Champagne Bucket trips

Pictures from our 21st anniversary… part eight of our Armenian adventure!

As I mentioned in today’s earlier post, I’ve already written about the weirdness that occurred on our 21st wedding anniversary. I did a pretty good job covering that day, so rather than repeating myself, I’m just going to share more photos from our anniversary. I have already written the story, probably because I was a bit freaked out and upset, and writing helps me calm down and focus. But I didn’t share very many pictures at all in that rant… So I’ll share some photos and video with this post, with minimal commentary. If you want to read the gory details about our messed up anniversary, click here.

We tried to cross the street to go to the brandy factory, but the light wasn’t working properly. We got a green light, but cars still sped through the intersection. It wasn’t safe to cross there, so we walked the road down past the stadium.

A few hours after we went to “The Garden”, we had dinner at a highly recommended place called Sherep. It was just across Amiryan Street, steps away from our hotel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great experience for us, although maybe we would have liked it if it hadn’t been our anniversary, and if we’d ordered beer instead of wine… Again, you can read the juicy details in last week’s post, linked above.

I should have probably waited to write about our anniversary, but I was so aggravated and pissed off that I had to get it out of my system. But I was right when I wrote at the end of that post that the next day would be better. It was a prophetic statement. And even though it was a “weird day”, it certainly could have been much worse. At least we managed to walk several miles, and we made a friend in the food and beverage manager at the hotel.

A complimentary bottle of wine sent to us by the food and beverage manager, when I told her it was our anniversary… Such a nice and welcoming gesture!
Champagne Bucket trips

It really pays to know Stepan if you’re in Yerevan… part five of our Armenian adventure!

Monday morning, we got up and had breakfast in the rooftop restaurant. I was enjoying the delicious cherry juice they had. I remember I used to buy that all the time when I lived in Yerevan. I might have to see if I can find it nearby. I’d probably prefer that to orange juice in the morning.

It was kind of warm during our visit. I seem to remember November being cooler in Yerevan in the 90s… but then, I think that was true for almost everywhere back then. Bill and I discussed how to spend the day. I suggested climbing the Cascade Steps and taking a walk around Victory Park, where Mother Armenia is. I used to live very close to that park.

Bill agreed with that idea, so once we were finished with breakfast, we got on our way. I used to climb the Cascade Steps on a daily basis when I first lived in Yerevan. I didn’t know about the escalators until I’d been there awhile, and going up and doing the steps was the quickest and easiest way to get to the center of Yerevan, short of taking a bus or a taxi.

The Cascade Steps have changed a bit since 1997. The idea of creating “cascades” down a hillside was originally conceived by the architect Alexander Tamanyan (1878-1936) as a way to connect the northern part of Yerevan to the central part. The idea didn’t come to fruition until the 70s, when architect Jim Torosyan revived it, and added in his own idea to construct a huge limestone stairway. Work on creating the Cascade Steps began in the 80s, but halted after the 1988 earthquake. Then, in 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated, and the work stopped again.

In 1995, when I arrived in Yerevan, the Cascade Steps were still clearly not completed. Today, there’s beautiful landscaping and the complex houses the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. But in the 90s, I saw the halls in the steps used for other purposes. I distinctly remember there being a nightclub housed in one level at one time. My colleagues and I used to sit on the steps on Friday nights after training and play music and sing. Sadly, I also saw some pretty sad disrespect of the structure itself on the nights we did that. More than one intoxicated man would use the steps as a public urinal. As you can see in the photo below, there was a dirt road there and lots of trees– no sculptures, working fountains, or places to sit. And there were no bushes on the steps.

How I remember them in 1995… Special thanks to my Peace Corps friend Elaine, whose photo I ripped off from Facebook (mine are all in storage).

Anyway it’s much better there today, although the steps still aren’t quite completed. As of this writing, there are 579 steps that end at a huge, fenced off hole where, clearly, the steps will continue to be built, perhaps until they meet the monument for the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union.

