Noyzi makes a friend! Can Tommi come out to play?

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Our German neighbor used to have an adorable Labrador Retriever named Levi. Levi had been adopted from Americans who were leaving Germany and couldn’t take him with them. Levi recently got very sick and passed away, so our neighbor acquired a new puppy, name of Tommi. Tommi, like Levi, is a lab, although it looks like she got him from a breeder. I adored Levi, and was very sad when he died. He was a very sweet, friendly, and gentle dog, who always wanted to say hello. He was also well behaved and well trained, and would come over to visit us. Tommi looks a lot like a young version of Levi, and is just as friendly and outgoing. It looks like he’ll be a lot like Levi when he grows up.

A few days ago, I had Arran and Noyzi on their leashes, ready to take a walk. Our neighbor was outside with Tommi, packing up her car. It looked like she was headed to the barn, where she boards her mare. I once tried to have a conversation with her about horses. I spent most of my childhood showing my Appaloosa. But she seemed doubtful that I knew anything about horses and, in fact, even doubted that my horse had been an Appaloosa. The picture I showed her was of us mid flight over a fence and his spotted rump evidently wasn’t so easy to see. When I showed her another photo of us winning reserve champion at a state 4H horse show, then she realized I knew what breed my horse was. In that photo, she could see his spots.

Yes, that’s me when I was a horse person. Rusty, the Appaloosa pony, was my best friend. We won over 200 ribbons , a medal, and several trophies together, but the biggest prize was getting through high school unscathed and many years of companionship.

I think this is a common thing with some Germans. Sometimes they act like they know better about certain things, even when it’s clear they don’t. 😉 But rest assured, I did spent years working in barns and taking care of horses and, at least in those days, I knew what I was doing. Someday, when we settle down, I would love to have a horse in my life again.

Anyway… I think our neighbor distrusts Arran, mainly because Arran’s a bit high strung and bossy. When we first moved to the neighborhood, he didn’t seem as friendly as our other dog, Zane, was. Zane was a beagle with a touch of lab in him. He never met a stranger. Arran is a beagle with, I think, a healthy portion of German shorthaired pointer, and possibly a touch of coonhound. He’s very sweet, but kind of cranky and emotional.

Arran showing off his junk.

Noyzi, by contrast, is very nervous around people he doesn’t know, especially men. But he LOVES other dogs! He’s only about two years old, and still wants to play. Arran will play, but Arran is eleven and doesn’t have the stamina he once had. And he’s only now, after three months, starting to come around to liking Noyzi at all. Consequently, when Noyzi and Tommi first touched noses, I think Noyzi fell in love.

A couple of days later, Bill took the boys out for a walk. The neighbor was outside with Tommi again, and he came over to greet Arran and Noyzi. All three of them started trying to play. Bill had Arran on a long Flexi-lead tape leash, while Noyzi was in a harness and two regular nylon webbing leashes. Tommi was off lead. Bill said it was clear Noyzi liked Tommi and wanted to play some more. After their walk, he kept looking over at the neighbor’s house, eagerly searching for his new friend.

Noyzi loves snow, too.

As you can see in the video, he now knows Tommi’s scent and seems to want to leap the fence to get to him. I think he’s more likely to try to climb the fence than jump it, and he’s big enough that I think it’s possible he could clear his obstacle. However, I have not seen any indication that Noyzi wants to run away from us. He doesn’t charge the door when the doorbell rings, and he seems very attached to me… and to his bed and food.

We may have to find him a younger playmate, though. It’s so nice to see Noyzi acting more like a regular, goofy, funny dog. He’s really settling into his life in Germany, and making life during a pandemic a lot more interesting and fulfilling. I hope someday, he and Tommi can have some fun. If he was a human, I think he’d be knocking on the door, asking our neighbor if Tommi can come out to play!

Noyzi’s savior… a sunflower planted in the right place

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By savior, I mean the man who saved Noyzi’s life when he was unceremoniously dumped on a street in Pristina one day in 2018. Noyzi’s very first rescuer is a young man named Florent who has a habit of taking care of street dogs. There are many homeless dogs in Kosovo, and a lot of people don’t like them. So Florent does what he can to help them. He gets some help from others who like dogs, like my American friend Meg, who was responsible for bringing Noyzi into our lives. Meg used to live in Kosovo and has many contacts in the countries that were once collectively known as Yugoslavia.

