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Where has Limburg been all my life?

First thing’s first. I had no plans to visit the Hessian city of Limburg, Germany today. I went there because I follow Wiesbaden Fest Finders on Facebook, and I run my own “wine and food” group, mostly for Americans in Stuttgart and Wiesbaden. My food and wine Facebook group started in 2017, when Bill and I lived in Stuttgart, and we made a point of trying new restaurants and doing new stuff every weekend. In those days, we had no clue that we’d eventually move to Wiesbaden, and we had even less of a clue that there would be a global pandemic.

In late 2018, when we moved from Stuttgart to Wiesbaden, just about everyone in my Facebook group was based in Stuttgart. It was a pretty active group then. Since I spent six years living there in two different stints, I decided to just tack Wiesbaden onto the name of the group. In 2018, I thought I’d be going to Stuttgart often, if only because that’s where my dentist is. The main difference is, I don’t belong to a bunch of Wiesbaden groups. Living in Stuttgart and dealing with social media drama there made me want to be more under the radar. So I kept the group going, but while I thought I’d be going to Stuttgart more often than I do, that hasn’t happened. Thank COVID for that.

I still have lots of Stuttgart members, and some Wiesbadeners have joined. It’s not a particularly popular group, and frankly, I’ve been thinking about going defunct. But just when I’m about to abandon the group, something exciting happens that makes me keep going. Today was one of those days. Today, we discovered Limburg! And no, it’s not where the infamously stinky cheese comes from; that’s in Belgium.

A whole shitload of wine fests are happening right now in the Rheingau. I posted several of them this morning. The Limburg fest happened to be the first one I shared in my group. I was a little curious about Limburg, because in 2020, when we were trying to adopt a dog from a German rescue, we had a home visit done by a lady who was from Limburg. She said it was about 45 minutes away. She approved us for adopting the dog, but tragically, it didn’t work out for us. But no matter. Now we have Noyzi, the wonder dog from Kosovo.

So anyway… that brings me to this morning, as I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to go out, having just recovered from my first official bout with COVID-19. I finally decided that I did want… and NEED… to get out of the house. Like I wrote before, there were many things going on today. We had our pick. But I decided I wanted to go to Limburg, so that’s where we went. And, I have to say, we had a great time! This was our first time in Limburg, but God willing, it will not be our last. What a cute town! It’s on the Lahn River, and there are so many splendid timbered buildings dating back hundreds of years. The weather was perfect, and when we got there, I was enchanted by the many adorable shops. I even found something I wanted to buy, but decided not to, when I realized how heavy it was.

We stopped at the Leon Gerhard Weingut stall and tried several wines. I would have liked to have tried others, but we were a little pressed for time, thanks to the parking garage. It was one where you prepay, rather than pay when you’re done. Bill’s credit card wouldn’t work, and for once, we were short on spare change. While I didn’t think the cops were gonna bust us for overstaying, Bill was in a hurry… and we did have hungry dogs to consider.

There were a whole bunch of vintners at the Wine Fest, as well as food purveyors. As we were leaving, musicians were setting up for live music. I couldn’t help but feel so grateful to be in Germany now… as my homeland is embroiled in endless political bullshit, Germany is having wonderful festivals, reminding us that sometimes you just need to chill out and enjoy some wine and company. God bless Germany. It will always have a piece of my heart.

As for Limburg, it definitely didn’t stink… again, the infamously smelly cheese, comes from the Limburg area of Belgium, not Germany. So although I will make jokes about stinky cheese and cheesiness, this town isn’t the one affiliated with famously pungent cheese. We’ll be back, because I’m sure they have lots of fests. We were only there for a few hours, but I feel like I got a short vacation, and it was great for my soul. Especially when we visited Limburger Dom, which is a uniquely beautiful cathedral that has its origins in the 9th century.

We did stop for lunch at Werner-Senger Haus, which is a very cute and historic restaurant in a building that dates from the 1200s. We ate in their garden, which was up a couple of flights of stairs, or accessible from a gate on the other side of the restaurant. It was hot, so we drank Weizens, and I had a Wildschwein Burger, while Bill had Wildschwein Bratwurst with Pfifferlingen mushrooms. The food was good, and there was plenty of it, although it was a bit messy! Both dishes came with a Preiselbeer sauce that was a bit heavily applied on my burger, which was “molded” rather than hand shaped. But it tasted okay, even if it was a little rarer than I like it.

