Germany, holidays, housekeeping tips

The last day of 2021… (cross post)

This post also appears on the main blog, since I have different readers there. The featured photo are cookies brought by our landlord.

I’m getting a late post up today. I was actually thinking of taking off the last day of 2021. I didn’t have anything earth shattering on my mind that I felt compelled to write about. Bill had the day off, and we were both kind of tired. Bill was especially tired, since he never gets a full night’s sleep. So I worked on reading my book, and he took a nap. Later, he’ll fire up the fondue/raclette grill set I got him for Christmas, and we’ll try it out. He’s already used the new hot tea pot I got him. He’s drinking tea as I write this.

Bill and Arran, preparing for tonight.

Arran took a nap with us, while Noyzi tried to steal my brand new fuzzy slippers. I think he thinks they’re small animals. I might let him take them, but he’s already eaten a couple of toys. The emergency vet is the last place we want to go tonight.

I managed to accomplish a couple of other chores, too. After I worked on trying to rid the toilet of lime scale and calcium stains, I went on Amazon.de and bought some citric acid, as well as cleaning soda and salt. Today, I tried the acid on a really terrible hard water stain in the shower that I’ve never been able to get rid of. I poured the acid on the stain and, wouldn’t you know it? That stain was gone in minutes! There’s no trace of it. I think it’s a wonder drug. It’s hard to believe it’s taken seven years to figure this out. Vinegar is good, but citric acid is the bomb! And it’s cheap, too!

I also climbed up on a stepladder in the shower and knocked the calcium off the shower head jets, so the nice rainfall spray won’t squirt all over the place anymore. Now, the new shower head is as nice as it was in September, when it was installed.

I heard that fireworks weren’t supposed to be sold in German stores again this year. Like last year, the government wants to discourage people from setting off fireworks, because they don’t want people getting hurt and needing to go to the hospital, thanks to COVID. I suspect there will be fireworks, anyway… Germans are law abiding people, but they love fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I think that’s pretty much the only day they are allowed to be set off, at least by the regular rank and file folks. I seem to remember that there were fireworks last year, despite the ban on them.

Our New Year’s celebrations are usually pretty boring affairs. We spend them much the same way we spend any night at home… listening to music, drinking wine, and talking.

I’m hoping 2022 will be a better year for everyone… although 2021 wasn’t, for me, a particularly bad year. I’ve had worse. But this COVID-19 shit needs to be fixed. Hopefully, 2022 will bring us some breakthroughs.

In any case… I want to offer sincere thanks to everyone who’s been reading my blogs. This main site, in particular, has really taken off this year! In the past month or so, I’ve had an explosion in traffic. That really does my heart good, and makes writing this blog worth the time and effort.

The travel blog has been somewhat less trafficked this year, but I can understand why. I haven’t been traveling as much… nor have many other people! I’m sure the traveling we have done may even be a downer for some folks. I know some people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), and it can be depressing to look at other people’s travel posts when travel is so potentially risky and definitely stressful. I am very grateful, though, that we finally managed to go to Croatia. I hope we can visit again. There are more places I want to see. And with any luck and maybe God’s grace, if you’re into God, that is– maybe COVID-19 will be more under control by this time next year.

I’m still making music, too… Been getting better with my guitar skills and can even play some songs. There are some times when I find myself playing things completely spontaneously. I still have plenty of learning to do, which is a good thing. And I’ve also found someone to collaborate with on YouTube, too, which is very rewarding. Maybe I’ll put up a new song or two, now that I have new gear. Maybe I’ll try to learn bass guitar and banjo, too… if the virus continues to spread, I might have to do something else to pass the time.

Well… I don’t have much else to say, except…

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve, and a very fortuitous New Year’s Day… and 2022!

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Christmas, Germany

Drizzle and chilly weather means chilling out at home…

We didn’t go anywhere over the weekend because it was cold and rainy. Instead, we watched concert DVDs, drank some beer and wine, and did some talking. A few days ago, I spent a few hours cleaning the oven door, making good use of the at home time we’re enjoying during the Christmas COVID-19 season. I had given some thought to going to Mainz to enjoy the Christmas market, but the wet, cold weather made the trip seem less appealing. It amazes me to see so many friends and family members back home, wearing shorts and tank tops in December. I remember when, even in Virginia, December meant it would be cold outside. Global warming is no joke, is it?

We did see some snow flurries last week. That was one thing I enjoyed about living near Stuttgart. We got more snow because we were at a higher altitude. I don’t love going out in snow, but as long as it’s going to be cloudy and wet, I prefer to see some white stuff. Besides, snow is pretty, especially when it’s fresh and hasn’t been peed on or stirred up by the dogs.

I did take a short walk today. Noyzi and Arran insisted on taking a stroll. Noyzi even barked at me, making it impossible to work on a recording project I was doing for a YouTube collaboration. We took an even shorter walk than usual, because there was a lady out there with a little dachshund and she was going the way we usually go. I didn’t want to deal with the dogs freaking out and barking the whole time. We went on an alternative route, and I took a few photos. I am combining today’s photos with some I took last week.

I don’t have much else to report. The weather continues to be wet and depressing. But Christmas is coming… Hopefully, there will be some holiday joy.

Hey… at least I have a new theme for my blog, right?

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anecdotes, dogs, friends

Make new friends, lose the old…

This weekend has been a bust in terms of fun stuff. Although Christmas markets in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg have been canceled, the one is Wiesbaden is apparently still on. We got some sun yesterday, but I was waiting for a package that didn’t arrive until late afternoon. Also, I had a feeling that attending the Christmas market would be more of a hassle than I cared to experience. Even before COVID-19 was an issue, I was never one to enjoy crowded fests. We did attend a lot of them in the past, but I am not a freak about them, like some people are.