By the time we reached the steps, I needed to answer the call of nature. We found a really great coffee shop nearby that offered all kinds of elaborate drinks and pastries. I was still feeling kind of flabbergasted, because in the 90s, we had nothing like this. The area around the Cascade Steps now has a whole bunch of restaurants. I think maybe one restaurant opened there in the 90s, and it’s long gone now. I took care of my personal business and we enjoyed a very nice round of drinks to fortify us for the climb.

Once we were finished at the coffee shop, we made our way to the impressive structure. I stalled a bit by taking pictures in the gardens in front of the steps. I hate climbing steps, even though it’s very good for one’s health. I always feel about 20 years older afterwards. 😀

We started the climb up the steps, pausing every so often to take in the view and catch our breaths. Unfortunately, the day we climbed the steps was not the best day for looking at Mount Ararat. It was a bit hazy and smoggy. But it’s still kind of a thrill to climb the steps, especially when you’re a fatass housewife like I am. 😉 A couple of months ago, after Bill and I visited the Crystal Cave in Hessen, I wrote a blog post about overcoming “physical challenges” when I travel. I’m very proud that I was able to conquer the ones I wrote about in that post. Not that it was easy in any case… I think the tower in Cesky Krumlov was the least challenging.

You can see the 50 year Soviet memorial in the last photo the gallery. To get there from the steps, you have to walk past the construction site at the top of the steps and past some housing. There was a guy up there trying to sell tours, and naturally he addressed us in Russian. But we were on a mission…

Hasmik and Aram were here!

After we got to the top of the steps and clambered up the rickety steps to the Soviet memorial, we made our way to Victory Park. To get there safely, we had to use one of Yerevan’s many underpasses. I was relieved that one in particular was relatively clean and in good repair. Some of Yerevan’s underpasses are in pretty bad condition and serve as unofficial pee stations. For an example of one of the less desirable underpasses, have a look here. Most of the ones we encountered on our trip were looking decent enough. Some even had thought provoking and interesting graffiti.

Victory Park is the home of Mother Armenia, who stands guard over Yerevan, and shows up in everybody’s pictures. She’s been there since 1967, and is surrounded by tanks and even an old MiG airplane. According to Wikipedia, Mother Armenia’s statue replaced one of Joseph Stalin. Good choice!

Victory Park is also home to an amusement park, with lots of rides for kids. I didn’t see many rides operating during our visit, but I did notice places to eat and a huge, modern looking ferris wheel, along with one that looked more like the one that was in the park in the 90s. I showed Bill the artificial lake I used to pass on my way to my first home for about 9 weeks after Peace Corps swearing in. When I lived in that area, the lake was filled higher and boys would swim in it. When we visited, a guy was walking what looked like a street dog turned pet. The dog happily jumped into the lake for a swim.

We also passed a restaurant that replaced one I used to pass that had a fox in a cage. 🙁 In the 90s, it wasn’t uncommon to see restaurants where wild animals were caged. I remember one place in particular; it was near Republic Square. We called it the “Feed the Monkey Cafe”, because they had a live monkey there. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, I remember seeing people using animals at restaurants as a gimmick to drum up business. I was glad not to see any of that on this visit, although the practice probably still exists in some of the regions.

By the time we were heading toward the entrance of Victory Park, I was feeling pretty tired and sore. We stopped at a bench and gazed at the Radisson Blu Hotel by the park. It didn’t exist in the 90s. 😉

Here are some more photos from the park and the Cascade Steps.

By the time we got back down the Cascade Steps, Bill and I were both really tired, a bit hungry, sore, and ready for beer. I started looking for places to go. We rejected the Mexican place that served Paulaner beers, because going in there meant climbing steps. 😉 We crossed the street and I looked to my left, where I saw a beautiful young woman with long dark hair. She was smiling and welcoming. At the same time, Bill noticed a sign that read, “You look hungry. We should drink.” Alright, then.

I looked at the young woman and said, “I really need a beer.”