Kosovo’s population is mostly Muslim. On the whole, the Muslim culture doesn’t value canine companionship. There are also many poor people living in Kosovo. Many of the dogs that have value in Kosovo are working dogs, rather than pets. At the same time, spaying and neutering pets is not a popular practice.

Just last week, someone dumped three female puppies near Florent’s house. Meg has told me it’s because females get pregnant and people don’t want to deal with pregnant dogs. I saw a picture of the female puppies that were rescued in another part of Pristina last week. They look like could be Noyzi’s sisters, and they are just as young and tiny as he was when he was found… about four weeks old. They’re lucky they were simply dumped. I read a horrifying account of what regularly happens in nearby Albania, when it’s time to cull street dogs. A woman from New Zealand who lives in Albania rescued a street dog and blogged about it, as well as the plight of beautiful Albanian dogs who roam the street and are horribly abused or killed in very inhumane ways. Parvo virus is also a constant threat to puppies in Kosovo.

This is Noyzi’s namesake!

So there I was last night, newly friends with Florent, and he was telling me about Noyzi, and how he got his name. Kosovo is a “brother nation” to Albania. The people who live there are mostly ethnically Albanian and speak Albanian. There is a rapper in Albania whose name is Noizy. Florent says he likes Noizy’s music, and the dog, Noyzi, was kind of noisy when he was found. He’s not very noisy anymore. I did change the spelling of Noyzi’s name for a couple of reasons. First off, I’m a spelling nerd, and kept wanting to write Noisy instead of Noizy. And secondly, on his paperwork, it’s spelled Noyzi. I figured it would be easier to keep it spelled as it is on his documents. I had originally meant to change Noyzi’s name, but I could not think of an appropriate new name for him. Now that I know that the name has a connection to his homeland, I’m glad we kept it.

Around the time we first got Noyzi, Meg told me a bit about how she came to take him into her rescue. I wrote about that on my original blog. It was back in October, just a few days after we finally had him in our home, when I was thinking about how the stars aligned for us to have this dog from Kosovo in our family. We’d been waiting a long time for a new dog to come into our lives after we lost our sweet beagle, Zane, on August 31, 2019. We tried to adopt another beagle in March of 2020, but that experience ended in senseless tragedy. About a month later, April of last year, I saw Noyzi’s picture for the first time. There was something about his face that touched my heart. I wanted to know more about him. Before I knew it, I was agreeing to adopt him.

It took six months until we were finally able to get Noyzi and bring him home. That adventure, which happened in early October, involved going to Slovenia to pick him up. That was the last time I left our neighborhood… and the last time I was in a car. COVID-19 has really altered my lifestyle in so many ways. A year ago, we were planning trips to France. Now, we’re waiting until it’s safe to travel… and instead of writing about our adventures in other countries, I’m writing about this big, sweet, skittish, and shy dog from a country not everyone even recognizes. And I literally haven’t been anywhere in months since we brought him home. Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t bother me that much.

Last night, while many of my friends and loved ones were reeling from the drama happening in our country, I was sitting in Germany, and Florent was telling me about what it’s like to live in Kosovo. According to Florent, Kosovo is kind of like a “jail”, which is only good for people who are wealthy or politically affiliated. Maybe Donald Trump ought to look into moving there, since it seems like no one else wants him. On the other hand, Florent makes it sound like Kosovo has more than enough problems. I got the sense that maybe he’d like to move somewhere else. I understand how that feels. I was ready to leave the United States in 2014, and that was before I knew what was on the horizon.

Florent shared a couple of videos of the tiny puppy version of Noyzi, greedily eating kibble and yogurt. I can see that he’s always loved food, although it took him awhile to learn the concept of treats and “people food” in our house. He will let Bill pet him and give him a treat, but only if he’s in his bed. The bed seems to be his safe zone, and he stays there almost all the time. But he will come to me for treats and snacks, and to be walked. He loves taking walks, though I had to teach him about leashes and show him that they aren’t meant to hurt him. He will let Bill walk him, but only if I put the harness on him. He won’t let Bill do it.

