holidays

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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