed somewhat easier to talk to, and less rushed. I don’t really know the vets at our office well, because Bill is the one who usually takes the dogs. But since Arran is getting chemo, I guess I’ll be getting to know them better.

The vet drew some blood to make sure Arran would be medically able to tolerate the chemo. After a few minutes, she showed me the results. Arran’s red blood cell count is still low, but his reticulocytes– immature red blood cells– are on the rise. That means that his body is responding to the anemia and making more red blood cells. In the meantime, “young” cells are being released into his bloodstream. This is a good finding, because it means that his bone marrow is still functioning and trying to repair itself. If there weren’t more reticulocytes being released, that would mean his body wasn’t responding and had “given up”– aplastic anemia. I’m sure in the short term, it would mean he’d need a blood transfusion and in the slightly longer term, it would mean he was on his way to the Rainbow Bridge.

After the happy news that Arran’s regular vet’s fears that his bone marrow was irreparably damaged (she had communicated this in an email to Bill) was incorrect, Arran got his second IV push of Vincristine. Haus B is a slightly less “house like” environment than the main office is, so I sat in an area next to a window and watched as many people brought their dogs for treatment. Dr. Konrad Blendinger, the man who, with his veterinarian wife, owns the practice is a vet who does highly specialized reproductive medicine for dogs. He mostly only sees dogs who are being bred, and it looked like some of his patients were waiting for him yesterday in Haus B. It was the first time I’d ever seen him in person, although I have seen him performing music in locally produced videos. I’ve noticed that part of German culture is having hobbies, and music is apparently one of his! We have that in common.

Arran was pretty calm during the chemo. He laid on his side and took the drugs like a champ, only managed to pull the cap off the port, which wasn’t a big deal. The female “Jagger” vet expressed mock dismay, then covered up the port until she was ready to administer the medication. After an hour or so, we were finished, and I loaded Arran into the car, asked for a bill (which wasn’t yet ready), and drove home. Bill came home a few hours later, and they had a lovely reunion!

The dogs were so happy to see Bill, as was I!

Arran has responded very well to the treatment so far. His lymph nodes have gone down; he’s stopped coughing and gasping; his poops are mostly very normal; and he’s eating like an Olympic athlete. He still can’t jump on the bed, but he clearly feels much better. We still don’t know how much this will cost, but it’s been so nice to see Arran behaving more like himself. To be very honest, I think if we hadn’t started treatment last week, he might not be here today. The disease was definitely starting to progress. My main goal was to make sure Arran wouldn’t die without Bill– his favorite person– by his side. Now, it looks like that will be what happens, but we aren’t sure when. But then, that would be true for anyone, wouldn’t it? As this week’s events in Ukraine have shown us, one never knows when death will occur.

Anyway, we’re just going to enjoy this time, and do what we can for our sweet Arran. I think this experience will teach us a lot, not just about canine cancer, but about cancer in general. The drugs he takes are the same as what many humans take when they have cancer.

Not to leave out Noyzi, below is a video I made of him reacting to The Handmaid’s Tale, as Serena had her baby. He was very curious and empathetic. Noyzi is a true gentle giant.

Noyzi is a big, sweet, Balkan goofball.

And a couple of photos of our regal Kosovar rescue, Noyzi, who is now living his best life in Germany. He sure has come a long way!

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Health

German style chemotherapy!

Before I get accused of posting “clickbait”, I want to make it clear that this post is not about Bill or me. It’s about our elderly beagle mix, Arran, who was recently diagnosed with B cell lymphoma. I’ve been posting up to the minute updates on my main blog, but I wanted to post here for those who hit this blog because they’re specifically looking for information about life in Germany. I have a very different “audience” for this blog, although it seems like most of my readers come here to read about our trips to the nude spas. 😉

A week ago, I posted about how we were trying to arrange chemo for Arran to treat his cancer. Originally, we thought we’d rather just make him comfortable, because he’s already about 13 or 14 years old. We thought the vet would just prescribe prednisone or prednisolone for him, to help ease the symptoms of the lymphoma. For some reason, the vet said they didn’t usually do that. Then I noticed that Arran didn’t seem ready to go to the Rainbow Bridge. He was still pretty active, and B cell lymphoma supposedly responds to treatment better than T cell lymphoma does. I was also curious about canine chemo, since Arran is our fourth dog to have cancer and our second to have lymphoma. Our first lymphoma casualty was Zane, who died just one week post diagnosis.

Bill finally got ahold of the vet on Monday, and she ordered the necessary drugs for Arran. He’s been at Grafenwoehr all week, on a business trip. He will be gone again this coming week. I was very worried that Arran would get much sicker and die while Bill was gone. Everything I’ve read on the Internet tells me that Arran should have already died by now. But, as I’ve explained many times, Arran is a real fighter, and he’s not ready to go yet.

I brought Arran to the office on Thursday at 3:00, but had to stop by on Wednesday to get analgesics for him, as his lymph nodes had gotten so large that he was having trouble moving without pain. In Germany, COVID restrictions have been relaxed almost everywhere, except in doctors’ offices and other healthcare delivery facilities, and on trains and busses. So when we arrived on Thursday, I had to wait for the clinic to open, then get a beeper and wait outside to be called. I was the first one there, because I really wanted to get the appointment over with. I hate afternoon vet appointments. I find them exhausting. I’d rather go to the vet in the morning, so it’s done. When we had Zane, I was constantly taking him to the vet for allergy shots, so this is a familiar routine for me, except for the face masks, which are still required in doctors’ offices.