A lot of places in Germany are now employing 2G plus measures, meaning that a person has to be either fully vaccinated or proven recovered from the virus, and even then, they have to get tested. I am fully vaccinated, but it’s about time for a booster. So we stayed home yesterday. Today, the weather is crappy, so I don’t feel like walking around outside, and I don’t feel like dealing with face masks indoors. I don’t know if we’ll go out today, but I tend to think we won’t. It’s already two o’clock, and it’s dark and cloudy outside. I can stay in my warm house, listen to cheesy soundtracks from 80s animated films, and write blog posts… no need for vaccine certs or face masks… or a bra.

Last night, a topic entered my head that I thought might be a good one for this blog. Originally, this blog was supposed to be a travel blog, but COVID-19 has made traveling harder. So now, it’s more of an American’s “life abroad” blog. And there’s something I’ve noticed after living abroad a few times. It’s that friendships don’t always survive the move back stateside.

At this point, Bill and I have lived in Germany this time for just over seven years. During that time, I’ve only been “home” once. Because we’re here with the U.S. government/military, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. I sort of made “friends” with some people. And the vast majority of those friendships have now ended as those people have moved on with their lives.

I noticed the same thing happened in Armenia. I made friends with people there– other Americans– and once we no longer had Armenia in common, the friendship fizzled. Now that I think about it, this happens a lot even if you don’t live abroad. How many people were you once friends with at a job or in school that you never talk to anymore? Before social media existed, it happened all the time. Then, when we had Facebook, or its predecessor, MySpace (which I rarely used), suddenly we were “friends” again with people we hadn’t seen since 4th grade. Gradually, some of those connections faded for any number of reasons.

I guess it seems stranger that it happens when you meet people while living abroad. For many people, it’s a life changing event to move to another country. I know that every time I’ve done it, I’ve changed and grown in immeasurable ways. In some cases, it’s made it hard for me to relate to people with whom I used to identify a lot more strongly. For instance, there are certain friends and relatives with whom I probably can no longer discuss politics or religion. In the case of my relatives, they’ll always be family. There’s always a chance we’ll meet again… maybe at a funeral or a wedding or something. Friends, on the other hand, are more likely to fade away permanently.

I’m always a little bit sad when I lose contact with someone I once called a “friend”, even if they were just a social media friend. Maybe younger people have less of a problem with it than I do. I grew up at a time when friendships meant more. Or maybe it just seemed that way. We had fewer friends, because those relationships had to be cultivated in person. Now, you can be “friends” with anyone, anywhere in the world. In some ways, that’s a great thing. I have some dear friends that I have never met offline. And I have other friends I used to party with who are now in my past.

I decided to write about this today because I realized, with some sorrow, that I don’t even really want to try to make friends with people anymore. I don’t want to connect with someone, only to have the relationship eventually fizzle out. That’s kind of a bleak way to look at things. I’d rather not be so cynical. But I also really try to be a good friend, even if I can sometimes be a bit slow to trust people. That comes from being burned multiple times. It also comes from the idea that a lot of people don’t know how to take my personality. Maybe that’s why I’m so much more comfortable with dogs and horses.

Speaking of dogs… our Noyzi has really started to integrate into the family now. He likes to hang out with me on a little rug by our bed. I had originally put it there for Zane, to give him traction when he jumped on the bed. Now, it’s Noyzi’s little spot when I watch TV, as you can see in the featured photo. Sadly, the man who rescued him got angry with me a couple of months ago, because I didn’t want to get involved in a fundraiser he was trying to organize. I felt it was not a wise thing for me to do, because he didn’t seem to have the fundraiser set up completely, and some of his practices seemed kind of sketchy to me. He got angry with me and blocked me on Facebook, which makes me sad.

Even today, I was thinking about what a miracle it is that Noyzi was found by this man in Kosovo. If it wasn’t for him, Noyzi would, at best, still be living on the streets in Pristina. But he’s here in Germany, giving and receiving a lot of love. He was even named by this young man in Kosovo and I kept the name, though I would have made a different choice if I had been the one to name him originally. I would have liked to have been actual friends with this man, who gave us such a gift. But it didn’t work out, because I didn’t want to bend to his will. He accused me of “playing games”.

I realize I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but I truly don’t go out of my way to screw over anyone. I don’t try to annoy or offend people. I’m just who I am, which is apparently too much for some people.

Lately, I’ve realized that living over here can be kind of lonely. I do miss some of my family members, although I doubt most of them miss me. I don’t know if or when we’ll be going back to our roots, but even if we did, I don’t think it would be the same… and I would probably just want to move again. Moving to the States with Noyzi would be quite a project, so I am hoping we can put it off for awhile.

Anyway… this turned out to be more of an introspective and joyless post than I intended it to be. I guess I’ll close this post and go hang out with Bill, who has already been in here twice to talk to me, even though he knows I’m writing. We have chicken and homemade rolls to eat. Last night’s dinner was definitely a better effort than our Thanksgiving dinner was. Hopefully, the holiday spirit will kick in… maybe I will even be arsed to go to a Christmas market before they all get canceled.

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chores, German culture, Germany, staying home, Sundays

Our busy week of upgrades leads to a boring weekend of downtime…

It’s German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit), which means it’s a holiday. It’s also Sunday, and kind of rainy outside. Yesterday, it was also overcast and chilly. Bill and I decided to stay home and rest yesterday. We’ll probably do the same thing today.

