Our first “Noizy” week…

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We’ve now had our new family member, “Noizy”, the street dog from Kosovo, for a week. Every day, he pushes his boundaries and explores new territories. Every day, he makes progress toward integrating with Bill, Arran, and me. And every day, he does something really cute and funny.

So far, Noizy has learned what a glass door is. When we brought him into the house last week, he bonked his head on the door several times before he realized that he can’t walk through it. He’s also learned that he can walk through the bug screen on the other door.

Noizy still hasn’t left the living room, but every day, his safe space gets bigger. He’s moved from the corner to two of the rugs. Today, he almost came into the dining area.

A couple of days ago, Noizy’s bed arrived. As soon as I set it up for him and put his favorite sheet on it, he claimed the bed. He has piled several toys on it. He doesn’t play with the toys. He just stacks them on the bed like they’re his friends. It’s so cute!

Noizy is terrified of the leash. Yesterday, he had his second lesson in our backyard. He peed on himself when he saw me with it. But once I put it on him, he did okay. He only reared up a couple of times. I felt like I was halter breaking a foal again. Haven’t done that in decades! I look forward to the day when he’s less terrified of the leash and we can take him for a walk. He needs the exercise, and so do I.

He was also afraid of the brush, although he did let me brush him and seemed to enjoy the process. We’re not quite ready to bathe him yet, since he won’t willingly leave the living room except to go outside. We don’t want to traumatize him further by forcing him to have a bath. But the brushing does help and I even noticed that he doesn’t smell as bad as he did a week ago. Being inside probably helps.

Last night, Bill made homemade dog food in the Instant Pot with chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, and green beans. He used to do that all the time when we still had Zane. Zane had mast cell cancer and needed a lot of protein. This time, he decided to make the food as a treat. Noizy is still afraid of Bill, although he’s getting better. I think the homemade food will go a long way in winning over his trust. He loved it! So did Arran, who has really been missing that special treat. Noizy was a bit reluctant to eat earlier in the week, but now he chows down with gusto.

One thing I’ve also noticed and really appreciated is that Noizy naturally seems to prefer doing his business outside. In the mornings, he goes out and squats down by the garden and takes a long whiz. He also drops his logs outside.

Yesterday, we used the robot mower to cut the grass. Noizy wasn’t too afraid of it, unlike our dearly departed Zane, who barked at it for hours before he finally realized it wasn’t an alien. The robot mower is good to have, because it’s very quiet, runs on clean energy, and has tiny blades. It’s very safe to use because if it bumps against something, it just changes direction.

I’m sure this could be the calm before the storm, but I have to admit this first week hasn’t been bad at all… I was expecting a lot more drama, especially from Arran. Incidentally, Arran went down to the living room over night and slept on the loveseat. I think he’s getting used to the new dog. They may even be friends soon. I hope I can take an adorable picture of them snuggling someday.

Above all, Noizy is just a sweet dog. He’s so loving and friendly, and it’s really been fun to watch him over the week. I think being an indoor pet suits him well.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part six

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I think this will be the last part of my tale. I’ve got bitching to do on my other blog, which has been neglected for a few days.

Our drive back to Germany was long, but relatively peaceful. Once we got through the Katschberg Pass in Austria, the weather cleared up a lot. We had sun, or at least just a few clouds, all the way back home to Wiesbaden. Since we had to do the whole drive in one shot, I’m really glad we did it on a Sunday. There’s road work going on that we noticed had backed up traffic for miles on the way down to Slovenia. Since it was Sunday, there was still a slight bottleneck, but it wasn’t nearly as horrible as it was on the way down. Here are some more photos from the drive…

We made several stops but, following Meg’s advice, we didn’t attempt to take Noizy out. He’s still working on walking on the leash. When the rain stops, I’ll be giving him a few lessons. He’s going to be needing some exercise soon, although he’s so far seemed content to lie down in a corner of our living room, right by the doors to the garden. Speaking of the garden, I’m really glad we have one and it has a very tall fence surrounded by hedges. Noizy is about the size of a small deer and could probably jump pretty high if he wanted to. Arran is also a high jumper, but he’s way smaller than Noizy is.

So… now we’ve had our new family member for two days. He’s already blown my mind by being a super fast learner.