Arran went into the exam room and the vet quickly put in a catheter, then drew some blood. She later told us he was a bit anemic, which was concerning to her, although not all that uncommon for lymphoma patients. She told us to bring him in if he was in pain, short of breath, or had pale gums. Then she administered the first of several syringe vials of diluted Vincristine, which is a chemo drug. She explained the rest of the protocol to me and even printed out a schedule. Arran will come back for another dose of Vincristine on Thursday of the coming week. At home, he will get Prednisolone and Endoxan (known as Cytoxan in the US). The Endoxan is a chemo drug in pill form, and I’m supposed to wear gloves when I give it to him, and when I clean up his waste.

The vet asked about my schedule. I told her the only thing we have planned is for November 16th through the 20th. The 16th is our 20th wedding anniversary, so we are planning a trip to Ribeauville, France. The dogs will be coming with us. We have been to Ribeauville a bunch of times and have stayed in the apartment we rented several times. The owner is very dog friendly, so I feel comfortable in going there with the boys. I don’t care if we just sit there and drink wine and eat macaroons and madeleines. I would have liked to have planned something grander for the occasion, but there will be time for that later, when the chemo sessions are over. The effects of chemo, unfortunately, are temporary. But they will hopefully buy us some time.

After the first dose of Vincristine, we moved to an infusion room– a tiny little booth with chairs and an IV stand in it. It looked like the room had been built on to the side of the building, as there was a sconce on the wall that was obviously originally meant for outdoors. I thought maybe Arran would get an IV bag, but they used more syringes. It was surprisingly easy.

About an hour later, we were finished, and Arran culminated the treatment by releasing a rancid fart. Thankfully, the tiny room had a window in it. The receptionist said we could pay next week, since the vet had to ask the owner of the practice how much the treatment would cost. We aren’t too concerned about the money, because vet care is cheaper here than it is in the US, and because we actually have the money to spend. Living in Germany has been surprisingly lucrative for us.

When we got home, Arran, who had been obviously ailing before the appointment, actually wanted his dinner. Much to my surprise, he willingly ate kibble for the first time in over a week. I had been giving him chicken all week, and he’d had a little bit of bloody diarrhea. I was a little worried about how he’d handle the chemo, but he just ate his dinner and went to bed. I had put a blanket on the floor, and he made a bed and fell fast asleep.

At about 1:00am, he woke me up, because he needed to pee. I let him out, and he wanted a snack. I gave him a little more kibble, and we went back to bed until 4:00am, when he needed to pee again. Then, at 6:00am, I got up and made coffee. Both dogs came down to the kitchen for their breakfast. Again, this was a change, because for the past few weeks, Arran has been increasingly reluctant to rise in the mornings, and hasn’t been wanting to eat his breakfast. But on Friday morning, it was like old times. Because it was raining, we didn’t go for a walk yesterday. However, he was obviously feeling much better. His lymph nodes shrank noticeably, and he was eager to eat. He never managed to jump up on the bed by himself, but he didn’t cry when I helped him up, as he did on Wednesday.

By Friday afternoon, Arran was looking really good. All week, he’d been waiting in the foyer, hoping Bill would come home. Bill has been away on business all week, though, so Arran would be left disappointed. Last night, Bill came home, and I got a video of the reunion. I would say it was worth the price of the chemo for that alone. If you look carefully at the featured photo, you can see that Arran’s lymph nodes in his hind legs are swollen. Those nodes have now shrunk significantly. One is no longer detectable, and the other is about half as big as it was. I gave him more Endoxan and Prednisolone today. These are the same drugs often used for humans, but in veterinary medicine, they are given in much smaller doses. The goal is preserve quality of life, rather than curing the disease. Even if we cured Arran, he’s old enough that he could die of natural causes, anyway. So far, we haven’t observed any truly bad side effects from the drugs, although they can and do cause side effects for some dogs.

What a change! This was taken last night. He’s obviously feeling a lot better.
He was so happy to see Bill!

There is a high speed animal hospital near us called Tierklinik Hofheim. I’ve mentioned it a few times, and we have used it for Zane and Arran, although Noyzi hasn’t been there yet. They have an oncology department. If Arran had a more complicated case, or was much younger, I’d probably take him there for treatment. They have the ability to get test results faster than our regular vet does, and they no doubt have a lot more experience with treating cancer. But, again, Arran is already an old guy, so we’re not inclined to be heroic. We just want to get him to a point at which we can both be with him when he’s ready to shove off of the mortal coil. If he can make it to January, and celebrate ten years with us, that would be icing on the cake. Many dogs who get chemo for B cell lymphoma survive for a year. I’m not sure that will happen for Arran, due to his age, and the fact that his treatment was a bit delayed.

I’m not sure if we have any plans for the rest of the day. The weather is pretty crappy today. It’s raining, although it’s not cold outside. So this will probably do it for today’s activities… I’ve already spent time on the phone talking to USAA again, because they declined a charge Bill and I both tried to make to pay for Ribeauville. Calling USAA is always an annoying experience, especially since the lady I spoke to answered the phone as if someone spiked her oatmeal with crack, or something. But, as I’m writing this, the doorbell rang, probably with the latex gloves I ordered. Arran barked, and hurried down the stairs, as if cancer had never darkened his door. So I’d say that so far, Arran is doing very well. It’s very nice to see!

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