I always feel a little bit guilty on the weekends when we can’t be bothered to do anything, particularly when we didn’t do anything the weekend before. A year ago, we went on an epic whirlwind journey to Slovenia to pick up Noyzi, our Kosovar rescue dog.

I would have liked to have done something exciting this weekend, too. Pretty soon, the weather will definitely be crappy more often than not. But we had a very busy week. For one thing, our upstairs bathroom got a huge upgrade, and that took a couple of days. For another, poor old Arran had to have another surgery to take off some crusty, itchy bumps that I’m afraid might be mast cell tumors. And again, there’s that pesky rainy weather, which in the age of COVID-19, doesn’t lend itself to going out and about. Bill has been hard at work on an exercise, which has kept him busy and preoccupied. I’m mostly over last week’s virus, but still a little tired.

I am really excited about our newly renovated bathroom. When we moved into our current home, it had been awhile since the shower and tub had been used. The water in Germany is famously hard, and the fixtures on the tub and shower were probably original to the house. Consequently, we could not turn on the cold tap on our shower at all. The faucet on the bathtub leaked all over the floor. Our first week in this house was hard, because we had to bathe in the tub, which would leak water from under the faucet when we ran the taps. The water leaked outside of the tub and got all over the floor.

Our landlord got the shower fixture changed out very soon after we moved in. It took much longer to get the tub fixed. Part of the reason for that was because Bill was reluctant to talk to him about the need. He was still a bit traumatized by our last renting experience. But he finally talked to the landlord over the summer, and sometime in late July, the landlord brought over his plumber to see what needed to be done. Much to our delight, he was fine with fixing the tub fixture and even decided to put in a new rainfall shower head for us.

We had to wait two months for the plumber and his assistant to have the time to fix up the bathroom. Apparently, there’s no shortage of work for plumbers in Germany. They came on Wednesday and worked most of the day. The landlord came over to see the progress and I got the bright idea to show him the lime covered fixtures in the downstairs hall bathroom. It wasn’t as bad as the tub was, but it was also leaky. He said “No problem,” told the plumber, and after they had lunch, they fixed the downstairs sink, too!

Below are a few photos of their handiwork:

As the plumber was working, he asked if I’d like for him to move the shower head to the corner of the stall. I was all about that, since the previous shower head, which dripped and had lots of lime on it, was situated to the middle of the wall. We would get water on the floor every time we showered. Now that the head is moved further back, there’s no more after shower mess. Plus, that new head and its matching sprayer are just really excellent! Hopefully, I can somehow keep it free of buildup, although it’s way too high for me to reach.

I don’t usually take a lot of baths, but I had a sachet of Molton Brown bath salts that I lifted from our stay at the Upper House in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2019. I decided last night was the time to use it, and try out the tub. It was so nice! I even got to shave my legs!

Needless to say, I thanked the landlord profusely. He also had a new garage door opener put in a few weeks ago, because the motor on the one we had was shot. When Bill pointed it out to him, the landlord said the opener was probably as old as the house was. He decided to get a new opener for his house, too. We were both remarking at how much quieter and nicer the new openers are.

Don’t get me wrong. These were repairs that desperately needed to happen, and they should have happened much sooner than they did. But it was just so nice to have them done to a good quality, and without being yelled at or blamed for anything. It’s nice to have a landlord who wants us to be happy and doesn’t just do cosmetic repairs, but fixes things that will make our living conditions better. And, given how much we pay to live here, it now feels more like we’re getting our money’s worth. In any case, the upgrade in the bathroom is a huge morale booster.

In other news… I have been looking for a place to spend a few days as 2021 starts winding down. I used to be so much more into trip planning and going on outings, but I’ve found myself less enthusiastic lately. I think I’ve got a case of the blahs, in part because COVID makes things more complicated and annoying. Even just going to a restaurant is an ordeal. And everything is encouraged to be done outside, which is less appealing as the weather changes.

Bill has been working so hard, and there’s so much that needs to be done. Last week, he had to get the windshield replaced on my MINI, because there was a crack in it that finally got too long to pass inspection. Before getting the windshield replaced, he had to deregister the car and get temporary plates put on, because our registration expired while the car was in the shop. It’s all fixed now, and ready for the the plates to be put back on, but first he has to go back to the inspector and get passed. So that’s something else that has to be done. Arran will be getting his latest stitches out on the 11th.

Anyway… there’s a chance we’ll do something this afternoon, but I kind of doubt it. It’s so dark and cloudy, and I doubt either of us will feel like putting on real clothes. So maybe we will, maybe we won’t. At least I can take a great shower, though, and not get water everywhere! Maybe I’ll read up about how 31 years ago today, Germany finally reunited with the East and became one country again. I’m sure it will inspire me more to read about that than the very divisive attitudes so many people have in the United States right now. Or maybe I’ll just play with Noyzi and marvel at just how far he’s come since he joined our family last year!

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family, German culture, Germany

And to think that I saw it in Breckenheim…

As I wrote in my main blog this morning, I seem to be on the mend from the weekend’s sickness. I was feeling noticeably better after I finished yesterday’s post, and by the afternoon, I even had enough energy to take Noyzi and Arran for a walk. They were delighted to go, since I think they thought they’d be missing out yesterday. I usually walk them in the mid mornings, but somehow they knew I was green around the gills and didn’t bug me like they usually do. I’m being serious. My dogs will pester the shit out of me if I don’t walk them when I’m supposed to. Luckily, they seemed to notice a lack of energy from me yesterday and left me alone, although I was definitely feeling better than I was on Saturday and Sunday.