Bear in mind, when he lived in Kosovo, Noizy resided at a “pension”, which is not like the pensions one might find in Germany. He lived with a bunch of dogs on a farm and they were outside all the time, fed communally. He’s never been trained, hence why he still needs to learn how to walk on a leash. And although he’s very friendly and sweet, he’s not used to living with people. He’s also not very alpha at all, despite being so big. Arran easily dominates him, and Arran is not a particularly alpha dog, either.

When we first brought him into the house, Noizy seemed very confused by the glass doors. I have a sense that he’s never seen glass before. He tried to walk through the glass when he first came into the house and it took a couple of bonks on the face before he realized that I have to open the door for him. One of the doors has a holey mosquito screen thing put there by a prior tenant (it needs replacing). At first, Noizy had no idea what to make of that at all. But after he saw Arran go through it once or twice, he caught on that he can do the same thing.

The first night, Noizy was obsessed with being outside. I think it’s because that was what he knows best. However, in less than 24 hours, he seems to have figured out that being inside isn’t so bad. It’s warm and dry. Now, he gets upset if I close the door when he’s in the yard. He comes right back inside and curls up on his makeshift bed.

Noizy is still pretty scared of Bill, who is probably one of the gentlest men on the planet. But he’s pretty much at ease with me, and loves it when I pet him. When I approach him, his little stumpy tail wags and I can see in his eyes that he wants affection. He’s also learned to trust me enough to roll on his back for belly rubs, which he clearly adores. I knew he liked them because Meg sent me a video of him getting a belly rub from a boy in Kosovo. Still, I can tell this isn’t just him being submissive and showing me his belly. He trusts me enough to let me rub it.

Although he hasn’t wanted to leave his corner yet, he is a lot more relaxed than he was. He is also slowly getting braver and exploring more of the living room. Arran barks at him to keep away from me, especially when food is around, but I don’t think his sternness is going to last. Eventually, they’ll have to work something out.

I have been most impressed by Noizy at night. I was worried about him sleeping alone. Arran sleeps with us, as all of our dogs except CC have done. Noizy is way too big for the bed, though, and he needs a bath something awful (that will be a two person job for sure). He also hasn’t been brave enough to visit the other floors in the house, where the bathing facilities are. In any case, when it’s bed time, so far he’s just curled up on the little bed he’s made and been quiet all night. He doesn’t move from his spot. I have yet to find any pee spots. Arran is notorious stealth pee-er. Noizy has done almost all of his business outside, with the exception of a couple of submission pees. However… I can see that we’re going to go through a lot more shit bags, because Noizy’s poops are big, like he is!

I’m trying to teach him to use the dog bed. It’s not quite big enough for him, but our other dogs never used it much. Once he learns what it’s for, we’ll get him one of his own and station it somewhere away from the doors to the backyard.

Noizy has also learned to eat and drink from a bowl. Based on how he eats, I get the sense that he had to wolf his food down because of other dogs being around. Now, he’s learning that he can relax. Just today, I convinced him to try a dog treat. Arran loves them, but Noizy wasn’t so sure until he finally tasted one. I am hoping he’ll like the treats because they will help in training him. He’s definitely not very food oriented, though. He didn’t even want a little bit of chicken I offered him.

I look forward to teaching him to walk nicely on the leash so we can take walks. I’m sure my neighbors will be astonished when they see him. He really is quite a sight. I have a feeling he is going to go down as one of the most special dogs I’ve ever had. Just his story is amazing. He could have easily died on a street in Kosovo, a tiny puppy taken from his mom too young in a country where people don’t really care for dogs very much.

Instead, he was handed over to Meg, who had no idea what he would grow up to be. Meg has told us that Noizy represents hope to her. The young man who gave him to her didn’t know where else to take him, but didn’t want to see him die. That young man gave him an amazing chance. What were the odds that the tiny puppy left for dead would end up being adopted by Americans in Germany?

I’ve often thought about that with our other dogs, too… all of whom (with the exception of CC) have lived in Germany. What are the odds that these dogs, born in rural America and tossed away, would end up living in Germany?

In any case, I’m sure we will have our challenges. Noizy is not like any dog I have ever had in my life. But he is just such a sweetheart and so eager to please. I am delighted to finally know him after six months of waiting. It was worth everything to get him here. And so many people deserve a hearty thanks for making it happen.