As we were leaving Werner-Senger Haus, I noticed a portrait on the wall near the door. I thought maybe it was Werner Senger, but my German friend was kind enough to edify me with the startling truth. Apparently, the man in the portrait is the Schinderhannes, Johannes Bückler. The restaurant is in the house where he was brought after he was captured. Wikipedia tells me that Johannes Bückler was an outlaw and thief who lived from 1778 until November 21, 1803, when he was guillotined in nearby Mainz. Bückler was famous for organizing one of the biggest crime sprees in German history, so we were dining on true historic ground! I did marvel more than once that I thought the restaurant was really cool looking, but now I know it’s very historic, too.

I might have preferred street food at the fest, but I needed to pee, and as we walked through there, the public WCs weren’t quite open for business. They were when we came back an hour or so later. Our bill at the restaurant was about 49 euros. I would like to go back, if only because it really was such a unique and historic building, just as so many others in that town are. I felt like I got a half day vacation!

Below are some photos…

We had a great time today. I am sure we’ll be back to Limburg. It’s a very nice town, and I’ll bet they have some great fests. And once again, I am so glad to be living in Germany. I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but today was a reminder to enjoy and learn from every moment. Today was a treat, and I hope we can get back into enjoying them more often. At least until COVID gets bad again.

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I really like this about Germany…

It’s a chilly Saturday, here in Germany. It’s also a holiday weekend. We don’t have any special plans for today, other than to receive wine we ordered last weekend at the wine fest. So I thought maybe today, I’d write about something I’ve noticed and really appreciate about living in Germany. Below is a photo that was shared in a local Facebook group. Someone had seen this solution in a Swabian town– maybe down near Stuttgart– and wondered if it would be a good idea for up here in Hesse.

This keeps the pizza boxes out of the trash cans, so they don’t fill up so fast.

I noticed a few people were a little snarky. One person said this was not a good idea, since people shouldn’t be eating so much pizza. Another said they thought this was “stupid”, since it seemed like overkill for what shouldn’t be a problem. But a couple of people wrote that they thought this was a good idea, and even went as far to do some rudimentary research into how this could be accomplished. Below are their translated comments.

Hmm: The way it looks, this is made of weatherproof sieve pressure plates, only the cutting edges have to be sealed. I see stainless steel screws wouldn’t be a problem now either. If they sponsor the material, I can build a few for free.

Another person wrote: the pizzerias could also sponsor…

I was at Globus today and investigated the material costs: a box would cost around €100. So the idea is feasible As far as regulations, regulations, assessments, TÜV and other rules are concerned, of course I have no plan.

Someone else wrote that this is already a thing in the Allgau area, and it works well. Quite a few people were very positive in their remarks, and thanked the original poster for the suggestion. And, much to my amazement, people were actually coming together to see how they could make this idea come to fruition. Yes, there were a couple of American styled cynical comments that were sort of rude and dismissive, but for the most part, people seemed optimistic and wanting to make something nice for the community.

Last week, I shared the photos of the repurposed gumball machines that now sell “bee bombs”, so people can improve their gardens and give the bees something good to eat. That’s a good thing for everyone, and it keeps retired gumball machines out of the trash.

I also like that here in Germany, people aren’t allowed to run amok with weapons. I feel a lot safer here, because fewer people are armed and dangerous, and it’s a lot less likely that some nut is going to shred my vital organs with ammunition fired from their “sexy” AR-15 rifles that they can buy with ease at any gun dealer. Here, to have a weapon for hunting and fishing, you have to prove you’re sane and know how to use the weapon safely. And you can’t just get whatever gun you want, either.

It’s true that some laws in Germany seem a little ridiculous… like the one that forbids people to flip off drivers on the Autobahn, or the laws that can make someone liable if, for instance, they illegally use pepper spray intended for an animal on a person who is attacking them. Bill recently told me about a guy who needed legal help because he got charged with hit and run for running into a guy who was trying to steal his car. I have also heard about people getting in legal trouble for hurting people who were committing crimes, though that could be anecdotal. And yes, I have also heard horror stories about people buying homes and not being able to evict the previous owners until they are ready to move. It seems that self-defense is less of a thing here. At least that’s how it seems, based on some of the anecdotes I’ve heard.

