Every year at Advent, when the pandemic isn’t forcing everything to be closed, our little town of Breckenheim has a little Christmas Market. They only have the market for one night, and it mostly consists of local clubs selling Gluhwein, hot apple wine, beer, and funnel cakes. There are usually also a couple of little stalls selling crafts.
Four years ago, when we moved to Breckenheim, we happened to be here on the night they did the market. However, because we were up to our armpits in boxes, we missed it that year. In 2019, we made it to the market, which I remember to be a really fun time. Back then, we only had Arran, as we lost our sweet Zane to lymphoma on August 31 of that year.
In 2020 and 2021, the market was canceled because of COVID. I remember last year, we did make it to the Wiesbaden Christmas Market, but in 2021, a lot of the smaller markets were still called off because of the pandemic. This year, they seem to have come roaring back! Some people live for the Christmas Markets. I could take them or leave them, to be honest. I think they’re lovely to look at, and I enjoy the food and some of the shopping, but I don’t necessarily feel like I have to go to a bunch of them.
It was fun to go to the Advent Market last night, though. We brought Arran and Noyzi with us, because Arran seems to have been regressing a bit since he’s been getting chemo. Twice, we’ve gone out and found that he’s torn up something. I suspect it’s because the steroids make him obsess over food. He made a huge mess last week when we went to see James Taylor, and he made a more minor mess on Thanksgiving. So this time, we decided we’d just take the boys with us and give Noyzi some much needed exposure to crowds.
It was pretty chilly last night, but thanks to a new alpaca sweater from Novica and an Irish flat cap, I stayed pretty warm. Bill and I took in the sights and sounds, as we sipped mulled wine and watched lots of eager children play as they waited for Santa Claus to arrive at 5:00pm, sharp. After the Santa visit, there was a church service held at the big beautiful church by the Dorfplatz. We didn’t go to the church service because it would be in German and we had the dogs with us. But we did watch Santa come in, announced by sirens and a guy from the local biker club escorting him with his chopper.
We also ran into one of the other American families who live in our town, and we had a nice chat with them until it was time for Santa. Noyzi was pretty well behaved, although he was a bit spooked by all the kids and the noise. Arran ended up being filmed because he was barking at the huge Maine Coon cat who has adopted our village and shows up for all of the events. I don’t know who she belongs to, but she’s very friendly and doesn’t care at all about Arran’s crotchety beagle barks. I think this will probably be Arran’s last Advent Market, not that he attended a lot of them before he got cancer…
Noyzi, on the other hand, needs some training so that he can go out in public more often. He loves people and is very friendly, but he still gets pretty scared of things he’s not used to. After about an hour, though, he did calm down and seemed rather pleased with himself. Arran was over the market within a few minutes and was very happy to go home, where he could worship Bill in private.
Below are some photos and videos from our outing. We tried to stay out of trouble by hanging out on the periphery.
Since we moved to Germany in 2014, our Thanksgiving celebrations have been decidedly less traditional. There’s only two of us, and we have small German appliances, so it hardly makes sense to roast a turkey. Yes, I know we could just do a breast, but I like dark meat. I think in 2020, we ordered a Thanksgiving feast from a local restaurant that was obviously catering to Americans. Otherwise, we’ll often go out to eat somewhere, since it’s not a holiday in Germany, or we’ll have something more mundane.
This year, Bill’s co-worker invited us over for Thanksgiving. I almost didn’t go with Bill, because I expected a couple of important packages. The one I was most worried about showed up in the morning. I was also waiting for dog food, which we really need. Sure enough, it showed up after we left. It’s sitting at our neighbor’s house as I write this. I’m surprised they didn’t just leave it on the stoop, like they usually do.
Bill’s friend’s house is enormous and beautiful, with charming, traditional accents, as well as the amazing international furniture one tends to find when one lives abroad for many years. My mom also collected some beautiful pieces when we lived in England. I inherited a couple of pieces, but they’re in storage.
Bill’s co-workers have a living room with a gorgeous view of the village, a large dining room, a terrace, and a lovely front lawn. I was there one other time, and had occasion to use one of the bathrooms in another part of the house. I even spotted an indoor pool! They had it covered up. Bill and I haven’t had a chance to buy a lot of nice furniture. Maybe someday, we’ll get lucky and acquire some, although now that I’m half a century old, it seems almost pointless. For instance, I always wanted to buy a home of my own, but now it seems like a bad idea, as Bill talks about permanently retiring. A house seems like something a person should buy when they’re young.
As nice as our house is, and as high as our rent is, my guess is that Bill’s friends are paying even more… But it seems fitting, as they have enough furniture to fill their home, and the furniture they have is good quality. We have a bunch of stuff that could be right at home in a college dormitory. I have to admit it. I was coveting their house, even as I realize that I’m allergic to dusting, and if I had a house that nice with lovely furniture in it, it would be cluttered in a heartbeat.