One final matter… Yesterday, Bill reported to the German court, as requested. He saw the pet taxi driver who had caused the death of Jonny, the first dog we hoped to adopt over here. She didn’t acknowledge Bill at all and seemed completely nonchalant and callous about the whole thing. It turned out the magistrate, who had been the one who had answered the phone last week when Bill called to tell them he’d need an interpreter, had supposedly told Bill he didn’t need to come to court. She also said there was a letter, which there hasn’t been yet. In any case, Bill made the trip for nothing and it turned out we hadn’t needed to rush back to Germany, after all. Also, Bill noticed that everyone was dressed very casually. Even the magistrate wore jeans. Bill had put on a coat and tie. Ah well. We’ll close the book on that whole situation. We have our new family member now, and I think it was meant to be. And if Jonny hadn’t died, we wouldn’t have Noizy… who is a unique delight in every way.

I’m still not sure what we’re going to do about Noizy’s name. He comes from Kosovo, though, which is mostly made up of people who are ethnic Albanians. My German friend says there is an Albanian rapper named Noizy. Noizy was named because of the screeches he made when he was calling out for help as a little puppy, but he’s now a very quiet dog… but I hate to put him through yet another change. He’s already adapted to so much. I can’t wait to see him turn into a confident, happy house dog. I’ll be sure to keep updating this blog as that inevitably happens.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part four

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I have mentioned before that I think Austria is an extremely beautiful country. We haven’t spent enough time there, which is a shame, because it’s a small country that has huge things to offer. I love the scenery there. There are enormous mountains, babbling brooks, Dirndl clad ladies and men in Lederhosen, and lots of great food. I like Austrian food more than German food. Yes, there is a difference.

It seems like Austrian food has a little dash of Italian to it… and it also seems like there’s more variety to it. It’s not just Schnitzel, sausages, Spatzle, potatoes and cabbage. And yes, I know I’m inviting criticism from my few German readers for writing this. But I also know that some of them are reading because they want to know what things look like from an American point of view. Well, I am American, and this is my point of view, even if it’s not entirely accurate. You know what they say about perspectives. I know Germany has a variety of different specialties throughout the land, but for some reason, Austrian food just seems slightly different to me. Not that we had much of a chance to eat it during this whirlwind trip.

I was expecting Bill to stop for lunch. He never did. I don’t know how he hasn’t learned in almost eighteen years of marriage that it’s good to take a break. On the other hand, there weren’t that many appealing stops on the way down to the Slovenian border. We did stop at one place so I could pee. It was pouring down rain, though. I also remember having to pay a toll of 12,50 euros before we could go through Katschburg Pass. Bill was freaking out because the toll was done by machine and it wouldn’t accept his Bar (cash). I told him he should just take his time. People would have to wait. It’s not like they don’t make us wait when they have business to attend to.

Anyway, as we approached the border, we ended up on a narrow mountain road behind some guy who didn’t seem to know which was was up. There were many wrong turn signals, a few weaves and bobs in the road, and slow speeds. The drive over the mountain was very beautiful. The leaves are turning, so the colors were dramatic against the stormy skies. There’s a bunker museum on the mountain road. We saw a lot of signs and had we not had Arran and it hadn’t been raining, it would have made for an interesting stop for Bill. It was built during the Cold War to make sure no one from former Yugoslavia would cross into Austria and raise a ruckus. Again… I would love to visit Kransjka Gora again, so maybe someday we’ll get a chance to visit.

Here are some photos from our drive down from Salzburg.

We rented an “apartment” for our night in Slovenia. I didn’t realize it was really more of a hotel apartment. We told the proprietor that we’d be there at 2:00pm, since they told us they needed an hour to get to Kranjska Gora. We actually arrived earlier than 2:00, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me to message them through Booking.com. We just waited for a car. Well… first, Bill went to a tiny grocery store near the apartment and picked up a few essentials. Kranjska Gora is very close to both the Italian and Austrian borders. It must have been interesting to live there when Slovenia was still part of a closed society.