Today’s post title is inspired by a story by Dr. Seuss that I read when I was a little girl. I never have been the biggest fan of Dr. Seuss’s books, but I did used to have a great general children’s storybook anthology that was handed down to me by my three older sisters. The book happened to have Dr. Seuss’s story, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” in it. Wikipedia tells me this story was Dr. Seuss’s very first, and it was written in 1937. You can read the Wikipedia entry I linked for the gist of the story by Dr. Seuss. I would describe it here, but Seuss’s story is about a fantasy, while I’m about to write about real life. In other words, I really DID see this stuff in Breckenheim over the past couple of days, and I’m left with some wonderment.

As I mentioned up post, I usually walk my dogs in the mornings. They insist upon it. But yesterday, I was still feeling kind of yucky, so I had to wait until the afternoon to catch a burst of energy for our stroll. Consequently, I saw different things than what I usually see. Most days, when I walk the dogs, I see and hear kids in the local schoolyard. They take their recess at about the time the boys and I take our walks. I’m sure the kids notice us. Sometimes, I see little girls looking adoringly at the dogs and remember myself as a horse crazy child. I used to get excited whenever I saw a horse. If I’m honest, I still do. But I don’t stop and stare like I did when I was a kid. Many little girls love animals, and German girls are no exception.

Well, because I was walking in the afternoon, school was about over. I did see a mom with her daughter, though. The girl, who wore her striking strawberry blonde hair in a pony tail, looked to be about 9 or 10 years old. Mom was talking to the girl as she got into the backseat of their little red car. I saw the girl glance at my dogs with that expression of adoration as she settled into the seat. Mom gave me a friendly, confident smile as she shut the door and made a move for the driver’s seat. I nodded and passed, then continued on my way.

We got to the place where we usually turn to walk past the neighborhood gardens. Arran needed to take a dump. We happened to be near a trash can, so I cleaned up the poop and dragged him back the other way so I could drop off the bag. He was planting his feet, not wanting to cooperate. I broke a sweat. It was a bit humid and I might have still had a slight temperature. Then I noticed a sign posted on a tree. I wondered if it was another admonition against lazy pet owners not cleaning up their dog’s shit. But it was just someone looking to rent a garden plot. I saw another sign just like it at the other end of the garden plots. I missed the second sign yesterday, but noticed it today.

We turned to head uphill past the farmer’s fields that I’ve noticed are as likely to be growing plastic sex toys as they are wheat and corn. Someone discarded their facemask, not by throwing it on the ground, but by neatly hanging it on a sunflower. The gardens are in their last hurrah of the Indian summer as they prepare to go dormant for the onset of cold weather. The pictures below were taken this morning, but I noticed the mask yesterday… I thought to take a photo yesterday, but decided not to. I guess I was too eager to get home and back to the proximity of a toilet.

Finally, we got to the point of our route at which we turn toward home. It’s near a cemetery. There’s a custom picture framing business there, as well as a couple of apartment houses. Today, I took a photo of the area where I saw the most interesting and exciting thing on yesterday’s walk, just to give those who read this a visual reference…

This morning, there were fewer cars than yesterday afternoon.

So yesterday, the dogs and I were walking down the sidewalk pictured above. There were several more cars parked there yesterday afternoon than there are in the above photo, which I took this morning. In fact, there was a utility truck parked where that open stretch of street is. Workmen were on the other side of the street doing some kind of work on the street. If you picture that, you might realize that the passageway was more narrow and busier.

Noyzi and Arran are not close to being the same size. Noyzi is humongous next to Arran. He has a tendency panic sometimes, when he’s in unfamiliar situations. Arran wants to sniff and eat things. So I was focused on handling them and negotiating the narrow passage down the street. Where the cars are, there’s a grassy, nettle covered hill, which closes things in even more. If I wanted to avoid something on the sidewalk, I’d have to cross the street or walk in the middle of it. It would have been complicated to walk in the street yesterday, thanks to the workmen.

As we passed the utility truck, Arran tried to sniff something the workers had left by the curb. I pulled him away and issued a grumpy reprimand. Then I noticed an orange car with an older woman sitting in the passenger seat. She was about to open her door, which I knew would block my egress. I groaned inwardly, since I’ve run into this scenario a few times. People park on the street and open their doors, oblivious to pedestrians on the sidewalk… even those with two dogs, one of whom is the size of a miniature horse.

Sure enough, the woman got out of the car. I started thinking about how I was going to negotiate this challenge. But then I was met with a surprise. The woman closed her door, straightened the neat blazer she was wearing. I was noticing how nice and put together she looked, as if she was going to see someone important.

Then I heard a flurry of footsteps and saw a flash in the corner of my peripheral vision. Next thing I knew, a young girl of maybe eight or nine had jumped into the woman’s arms, obviously overjoyed to see her. The girl had shoulder length blonde hair and a huge smile on her face. I heard them trade enthusiastic and loving greetings. I was about to pass them on the sidewalk, when the girl suddenly let go of the woman and launched into the older man’s arms. He’d been in the driver’s seat, and I hadn’t seen him until he had exited the car and moved behind it. He had a delighted expression on his face. I had just enough time to notice that the girl was similarly ecstatic and more expressions of love were traded among them.

I was witnessing what appeared to be a reunion of people who obviously love each other very much and had missed being together. I’m assuming it was Oma and Opa visiting, but I don’t know. Obviously, this was a bonded group. I gave them a warm smile as I quickly passed, not wanting to intrude on their private moment of reunion, but yet happy I was able to share it with them in some way.