She enthusiastically waved us inside, and we sat down at a table in the middle of the foyer. I discovered that we were dining at Food Industry, a restaurant I hope we can visit again if and when we visit Yerevan next time. We ordered beer and salads, which were absolutely beautifully presented. This is one thing I’ve noticed about Armenia– food presentation is usually exquisite and artistic. Even if the food itself doesn’t taste good, it will be served with style. In this case, the food was both beautifully presented, and tasted really good. And the beer was a real morale booster after the few miles of walking and climbing we did. Maybe it’s not a lot for younger, fitter people, but for us, it was a great achievement and worth celebratory libations.

After we finished our salads, Bill was trying to dislodge some food from between two teeth. The very attentive manager noticed and had toothpicks delivered to our table. I thought it was sugar and put it on the table next to us, where a lady was drinking coffee. But then Bill said they were toothpicks and praised the manager’s attention to detail.

The manager noticed I was speaking Armenian, so he came over and struck up a conversation. He said his name was Ashot (a fairly common name in Armenia) and welcomed us to his restaurant. When I explained I had lived in Armenia 26 years ago and was a teacher, he asked me if I’d been a Peace Corps Volunteer. I said I had. Then he said, I have a friend who works at the Peace Corps office.

And I said, “Is it Stepan?”

He laughed and said, “Yes! I used to work at the restaurant across from the Peace Corps office and he often came in for lunch. We became friends!”

I said, “Well, I was Stepan’s teacher back in the 90s. He was in my ninth form English class.”

Ashot got very excited and gave us complimentary pastries! We talked a little about schools in Yerevan. Ashot told us his brother had gone to a Russian school in Armenia and could speak Russian with no accent at all. He said he’d gone to an Armenian school. The school where I taught had been an English specialized school. I noticed that Ashot wrinkled his nose when the subject of Russia came up. I sense that many Armenians are quite irritated with Russia right now. I can’t blame them.

Anyway, for many valid reasons, Stepan is a very good person to know… but in Yerevan, he’s very well known indeed! I have a tendency to run into people anyway. Over the years, I’ve run into many people I either knew years ago, or people who know people I know. These kinds of meetings happen to me pretty consistently. I don’t know if other people have this knack, but I sure do… On the other hand, I think Stepan is simply one of those people who has a lot of magnetism. I would not be the least bit surprised if, someday, he’s famous.

As we were paying the check and leaving a tip, I told Ashot that I thought he should commend the waitress who welcomed us to his restaurant. It was because of her smile, warmth, and encouragement that we stopped by Food Industry for refreshment. I used to be a waitress myself, so I know how tough the job can be. I hope he passed on my compliment to her… and the tip, as her shift ended before we were finished. Kudos to her for still smiling at the end of her shift!

The salads were large enough that we didn’t really need to eat anything else at a restaurant that evening. We went back to the hotel and relaxed with more Armenian wine and light snacks, including the lovely pastries Ashot gifted us, and a huge fruit plate that was sent to us by someone mysterious (I think I know who). I really felt like I’d come home to family. Armenian hospitality is LEGENDARY!


Noyzi the YouTube star… now starring as a “tramp”!

My “street dog”, Noyzo from Kosovo, sitting on the rug next to my computer, striking a pose…

First thing’s first. I’m happy to report that my left eye is back to normal now. It only took a few days, rather than the couple of weeks predicted in the articles and videos on the subject of subconjunctival hemorrhages.

I was going to make one of my usual music videos yesterday, having discovered the wonderful Peggy Lee last week. Well, I shouldn’t say I “discovered” her, per se… I had heard of her. I just never bought much of her music and listened to it intently. That changed last week, when I covered her version of “Blue Moon”, a song I never really had much affection for, until I heard Peggy do it.

One of the three songs I did last week… I ended up buying a big a Peggy Lee album.

After I did a version of Peggy Lee’s cover of “Blue Moon”, I came across her song “He’s a Tramp”, from Lady and the Tramp. I haven’t seen that move in decades, but I am a committed dog lover, and I loved Peggy’s sultry purr. I decided to try it yesterday… and since my eye was only about 90% healed, I had Noyzi from Kosovo star in the video. I happened to have a few candid Noyzi clips from around the house… I thought it would be easy to throw them in a movie made on my new computer. Well… I was wrong. But I did manage to make the video on my older laptop. Below is the end result.