After we picked up a few items, we went back to the suite hotel and met the young lady who showed us our digs for the night. For about 86 euros, we got a little place with a bed, a sitting room, basic kitchen facilities, and a bathroom with a tiny shower. It was very clean and had what we needed, but it wasn’t quite as nice as our place in Salzburg. The floors were tile, which makes for easy cleaning, but chilly quarters. Still, it was just fine for a night and the price was right. Checking out was equally a breeze. All we had to do was dump the trash and leave the keys on the kitchen table. That was perfect for our purposes. The place we stayed was called G&F apartments on Booking.com, but it was in the Hotel Klass building, which is very close to the town center. I prepaid for the room and we had to pay four euros for the tourist tax. There wasn’t a pet fee and Arran was definitely not the only dog there.

Our original plan was to get Noizy at about 8:00pm, as that was when Meg was supposed to arrive with him and two other dogs who got new homes. Another American couple, based at Ramstein, I believe, were coming down to pick up a dog for themselves and transport another to a German family in Bavaria (I think). That other couple turned out to be a godsend. More on that in the next part.

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.

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.

Parker goes to France, part seven…

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Yesterday morning, we were up bright and early. We packed up everything, had one last croissant breakfast, and loaded all our stuff in the car. Bill put the keys to Riesling in the lock box and we were on our way by 10:00am. I was wanting to stop by the big chocolatier on the way out of Ribeauville, but they don’t open until 10 and we don’t need chocolate that badly, to be very honest. We have visited the Daniel Stoffel outlet before and came home with lots of chocolate and cocoa goodies.

The drive back to Germany was kind of gloomy, mainly due to the heavy fog and cold temperatures. I think we left France at just the right time, since the weather is pretty chilly and foggy today, too. There was little traffic on the way back, and I can’t even say there was much going on of note. We did see the ADAC helicopter while we were making a pit stop, but I didn’t even do much rubbernecking of the accident that prompted its appearance.

We got home before 1:00pm, so Bill went to the Spirit of New Orleans for take out. We would have stopped in, but it looked like they were busy and the last time we visited, the chef/owner got really upset and started swearing very loudly. I don’t mind swearing and neither do Bill or his mom, but I didn’t want to take the risk. By the time Bill picked up our lunches, things had calmed down at the restaurant. Maybe we should have gone in for lunch, after all. John plays good music and when he’s in a good mood, he’s a lot of fun to talk to.

Bill and Parker picked up Arran last night. When they got home, Arran went crazy running around with his toy, then crashed on the couch. I keep thinking I want to get another dog, then I realize how easy it is to take care of just one. I also think about the horror stories I’ve heard of people trying to convince Germans to let Americans adopt. I know some people have managed it, but to be honest, I’m not wanting to set myself up for an unpleasant experience. So… I don’t know when we’ll get another dog. I do want one and we are looking, but I guess we’re not in a rush. I still think about Zane every day.

I’m really glad we took the opportunity to show Parker France. And, while it wasn’t Paris or Lyon or even Nice, I think she might have gotten an even more authentic look at France than she otherwise might have. I have yet to have a bad time in Alsace, or even France as a whole, even if there have been a few mishaps over the years. I’m amazed at all of the places we’ve had the chance to see since we’ve lived in Germany, but I think France may have enchanted me the most… although I am definitely due for trips to Italy, Belgium, and The Netherlands… We’ll see where we’ll end up next.

Parker will be here for a few more days. Bill is currently treating her to lunch in Wiesbaden while I do some housework and writing. It’s good for them to have some alone time, and for me to have some, too. I’m not used to being around people anymore and am a bit of an introvert, so it’s good when I can take a break. It probably makes my disposition easier to take.

Dining out with a former lab dog named Tony!

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Last night, Bill and I took his mother, Parker, out to Villa Im Tal, a fine dining Austrian restaurant on the outskirts of Wiesbaden. It was Bill’s and my third time dining there, and we were sure Parker would enjoy it as much as we have. It’s set in the woods in a beautiful timbered building surrounded by a spring and lots of trees. Even at night, it’s gorgeous. Best of all, parking is a breeze and costs nothing! This restaurant is also easily booked on OpenTable.de.

We had a 7:30 reservation, but arrived a little bit early. We were seated at a corner table for four. At first, I was a little perturbed by where we were sitting, mainly because the lighting was so dim and it was hard to see the menu (they kindly provided English versions for us). But then, maybe twenty minutes after we sat down, a couple came in with an adorable beagle. They sat near us.