My mood suddenly brightened considerably, which surprised me. I often get really cranky when I walk the dogs, mainly because there’s not the greatest walking route where we live. We often have to dodge cars, farm vehicles, horses, other dogs, looky lous, and pedestrians who aren’t watching where they’re going. Just this morning, I encountered three cars, a biker, and a tractor all in one spot, as I turned off the main drag to walk past the gardens. We’re also very close to the Autobahn and a high speed train track, which makes the area a bit noisier than I’d like. So, unlike our neighborhood in Jettingen, which was next to a huge nature park, Breckenheim is not quite as dog walker friendly, although the people are friendlier, and are, themselves, very dog friendly.

When I saw that orange car, I was expecting to be inconvenienced by someone. But, what I saw instead was something I very rarely see in Germany. I mean, I’m sure it happens… it’s just that I don’t see it or haven’t seen it much. People are polite and cordial here, and they love their families, but they don’t seem to be that demonstrative (unless they’re at a Fest or something, then all bets are off). I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an unbridled and honest expression of pure love and affection like that on the street. It was really nice to see, especially since I was totally caught off guard and experienced a temporary mood boost because of it.

Then I finished walking back home and got back to the work of healing, which involved some more time on the toilet. But I’m feeling much better now… Pity, though, since I notice my clothes are already looser. I noticed today on our walk, I was a lot crankier on the last stretch, mainly because someone in a Volkswagen came careening around the corner. I probably looked really bitchy as they passed. What a contrast to yesterday, when I was feeling unexpectedly cheerful despite being sick.

I was reminded, yet again, of the Buddhist monk we saw in 2015. I was super cranky and hungry, not feeling well, when we stopped outside of Munich for lunch. Then I saw a Japanese monk sitting near us who gave off incredibly calming vibes. It was like just seeing him erased all of my grouchiness.

Watching that reunion yesterday had a similar effect, making me forget my crabbiness and sickness for an instant. It was like a gift. I looked for the orange car today, wondering if Oma and Opa are still visiting. I’d like to know the rest of the story that started on an ordinary day in Breckenheim. And to think I never would have seen that if I hadn’t been sick and taken a walk later than usual… not that I’m ever that grateful for the experience of diarrhea and vomiting. But there’s good in everything, even if it’s just a story I can share and a lesson about staying observant, even when your day is mundane. You never know what you’ll see, even in a place like Breckenheim.

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dogs, German culture, Germany, pets

A family trip to the pool…

We had more beautiful weather today, so Bill really wanted to get out and do something fun. Yesterday, someone in the local pets group on Facebook posted that a Freibad (public pool) in Mainz was going to allow dogs to come hang out and swim. Bill and I had experienced this very German custom in Nagold back in 2018, a few months before we moved to Wiesbaden. At that time, we had Zane and Arran. Neither were fond of swimming and both were kind of old, so we opted to go without them. It was a lot of fun watching all the athletic dogs enjoying the water. You can see some of the photos from that outing by clicking here.

This activity is fun for many, but not all, dogs… I wondered how Noyzi would do.

This year, we have Noyzi and Arran. I was curious about how Noyzi would like the pool/dog park like environment. But Noyzi hasn’t yet been with us a year, and Bill still has trauma from our unsuccessful bid to adopt a more local dog. Initially, he wasn’t too keen on going to Mainz with the boys. So we were going to come up with an alternative plan. I suggested we visit either the Mainz or Kastel “beaches” (Strand), which are Biergartens on either side of the Rhein. Bill was okay with that… but Noyzi had other plans.

As we tried to exit the house, he made it very plain that he wanted to go with us. He even parked his big, lumbering body, right by the door! I took it as a sign that we should take the boys to the pool. Bill was still worried about accidents or potential tragedies, but I wore him down and he finally relented. So that’s what we did! We loaded the boys into the car and headed off to Mainz. Noyzi even jumped into the back of the Volvo all by himself, and parked himself in the back like a canine gentleman. Every day, I am amazed by how naturally well behaved he is, and how quickly he learns. It’s hard to believe he was born on the streets of Pristina. He is living proof that street dogs can make wonderful family members.

Below is a video I made. I put in a couple of my previously unreleased songs… they maybe aren’t the best I can do, but without them, you just get seven minutes of dogs running around and some shaky footage. It was all recorded on my iPhone. I had to be careful, too, as this is Germany, and not everyone at the pool was wearing a bathing suit. Didn’t want to catch anyone in the buff!

Next time, I’ll bring a better camera!

This event ran from 10am until 4pm. We left right at the end. I kind of wish we had come a bit earlier, although the weather was perfect, and everyone seemed to be having a blast. Our dogs didn’t seem too interested in leaving us, so we kept them on their leashes most of the time. If we hadn’t, I don’t think it would have mattered much. They were stuck to us like glue.

As it was the end of the season, they didn’t have much in the way of food… Just beer and pretzels and, I think, maybe some ice cream. Consequently, I’m pretty hungry now. I’m glad we went, though, because it was so much fun to watch all the dogs playing and swimming, as well as their owners. I didn’t see any bad behavior at all! And I was so proud of Noyzi, who even followed me into the kiddie pool. He wasn’t interested in the big pool, though. Maybe next year, if we’re still here, we’ll try again.

Below are some photos for those who’d rather see those. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday. These kinds of activities are pretty much why I love living in Germany. I think it’s great that they let dogs swim in the pool on the last day of the summer season! But I am sad that the weather will soon be schlecht.

One thing I love about Germany is that people here relish outdoor activities when the weather permits. There’s always something fun going on. And if you can bring your dogs, so much the better. Dogs are treated very well in this country!