There’s a long instrumental intro… but it’s a short video.

It was sheer luck that his wiggly butt matched the tempo of the song. It was hard to manipulate the clips on the laptop, since I don’t have a magic mouse for it. I need to research how to fix the settings on my computer so I don’t have the same issue adding clips to my videos on the desktop machine in the future. I think it has something to do with permissions. Whatever it is, it’s a highly annoying problem, especially when I just want to make a quick video without a lot of fuss. I wish I were more of a technical guru.

Here’s a fun factoid. Noyzi loves watching videos, especially if they have any type of animal in it. He will watch animals of any species whatsoever, but he especially likes watching other dogs. When I played the animated version of “He’s a Tramp” just to hear how Peggy Lee did it, Noyzi came in and stood next to me. He was watching the video of Peg, the shelter dog, singing about the Tramp who broke doggy hearts with no compunction.

I wouldn’t say our Noyzi is really a “tramp”. He’s actually the best behaved dog we’ve ever had, in spite of his being a “street dog”. He’s clean and very quiet, and never has accidents in the house. He doesn’t get into the trash or break into the basement. Most of the time, I barely know he’s here. He loves people, car rides, other dogs, and seeing and doing new things, and he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. I just thought his cute little tail wag would be perfect for that song! And it gave me an excuse not to put on makeup for my weekly music video.

By the way… my guitar playing is coming along. I might even be ready to do a guitar video soon. I just have to iron out some technical issues first.

Hessen, Sundays

Noyzi visits his SECOND Biergarten…

We had such beautiful weather, yesterday, that we just couldn’t abide staying home. But, once again, it was later in the day when we decided to go out for awhile. I started throwing out suggestions of places that were an hour or so away from our house, but then we wondered about Noyzi, who has become very fond of coming with us when we go out somewhere. Bill then remembered a Biergarten located near us that we’d never been to previously. His good friend from work had been there and recommended it, and Google said it was just 13 minutes away by car.

I was sold on that suggestion, so we headed out to Hockenberger Mühle, a restaurant and Biergarten about seven kilometers north of us. Noyzi was all too thrilled to jump up into the back of the Volvo. It’s funny how we used to have to pick him up and put him in. Now, he just leaps in with no problem.

When we got to the Biergarten, we found it very well populated with people who were wise enough to make reservations. Nevertheless, we were able to score a parking spot in a small field across the two lane road approaching the restaurant. The Hockenberger Mühle was tucked away in a corner, with the Biergarten mostly covered by a permanent roof and/or large umbrellas.

An obviously hardworking man seated us with another couple, who turned out to be good company. They had arrived at the Biergarten, courtesy of their bikes. The male half of the couple had taken a nasty spill before their arrival, and had a pretty banged up looking leg. Nevertheless, they were very friendly and talkative, and quite tolerant of Noyzi, who was nervously looking around and occasionally barking. We explained to the couple that Noyzi is a street dog from Kosovo and he’s still learning how to act in public. They were understanding and told us about friends of theirs who had adopted a dog from Romania. That seems to be the “in” thing to do in Germany, these days. I would be happy to adopt a more local dog myself, but the shelters don’t seem to want to let Americans affiliated with the military adopt, thanks to some of the irresponsible actions of our countrymen.

The Biergarten was very busy, and there were many bikers, as there is a bike trail nearby. I also noticed several large, well dressed families who looked like they might have just come from church. The German couple who were sharing the table with us said it looked like maybe some of the kids with them had just had their first communions.

Bill decided to have a tuna salad. I had a Schnitzel and fries. Ordinarily, I might have opted for something less fried, but I was preoccupied with Noyzi and didn’t have the chance to study the menu more carefully. I do like Schnitzels on occasion, but they’re kind of entry level. Oftentimes, I can’t finish them, although I managed to do it yesterday. Bill had a Dunkelweizen beer, and I had my usual Hefeweizen.