We had a very convivial group last night. Several of the guys were folks Bill knew early in his Army career, back in the era of Desert Storm. Now, several of them have managed to land in Wiesbaden, where they can talk about old times, sometimes to hilarious effect. One of the guys brought his huge dog, a female Hungarian street dog who weighs about 150 pounds. He said she can’t be left alone with his other two dogs, who are also from the streets of Eastern Europe. We bonded over our street dogs from Eastern Europe, as Bill and I have Noyzi, from Kosovo (and Arran, of course). The guy also has horses, which was another reason for us to bond. I spent most of my childhood in a barn. It’s probably obvious to some people.
An enormous street dog from Hungary who was bred to fight wolves. Her name is Ki (pronounced “key”) Oma.
Ki Oma was very sweet and friendly, but apparently she wants to fight other dogs. So she gets to travel a lot. Her master actually bought a van so he could transport her more easily. We were commiserating, as I drive a Mini Cooper and we can’t get Noyzi, our enormous street dog, into the back of that.
Another couple brought their dog, a very sweet shepherd named Izzy. She and Ki Oma didn’t interact, so there wasn’t any fighting.
It was really nice to hang out with people last night. I enjoy Bill’s friends/co-workers. Hopefully, I didn’t turn anyone off too much. Two of the guys brought their wives—one was from France, and the other was German. And one of the guys was, himself, half German. Two of them were even born in the same hospital in Stuttgart! It’s plain to see how long Americans have been living in Germany. There’s a very long history, and quite a lot of Americans are actually half German, too. Some have managed to find themselves making a home here, instead of our chaotic homeland.
At one point, we were talking about Mormonism, and the French lady was fascinated. She seemed okay with giving up alcohol, tea, and coffee… but maybe might have drawn the line at the temple garments (special underwear) required for the ultra faithful who have taken out their endowments. It probably wasn’t the most appropriate dinner conversation… but then it devolved into war stories, most of which were hilarious.
Bill and his buddies from way back… I had to take a photo so I could share it with another one of the gang who wasn’t there… He became Facebook friends with me because of a mutual friend. I knew the mutual friend from college, and he knew him from the Army, and he knew Bill from being in this cohort of Desert Storm veterans (although Bill didn’t fight in Desert Storm). The world is very small when you come from a military friendly state like Virginia.
We ended the evening with a photo of the four guys who spent time in Germany in the late 80s, early 90s. It was great to see everyone so happy and healthy. I’m grateful to be here, and I was grateful for the invitation last night. It was a lot of good food, good conversation, and bonding. A fun and festive time was had by all.
When we got home, we found that Arran hadn’t invaded the basement, like he did when we saw James Taylor. But he did tear up the box that held our pizza stone. I feel like he’s been regressing since he’s been getting chemo… acting like he’s 5 years old again. But then he makes up with us in the most adorable way. Noyzi, as usual, stayed out of trouble and camped out in his room.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bill and I loaded up the car with a couple of small bags and lots of supplies for our two dogs, Noyzi and Arran. Both dogs were excited at first, because they enjoy going places. But then Arran got decidedly sullen. I could see that he was upset, because he noticed Noyzi was in the car with us, and probably figured we would be taking him to the Hundepension. There was a time when Arran didn’t mind being boarded. Bill and I have noticed that lately, he’s a lot more interested in hanging out with us. So, he looked pretty sad at the beginning of our trip. Depressed, even. Noyzi, on the other hand, was barking and carrying on. He likes car rides, and loves going to the Hundepension. Last time we took them there, Noyzi actually banged on the gate to be let in!
I noticed that Arran’s countenance was decidedly less dour when he realized we weren’t on the familiar road to the Hundepension. He knew that he was going on a trip with us, something he and Noyzi’s predecessor, Zane, used to do fairly regularly. Zane was a lot smaller than Noyzi is, so it was easier to take them on trips. We could even get the two of them in my Mini Cooper. Noyzi won’t fit in my Mini by himself, let alone with Arran. He takes up the entire back of our Volvo. So traveling with the dogs is more challenging than it used to be, and, for that reason, we don’t do it as often.
When we got to Ribeauville, Arran knew EXACTLY where we were, even though it had been about 4.5 years since his last visit. We used to go to Ribeauville fairly often, but we didn’t bring Arran on our last visit, back in January 2020 (before we had Noyzi), because we had Bill’s mom with us, and we wanted to be free to take her to different places without worrying about Arran making a fuss. I watched in amusement as Arran pulled Bill toward the Riesling Gite, where we always try to stay when we visit Ribeauville. I had to remind myself that it was our 20th anniversary, as I played Keb’ Mo’s song, “France”.
Noyzi had never been to France before, so he was a bit bowled over by everything. I let our host, Yannick, know that we had arrived, and he said he’d be coming over in about an hour. We set up in the apartment, and fed the dogs, as it was time for them to eat. Yannick came over with treats, which impressed both dogs. He told us that he loves dogs, but his wife doesn’t like them because their hair gets all over everything. I can see why that would be annoying, but I don’t think I could be married to someone who didn’t let me have a dog. 😉 They are the best company, as far as I’m concerned.