Although his savior was a man, Noyzi doesn’t like men. When he sees male strangers on the street, he panics, and will backpedal or try to bolt. When we first got Noyzi, he used to get so scared that he’d pee involuntarily. Some things would literally scare the piss out of him. That behavior has stopped, which is a blessing. However, I have never needed to house train him. He naturally goes outside to do his business. Noyzi also doesn’t like sudden movements or noises. It’s like he has PTSD. And yet he’s so sweet and basically well-behaved. He doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body. He keeps himself clean, and even takes care of the dog toys, “saving” them from our other dog, Arran, who likes to destroy them. Noyzi will grab them when Arran isn’t looking and stack them in his bed, like they’re his friend.

Noyzi has been acting more like a normal dog lately. He loves to run around the yard, especially before and after a dump or a walk. He loves being brushed, and although he’s so far only had one bath, he does enjoy being bathed. Once he realized that warm water feels good and being scrubbed is a pleasant experience, he was happy to sit in the shower and get clean. Florent told me that street dogs are very smart. They know what it’s like to have no food or water or love… so when they find a home, they adapt fast. Florent also told me that he had rescued a dog that ended up going to one of our soon to be President Joe Biden’s friends. I can believe it, since there are Americans who work in Kosovo. It wouldn’t surprise me if one of them, working in government service, took one of Florent’s rescues.

Our conversation went on for about an hour or so, and then Florent said something that was very profound to me. He told me that he rescues dogs because “they are angels, and God is testing us with them. And if we help them, God will love us.” I remember being a senior in high school, when the Eastern Bloc was falling apart. My government teacher, Mr. Jim Eccleston, was talking about the fall of the Iron Curtain, and described Albania as the “Iron Lampshade”, since all of the other countries were opening up and Albania was the one holdout. At one time, it was the site of the harshest and most repressive Communist regime in Europe. When I lived in Armenia in the 1990s, there was a violent uprising in Albania that became the Albanian Civil War. The Peace Corps program there was suspended and the Volunteers had to be evacuated. They later reopened the program. I have always been curious about Albania, and I’ve seen that parts of it are very beautiful. I would like to visit sometime… but hopefully at a time when the street dog problem is handled more humanely.

Florent says Kosovo isn’t such a great place right now. A lot of people don’t have anywhere to go. He described himself as “a sunflower planted in the wrong place”. But then he told me about how he and Meg once rescued six puppies stuck in a hole at a train station. One by one, they pulled them out… and if Florent hadn’t been there with Meg, those puppies would not have survived. I can’t help but think that this young man, who obviously has faith in God and a love for animals, is a sunflower planted in the right place. He brings light, beauty, hope, and humanity to dogs who just want to find loving homes. They just want a safe, warm, dry place to sleep, enough food, walks in the sun, and someone to shower them with love in the form of kind words, loving pets, and treats. And every time one of Florent’s dogs finds a new home, the sunflowers are planted anew… in Germany or the United States, or Poland… or any of the other places where they find themselves with people who want them and are committed to loving them forever.

An example of the good work Florent has done.

It’s been such a privilege to have Noyzi in our lives, especially during this endless pandemic. He’s given us something to focus on besides all of the bad stuff. And every day, he surprises us with something new and adorable. By saving Noyzi’s life, Florent gave us an amazing gift… and a permanent bond to a country where there are still many sunflowers waiting to be harvested. Florent may not know it, but what he’s done has had ripple effects way beyond Kosovo.

An August walk in the vineyards…

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I run a Facebook group for wine lovers in the American communities of Germany. I started the group when we lived near Stuttgart, and have continued it since we moved up here to Wiesbaden. Stuttgart is “German wine country”, but the Rheingau, which is where Wiesbaden is, could be considered “German wine world”. I had no idea, when we moved up here a couple of years ago, how much more of a wine region the Rhein area is compared to Stuttgart, which now seems much more like beer country to me. If you like German wines, or just want to see if you like them, this area is “must visit” territory. I used to dislike German wines, but I eventually found quite a few that I enjoy. Every year we’ve lived here (since 2014, anyway), I have found even more that appeal to me.

One of Bill’s co-workers, Nora, happened to befriend a trivia loving American lady named Jennipher Schwarz, who married a German man named Klaus, whose family is in the wine business. Naturally, Jennipher and Klaus have a special “in” to German winemakers, but Jennipher is also a chef who has extensive experience captaining boats, too. She’s a fascinating person, and I’m delighted that Bill’s co-worker met her at trivia night! They are both tremendous assets to my little Facebook group, which has grown by leaps and bounds since I started it in 2016.