After the biker couple departed, we had some time alone at the table. A couple more people showed up with big dogs, both of which were better behaved than Noyzi was (although he really wasn’t bad at all). We did get a few side eyes from some folks. One guy was at the table next to us and kept giving me looks, but I noticed he could barely keep his food in his mouth and he smoked several cigarettes. So, I guess we’re about even, in terms of table manners. 😀

I went looking for the ladies room and stumbled across the restaurant’s playground for kids, plus more tables, which were all occupied. Bill called for the check, but it took awhile for them to bring it to us. Meanwhile, we were joined by more bikers– this time, it was a gay male couple. They were nice enough, but I did think it was funny that they asked if we were there on vacation. I mean, there we were with our big ass street dog… Did they think we flew him over to Germany for a week’s break? They knew where we lived when we explained we live in Breckenheim.

Then, when Bill went to pay the check, he got the numbers mixed up and tried to give the server way more money than she needed. She protested, and after Bill finally got the check paid, one of the men said, “In Germany, a ten percent tip is enough.”

I kind of stifled a laugh and said, “Oh, we know not to tip like Americans here… ”

I don’t think the guy realized what had happened. Bill thought the bill said 53 euros, when it was 35. Anyway, after that little cultural exchange, we were feeling ready to go home to the peace and quiet of our backyard. Noyzi did reasonably well, although he’s still pretty nervous in public. Every time we take him out, though, he gets a little bit better. Plus, he’s a great ice breaker.

We would love to go back to that Biergarten some other time, or maybe eat in the restaurant, which looked pretty charming. Next time, we’ll make a reservation, though, if the weather is fine.

Here are some photos from our brief excursion… A couple were taken in the pretty countryside near our house. We don’t have nearly as much pretty country where we are now, but there’s a little bit to satisfy the part of me that really misses horses. There are also some really cute little villages to drive through, but they are so congested!


Noyzi makes new friends at the wine stand!

Here’s a very quick post about last night’s wine stand, which was blessed with sunshine and relatively warm temperatures (for a change). Recently, we’ve been bringing Noyzi, the Kosovar wonderdog, to the wine stands. We hope to get him a little more socialized and used to crowds, noise, and people.

Noyzi has made a lot of progress since we adopted him in October 2020. When we first got Noyzi, he was afraid of most people, especially men. Now, he’s still a little nervous and skittish, but he clearly loves people and wants to interact. And he’s very gentle– not a single aggressive bone lies in his massive doggie body.

We probably would have gone to the wine stand last night, no matter what, but we did have a good reason to celebrate last night. Bill got a very nice raise yesterday. He gets them yearly, but this year, it was double the size of last year’s raise. So we definitely raised a glass or two to that.

We got to tell Noyzi’s story to a German couple who were intrigued by him. They spoke a little English, we spoke even less German, but we still managed to bond over our street dogs. It turned out the couple has one, too. I think they said theirs was from Romania.

Noyzi was pretty fidgety at the wine stand last night, but a quick walk around the Dorfplatz helped him calm down a bit. I think by the end of the summer, the wine stand will be old hat to Noyzi and he will be much better in public places. After about an hour, he was settling down enough that I thought he might even lie down, but we never quite made it to that point.

We met another guy with his big brown dog, Sam. Noyzi and Sam hit it off famously. As we were leaving, Noyzi made a point of saying goodbye to his new canine village friend. One thing that makes Noyzi good at the wine stand is that he’s relatively quiet. We seldom brought Zane and Arran to these events because they were both pretty loud and obnoxious, and they had each other to hang out with. Noyzi is a totally different kind of dog, and I think he will eventually become really good at these gatherings.

Below are a few photos from our excursion to the Dorfplatz… I also included a couple I took yesterday morning on our walk.

And here are a couple of short videos… One is of Noyzi as we were about to go to the wine stand, and the other is of our very full village brook, which is really rushing right now. I suspect that pretty soon, the heavy rain will stop, and the creek will be much shallower and slower.

Noyzi used to be afraid of leashes and Bill. Now he loves both, and enjoys excursions. He likes people and other dogs, too, even if he is a bit nervous.
The creek is FULL. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this high.