After Yannick left, Bill and I went looking for dinner. We ended up at a restaurant we had never tried before. The Cheval Noir is at the edge of the main drag, and while the outside of it is very cute and quaint, it has a decidedly unromantic ambiance. We ate there because there were only a few restaurants open in Ribeauville, as many places closed in preparation for the upcoming Christmas market. They had space for us, although there were lots of people dining there on Wednesday night who had made reservations. We sat in a corner, where we perused the very Alsatian menu. They had all of the usual stuff one finds in Alsace– Choucroute Garni, pork knuckles, potatoes with Munster cheese, and faux filets. Alsatian food is a lot like German food, just with a French accent. I ended up ordering one of the specials, a salmon fillet with Beurre Blanc sauce and roasted potatoes. Bill had a faux fillet with Munster sauce and roasted potatoes. Both dishes came with side salads.
We ordered a bottle of local wine, giggling that it was our 20th anniversary. The waitress, who spoke English, promptly wished us a “happy birthday”, which only made me giggle more. The food was good, but very basic stuff one can find at a lot of the local places. It wasn’t the kind of special dinner I expected to have on our 20th anniversary, but I found that I wasn’t upset or disappointed about it. Maybe that was the point. We’ve had a pretty wonderful 20 years, with many special evenings and occasions. It somehow made sense to have a somewhat run of the mill 20th anniversary. At least we were together, which is more than I could say about our 19th anniversary, which Bill spent alone in Poland.
We did opt for dessert, which was also nothing special. We’re big on desserts, as one can tell just by looking at us. I had profiteroles, which are ice cream filled pastries with chocolate sauce. Bill went with, torche aux marrons, a local speciality we never saw before, but saw twice on this trip. Basically, it’s a dessert that is support to look like a stork’s nest, as storks are very prevalent in Alsace. Or maybe it looks like a torch. Nearby Colmar is the birthplace of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the artist who created the Statue of Liberty.
Torche aux marrons consists of meringues topped with chestnut cream squeezed out as if through a grinder. Bill said it was interesting, but he probably wouldn’t order it again. I enjoyed the profiteroles. I think we spent about 70 euros, which is pretty reasonable.
When we got back to the gite, we found that Arran had raided the trash can. Yannick’s treats came in packages, which we threw in the trash and forgot to lock in the bathroom. We cleaned up the mess and went to bed, as we were both tired. Of course, Arran needed potty breaks and snacks in the night. Below are some photos from our first night. As you can see, 20 years of marriage leaves a mark on the ol’ ring finger.
I’ve been looking forward to November 16, 2022 for twenty years. That’s the day Bill and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. As some readers already know, I am Bill’s second wife. On some levels, I would say he and I have had a fairly easy time of marriage. We get along very well, and we genuinely love spending time together. We aren’t just husband and wife; we are best friends. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of dramas.
All year, I’ve been thinking about what we should do to celebrate our big milestone. Normally, I would come up with a fancy vacation of some kind, or at least a trip to somewhere we’ve never been, even if it’s not a luxurious destination. But then in September, I discovered that our beloved dog, Arran, had swollen lymph nodes. The diagnosis was B-cell lymphoma. We are now in our last days with Arran, who is a very special family member, and has a particularly close bond with Bill.
Originally, we thought it would be best to ease Arran into palliative care, but he’s repeatedly showed us he wants to fight. So he’s now undergoing chemotherapy, which has been kind of miraculous. He started treatment October 13th, and on November 20th, he’s still happy and spunky. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to board him. For one thing, we’ve come to realize that Arran doesn’t enjoy being boarded anymore. He’d much rather be with us. For another, I didn’t want to burden the Hund Pension with dealing with his medications, which aren’t that complicated, but do involve some risk. He takes a drug that requires gloves to dispense safely, and it’s not safe for his poop to be accessible to other dogs.
Finally, when we were celebrating our tenth anniversary in Scotland, Arran’s predecessor, MacGregor, had an undiagnosed cancerous spinal tumor that caused an emergency while we were traveling thousands of miles away. I didn’t want anything similar to happen this time. We lost MacGregor a week before Christmas 2012, just a couple of weeks after our return from our big anniversary trip. Arran, who joined our family on January 12, 2013, is named after a Scottish island we saw on that first trip to Scotland.
I decided we’d spend our big day in Ribeauville, France, which is about a three hour drive from us. We have been there half a dozen times since 2017, staying in apartments owned by Yannick Kopff, a Alsatian native and excellent host. Yannick is extremely dog friendly, and since our favorite of his apartments, Riesling, was available for our dates, we decided that was a good place to celebrate. I booked four nights– from Wednesday, November 16th until Sunday, November 20th, at Yannick’s Gites au Coeur de Ribeauville.
Meanwhile, we were also looking forward to seeing and hearing James Taylor perform a concert. Originally, the show was supposed to go on in February 2022. But COVID-19 numbers were too high at that time, and there were many restrictions in place. So James decided to reschedule his European Tour dates for later in the year. In our case, the Frankfurt show was rescheduled for November 8th. Perfect– a Tuesday night, over a week before our anniversary trip.
On November 7th, we got the news that James had to postpone several concerts, including ours. He finally got COVID, and was advised to rest in Zurich, Switzerland for a few days. We watched anxiously, as four shows were eventually canceled because they couldn’t be rescheduled. However, Frankfurt’s venue was open for November 19th… last night. We were supposed to be in France last night, but we decided to come home a day early to catch James’s show… and I’m really glad we did that, because it was a great show, in spite of James’s brush with COVID.