Jennipher and her husband have a business called Winestones, and they run wine tastings, winery tours, and facilitate wine sales. Last night, they hosted a “wine walk” at Lunkenheimer-Lager, one of several family owned wineries near Ingelsheim am Rhein, a picturesque wine producing town about 40 kilometers from where we live. For 24 euros per person, we got to try generous pours of several wines and have some vegetarian fare…

A few months ago, when the pandemic was in full swing, Jennipher hosted an online wine tasting via Zoom. Bill and I participated in that and had a great time, but this was the first time we’d made it to one of the special wine walk events Winestones hosts. We tried several different wines, walked around the vineyards, and socialized in person for the first time in many months. About everyone in attendance last night, save for the vintners, were Americans who are part of the U.S. military presence up here, but Jennipher has said she gets all kinds of people at her events. Here’s a link to Winestones’ Facebook page, for anyone who happens to read this and would like to get in touch.

The weather was awesome, and Bill and I took Arran with us… I got lots of great photos, too. Here are a few of them.

The wine walk was up a slight hill, which afforded many beautiful views of the valley. Anyone who visits a winery and does a walk should expect to walk up hills, since grapevines are planted on them for maximum sunshine. Jennipher and Klaus helpfully explained some of the methods used for gathering the local grapes for delicious German wines. She showed us some vines that were planted in April of this year, and told us about a couple of vines that date from the World War II era. The older vines don’t produce as many grapes and are harder to tend, but the grapes they do produce put out very interesting wines for the discriminating palate!

I probably could have sipped wine and taken pictures all night, but unfortunately, it was getting cooler and darker… and all of that wine has to go somewhere. I needed to ladies room in the worst way. Nora and I, feeling our collective oats, headed back down the hill to the facilities. The rest of the group followed, and we went back into the tasting room for a little dessert, more wine, and more talk about wine, as well as a few inappropriate subjects. I’m sure the people who were sitting near Bill and me probably think I’m totally nuts, and I am. But I’ve also been mostly locked down for months and haven’t had anyone to talk to. Even when we took our recent vacation, our most engaging conversation was with the “Shaman”, the artist in Italy who identifies with Geronimo… and maybe the other artist we met in Bolzano. I am somewhat introverted (much more than people realize), but I do need human contact sometimes.

I really regret not participating in one of Winestones’ earlier events this year. What can I say? 2020 has definitely been an unusual year for us and everyone else on the planet. Jennipher says she may do another event in the fall. I hope she will, because now I’ve done two with her and had a blast! And for one of them, I didn’t even have to get dressed or leave my home!

And now that we’ve been to Ingelsheim am Rhein, we will have to go back. We noticed several other inviting looking “Weinguts” in the area, but I would also love to get some more photos. It really is breathtaking scenery. I have missed beautiful countryside views, since we left Jettingen in 2018.

We may manage to get out for a bit today, too, so there could be another post in the very near future!

Burrata brings people together at Momo’s Osteria und Restaurant!

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My neighbors have a sense of humor… I spotted this while walking Zane and Arran yesterday.

Because we’re going on vacation tomorrow, I told Bill I needed to stop by AAFES. I have a couple of dresses I plan to wear on our cruise that require pantyhose. I don’t often wear hose anymore, even on the rare occasions when I do dress up, but there will be a couple of “gala” nights during which Bill will be wearing his kilt. I don’t want him to upstage me too much.

So we went to the PX. I got a pair of tights and two pairs of hose in the largest size I could find… because if I have to wear hose, I don’t want to feel like I’m stuffed in sausage casing. Bill got some socks and I got more face cream to help stave off wrinkles for as long as possible. Once we were finished with our chore, Bill proposed having dinner downtown.

We rarely go out to eat during the week, so I decided I wanted to go somewhere we don’t usually go. I remembered a side street off of Wiesbaden’s big square that had a couple of restaurants we’d never tried. Although there was some building construction going on next to Momo’s Osteria und Restaurant, a barrier was put up and they were fully open for business and welcoming. We took a seat and quickly decided on what we were having.

A long haired, swarthy gentleman who appeared to be Italian, came over and asked, “Deutsch?”