Ordering dinner was easy. The waiter spoke perfect English. Parker and I started with champagne. I had a rose and she had a brut. Bill had Campari and soda, then ordered a lovely local white wine that tasted of honey, yet was dry on the palate. We each had the special seafood menu, which consisted of five courses. Below are some photos of the grand culinary event that was last night’s dinner.

I enjoyed all of the courses, although my favorites were the scallops, which were perfectly grilled and very tender and went beautifully with the gnocchi, and the lobster cappuccino. Honestly, I was worried that the flavor would be too earthy for me, as the initial aroma smelled slightly of truffles, which is a turn off for me. What can I say? I am one of those weird people who thinks truffles are gross.

But when I tasted it, I was amazed by how delicious it was. The soup had the very essence of lobster finished with a little sherry. The single ravioli was just enough. And we paced the meal so that it wasn’t too much. All three of us loved the seafood menu and would order it again. It was priced at about 68 euros each.

So… about Tony, the adorable beagle…

We noticed that his people, who both also enjoyed the seafood menu, were very friendly with the waiter. He had brought out a bowl of water for Tony, and they spent several minutes talking and laughing. I got the sense that they were regulars. Eventually, I told the couple that we have beagles, too… Right now we just have Arran since we lost Zane to lymphoma a few months ago, but we usually have two beagles at a time. We hope to find Arran a playmate soon, whether or not he wants one.

I got up to use the ladies room, and when I came back, Tony came over to say hello. He was so sweet and friendly. His owners told me that he was born in a lab and participated in experiments until he was about sixteen weeks old. They adopted him when he was still a puppy, and he’s now 12.

I was very surprised Tony was that old. He didn’t look or act like he was twelve years old. In fact, at one point, he got on his hind legs and put his paws on me. Then, when my voice went into “baby mode”, (as it always does with dogs), he pricked his ears up and gave me a look of pure delight. I wished I’d had my camera so I could capture it for this post. It reminded me of our late dog, MacGregor, who was very shy around people he didn’t know, but loved to be on camera.

Tony’s people were very friendly and spoke English beautifully. I told them about how we’d had five beagle rescues so far and showed them a picture with Arran, living the high life snuggled up next to my mother-in-law. They laughed in recognition, because apparently Tony is a couch snuggler too. And we shared a laugh about how much beagles love to eat, don’t obey commands very well, and sniff everything while they bay. I told them about how the first time we lived in Germany, we had a couple of different beagles and they would bay in our quiet neighborhood, prompting many dirty looks from the locals. Back then, the dogs were referred to as “Jagdhunden” (hunting dogs). Now, it seems that beagles have become a lot more popular. We’ve seen many more of them during this stint.

The couple seemed surprised when I told them I hoped to get another dog. They cited their love for travel as to why they just have Tony. I didn’t want to tell them that sometimes our dogs go to the Hundepension… in fact, Arran is going to the Tierpension Birkenhof today, because we’re taking Bill’s mom to Ribeauville, and hoping to visit some places we missed on previous trips. It’s easier to visit places when we don’t have to worry about taking care of the dog, and we have found excellent caregivers in Stuttgart and Darmstadt. But Arran has been to Ribeauville a few times… we have a very pet friendly source of lodging in that town. That’s one of the many things I love about living in Europe. Dogs are allowed in a lot of places here, especially when they are as well mannered as Tony was.

I think having dogs has really helped us break the ice in so many situations in Germany. We’ve met some cool folks that way, because everyone loves to talk about their dogs. Up here in Wiesbaden, people are a lot friendlier, too. When I told the couple that we’d lived in Stuttgart, they kind of laughed and said Stuttgart is a “very special part of Germany”. Yeah… I’d have to agree… although it will always have a special place in my heart. I figure if we can make it there, we can make it anywhere in Germany. And it has the distinction of being the place Bill and I have spent the most time living since we were married.

Villa in Tal has become a favorite!

Anyway, dinner was a success, if not rather pricey. I think Bill paid about 380 euros for the three seafood menu meals, two bottles of San Pellegrino, our round of aperitifs, and a bottle of wine. It was well worth the cost, though, because I have a feeling we’ll be talking about last night’s dinner for years to come… and today, we’ll start making even more memories in France!