I don’t have a lot of exciting stories to tell about our most recent trip to Ribeauville. November, just before the Christmas markets, is the “off season”. A lot of places were closed in preparation for the frenzy that is about to hit the village. I don’t know how big their market was in 2021, but I’m pretty sure it was canceled in 2020. I have a feeling this year’s markets will be bigger, and I could see that people were preparing. But, in terms of having a lot to do while we were there… I can’t say that we did. On the other hand, we did try a couple of restaurants we had never tried before, and Bill tried a dessert that is a local speciality that we never had before.
This was also Noyzi’s very first trip with us, aside from when we went to Slovenia to pick him up in 2020. Ribeauville was a good choice, because it wasn’t too far away, and because Yannick is so good with dogs in his properties. It was a fruitful trip for Noyzi, too, since he finally learned to poop while on a leash. This is a big deal, because it will make traveling with him much easier and less worrisome. Eventually, we may have to take him back to the States, which means for his own health, he needs to know how to relieve himself when he’s not frolicking in the backyard. He did seem to learn the lesson on our trip.
Aside from taking pictures of the always beautiful village of Ribeauville, binge watching Netflix and cheesy French game shows, eating lots of French comfort foods, drinking Alsatian wines, and being together, we didn’t do much on this trip. It was a good opportunity for Bill to sleep. We also picked up some gifts for his daughter and grandchildren. The beauty of Ribeauville is that we’ve been there so many times that not doing anything doesn’t seem too much like a hardship. By now, the village feels like a second home, even if our last visit was in January 2020.
So… over the next couple of days, I’ll write up this trip and James Taylor’s concert. I don’t think I’ll binge write today, because frankly, I just don’t feel like it. The weather is kind of crappy and I feel like hibernating. But we had a great time, and I’m grateful we could do it. I hope we can do it again.
If you’re interested in reading about our latest trip to France, I hope you’ll watch this space for updates… Meanwhile, here’s a video I made a few days ago in honor of our anniversary and James Taylor’s show. He didn’t do “Secret O’ Life” last night…
As I wrote on my main blog yesterday, I was kind of dreading yesterday. When we still had Zane, I took him to the vet all the time for allergy shots. It got to be quite a grind, which I found kind of nervewracking. That was when we still lived near Stuttgart, and our vet was a several miles away. It wasn’t a big deal to drive there, obviously, though I don’t do a lot of driving anymore. I’m not sure why I’m like this now. Before I got married, I used to drive all the time. But then I got sucked into this stay at home wife gig, and I don’t get out much anymore. It’s not because I can’t go out, though… more like I choose not to. So, having to drive Arran the very short (even shorter) distance to the vet is kind of anxiety producing, especially in the COVID era.
I made a point of not getting to the vet too early yesterday. Noyzi demanded a walk, so I gave them one. Then I put Arran in his “seatbelt” harness and loaded him into the Volvo. Ordinarily, I would have driven my Mini, but it’s parked in the garage, and accessing it would mean moving the Volvo out of the driveway and getting my car out. And while Arran fits fine in the tiny back seat, getting him in the car when he’s mobility challenged, and there are only two doors, isn’t that easy. It’s a lot simpler to put him in the Volvo, since he doesn’t have to crawl over the driver’s seat to get in the backseat. I no longer have the upper body strength to simply drop the top and put him over the car door. There’s also a concrete barrier on our driveway that makes it harder to access the backseat.
We got to the vet at about fifteen minutes before our 11:00am appointment. I picked up a beeper from the receptionist and sat in the car with Arran until it went off. It was noticeably chillier this week than it was last week, although the skies were as overcast. Arran slowly ambled into Haus B, a part of the vet clinic I had never been in before. Arran’s regular vet wasn’t in this week, so another vet gave him his treatment. I liked her. Weirdly enough, she kind of reminded me of Mick Jagger. No, not necessarily because of her looks, but more in the way she carried herself. And her face and coloring bears a slight resemblance to his. I know that’s a weird observation, but I don’t mean it as a put down. I think Mick Jagger is an amazing force of nature! Anyway, she seemed somewhat easier to talk to, and less rushed. I don’t really know the vets at our office well, because Bill is the one who usually takes the dogs. But since Arran is getting chemo, I guess I’ll be getting to know them better.
The vet drew some blood to make sure Arran would be medically able to tolerate the chemo. After a few minutes, she showed me the results. Arran’s red blood cell count is still low, but his reticulocytes– immature red blood cells– are on the rise. That means that his body is responding to the anemia and making more red blood cells. In the meantime, “young” cells are being released into his bloodstream. This is a good finding, because it means that his bone marrow is still functioning and trying to repair itself. If there weren’t more reticulocytes being released, that would mean his body wasn’t responding and had “given up”– aplastic anemia. I’m sure in the short term, it would mean he’d need a blood transfusion and in the slightly longer term, it would mean he was on his way to the Rainbow Bridge.