By and large, Germany is a very nice place to live. The more I see what’s going on at home, the more grateful I am that we live over here. And that gives me an interesting perspective, particularly when it comes to immigration issues in the United States. I am often impressed by the sense of community here. I wish there was more of it back home. I’m tired of seeing how polarized people are… and the collective, “I’ve got mine, so screw you” attitude so many people seem to have. On the other hand, although I understand why some people get frustrated and react with self-righteous indignation when they butt heads with someone on the other side of an issue, I don’t think self-righteous indignation is helpful in reaching compromises or inspiring cooperation.

Anyway… I like that they discuss things like making pizza box slots to help keep the trash cans from overflowing. It’s nicer to see those discussions, than contentious discussions about gun rights and abortion. It also helps that Germany is clean, safe, and beautiful, and has educated people who have basic decency and compassion for others. I admire the Germans. They’ve done a lot of growing. I wish more Americans would.

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Word of advice… don’t call a German cop a “fascist”…

It’s another cold, grey, drizzly weekend in Germany. Christmas will arrive next weekend. I suppose I should be more into the spirit of celebrating the season, but I just can’t seem to find my mojo. I don’t really like going out in yucky weather even when there isn’t a pandemic. The spiking COVID numbers aren’t inspiring me to get out there and mingle with the masses.

But not everyone feels the way I do. My German friend, Susanne, shared with me some news out of Reutlingen. It seems there was a riot/protest there last night, consisting of Nazi sympathizers and COVID deniers, most of whom weren’t masked and ignored the rules against congregating. Things got pretty out of hand in some places, so the Stuttgart police showed up to maintain order.

Germans are usually pretty tolerant of peaceful protests and strikes. They’re usually scheduled ahead of time and announced, so people can choose not to be involved… or, if they’re into it, they can participate or observe. I believe one has to get a permit to protest legally. I have no idea if this group followed the rules. The protests I’ve seen are usually pretty chill… afterwards, everybody breaks up and has a beer or something. But every once in awhile, people do get their hackles up. Such was the case last night.

This video was shared on Facebook by Matthias Kipfer in the public group, 99,99 % (Filder) vs. R.E.S.T.. I’m not sure where this particular incident involving the man screaming about fascists took place. It might not have happened in Reutlingen, although I can see by the photos and videos in the group, there was plenty of action there last night. I see the guy screaming about fascists was originally posted on Twitter by Stadtrand Aktion. As you can see, the cops weren’t amused. This guy was promptly arrested. I suspect he will get a nice big fine, as outlined in the trusty 2022 Bussgeldkatalog. Edited to add: Susanne thinks the fascist cop incident might have happened in Berlin, since the cop has a B on his uniform.

More than once, I have written about how insulting people is illegal in Germany. It’s especially true that insulting the cops is a big no no. All I can think is that this guy took complete leave of his senses, forgot to whom he was speaking, and lost total control of himself. I know how that feels. It happened to me a time or two when I was a teenager. This fellow looks to be well beyond the teen years.

I think it’s funny that there’s a catalog of fines people can consult to find out about laws and fines. I especially get a kick out of the section on the fines for insulting people in traffic. When they are translated into English, they are both hilarious and nonsensical. Below is the list of fines as of 2022.

Some of these insults seem to have lost a little in their translations.

In all seriousness, these protests were pretty bad. Apparently, some people were using children as human shields against the water cannons cops tried to use to disperse the agitated crowds. I was impressed by how the cops managed to keep their cool. German police officers don’t seem to be as violent as American police officers often are. But then, they probably pay better and offer more training.

My German still sucks, but I do find myself picking up words and understanding more, especially when my friend shares interesting German articles with me that include juicy tidbits about current events. If I have gained anything from the past seven years, besides a massive beer gut, it’s a rudimentary understanding of basic German. My Armenian is still better, though. That isn’t saying much.

The above photo basically translates to “People who think vaccinations change their DNA should consider it an opportunity.” Who says Germans aren’t sharp witted? Not I!