My mother-in-law is coming today…

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So we have another trip to France planned for next weekend, which is Martin Luther King weekend. We’re going back to Ribeauville, in Alsace. We’ve been there four times already, but not since we moved to Wiesbaden. Bill and I like to go there because it’s not too far, and the owner of the apartments we book there is very laid back and pet friendly.

This time, we will not be bringing Arran with us. He’s a good traveler, but he doesn’t like to be left alone. When we had Zane, he’d stay more or less quiet, but without Zane to comfort him, he makes too much noise. We also want to show Bill’s mom some places and explore some areas we’ve missed on previous trips, like Kaysersberg, which is the city where Anthony Bourdain died a couple of years ago. We were actually in Alsace just before he committed suicide. I wasn’t the biggest Anthony Bourdain fan… and Kaysersberg is worth seeing for reasons other than the fact that it was where Anthony Bourdain departed this life.

We look forward to picking up some more wine and goodies, and showing Bill’s mom this charming part of France that a lot of Americans miss, but has become a second home for us when we need a break from Deutschland. I don’t feel like we need a break from Germany yet, especially in France, which we just left a couple of weeks ago… but I do always enjoy Ribeauville, even if it’s pretty dead there in January. Besides, we’ve stayed in the gite we’re renting twice before, and it’s a pretty comfortable place to be.

Maybe next month, if there’s time, we’ll start looking for a new companion for me… and for Arran, if he’ll tolerate another dog around. He does need a playmate, and I need someone to snuggle when Arran is pouring on the charm for Bill every night. We just have to find someone that will let us adopt.

Stay tuned for more new travel posts… maybe even today! Depends on how tired our guest is after her long flight from Texas!

A funny thing happened on our afternoon walk…

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The sun is out this afternoon, and temperatures are kind of pleasant outside today. Arran missed yesterday’s walk because it was yucky outside and I was waiting for a package that never arrived. The package still hasn’t arrived yet, but I couldn’t miss the chance for some fresh air and exercise. Walks are also when Arran does his business best, otherwise we run the risk of him going in inappropriate places at inappropriate times.

On the way out of the house, Arran and I ran into our landlady. We don’t talk to her very often because her husband handles most of the business with us. We learned from the landlord that his wife’s brother built the house we’re living in. Our landlord then joked that he gets called “slumlord” a lot, but Bill told him this is the nicest house we’ve ever lived in. I think I agree with him. We’ve lived in a few houses we’ve enjoyed for various reasons, but overall, I think this one is in the best shape. The only place I absolutely hated in all ways was our apartment in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was the true epitome of a dump, along with inconsiderate neighbors, high crime, and shitty infrastructure. For that dump, we paid about $900 a month in 2003. By contrast, the house we’re in now is the most expensive of any we’ve ever lived in. But, for the most part, it’s completely worth it… and not just because it’s a nice house, but because we are treated respectfully, like adults with the right to privacy. It’s also a very comfortable home with many nice amenities and no one freaking out over dog hair in the doorway.

One nice thing about our current landlords is that they don’t mind dogs. Arran went over to say hello to the landlady. She gave him a pat and asked about Zane. I told her that he’d died. I’m sure they were wondering, but probably didn’t know how to bring it up. I mentioned that maybe we’d have a new dog after the holidays. She nodded in agreement, which makes me feel good. A few weeks ago, one of our elderly neighbors asked about Zane, and remarked that the dogs are like our children. That’s definitely true in our case. I was kind of happy that he’d asked, since I never know how the neighbors feel about our dogs. It seems like they’re well liked in this neighborhood. Obviously, Zane has been missed, and not just by Bill and me.

So we did our usual loop, and on our way through the messy field by the Rewe, I noticed an older lady coming down the hill with a little Yorkie. The Yorkie was off lead, which usually makes me nervous, since you never know how dogs will act when they first meet each other. The little dog came running up to Arran, who was whining and shrieking, trying to make contact. The lady smiled at me as our dogs sniffed. Her little dog was so cute, dodging, barking at Arran, yet curious and wanting to sniff my hand. I said to the dog, “Hello… aren’t you cute?”

Then the lady laughed and said, “You’re American?”

“Yes!” I responded, with a giggle.

“Me too!” she laughed.

We shared another awkward moment, then said goodbye. What are the odds?