After the happy news that Arran’s regular vet’s fears that his bone marrow was irreparably damaged (she had communicated this in an email to Bill) was incorrect, Arran got his second IV push of Vincristine. Haus B is a slightly less “house like” environment than the main office is, so I sat in an area next to a window and watched as many people brought their dogs for treatment. Dr. Konrad Blendinger, the man who, with his veterinarian wife, owns the practice is a vet who does highly specialized reproductive medicine for dogs. He mostly only sees dogs who are being bred, and it looked like some of his patients were waiting for him yesterday in Haus B. It was the first time I’d ever seen him in person, although I have seen him performing music in locally produced videos. I’ve noticed that part of German culture is having hobbies, and music is apparently one of his! We have that in common.
Arran was pretty calm during the chemo. He laid on his side and took the drugs like a champ, only managed to pull the cap off the port, which wasn’t a big deal. The female “Jagger” vet expressed mock dismay, then covered up the port until she was ready to administer the medication. After an hour or so, we were finished, and I loaded Arran into the car, asked for a bill (which wasn’t yet ready), and drove home. Bill came home a few hours later, and they had a lovely reunion!
Arran has responded very well to the treatment so far. His lymph nodes have gone down; he’s stopped coughing and gasping; his poops are mostly very normal; and he’s eating like an Olympic athlete. He still can’t jump on the bed, but he clearly feels much better. We still don’t know how much this will cost, but it’s been so nice to see Arran behaving more like himself. To be very honest, I think if we hadn’t started treatment last week, he might not be here today. The disease was definitely starting to progress. My main goal was to make sure Arran wouldn’t die without Bill– his favorite person– by his side. Now, it looks like that will be what happens, but we aren’t sure when. But then, that would be true for anyone, wouldn’t it? As this week’s events in Ukraine have shown us, one never knows when death will occur.
Anyway, we’re just going to enjoy this time, and do what we can for our sweet Arran. I think this experience will teach us a lot, not just about canine cancer, but about cancer in general. The drugs he takes are the same as what many humans take when they have cancer.
Not to leave out Noyzi, below is a video I made of him reacting to The Handmaid’s Tale, as Serena had her baby. He was very curious and empathetic. Noyzi is a true gentle giant.
And a couple of photos of our regal Kosovar rescue, Noyzi, who is now living his best life in Germany. He sure has come a long way!
Before I get accused of posting “clickbait”, I want to make it clear that this post is not about Bill or me. It’s about our elderly beagle mix, Arran, who was recently diagnosed with B cell lymphoma. I’ve been posting up to the minute updates on my main blog, but I wanted to post here for those who hit this blog because they’re specifically looking for information about life in Germany. I have a very different “audience” for this blog, although it seems like most of my readers come here to read about our trips to the nude spas. 😉
A week ago, I posted about how we were trying to arrange chemo for Arran to treat his cancer. Originally, we thought we’d rather just make him comfortable, because he’s already about 13 or 14 years old. We thought the vet would just prescribe prednisone or prednisolone for him, to help ease the symptoms of the lymphoma. For some reason, the vet said they didn’t usually do that. Then I noticed that Arran didn’t seem ready to go to the Rainbow Bridge. He was still pretty active, and B cell lymphoma supposedly responds to treatment better than T cell lymphoma does. I was also curious about canine chemo, since Arran is our fourth dog to have cancer and our second to have lymphoma. Our first lymphoma casualty was Zane, who died just one week post diagnosis.
Bill finally got ahold of the vet on Monday, and she ordered the necessary drugs for Arran. He’s been at Grafenwoehr all week, on a business trip. He will be gone again this coming week. I was very worried that Arran would get much sicker and die while Bill was gone. Everything I’ve read on the Internet tells me that Arran should have already died by now. But, as I’ve explained many times, Arran is a real fighter, and he’s not ready to go yet.
I brought Arran to the office on Thursday at 3:00, but had to stop by on Wednesday to get analgesics for him, as his lymph nodes had gotten so large that he was having trouble moving without pain. In Germany, COVID restrictions have been relaxed almost everywhere, except in doctors’ offices and other healthcare delivery facilities, and on trains and busses. So when we arrived on Thursday, I had to wait for the clinic to open, then get a beeper and wait outside to be called. I was the first one there, because I really wanted to get the appointment over with. I hate afternoon vet appointments. I find them exhausting. I’d rather go to the vet in the morning, so it’s done. When we had Zane, I was constantly taking him to the vet for allergy shots, so this is a familiar routine for me, except for the face masks, which are still required in doctors’ offices.
Arran went into the exam room and the vet quickly put in a catheter, then drew some blood. She later told us he was a bit anemic, which was concerning to her, although not all that uncommon for lymphoma patients. She told us to bring him in if he was in pain, short of breath, or had pale gums. Then she administered the first of several syringe vials of diluted Vincristine, which is a chemo drug. She explained the rest of the protocol to me and even printed out a schedule. Arran will come back for another dose of Vincristine on Thursday of the coming week. At home, he will get Prednisolone and Endoxan (known as Cytoxan in the US). The Endoxan is a chemo drug in pill form, and I’m supposed to wear gloves when I give it to him, and when I clean up his waste.