In other news… I hope the new blog design is welcomed by the few regular readers who have been keeping up with me during these COVID times. I decided to play around with it a few days ago, and when I went to change it back to the theme I was using, I discovered that the “wandering” theme was retired. So now I have a new but similar theme, and a new color scheme. I think it’s easier to read.

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Life is standing still…

Obviously, since we’re locked down, Bill and I aren’t traveling or eating in restaurants right now. But I did want to share this funny video a German friend posted on Facebook. It’s done by a group called Bohemian Browser Ballett, and it’s basically about the importance of being considerate while grocery shopping, and not “Hamsterkaufing”…

If you watch it on Facebook without clicking, you can read the subtitles in English. Otherwise, it’s in German. But I think you’ll get the gist of it by watching even if you don’t speak German.

Hee hee hee!

Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humor? After watching this video, I certainly don’t.

Hopefully, I’ll have more things to write about soon. This virus is really cramping everyone’s style. I continue to update the old posts so they’re readable, so I encourage anyone who actually misses my content to give them a second (or first) look. We hope to be back on the travel/food trail soon.

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A review of German Men Sit Down To Pee And Other Insights Into German Culture

In this case, you can judge the book by its cover.

I love to read books about other cultures, especially when they are about countries where I have lived.  Although Bill and I have spent years in Germany (and Bill has spent more years here than I have), there are still a lot of things I don’t know about German culture.  One thing I learned when we lived here the first time is that German men usually sit down when they pee.

I initially learned about German men’s toilet habits by frequenting Toytown Germany, a forum for English speakers that predates any of the Facebook groups in our area.  Suddenly, the little sign in our bathroom, probably posted by our old landlord’s ex wife, made perfect sense.  I was so tickled about this phenomenon that I decided to write about it on my main blog.

Now it makes sense!

When I spotted a book on Amazon called German Men Sit Down To Pee And Other Insights Into German Culture, I knew I had to read it.  This little book, available in printed and online versions, was published in 2015 and written by Niklas Frank and James Cave.  Niklas Frank is from Germany, although he’s lived in Sweden and China.  Frank noticed his friends and colleagues were amused by his quirky “Germanness” and decided to take notes, which later served as the basis of this book.  James Cave is Irish and a writer.  He has lived in Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal.  Cave does not follow all of the German rules, but as an “Auslander“, was no doubt in a unique position to help Frank decide what to include in their book.

German Men Sit Down to Pee is a delightfully fun and quick read.  It’s full of information about many of the mysteries of living in Germany.  Not only is there discussion about German men sitting down to pee; there are also explanations and anecdotes about other German customs that may seem obscure to people who aren’t German.  For instance, did you know that if it’s your birthday in Germany, you’re supposed to bring a cake to work for your colleagues to enjoy?  And if you go out for drinks, you’re supposed to pay the check?

Anyone who spends any time in Germany will quickly notice that Germans like to follow the rules.  That means you don’t walk until you see the green man at the crosswalk.  You don’t make noise or expect to go grocery shopping in German supermarkets on Sundays.  You don’t drink Kolsch in Düsseldorf or Altbier in Cologne (or vice versa).  However, if you want to get naked in a park, especially in Munich or Berlin, you’re more than welcome to.  Germans dig nudity.

Germans are often wrongly described as “humorless”, but this book helps dispel that rumor.  I wouldn’t say Germans are humorless.  They just enjoy a different kind of humor.  For instance, as I read this book, I learned that German parents can and will hire a guy to play Krampus at Christmas if their kids have been naughty.  For about 50 euros, a guy will dress up as a Christmas themed satan, show up at the children’s houses, and put the fear of God in them!  I had heard of Krampus in a vague sense.  I thought it was more of an Austrian thing to do, but no… apparently German parents are not above using Krampus to get their kids to behave.  Too funny!

The authors include discussions and rationales behind a number of different German idiosyncrasies.  For instance, cash is still a very popular way to pay for things in Germany.  Germans are often frugal and prefer not to spend money they don’t have.  Always paying cash makes that habit easier to maintain, even if it’s a pain for non-Germans.

I really enjoyed the lighthearted tone of this book.  I think Cave and Frank make a good team.  I could sort of tell Cave was the one who made the book flow, since it has sort of an Irish feel to it– lots of wit and humor.  And Frank no doubt provided all of the context and oddities that Cave would have missed, since he’s not from Germany.  There are also a lot of funny little comics included.

