When neighbor dogs don’t want to social distance…

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The soggy weather continues here in Germany. We’ve had nothing but rain and snow since the new year. The weather is a bit of a bummer, especially since everything is still locked down here. We’re running short on fun lately, which is why it’s so great to have a new rescue dog around. Especially one from Kosovo!

Ever since Noyzi, the Kosovar street dog, and Tommi met a couple of weeks ago, Noyzi has been obsessively watching the fence that borders our neighbor’s yard. I see him sniffing the air, as if to catch a whiff of his new friend, Tommi the Lab. I let him and Arran outside for a pee break yesterday, and they both went nuts at the far corner of our little yard. I kept seeing little flashes of movement under the fence. I have seen mice, hedgehogs, birds, and the odd cat or squirrel on or in that fence. I thought maybe there was a cat or something there, making the dogs react…

Bill is not too pleased about having to upgrade the fencing. He was in the middle of something work related when this excitement happened. Party pooper!

But then I saw a blond doggie face and the happy eyes of our German neighbor’s cute little puppy. It turns out he’s been as interested in hanging out with Noyzi as Noyzi has been interested in hanging out with him! He was trying to wriggle under the fence. I wasn’t able to get the best video, since Bill came out and broke it up before I was able to catch the scene. But later, we let them out again, and Tommi tried again.

Noyzi and Tommi are desperately trying to find a way to be buddies, even though they are separated by a tall fence!

Pretty soon, I reckon Tommi will be too big to even try to go under the fence. And Bill will probably fortify it with something to prevent a breach. It was still pretty cute to see Tommi’s little face. He was very happy to try to come play.

Later, Noyzi came up to me while I was sitting at the table and I started scratching his butt. I have now created a monster. Now, not only does he show up like a silent canine taxman whenever I’m eating something, but he also wants butt rubs. Every time I rub, he drops a ton of hair. But it’s worth it, because look at the big smile on his face in the featured photo.

We’re seeing that silly grin more and more often, since he’s joined us from Kosovo. In four months, he’s gone from being so scared he’d pee on himself whenever Bill took off his jacket or belt, to begging for butt rubs, table scraps, and walks around the neighborhood. Maybe he’s not the best behaved dog around, but he sure is enjoying life. And he’s made this COVID-19 nightmare easier to bear. I have never regretted taking in any of the dogs we’ve rescued… even the tragedy of Jonny last spring ended up doing some good. But Noyzi has been especially rewarding to watch. And I’ve even made a couple new friends in the process.

Tomorrow, Arran will get his stitches out, having had a mast cell tumor removed on his left hind leg. Maybe the vet will be able to tell Bill the results of Noyzi’s DNA test, too.

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.

Partying with Germans!

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Last night, the neighbor two doors down from us held a party for the neighborhood.  They planned this gathering several weeks ago.  I found an invite in German with a handwritten note in English asking us to join them.  We were asked to bring something to grill and a salad.  Bill cooked ribs on the grill at home and made a minted cucumber salad, which was really good.  He also brought a few of his homebrews.

Quite a few of our neighbors speak English, so we weren’t without people to talk to.  Bill speaks some German and I understand more and more every day, although I still don’t speak it.  It was nice to hang out with these people we’ve been living among for the past three years.

Bill bonded with the host when he shared his latest homemade beer, a red ale.  The host liked it, although his daughter tried it and I don’t think she was all that impressed.  I have a feeling Bill will be teaching him how to brew beer.  We learned that the host and his wife and kids lived in Boston for a few years, so they are quite familiar with us Yanks.

Unfortunately, Bill got to talking beer with the host while we were heating up the ribs, so they got a bit overdone.  Next time, we’ll bring wurst or something.

It was actually kind of interesting talking to the neighbors, especially the lady who lives next door to us.  I learned that she was a nurse for years.  She doesn’t speak much English, though she speaks more English than I do German.  I learned that she was athletic as a youngster and likes to sing, as I do.  And another neighbor is an opera singer.  I’ve been known to sing a few arias myself.

Having great neighbors is a huge plus.  I haven’t gotten to know the people in our neighborhood, but they’ve been tolerant and respectful of us.  And now that we’ve partied with them, I think the mood will be even better.  It will certainly be better than it was in Texas.  Every day in July, when I look at Facebook’s “On this day” feature, I am reminded of the hell that was July 2014, as we were planning to move to Germany and I was recovering from my dad’s death.  I must admit that it was absolutely worth it to move back here.

This was one of the beers our hosts offered us.  It was an excellent dark beer.  We’ll have to find it sometime.

Bill starts a new job today… well, it’s not a new job in that he’s working in the same office with the same people.  It’s just a new company.  So this week, he and his other colleagues who are joining the new company will be doing all of the administrative stuff that comes with starting a new job.  I will need a new ID card, which is always a pleasure…  NOT.  But at least I’ll get to see Bill during the day sometime this week.

As we were socializing last night, I was reminded of how glad I am we didn’t have to move this year. Germany is really feeling more and more like home, which is sad, since I know I will someday have to leave.  Oh well… for now, we will enjoy our good fortune.

And finally, how my late beagle Flea helped break down barriers in Germany…

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We lost our beagle, Flea, in November 2009, right after we moved back to the States from Germany.  While we lived in Germany, Flea ended up being both a hinderance and a help to us.  Most of the adults didn’t like him because he was really loud and obnoxious.  Kids loved him, though, and he did help break the ice between us and our German neighbors.  The featured picture is of MacGregor, who also helped us meet people.  Below, is Flea when we still lived in Germany the first time.

Flea, canine ambassador, helps us break cultural barriers in Germany!