The vet asked about my schedule. I told her the only thing we have planned is for November 16th through the 20th. The 16th is our 20th wedding anniversary, so we are planning a trip to Ribeauville, France. The dogs will be coming with us. We have been to Ribeauville a bunch of times and have stayed in the apartment we rented several times. The owner is very dog friendly, so I feel comfortable in going there with the boys. I don’t care if we just sit there and drink wine and eat macaroons and madeleines. I would have liked to have planned something grander for the occasion, but there will be time for that later, when the chemo sessions are over. The effects of chemo, unfortunately, are temporary. But they will hopefully buy us some time.
After the first dose of Vincristine, we moved to an infusion room– a tiny little booth with chairs and an IV stand in it. It looked like the room had been built on to the side of the building, as there was a sconce on the wall that was obviously originally meant for outdoors. I thought maybe Arran would get an IV bag, but they used more syringes. It was surprisingly easy.
About an hour later, we were finished, and Arran culminated the treatment by releasing a rancid fart. Thankfully, the tiny room had a window in it. The receptionist said we could pay next week, since the vet had to ask the owner of the practice how much the treatment would cost. We aren’t too concerned about the money, because vet care is cheaper here than it is in the US, and because we actually have the money to spend. Living in Germany has been surprisingly lucrative for us.
When we got home, Arran, who had been obviously ailing before the appointment, actually wanted his dinner. Much to my surprise, he willingly ate kibble for the first time in over a week. I had been giving him chicken all week, and he’d had a little bit of bloody diarrhea. I was a little worried about how he’d handle the chemo, but he just ate his dinner and went to bed. I had put a blanket on the floor, and he made a bed and fell fast asleep.
At about 1:00am, he woke me up, because he needed to pee. I let him out, and he wanted a snack. I gave him a little more kibble, and we went back to bed until 4:00am, when he needed to pee again. Then, at 6:00am, I got up and made coffee. Both dogs came down to the kitchen for their breakfast. Again, this was a change, because for the past few weeks, Arran has been increasingly reluctant to rise in the mornings, and hasn’t been wanting to eat his breakfast. But on Friday morning, it was like old times. Because it was raining, we didn’t go for a walk yesterday. However, he was obviously feeling much better. His lymph nodes shrank noticeably, and he was eager to eat. He never managed to jump up on the bed by himself, but he didn’t cry when I helped him up, as he did on Wednesday.
By Friday afternoon, Arran was looking really good. All week, he’d been waiting in the foyer, hoping Bill would come home. Bill has been away on business all week, though, so Arran would be left disappointed. Last night, Bill came home, and I got a video of the reunion. I would say it was worth the price of the chemo for that alone. If you look carefully at the featured photo, you can see that Arran’s lymph nodes in his hind legs are swollen. Those nodes have now shrunk significantly. One is no longer detectable, and the other is about half as big as it was. I gave him more Endoxan and Prednisolone today. These are the same drugs often used for humans, but in veterinary medicine, they are given in much smaller doses. The goal is preserve quality of life, rather than curing the disease. Even if we cured Arran, he’s old enough that he could die of natural causes, anyway. So far, we haven’t observed any truly bad side effects from the drugs, although they can and do cause side effects for some dogs.
There is a high speed animal hospital near us called Tierklinik Hofheim. I’ve mentioned it a few times, and we have used it for Zane and Arran, although Noyzi hasn’t been there yet. They have an oncology department. If Arran had a more complicated case, or was much younger, I’d probably take him there for treatment. They have the ability to get test results faster than our regular vet does, and they no doubt have a lot more experience with treating cancer. But, again, Arran is already an old guy, so we’re not inclined to be heroic. We just want to get him to a point at which we can both be with him when he’s ready to shove off of the mortal coil. If he can make it to January, and celebrate ten years with us, that would be icing on the cake. Many dogs who get chemo for B cell lymphoma survive for a year. I’m not sure that will happen for Arran, due to his age, and the fact that his treatment was a bit delayed.
I’m not sure if we have any plans for the rest of the day. The weather is pretty crappy today. It’s raining, although it’s not cold outside. So this will probably do it for today’s activities… I’ve already spent time on the phone talking to USAA again, because they declined a charge Bill and I both tried to make to pay for Ribeauville. Calling USAA is always an annoying experience, especially since the lady I spoke to answered the phone as if someone spiked her oatmeal with crack, or something. But, as I’m writing this, the doorbell rang, probably with the latex gloves I ordered. Arran barked, and hurried down the stairs, as if cancer had never darkened his door. So I’d say that so far, Arran is doing very well. It’s very nice to see!
Here’s the very last part of my series on the Hotel Bareiss in Baiersbronn. I hope it will be short. I’ll try to make it so, as I will also be doing my customary “top ten things I learned” post, for those who can’t be bothered to read the whole series.