I’ve heard there are a number of Americans here in Breckenheim. I know there’s a little hotel and there are a couple of Air BnBs here, too, where people have stayed until they find housing. This was the first time I’ve bumped into an American while walking the dog near my home in any of the three places in Germany I’ve lived so far. Or maybe I have run into them, but because I pass for German and so do a lot of other Americans, I just didn’t know it.

Anyway, it was kind of a funny encounter. Maybe we’ll run into each other again sometime. I hope so, since I think Arran and her dog may be buddies now. I love how our dogs serve as such excellent canine ambassadors. I’ve met a lot of nice people in Germany thanks to my dogs.

Today also happens to be the seventh anniversary of losing MacGregor, who was Arran’s predecessor. MacGregor was such a wonderful dog. He was best friends with Bill, who was probably the only man he ever liked. I can’t believe it’s been seven years already since we lost him. Time flies!

MacGregor, posing on our well-loved loveseat at our very first German house… Our first German house was almost as beautiful as the one we’re in now. We lost MacGregor in Raleigh, North Carolina seven years ago today. Canine cancer sucks!

Volvo, Mark Knopfler, and East German adventures… part nine

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Saturday was our last full day in Leipzig.  To be honest, I was feeling kind of ready to go home.  I always look forward to vacations, especially long ones that involve different cities and countries other than the ones that immediately border Germany.  But usually, after about a week, I start to feel tired of being away from home.  I miss my dogs.  I miss having access to my desktop computer, which is a lot easier to write on.  I miss making music.  I also miss having plenty of clean underwear, even though I usually pack enough to take care of me even if I were to hypothetically shit in them every day.

I have a bad habit of packing too much stuff I won’t wear.  For instance, this last trip, I packed two dresses in case we decided to go somewhere nice for dinner.  I packed jewelry, which I never bothered to wear.  I packed an extra bathing suit, which I might have used if I had gone to the pool at our Copenhagen hotel.  But I almost never go to the pool unless it means visiting an awesome spa, like at the Upper House.  Meanwhile, I should have packed more pants and a couple more long sleeved shirts.  I should have brought a sweater or a jacket, although I did bring a wrap.

Making matters worse was the fact that the gin and tonics I had the night before were reminding me I’m a long way from being 21.  And… somehow during the night, I got bitten by something.  I had three red, swollen blotches on my right leg.  They didn’t itch, but they were kind of painful.  Nevertheless, Bill and I took a walk and visited St. Peter’s Church, whose steeple I had seen in the distance.  It looked like a beautiful church.  We walked in the direction of the old building, which took us through a decidedly poorer neighborhood that was heavily littered with trash and large piles of feces that, I hope, came from dogs and not people.

The church was beautiful, but looked like it could use some work.  The interior looked a bit careworn, like maybe not enough tourists had come out to donate money.  It was a bit of a walk from the center of town.  But the windows were pretty, and I could see the skeleton of the building was very graceful and strong.  It looked like it had a good foundation.  When we arrived, it appeared that they were setting up for a concert.

Linoleum floor.  Had seen better days.

Interesting clouds.  Looks almost like a Monet painting.

Indeed, there was a concert going on.  Benjamin Britten is graduate level music.

I was impressed by this BARF market for dogs.  BARF is basically raw food that some dog owners swear by.  If my dogs didn’t have mast cell tumor issues, I might try it myself.

My leg was starting to hurt, as was my lower back.  We sat down on a bench near the St. Thomas Church, where Bach used to play his organ.  I took a picture of my bites and shared it with friends.  My German friend, Susanne, recommended that I go to an Apotheke (druggist) to see if they could give me something for the swelling and itching.  That was a very good recommendation.

Ow…

This place was near the main drag and it was obviously open.  When we went in, it was empty.  The young guy behind the counter took one look at my leg and said, “What happened to you?” in perfect English.  I explained that something bit me.  He fixed me up in a jiffy.


I left with antihistamine drops and cortizone cream.  I didn’t know the drops were antihistamines until after I took them… and then started drinking wine with lunch.  Still, I was impressed, because he got me some water and measured the dose for me in the pharmacy, like I was a kid.  And while we were in there, the place filled up.