I’m glad we opted to go to the pool with the boys today. We can go to the “beaches” in Mainz or Kastel some other time!

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anecdotes, animals, dog rescue, dogs, emergencies

Pet pandemonium pauses our promenade!

Today is Bill’s birthday, and we have wonderful weather this morning. Yesterday, it rained most of the day, and the dogs didn’t get their walk until the afternoon. I was going to take them for a walk this morning and actually got underway. But our plans were abruptly thwarted by other people’s pets.

It started with an unusually brave white cat, who was loitering on our path. I saw the cat first, as it was big as life clinging to the wall. The cat saw Arran and Noyzi, but didn’t seem to be afraid. Cats usually run when they see my dogs, but this one was pretty defiant. He or she pinned their ears, arched their back, and probably hissed. I couldn’t tell, because Noyzi had just noticed. Arran, super hound cat buster that he is, was a bit like Barney Fife this morning. He was the last to see the white feline, who was warily watching the boys.

And then, just as I thought we might make it down the hill, along comes our neighbor dog, Tommi, the friendly Labrador. He charged up to Arran and Noyzi, completely unattended, although he was at least wearing a collar. Hot on his heels was our neighbor’s mother, a slim lady I’ll call Oma. I’m guessing she’s in her 70s. She speaks English well and is very nice, but she’s probably not strong enough to be walking a rambunctious young Lab. And, in fact, she wasn’t walking him. She had treats with her, but no leash.

Naturally, the dogs went nuts. The cat did not go nuts. I kept waiting for it to run away, but it just kept staring down the dogs. Noyzi was facing the wrong way as I tried to lead him away from the tantalizing pussycat…

The funny thing is, I have been using two regular nylon leashes and a harness with Noyzi because he’s a rescue from Kosovo and still pretty afraid of a lot of things. I attach one leash to his collar and one to his harness, in case I drop one. I might then have a prayer of stopping Noyzi before he bolts for the Autobahn.

Noyzi’s walking manners have improved a lot; he’s become much less fearful and wants to run more. Last week, on two occasions, he tried the retractable tape leash I currently use with Arran and used to use with Zane. I waited a long time to try the retractable leash with Noyzi because he’s so much bigger and stronger than were either Arran or Zane, or both of them together.

We did have some success with the tape leash last week. Noyzi seemed to get the concept of running just a little bit ahead and not charging off so fast that he pulls me over. I was going to try the tape leash again today, but a little voice in my head told me to use the two leash system instead. It might have just been sheer laziness, since I already had the nylon leashes out and ready to use.

Well… that second leash was a God send this morning, because Tommi was completely out of control! First, he greeted my dogs with boisterous jumps, crotch sniffing, and tail wags, and Noyzi, of course returned the favor. Then he ran over to some guy working on his car. Oma grabbed for Tommi’s collar, but it somehow slipped off. She finally got it back on him and started trying to drag him away, yelling at him and spanking him all the while. Tommi was not at all fazed by the corporal punishment.

Meanwhile, that damned white cat was STILL defiantly sitting there, watching everything unfold, completely unbothered! A lady with a baby carriage was about to come down the hill, but thought better of it when she saw and heard all of the commotion. Arran was braying like a seal/donkey hybrid. Noyzi was yipping excitedly, dancing around like a whirling dervish. And Tommi, who has developed a full on Labrador bark, was telling off the cat and trying to give chase. He ran behind the bushes and Oma went after him, shouting in German, trying to grab his collar.

I suddenly realized I had that second leash, so I quickly unsnapped it and handed it to Oma, who thanked me profusely as she attached it to Tommi’s collar. The whole lot of us then turned toward home, because I had worked up a sweat and wanted the dogs to calm down a bit, and Oma wanted to get Tommi back to a place where he wasn’t running amok. I also obviously needed that second leash back! Arran helpfully took a big dump at the top of the hill, so he probably feels better. Oma was showing off Tommi to a group of school kids who had heard and witnessed some of the show.

Oma explained to me that her 18 year old granddaughter (whom Noyzi LOVES) has to study for exams. And the man and the lady of the house are on vacation. Oma’s son told her not to walk Tommi because he’s so strong, but she said there’s no one else who can do it. I don’t actually think she was trying to walk him this morning. I think he snuck out of the house.

Just like his Labrador predecessor, Levi, used to do, sometimes Tommi comes over to our house. We can see him through the glass. The dogs go nuts! It might do them all well to have a play session and wear each other out a little! Tommi is very sweet, but I think he might need a trainer. But I’m not about to suggest it, because I’m sure they don’t need me to tell them that… I did notice that Oma petted Arran, who was the calmest of the lot, which is really saying something, if you know him. On the other hand, Arran is old and rather petite, so it’s not too hard to keep him in line.

Anyway, I guess that incident was a sign from God to keep using the two leash system on Noyzi for a bit longer… if only so Oma can wrangle Tommi when he gets loose! And you’ll be proud to know that I managed to get some video footage of all of this, too.

And now that I’ve cooled off and calmed down, maybe we’ll try again.

Edited to add: We just had our walk. It was much less chaotic.

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animals, dogs, drugs, Germany, veterinary care

Arran’s recovery is a bit rocky…

Poor Arran has had a rough week. A few days ago, after we came home from Heidelberg, he gashed himself after running under a bush with low branches. That encounter led to an hours long ordeal at the Tierklinik Hofheim, which is a really good veterinary hospital near us. He wasn’t that badly hurt, but there were a lot of sick animals that night, and Bill had to wait for them to be treated first.