Sunday night, after dinner, we found a letter from the hotel management thanking us for our stay. The letter was in English, but it had a couple of rather glaring errors in it. I know this sounds really “uppity” of me to notice, especially since I understood it perfectly. But, I’m afraid I am a bit of a stickler about such things, especially since so many people speak English at the hotel, and the errors were pretty basic (ie; not capitalizing the word “dear”). Also, this hotel charges out the wazoo, and purports to exact high standards in all things. So I wasn’t very impressed by the letter, which thanked us for staying, offered instructions for checking out, and requested us to fill out a survey, which I was happy to do. One thing that was lacking in the room, or maybe I just never found it, was a pen. Fortunately, other hotels were more generous, and I had a couple in my purse. 😉
I didn’t sleep well the last night, because I woke up at about 3:00 am needing the bathroom. When I was finished there, I was wide awake, which prompted me to look at Facebook. That was a mistake, since that was when I saw the comment about my trout looking like it was vomited on, and that irritated me. I probably should book a meditation vacation next. I need to stop being annoyed by dumb things.
I did finally drift off to sleep again, and we got up at about 7:30 am. We packed everything up before heading off for our last breakfast. Then Bill fetched the car key fob from the “mailbox” in the lobby, so he would have it ready for the porter who came to help us with our bags. The same very kind gentleman in the green blazer arrived quickly to load us up and get us on our way. I took a couple of photos of the minibar, which I never managed to look at during our stay. It was pretty well stocked! I didn’t see a price list, but I’m sure nothing in there was cheap. They did provide us with daily waters and fruit. I took the fruit home, since I knew they would be throwing it out, anyway.
Bill settled the bill, which came to about 4800 euros. That was for the room, half board, a la carte dining, drinks, tips, taxes, an energy surcharge (thanks Putin), and parking in a private garage. Yes, it was a lot of money, but it was less than we would have spent on a luxury cruise. We don’t do big ships– we do smaller lines like SeaDream and Hebridean– and if we ever cruise again, we’ll probably do a French barge cruise. We would have easily spent more than that for a week on a boat, plus we probably would have had to fly to reach the vessel. This was a lot like being on a cruise, but having access to our car. I like not being a captive audience!
Thankfully, right now the dollar is in the very rare position of being worth more than the euro is. So actually, we spent about $4700. What a bargain! 😉
Of course, you don’t have to spend that much to enjoy Baiersbronn. The area has a bunch of lodging options to fit any budget. In fact, I was looking at another hotel– four stars– that is rated higher than Bareiss is on TripAdvisor. Because it has fewer facilities, it’s less expensive. And it is important to note that in Europe, five stars doesn’t necessarily mean service is five star. The stars indicate the facilities available and supposed luxuries. So you could stay at a perfectly basic but wonderful one star hotel that just offers a bed and a toilet. Or you could stay at a really shitty five star place that has a big pool and a business center. Keep that in mind.
I do think the Bareiss Hotel is a beautiful property and, for the most part, I was very pleased by the service. Most everybody was very pleasant, and the facilities are very good. My only quibble was that some of the decor was kind of dated looking to me. The color scheme included a lot of pinks, greens, and mauves, with lots of gold fixtures, if you catch my drift. Yes, it’s a hotel with a long history, having been founded in 1951 as the Kurhotel Mitteltal by Hermine Bareiss, and the quaintness is part of its charm. But there were a few areas that looked like they could use a coat of paint or maybe an updated color scheme. Of course, making those changes would result in higher prices.
I did love the uniforms everyone wore. The dirndls were especially pretty, and it looked like they had several styles. I don’t like wearing uniforms, but I would feel beautiful in some of the dirndls they had for the ladies. A dirndl is a rare dress that actually flatters my figure.
Once Bill paid the tab, we got in the car and headed home. Just as we were leaving the valley, the sun came out and there was beautiful sunshine. Figures. It would have been a good day to go to the waterfalls. Maybe next time we’ll make it there. I did get some pictures from the drive out of the Schwarzwald. It’s so beautiful there. I do like Wiesbaden, but it lacks a lot of the landscape and natural beauty of Baden-Württemberg. Since I lived in that area for a total of six years in two and four year stints, it will always have a piece of my heart. I feel like I’m going home when I visit BW, even though my actual home is Virginia.
So now we’re back in Wiesbaden, and it’s time to face the music with our sweet Arran. He survived the Hundepension just fine, and is still chipper at this point. I know it’s temporary, but it’s good to see him, and Noyzi who, just today, is celebrating two years of life with us. We brought him home two years ago today. Who knows what’s in store for us? We could have a rough winter. So I’m glad we took this trip. I don’t think I’ll forget our experience at Hotel Bareiss anytime soon… especially since they sent us home with a parting gift.
Tomorrow, I will post my top ten things I learned rundown… Hope you’ll read it!
I have been needing a new contact lens prescription for ages. Now that I’ve reached 50 years of age, my eyes don’t work the way they used to. I need reading glasses, but I don’t wear them because I didn’t know what kind I needed. Besides, if I don’t wear my lenses, I can read just fine. But when I have them in, I have a very hard time reading small print. Likewise, Bill was in need of a new lens prescription, as it had been five years since our last exams. I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that one can buy contact lenses in Germany without an official or yearly updated prescription. If you know what you need, you can simply order from Amazon. So that’s what I’ve done… but it’s not been without its drawbacks, as I’ve gradually been self prescribing stronger lenses for myself.