“American.” I said kind of sheepishly. “But it’s okay, we can read the menu.” The specials were in German, but the actual menu had most everything translated anyway. An attractive blonde woman who spoke English came over and took our orders. She brought us warm bread, spicy olives, and olive tapenade to go with our primitivo and San Pellegrino.

Spicy olives! And salty olive tapenade…
I liked the bread. It was served warm, which is kind of a rarity over here.

I decided to have taglatelle with cubed salmon and a light tomato sauce. Bill had linguini with strips of beef, vegetables, chilis, and Parmesan cheese. The food was good– your basic Italian fare. I particularly liked the salmon, which was cooked perfectly and melted in my mouth. There’s a real trick to getting salmon to turn out moist rather than dry and tough.

I know… I always seem to go for pasta with salmon. I really like fish.
Bill enjoyed his dish, but I preferred mine. I think the fish is better than German beef.

About halfway through our dinner, another couple sat down next to us. I immediately noticed the man was wearing a metal bracelet, the same kind people wear to remember Vietnam veterans. They could have passed for German, but then I heard them speaking and they were Americans all the way. They were trying to figure out the menu and Bill overheard the lady talking about burrata, which I just had a few days ago at Little Italy. I don’t usually go for cold cheeses or raw tomatoes, but I must admit I have become a fan of burrata ever since we first tried it at Osteria da Gino’s in Nagold. Incidentally, we made new friends that night, too! Burrata brings people together!

The woman seemed confused about what burrata is, so Bill interjected into their private discussion. He explained burrata, but then I asked, “You did say burrata, right? Not dorade?”

The woman smiled and said, “Yes, burrata.”

“Because dorade is fish.” I clarified.

Next thing we knew, we were getting to know this couple, who had come to Wiesbaden to find their next home. She’s taking a job on Clay Kaserne and he’s probably going to telework… or, maybe he’ll do what I do. It sounded like he wanted to keep working… or maybe felt like he should keep working. But then he said he didn’t have to, especially since he’s retired from the military and presumably gets paid to get up in the morning. The couple has a young son who will be joining them when they make the move. Frankly, if I were him, I’d take the golden opportunity to bond with the boy and show him Europe. But then, I have never been known for my puritan style work ethic. I don’t believe life should be entirely about work.

We spent a good hour or so chatting with our new acquaintances, trading stories. It turns out we’ve been a lot of the places they’ve been, and in fact, we were even in some of the same places at the same time. They surprised me by knowing the town where I grew up, having visited the campground there. I went there myself as a youngster; my dad bought a VW pop top camper and we spent the night at that campground to try it out, even though we were locals.

Our new friends decided to go have gelato at Wiesbaden’s best ice cream joint, so Bill and I shared a Ramazotti on ice after we paid the check. “Once again,” I mused, “I had a feeling about a certain place. We go there to eat, and we’ve run into new people.”

I have a weird knack for either making new friends in restaurants or running into people whom I either used to know or who know someone I know. Once, when we were in San Antonio, I ran into a guy and his wife I had met in 1994, when we all worked at a summer camp in tiny Star Tannery, Virginia. We hadn’t seen each other in almost 20 years.

Another time, while waiting tables, I met a couple from Belfast who happened to be neighbors with a friend I met at the same summer camp. He’d come to Virginia to work, and left with an American girlfriend, who eventually married him. They now have six children and live in Belfast. What are the odds I would have met my Irish friend’s neighbors while waiting tables at one of Williamsburg, Virginia’s many restaurants? But this kind of thing happens to me all the time. It’s one of my many quirks.

A few years ago, in Herrenberg, Germany, Bill and I ran into our former neighbors from the first time we lived in Germany. They immediately recognized me, but it took me a minute to remember them. I never did know their names, although I used to talk to the English speaking daughter and son-in-law all the time. We bonded over our old beagle, Flea, who was in love with their little boy, Robin.

We made our way back to the car, passing a bizarre looking Gucci display in which one of the headless mannequins appeared to have forgotten something important…

No pants!

We also ran into some wildlife… many geese and rabbits enjoying their evening meal, completely unbothered by people or predators. We used to see hares a lot in our last town, but here in Wiesbaden, it appears that rabbits are king.

There were dozens of geese last night!
“What’s up, Doc?”

Well, that about does it for today’s post. I may or may not do much writing while we’re away. Depends on my mood and whether or not I think it’s worth bothering. I will be writing about the cruise when we return, though, and I’m sure it will be epic.