We decided to have lunch at Cafe Madrid, since someone in the Facebook wine group recommended it.  Spanish food sounded good to us.  I thought maybe we’d have tapas, but I was a bit overwhelmed by all the choices.  I ended up having a pork filet and Bill had a shrimp salad.

So colorful.  My only complaint was that the vegetables included mushrooms.  I wish I had known…  The potatoes were very good.  They were heavily salted and served Canarian style, which seemed to mean they came with a very flavorful, garlicky green sauce.  The pork was Iberico and not bad.  It came with a port wine sauce.

 

Bill enjoyed his huge shrimp and avocado salad… and he was happy to eat the mushrooms that came with my dish. 

Lots of choices.  If we ever go back to Leipzig and eat here, we’ll be sure to get the tapas.

 

I got a kick out of the “peeing bull” in the restaurant.

As we were finishing lunch, I told Bill that I needed to lie down.  Wine and antihistamines equals nap time.  Sure enough, that’s what I did for three hours.  When I woke up, my leg looked like this.

Much better.  It’s not quite totally healed yet.  There’s still a little pain, but there’s no itching and the redness and swelling are gone.  I just hope that wasn’t caused by bedbugs and I especially hope we didn’t bring them into our house.

 

But the next morning, Bill found this under his pillow.  It was crushed and dead, but clearly some kind of insect.  He never got bitten and those were my only bites.  Still, it kind of gives one the willies.  I was very impressed by the help I got at the Apotheke, though.  That guy took great care of me.

We went to Morrison’s Traditional Irish Pub, where we were served by hardworking Germans who were busy, but willing to take care of us.  The food was good, and the service was better.  They brought out the wrong order, but were quick to correct the mistake with a smile and a good attitude.

Bill had fish & chips…  The chips were especially good.  I stole several of them.

I had a duck salad.  I don’t usually go for salad, and this was probably a better choice than what I was hoping to have at another restaurant.  It was very good, and reasonably priced.  We were happy to reward the much better staff with a good tip.

Gay pride!  Leipzig is full of it.  We saw lots of gay pride flags during our visit.

 

We were about to go back into the hotel when I heard what sounded like a man on trumpet playing David Soul’s “Don’t Give Up On Us, Baby.”  It turned out he was playing a flugelhorn and the song was “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John.  The guy playing piano was excellent.  I could tell he was influenced by Elton John.  After that number, he did a solo rendition of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All”.

Cool looking show.  Toilet paper always gets my attention.

 

After we listened to a couple of songs, we went back to the hotel and had a nightcap, then went to bed.  The next morning, after breakfast, we decided to check out and head home.  Bill discreetly spoke to the reception about the critter we found under his pillow that might have been the culprit for my welts.  We didn’t ask for anything, just wanted to alert them to a potential problem and give them a chance to check the room before someone else gets bitten and raises hell.  I’m still praying that wasn’t a bedbug and none of its friends stowed away in the luggage.

The guy who handled our bags was very funny.  He spoke fluent English and said he’d lived in Chicago fifteen years ago.  He wondered why we’d choose to live in Germany.  Is he kidding?  As we were dishing about Mark Knopfler, he confidentially mentioned that his hotel was where the rock stars like to stay.  I’ll keep that in mind.

The drive home was uneventful and pleasant.  It took maybe four hours or so, not counting breaks.  Bill dropped me off and went to the commissary to buy food while I did laundry and started this blog series.  Then he went to get Zane and Arran, who were definitely glad to be home.  I’m always so glad and relieved to see my dogs, but they always need a good brushing.  They don’t get petted as much when they get boarded and need to shed.

Next month, we’ll take another big trip… another whisky cruise in Scotland.  This time, we’re starting in Invergordon and sailing over the top of Scotland to Oban.  I am praying I don’t get norovirus.  Stay tuned.

All in all, this was a very fun trip.  It lived up to our expectations and, in some ways, really exceeded them.  I’m so glad we were able to combine our trip to get our new car with our trip to see Mark Knopfler.  A lot of really cool things happened during our week of travel… it was almost surreal how much cool stuff happened.  And yeah, I got bitten and we ran into an asshole at a bar, but we saw a rock star and traveled in style.  And nobody died…  I’d say it was a big success overall.  Thanks for joining me on my odyssey.

Leipzig is a really lovely city with an unusual vibe.