The last time we saw an eyecare professional, Bill and I visited the Stuttgart health center on Patch Barracks, then filled our prescriptions at an optical shop in Nagold, a cute town near where we used to live in BW. Wiesbaden doesn’t have such a facility, and even if it did, using it would be on a space available basis for peons like us. So Bill decided to “bite the bullet”, and he made us appointments at Apollo Optik, an optometrist in downtown Wiesbaden. I should mention that Apollo is one of many eyecare outfits downtown. We passed two others on the way there today.
Bill made our appointments online, and we both got confirmations and reminders by email. Bill was in a hurry to get to the shop, but he needn’t have worried about being on time. Apollo wasn’t like the typical eye doctor’s office we’re used to, where there are places to sit. 😉 We arrived and waited for the painfully shy gentleman helping the people ahead of us to check in. He didn’t speak much English, and didn’t seem all that comfortable with German, either. He did not appear to be a local. My appointment was first, so I sat at a machine that did an automated exam that took about two minutes. But he neglected to tell me to remove my contacts first, so we had to do it again, once I’d taken them out. I was glad I brought my glasses and a fresh pair of lenses!
After a short delay, the technician came in and did my exam. He spoke English reasonably well, and was actually very thorough, as I explained that I need to upgrade from my regular astigmatism dailies to multifocal lenses. My prescription had changed a bit regardless, so it was good that we went in. He ordered new lenses for me to try, and when they come in, we’ll go pick them up and I’ll try them out. If they don’t work, he’ll order different ones. 😉 We are going away next week for a few days; then Bill has a business trip. We’re also dealing with Arran, who is newly diagnosed with lymphoma. But hopefully, we can get in and pick up the new lenses so I can at least see better.
Speaking of Arran… he’s a little slower than usual, especially in the morning, but he’s hanging in there. Yesterday, Noyzi got a dental, and Arran had more blood samples taken so that we might know what kind of lymphoma he’s got, and whether or not it will be worth it to treat him with chemotherapy. But again, he’s about 13 or 14 years old, so we’ll probably just make him comfortable until the sad day comes when we have to say goodbye.
Now, back to our day in Wiesbaden, which is a happier topic. Bill got his exam done. He just wanted new lenses for his glasses, as his frames from Nagold are made of titanium and he likes them. They were also expensive. The whole appointment took about 90 minutes, and when we were done, we both really had to pee and wanted some food. Our plan had been to eat at the City Fest, or the Fall Fest, both of which are going on right now. Unfortunately, for some reason, the toilets weren’t open, even though the fest was in full swing! So we decided to visit the Andechser Ratskeller, where we’d eaten once before, back in 2019. I’ve been wanting German food anyway, so it was perfect.
I had a Doppelbock beer, while Bill had a “special Hell” (hell is a German style of beer, not the fiery place down below). To eat, I had Schweinebraten with Rotkohl and a potato Knodel. Bill had a Wiener Schnitzel with fries. It was hearty fare served by a hardworking waiter, who was delighted when Bill tipped him American style. Our bill was 42,50 euros, and Bill gave him 50 and told him to keep the change. I could see the guy got a nice lift from that, since he was really busting his ass! I’m sure that might help him pay his energy bill this year. 😉 Or maybe pay for a few liters of gas… Ordinarily, we don’t tip like Americans when we’re in Germany, since people who work in restaurants actually get paid here. But I know firsthand how tough that job is, and we can afford to be generous sometimes.
After we ate, we made our way back toward the parking garage, stopping to explore the fall fest. I remember going to it in 2019, before COVID was a thing. It was great to see everything back in full swing again. People were having a lot of fun, and I saw some art I wanted to buy. Maybe we’ll go back tomorrow and get something, making sure to be armed with more cash. I heard several excellent musicians in the city fest, including an awesome brass band who were playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (yes, by Guns n’ Roses). I wanted to listen to them, since I love brass bands… but my bladder was screaming for relief. So maybe we’ll catch them another time. They were great! We also heard a British duo performing a lovely version of “Old Man” by Neil Young, and a beautiful classical guitar player, enchanting people on a soundstage.
We did need to get home, though… the boys needed to eat and pee, and they were happy to see us.
Here are some photos from today’s excursion!
I hadn’t wanted to go out today, but I’m glad I did. I was reminded of how lucky we are to live in Germany, especially at this time of year. Autumn is magical in Germany. It’s almost as amazing as Christmas is.
Bill came home a little bit early yesterday so we could visit our weekly market, which started at the beginning of September. We decided to go down there and see what we could find. I was impressed by how much was being offered. The first market only had four vendors, if I recall correctly. This time, there were at least twice as many trucks with different foods on offer– meat, fish, produce, apple most and wines, ice cream, and an awesome Middle Eastern Feinkost with lots of treats from Turkey, Lebanon, and Italy. Of course, there was also wine on offer.
We decided to leave the dogs at home. Arran is ailing, and Noyzi gets too nervous around people he doesn’t know well. That was a good decision, since there were a lot of people at the market last night, and some folks brought their much better trained dogs with them. Besides, it’s hard to enjoy drinking wine when you’re holding two leashes.
Below are some photos from yesterday’s trip to the Dorfplatz. The market in Breckenheim runs from 1-6pm every Thursday.