Bill got to the emergency clinic at 9:30pm and got home at 4:30am, armed with antibiotics and painkillers. Arran had to have five stitches on his left shoulder, right near where he has a lipoma. He tore a big gash through all of his skin layers, so the emergency vet had to remove a flap of skin and debride the wound.

Arran was basically fine on Monday and Tuesday. He was eating, drinking, and demanding his walk. Then yesterday, at about noon, he vomited all over Bill’s side of our bed. Luckily, I managed to push him to the edge, so the mess wasn’t as bad as it could have been. When he had his dinner last night, he threw up again, although he never lost his appetite or his crankiness toward Noyzi.

Bill and I figured maybe the antibiotic was affecting him, since I had read that vomiting and diarrhea are side effects of Kesium, which is what he was taking, along with Metacam for the pain. Then this morning, after an uneventful night, Bill gave Arran a little bit of food. And yes, you guessed it, a couple of hours later, he puked again.

We already had an 8:30am appointment for him to visit the vet to have his stitches checked. Bill took him in and was back home very quickly. I was feeling dread, given that Arran is about 12 years old. But Arran surprised us by romping into the house, obviously feeling great. He did a play bow and smiled at me as he ran into the living room.

The vet gave him an injection of antibiotics, an injection of painkillers, and something for his stomach. It’s obviously all kicked in. Bill says the vet thinks the nausea is caused by the last of the sedation Arran had on Monday morning, exiting his system. I don’t know why it wouldn’t have bothered him on Monday and Tuesday, but hell, I’m not a vet. Anyway, the antibiotic was directly injected into his bloodstream, so it’s not sitting in his stomach. He’s had that drug before and it didn’t bother him. Maybe he’s developed an intolerance.

We’ll bring him back to the vet on Saturday for another shot. Hopefully the stitches can come out a few days after that. The wound seems to be healing nicely.

Meanwhile, Noyzi seems to have a touch of diarrhea today, and it’s raining pretty steadily. He came upstairs at about 4:00am, obviously eager to go outside. Bill let him out and he was quick to do his business. This morning, I see a little residual diarrhea. I’m not sure why he has the runs, but I’m grateful that he came to tell us that he needed to go outside. He’s such a good dog!

This was when I noticed the gash Sunday night.
His “walk dance” on Tuesday.

I suspect it will be a cozy day today, once I do my dreaded and hated Thursday chore of vacuuming.

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Germany

Our Heidelberger Birthday Holiday! Part one

The featured photo is of our crowded, but quaint, village of Wallau, located near where we live. This was where we got our vaccines registered.

I am delighted to write another travel blog series. It’s been AGES since I’ve been able to write an actual travel post for my travel blog, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Things are finally opening up here in Europe. Infection numbers are falling; fewer people are being hospitalized or dying; and people are breaking out of seclusion for some fun. I have been waiting impatiently for the ability to have fun. It’s been too long.

As of June 16th, I became fully inoculated with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. That was enough of a cause for celebration… but today also happens to be my birthday. Bill and I usually try to do fun things when we have birthdays, and this year we needed a break more than other years. We also needed to introduce Noyzi to the Birkenhof Tierpension, since we haven’t been anywhere since we adopted him in October of last year. Since it was Noyzi’s trial run at our boarding facility, we decided to keep the weekend short and close to home.

I’d been wanting to visit Heidelberg again for ages. We went there in October 2008, when we lived in the Stuttgart area the first time. That visit was decidedly friend heavy, as at the time, there was still an active Army installation in Heidelberg. We had several friends who were living there, so during that visit, we hung out with them and went on post. I remember touring Heidelberg Castle one day, eating at Vetter’s, and then the next day, we went to nearby Schwetzingen and visited the palace and castle. We even took a tour in German. The hotel we stayed in then was Appartment & Hotel Kurpfalzhof Heidelberg, which was then, and still is, the number one traveler ranked hotel on Trip Advisor. It was an extremely clean and nice hotel, with friendly owners who were obviously very Army friendly. For some reason, they aren’t taking reservations right now.

For this occasion, I was wanting to stay somewhere fancier and in town, anyway. I found two likely candidates: Heidelberg Suites and Der Europäische Hof Heidelberg. Both properties were extremely appealing for different reasons. I ended up choosing Der Europäische Hof Heidelberg because of its downtown location and parking availability– there’s a garage right next door. They have a pool, and thanks to the heat wave, I knew I’d be wanting to swim. They also have a beautiful bar area, and Bill and I were hoping to enjoy that, too… (and we certainly did).

So, with the hotel booked for Friday and Saturday nights, and the dogs set up for their stay at the Birkenhof, it was time to deal with the next part of the process of breaking back into traveling. We needed to visit an Apotheke (pharmacy) to register proof of our vaccinations with the German government and pick up QR codes that can be uploaded into an app that is easily shown at restaurants, hotels, and shops. I was a little worried about that process, having read a “horror” story in The Local: Germany about an American guy in Cologne who went to six different places until he finally found a place that would recognize his American CDC vaccination card.

Bill and I didn’t have any trouble like that. We followed the link for mein-apothekenmanager.de to find a local pharmacy that had the ability to register people in the system. Not all pharmacies are participating, and some are participating, but don’t have the system set up yet. It turned out a pharmacy in the next village was participating. Bill sent them an email in German explaining that we’re Americans who need the QR codes for the app and asking if they could help. To our delight, the answer was a yes. Bill stopped by on Monday and dropped off copies of our vaccine cards, and the very pleasant druggist told us that she’d have them ready for us in a few days. It took time because so many people were trying to sign up that the system crashed!