Sep 12, 2008 (Updated May 9, 2012)

The Bottom Line If you live in a German neighborhood, it’s good to have dogs.

It’s hard to believe that on September 17, 2008, my husband Bill and I will have been living near Stuttgart, Germany for an entire year. The time has gone by fast and, after just a little bit of a culture shock and six weeks spent in a hotel, I find that I actually really love living here.

Bill and I have been very lucky since we arrived in Germany. First off, we didn’t get stuck living in a stairwell apartment on any of the local military installations. Bill is an Army officer and, as such, is subject to strict rules regarding housing. The biggest rule is that if there is housing available on a military installation, the servicemember must accept it unless he or she has a very compelling reason not to. As it turned out, when we first arrived in Germany, a lot of the housing was being renovated or was otherwise occupied. That meant that we were allowed to live in German housing on the economy. We ended up finding a huge house in a charming little town about twenty miles south of Stuttgart. The area is beautiful and authentic. Better yet, we have quiet and privacy.

A lot of people prefer the stairwell apartments on post because they are convenient. After all, people who live in those quarters are surrounded by their fellow Americans. Work, school, and shopping are closeby and the area is certainly secure, since armed guards man the entrances. If Bill and I had children, perhaps living on post would have been worthwhile for us. However, living off post and out in the country has turned out to be great… mainly because after ten months, I’m finally starting to get to know and like my German neighbors!

Even though Bill and I first moved into our house in November 2007, it’s only been very recently that we’ve started talking with our next door neighbors. Their household consists of an older couple and their daughter, her husband, and their adorable little two year old boy. When we first moved into our house, I immediately sensed that the family patriarch next door didn’t trust us. He seemed to gaze at our unkempt lawn with contempt, while his lawn and garden were kept pristine. Once, when my dogs were barking at him through the window, I saw him yelling back at them… of course, I couldn’t hear what he was saying because he was in his glass enclosed patio area. Even if I could hear him, I wouldn’t have been able to understand him. But his facial expressions and body language said a lot.

Ironically, it was our dogs that eventually got us talking to each other. My older dog, Flea, is a beagle who sort of behaves like a little canine ambassador. He loves children of all ages and is especially enchanted by little ones. The little boy next door, an adorable tyke with blond curls, is certainly worthy of enchantment. Every time we took Flea outside and he heard the little boy, Flea would start to whine. The little boy seemed equally intrigued by Flea and MacGregor (my other beagle). He would stand at the edge of his lawn and gaze at the dogs as if he longed to pet them.

One day, Flea saw the boy and let out a pained, eager yelp, which made the boy’s parents laugh. Bill took the dogs to the edge of the lawn and starting using his very basic German skills. It turned out the younger couple spoke some English. They chatted for a bit while Flea eyed the two year old, who shyly backed away. But it wasn’t long before the boy finally started to pet Flea, who was as gentle as a lamb.

After that, I noticed the family was a lot friendlier. We would trade “Guten Morgens” in the mornings and wave cordially. Flea would continue to fret whenever the boy was outside, amusing everybody.
One day a few weeks ago, the boy’s mother stood at the edge of our yards with a small bucket and asked me in German if we liked raspberries. Apparently, they’d had a bumper crop! With that invitation, Flea dragged me over to where she was standing, eager to visit with her little boy, who was hiding behind her. She apologized for her English skills, which I thought were pretty darn good. We ended up chatting for awhile and she confessed that her son had developed a fascination for dogs.

A couple of weeks later, when Flea demanded to have a chat with the toddler next door, the boy’s mother said that she and her husband had bought the boy a toy dog. He had named it Flea and slept with it every night! Also, the boy had taken to using the word English word “dog” instead of the German word, “hund”. We both had a big laugh when I asked her if she knew what the word “flea” means in English. I soon found myself describing what a flea is and telling her that Flea’s rescuer had been the one to name him! Her little boy presented me with a little branch full of cherry tomatoes he’d helped his dad grow in their green house. The boy’s mom said she hoped they were sweet enough.

The other night, Bill was working late and I found myself chatting with the neighbors again. The family patriarch had joined us. I was a little worried about how he would react to Flea and MacGregor being nearby, since they had seemed to annoy him when we first moved in. But when Flea went up to him, he seemed happy to give him lots of attention. Apparently, he’d had dogs as a boy, though he was not familiar with beagles… for which I finally learned the German word. I haven’t seen many beagles in Germany and have actually been stopped a couple of times by neighbors who have asked me if Flea and MacGregor are beagles. I get the feeling they aren’t common here, though people seem to think they’re pretty cute. On the other hand, I’m not sure that many Germans understand that beagles bay when they get on a scent. I’ve gotten a lot of surprised and annoyed looks at times…

Since we’ve been in Germany, my dogs have helped me break the ice with my German neighbors all around. I also get the feeling that they provide some entertainment for the local children. A couple of months ago, we were victims of repeated “ding dong ditching”. A local prankster would ring our doorbell in the early evening, then run away. Of course, it would get the dogs going, which I’m sure was the purpose for the prank. We ended up disconnecting all of our doorbells. In a way, that’s not a bad thing. Most of the people who ring our doorbell nowadays are people trying to sell something… including religion.

It’s true that getting our dogs to Germany and taking care of them here has been, in some ways, a challenge. And goodness knows we’d be able to travel more if we didn’t have our dogs to consider. On the other hand, I doubt I’d be getting to know the neighbors if it weren’t for Flea and his affection for kids. I think having our dogs is going to really enrich this whole international experience for us. And MacGregor, as shy as he can be, is even getting in on the act!

 

MacGregor is looking at the camera while Flea looks off to the side…