Our International Thanksgiving…

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.


When neighbor dogs don’t want to social distance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Arran showing off his junk.

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

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

Noyzi loves snow, too.

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

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


Noyzi’s first bath!

We took Noyzi and Arran for another walk this morning. Afterwards, we gave them treats, and then it was time for the moment we were dreading. Time to give Noyzi his first bath!

I don’t know if he ever had a bath before he came to our house. Truth be told, though he was a bit stinky when we brought him home, he seems to prefer being clean. I noticed the worst of the doggy odor went away after a few days of being a house dog. Still, he is shedding a lot, and we needed to see how he’d do in the shower. Fortunately, our laundry room has a shower we never use for ourselves. It’s open on two sides, making it perfect for a big boy like Noyzi.

With some effort, we wrangled him into the stall. It wasn’t easy. He went belly to the floor, so we had to pick him up. I couldn’t have done that by myself, because I’m not as strong as I used to be and Noyzi is pretty heavy, though he’s not fat at all. But we finally got him into the shower…

At first, he panicked a bit and tried to escape. But then, once I started rubbing the shampoo into his coat, he relaxed. Obviously, it feels good to get a back scratch and lose some of that undercoat that is currently littering my rugs. After a minute or two of struggling, he relaxed. Pretty soon, I was able to drop the leash and film him. Here’s a video of my metrosexual street dog!

The secret is out. Noyzi is a metro! And I’m really a mom at heart.

He was, by the way, completely perfect on his walk, too. I picked up the harness and leash. After a minute of nervous dancing, he came over and sat on command. I put the harness on him and he took a perfectly calm walk around the neighborhood. Then, he gently accepted a treat afterwards. Arran, on the other hand, demanded one! Arran could learn a few things from our street dog.

Arran at the breakfast table this morning. He was impatiently waiting for us to finish eating so he could lick the bowls…

I continue to be amazed at the leaps Noyzi has made since three weeks ago. Last night, he was even hanging out with us in the living room! It really is rewarding to watch him grow every day. I knew Noyzi was going to be special when I first saw him in a picture. He’s proving me right!


Count the dogs!

This photo was taken sometime in 1996, when I was in the Peace Corps.  I had gone to the northwestern Armenian city of Gyumri, formerly known as Leninakan.  On December 7, 1988, there was a massive earthquake that affected Gyumri.  55,000 people died with many more injured.

I was walking with a friend through Gyumri and didn’t have my camera with me.  He was kind enough to snap this shot and give it to me later.  Lots of street dogs in Armenia get their dinner out of trash cans.  Street dogs were usually kind of mean.  I love dogs, but didn’t enjoy running into most of the street dogs in Armenia.

I don’t know if Gyumri still looks like this.  I hope it’s better by now.  We looked in some of the vacant apartments and could see remnants of peoples’ lives, complete with painted murals on the walls.  It was very surreal.  I know that the Austrians came in and built a village in Gyumri.  It’s weird, because that village looks like it was plucked out of Europe and put in a very incongruous place.

People from Gyumri were said to be the funniest in Armenia with the most developed senses of humor.  It’s hard to laugh about this.  If they managed to, more power to them!

Pictured above is a former five star hotel, Soviet style.  It didn’t fare well in the earthquake, either.  My friend quipped that this area was referred to as “Little Beiruit” by Peace Corps Volunteers who served in that area.

This photo was taken in Gyumri in the summer of 1997, just before I left.  I’m not sure what this once was… but the earthquake truly fucked up this building.

December 7, 1988 means something to me for another reason.  I was 16 years old on that date and when I was in school that day, I learned that a much beloved member of our high school football team had died.  He’d had aplastic anemia that became apparent just after the first game in September.  When they found out his condition, he was sent to NIH (National Institutes of Health) in Bethesda, Maryland for treatment.  Sadly, it failed.  I remember when we were told he had died.  The whole school was silent.  He’d really made an impact.

Little did I know that years later, I’d be in a place where that same day was devastating for other reasons.