I wish I could have read this book before we moved here the first time; however, I must admit that reading about German men sitting to pee on an Internet forum was an entertaining way to blow an afternoon back in 2008.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is going to be living in Germany or even just planning a visit.  It’s well-written and accurate and would probably make for a fun family discussion… and, who knows?  Maybe you might even want to adopt some German idiosyncratic habits yourself.  I know Bill and I are now a lot more conscious about waiting for the green man when we want to cross the street.  That’s a habit that will probably never go away, even years after we’ve left here.

I give German Men Sit Down to Pee a solid 4.5 stars out of five.  Not only is it an enjoyable book, it’s also a bargain at just $4.50 if you download it.

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Bonding with our German vet over cannabis…

Since Bill and I returned to Germany, I have been spending a lot of time in the veterinarian’s office.  The vet we currently use is the same one we used last time we lived here.  That vet diagnosed our dog, Flea, with prostate cancer back in 2009.  I never met her last time we lived here.  Bill took Flea to his vet appointments because we only had one car.  We also used the vet on Panzer Kaserne for routine stuff, but that proved to be a real pain in the butt since appointments were hard to come by.

These two dogs are Flea and MacGregor, the dogs we had during our first Germany tour.  Flea is the one standing behind MacGregor.

Flea survived Germany and we took him with us to our next duty station in Georgia.  He lasted another two months in the States before we sent him to the Rainbow Bridge.  About a month after we lost Flea, Bill and I adopted our dog, Zane, from Atlanta Beagle Rescue.  Zane is pretty much a bigger, sweeter version of Flea.

Zane, the tri-colored beagle… and adopted “brother” Arran.

When we got back to Germany and rented a house near Herrenberg again, we decided to use the same vets we did last time.  Because we now have two cars, the duty of taking the dogs to the vet often falls to me.  Zane gets allergy shots every month.  I could learn to give him the shots myself, but I’m a bit squeamish.  So every month, I take Zane (and often Arran) with me to the vet.  She gives Zane his shot and any other treatment he needs.  We’ve been in this routine for about two years now.

Many Americans who live in Germany comment that it can take awhile to get to know Germans well.  Germans seem to be fairly private people, especially in a professional setting.  That has definitely been the case for our German vet.  Our visits have been mostly all business.  In fact, until a couple of months ago, I was calling her by her colleague’s name.  I made this mistake because Bill got their names mixed up last time we lived here and passed his mistake to me.  Our vet didn’t introduce herself when I came in the first time, so I was assuming her name was her colleague’s name.  For two years!  It wasn’t until I mixed the names up in the vet’s presence that she corrected me.

Most of our visits have not been particularly friendly.  There’s been a minimum of small talk.  The vet has been very matter-of-fact about most things.  I actually found her kind of hard to talk to, although she seemed very competent.

Both of my dogs have had cancerous mast cell tumors removed by our German vet.  Arran had one taken off in July 2015.  It was a very low grade bump that, so far, has caused no more issues.  Zane had one taken off in October of 2016.  Zane’s tumor was a little bit higher grade and it was larger.

In the weeks since his surgery, Zane has also not really been acting like himself.  For several weeks after his surgery, he seemed lethargic and less social.  I suspected that he was in pain.  Thanks to the mast cell tumor’s presence, I started becoming obsessive about looking for new lumps.  I would mention them to the vet, who was astonished that I found them.  They weren’t exactly big and noticeable.  One was buried deep beneath some muscle.

After Zane was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor, Bill stopped by to talk to the vet and she said, “Your wife is really good at finding lumps on Zane.  She seems really knowledgable about diseases.  Is she a nurse or something?”

Bill explained my education and work background to the vet.  He later told me that when he explained my public health experience, it was like a lightbulb went off over the vet’s head.  Suddenly, she started becoming a lot friendlier toward me.  I went in to see her in late November to talk to her about changing Zane’s diet, putting him on Benadryl and Tagamet for the mast cell disease, and avoiding unnecessary vaccines.  She also asked me about my background and I told her.  I also used to work for a vet and spent most of my childhood working in a barn.  With that knowledge, it seemed like the vet started seeing me in a different light.  It was as if I wasn’t just some American hausfrau anymore.