On Friday morning, we took the dogs to the Hunde hotel. Noyzi seemed alright when we left. There were several nice dogs there who seemed eager to play! I think it helped that Arran was happy to be there and very relaxed. Arran has been many times and always has fun. We’ll go pick them up in a few hours. Hopefully, everything went alright!

After we dropped them off, we went to Wallau to get the proof of vaccination. There was a long line of people waiting outside of the pharmacy, many of whom were waiting to register. Others just needed to get some drugs. It’s good that we brought in the papers before Friday, since it’s routinely taking the pharmacist a couple of days to get people’s credentials loaded. If we had not had that paperwork, we probably would have needed to be tested for COVID-19 while we were in Heidelberg. Below is a picture of what the papers look like.

Unfortunately, the apps available in Germany aren’t available to us yet. We both tried to download the CovPass app, but that requires a German iTunes account and we have American ones. When I tried to change my location to Germany in the App Store, I got this message:

One of the other two apps is only for Android users. The other one, for some reason, just refused to work at all. I was able to download the Luca app, though, which is used for contract tracing and test results. Supposedly, we will eventually be able to load the vaccine passes into that app, too. I’m sure the German government will hear about this issue soon, or they’ll get used to the American CDC cards. In any case, the paper from the pharmacy worked alright, even though we don’t have the yellow European version of the the vaccine proof card. I suppose we could have gotten one at a pharmacy and had them stamped by the American vaccination center where we got our shots, but we didn’t know about them when we got inoculated. Phew… so much work to get legit before we can take a weekend out of town!

After we got the vaccine paperwork done, we packed a couple of bags and loaded the Volvo; then we set off for Heidelberg, which is about 50 miles– 70 kilometers from where we live. Although it only takes about an hour or so to get there, it’s in another state– our old home of Baden- Württemberg– where Bill and I spent a total of six mostly happy years together. It’s always a pleasure to go back! The drive was easy and fun… I spent the whole time making jokes about Sinead O’Connor’s new book, which I hope to be reviewing on my main blog very soon!

Once we found our way to the beautiful, grand, five star lodging where I had booked a junior suite for two nights, the celebration was primed to begin. More on that in the next post!

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dogs, Germany, staying home

There’s a lot of work that goes into being lazy… part two.

Bill and I enjoyed an unusually busy Saturday. Ever since we pulled out our robotic lawnmower a few weeks ago, the damned thing has confounded us. I bought the machine in late March 2019 and wrote a post, complete with video, about our new toy. I joked about how there is a lot of work that goes into being lazy as I watched Bill laying down the boundary wire that would allow the robot to work. We used it in 2019 and 2020 to great success. But in 2021, it was apparently “kaput”.

Bill laid down new wire in April, but the mower wouldn’t work. He tried again a couple of weeks later, but we were still getting the dreaded flashing blue light and fault loop error. Then he had to go away for almost three weeks, so I was stuck cutting the grass with the weed trimmer, which is really loud and doesn’t do a great job on the whole lawn. I tried replacing the power supply, hoping that would be a simple (but expensive) fix. It was a no go.

So today, Bill put down brand new wire all the way around the yard. He did about 2/3rds of the yard, but the mower still wouldn’t respond. I watched my usually sweet natured husband get grumpy as he bent down to tear out the not so old wire he had installed weeks ago and put in virgin wire. It took all afternoon. During that time, I washed clothes, washed the dogs, washed Noyzi’s bedding, put away the clean dishes, and wet vacuumed the floor. I also wrote another blog post on my main blog and practiced guitar. When I washed Noyzi’s bedding, the front loading washing machine malfunctioned, and the plug for the rubber hose came off in the machine. So I ended up having to take the panel off of the machine and rescue the part. I quipped to Bill that I’m weirdly handy. He agreed.

Once he laid the last bit of the wire, he tried to get the mower going. This time, he got a green light on the base, but a message reported that there was “no fault loop”. I watched Bill get pissed anew; then I went to Reddit, where someone who had the same problem mentioned recalibrating the mower and letting it capture a new loop. So while Bill recovered from his labors, I went and messed with the settings on the mower, finally telling it to find a new fault loop. Then I pressed the start button and…

VOILA!!!

Boy, was this a welcome sight! Our backyard has looked shitty all spring! We let the mower do its work and relaxed for a bit. The dogs enjoyed the newly groomed lawn and their nice, clean coats. After I washed them, I took the brush to them to see if I couldn’t get some of the loose shedding hair to come off. I was very excited to see the mower going. It’s cleaner and more efficient than the trimmer is, and makes much less noise. It also does a much better job.

Last night, Noyzi and Arran had a couple of playful moments. Considering how cranky Arran is when his authority is threatened, I’d say these were successful encounters. We also enjoyed the sunshine and temperatures warm enough to have wine outside last night. As much as I appreciate the nicer looking backyard, though, I do look forward to spending time outside of Breckenheim very soon. Bill has completely recovered from Moderna shot number two. I’m hoping that maybe I can get mine a week early, so we can go back to being mobile. I am so ready to break out of this perpetually homebound bullshit.

Nice to see Arran playing…
They really had fun in this video. I had to sit in Bill’s seat, because the sun was killing my eyes. Noyzi is really settling in to being a pet.

Here are a few more photos from our weekend. I am SO jealous of my friends who got to travel for the holiday. Ordinarily, that’s certainly what we would be doing, too. But we’re not quite “street legal” yet.

Well… it’s hard to tell what the immediate future holds. I’d sure like to be able to get away soon, though. Even if it’s just to the dentist for a cleaning down in Stuttgart. Hopefully, we can arrange it soon… Wish us luck.

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