Last month, I asked the vet about having Zane tested for tick-borne illnesses.  I knew that Zane would come up positive for ehrlichiosis, because he had it when we lived in North Carolina.  Ehrlichiosis can cause some of the symptoms Zane has been exhibiting.  Also, Zane was bitten by a number of ticks last summer, despite my efforts to keep them at bay.  He’s been chewing and licking his paws a lot.  I thought it was due to the allergies, but now I think he’s been doing it because he’s been in pain.  It was not enough to make him limp noticeably, but it was enough to make him not want to play or hang out with Bill and me.  I remembered Zane’s previous bout with ehrlichiosis, told the vet about it, and she agreed that he should be screened.

I also told the vet that Zane was having issues with his paws.  He would lick and chew the pads until they were raw.  Then he would have pain when trying to walk on the frosty grass because the raw paws would be in contact with the grass.  The vet had sent me home with medicated shampoo that was supposed to help heal Zane’s paws.  Having used this remedy a few times on both of my dogs, I didn’t have much faith that it would be that helpful.

Coincidentally, the day after our visit, I made a big change in Zane’s regimen.  I started giving him 5% CBD hemp oil.  Hemp oil is rapidly becoming well-known for improving the quality of life for dogs with a variety of ailments.

Yesterday, I took Zane in for a blood test.  We had a tick panel done in December and Zane came up positive for ehrlichiosis.  The vet wanted to do a more sensitive test to determine if the infection was active.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been giving Zane the hemp oil and I’ve watched him become more energetic and social.  He seems to have less pain.  He’s stopped licking and chewing his paws as much.  Now he confines the licking to one paw, rather than all four, and he doesn’t chew the pad until the skin becomes raw.  It’s been nothing short of astonishing.

Prior to yesterday, I had not seen the vet since I made this change.  While she was drawing Zane’s blood, we started chatting.  She was friendlier than ever.  I told her about the CBD oil I’ve been using and how amazed I was by it.  She started telling me about other essential oils that we could use for Zane’s allergies.  So far, I’ve noticed that the oil seems to make Zane feel better overall and perhaps helps him with pain and inflammation.  While he’s still not quite 100%, he’s probably now at 85% or even 90% as opposed to 65% or 70%.

She asked if I was using the CBD oil for myself and I said I’d tried it.  I mostly give it to Zane, though, because it tastes like hay.  She laughed and I ended up telling her about how I tried marijuana for the first time in The Netherlands.  She laughed and asked if we visited a coffee shop.  I told her about how it was my 43rd birthday and we got a space cake from a coffee shop near our hotel in Haarlem.  Then she told me about how she and the other vet went to Amsterdam with their husbands and the husbands wanted to visit a coffee shop.  It may seem silly to mention this, but remember, I’ve been visiting this lady for the past two years, often more than once a month.  And this was very close to a friendly conversation!  In fact, it was probably the longest chat we’ve ever had.

Having lived in Germany for a total of about four and a half years, I have come to realize that Germans, by and large, can take awhile to warm up.  But once they do, you start to see a very appealing side of them.  As we continued chatting, we started talking about politics and the vet amazed me by showing that she knows as much or more about American politics than I do.  I would be hard pressed to know much about German politics, although I did read yesterday that Germany has just loosened up the regulations on the use of medical cannabis.  So we chatted a bit about that… and I would not be surprised if she was surprised that I knew about the new medical cannabis legislation in Germany (which I think is a great thing).

Another thing I’ve learned during the two times I’ve lived here is that dogs can be excellent ambassadors.  I have met more Germans because of my dogs than I have in any other circumstance.  That was true when we were living here last time, too.  Our dog, Flea, actually got our first German neighbors talking to us after we’d lived next to them for over six months.  And when Bill and I ran into them last spring, they asked about our dogs (we have different ones this time).

I don’t know how long we’ll have with either Zane or Arran.  But I can see that the vet really likes my dogs and is particularly fond of Zane.  I could be wrong, but I think her opinion of me has changed a bit, too.  Our frequent visits are now a lot less awkward than they were even just a few weeks ago.  Who knew we’d bond over pot?

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