As of yesterday, our home became a two dog household again. I never thought we’d get there, but we have. This series is about our quest to adopt a dog in Germany, which took us all the way to Slovenia and back over the weekend. Before I write about our travels, I want to offer a quick backstory about our experiences with dogs as a married couple. Please bear with me! It’s all about preserving history.
Bill and I have been dedicated dog rescuers since 2002. I grew up with dogs in rural Gloucester, Virginia, but mostly focused on horses until I went to college. Bill never had dogs, but his mom had many cats when he was growing up. Bill can’t have cats because he’s allergic to them. But he can have dogs, and he is a natural dog “parent”. In May of 2002, I had just finished graduate school at the University of South Carolina and it was time I had a dog in my life again. I told Bill I wanted a beagle. He agreed that sharing our home with a dog would be most acceptable, and beagles have been in our lives ever since.
All of our previous dogs have been beagle mixes of some sort. The first one, blue-eyed CuCullain (CC) was a beagle mixed with husky and he had incredible ice blue eyes. We adopted him in May 2002 and lost him after sixteen months when he contracted Mycobacterium Avium, an extremely rare and fatal disease in dogs.
All the dogs we’ve loved before– CC, MacGregor and Flea, Zane and MacGregor, Zane and Arran, and Jonny, whom we never got to pet.
Next, in November 2003, we adopted a dog named Flea, probably the closest we ever had to a purebred beagle. He was found on the side of a road in Chester County, Virginia, starving, covered with fleas and ticks, and heartworm and Lyme Disease positive. We had Flea for six years, and along with our third rescue, MacGregor, Flea came to Germany with us the first time. We lost him to prostate cancer when he was about twelve years old, two months after we moved to Georgia from Germany.
MacGregor, Flea’s sidekick, was a beagle-basset hound mix who was incredibly smart and funny, but terrified of people he didn’t know. He adored Bill and loved performing on camera. We adopted him in 2004, mainly because Flea badly needed a “second banana”. After a few weeks of “working it out”, Flea and MacGregor became best friends. We loved him for 8.5 years, until he developed a spinal tumor. We said goodbye to MacGregor in Raleigh, North Carolina a week before Christmas 2012, when he was about ten years old. CuCullain, Flea, and MacGregor all came to us from BREW in northern Virginia.
Zane, who was my very special friend, came into our lives a month after after we lost Flea in November 2009. We had just moved to Georgia and he was handed over to Atlanta Beagle Rescue. His first owner had bought him at Petland and said she didn’t have the money to take care of him. Personally, I think she gave him up because she was too busy and he was in his destructive “teen puppy” phase. It took us about six months to turn him into a civilized pet, but once we did, he was an amazing gentleman. Zane was with us for almost ten years until we lost him on August 31, 2019 to lymphoma. He was almost eleven years old when he died. I think Zane was mostly beagle with a dash of Labrador Retriever. He never met a stranger and loved to play. I adored him and was crushed when we lost him.
We got Arran in January 2013, when MacGregor passed. He came from Triangle Beagle Rescue out of Raleigh, North Carolina, and appears to be a mix of beagle and German Shorthaired Pointer. He’s about eleven years old, and he’s sweet, cuddly, emotional, soulful, and very jealous. Bill is his favorite person, as evidenced by the many pictures I’ve shared of him on social media. Arran is a wonderful dog who doesn’t need a “second banana”. But I needed one.
We usually adopt a new dog within a month of losing one. Since we live in Germany now, it’s not as easy for us to adopt dogs. There are a lot of reasons for this. One of the main reasons is because local pet shelters don’t like to allow Americans to have dogs. Too many military folks have abandoned animals in the shelters here, to the point at which they don’t trust us anymore. Some rescues also don’t want to adopt to Americans because there have been cases of adopted animals being abused, abandoned, or neglected. Certainly, not all Americans are abusive to animals, but unfortunately enough of them have been that we all get painted with that broad brush in some parts of Germany. I didn’t want to buy a dog from a breeder, because I know there are so many dogs who need homes. So we waited about six months after losing Zane to try to adopt from a German rescue organization. That attempt to adopt was successful in that the rescue didn’t mind that we were Americans. Unfortunately, it ended with a needless tragedy.
Our brand new canine family member, currently named Noizy, was a much anticipated arrival. Noizy came into our lives in April 2020, a couple of weeks after a dog we tried to adopt escaped before he made it into our house. We were absolutely devastated about what happened to Jonny, the dog who was supposed to join us last March. You might say that, in a weird way, Jonny was a casualty of COVID-19 and extreme negligence. But when he died, he also helped save two canine lives– Noizy, and Max, an elderly cocker spaniel who found himself abandoned at our Tierpension when his owner died. The proprietor offered him to us, but since we had already committed to Noizy, I ended up sharing his story in a local Facebook group and Max was adopted by a teacher at the American school in Wiesbaden. I take comfort in knowing that losing Jonny meant that two dogs got new homes. Still, it was horrible what happened to him.
We were approved to adopt Jonny, a beautiful beagle mix from Sardinia, in mid March 2020, right around the time COVID-19 was getting really bad in Europe. Originally, we planned to drive up to northern Germany to pick him up from his foster family’s house. But before we could make travel plans, the local command issued General Order #1, which forbade us from leaving the Wiesbaden area. We let the rescue know that we couldn’t travel and offered to pay Jonny’s expenses until we could go get him. The rescue wouldn’t agree to that, but proposed that we could pay for a pet taxi to have him brought to us. Long story short, Bill ended up agreeing, and after hasty arrangements were made, Jonny was picked up by a pet taxi and driven to Wiesbaden overnight.
The woman who had brought Jonny to us had driven all night from northern Germany. She was exhausted, having told Bill that she had been driving for seventeen hours. For some reason, she had not properly secured Jonny with so much as a collar and a leash before she took him out of her pet taxi. She put him down on the ground, completely naked, and tried to use a lasso leash on him. The dog backed out of the lasso before it tightened, took off running, and soon found his way to the Autobahn, where he eventually got hit by a car. We were given the terrible news about it the morning after we lost him. The pet rescue found out first, because Jonny had a microchip. I also got contacted by a club in Germany that helps the police inform people of their pets’ deaths. That was weird. Especially since he wasn’t really our pet yet. There’s a club for almost everything in Germany.
Complicating matters was the fact that a couple of people in Bill’s office were sick with COVID-19, and we found out about that the morning Jonny ran away from us. Bill was forced to quarantine just a couple of hours after Jonny escaped. We couldn’t look for him ourselves, but even if we could, he didn’t know us at all. He’d never even so much as sniffed us. We never petted him. I don’t think we would have been able to catch him, even if we could have found him. It was just heartbreaking; he was only about ten feet from our front door when he escaped.
I will never forgot how absolutely horrible that experience was… I definitely learned some lessons from it. In fact, as I type this, Bill is heading to court to testify about what happened to Jonny. The rescue sued the pet taxi driver, who refused to take any responsibility for what happened. (Edited to add: I just learned that at the last minute, the pet taxi driver decided to settle and Bill didn’t even have to be at the courthouse today… so basically, we rushed back to Germany for nothing. Oh well. At least she finally took responsibility. Wish they’d told us sooner.)
Anyway, last spring, I was feeling distraught about the Jonny’s sudden death. Bill and I don’t know how much longer we’ll live in Germany, and it seemed impossible to get another dog. I’d had my heart set on Jonny. Thanks to COVID, my reluctance to buy from a breeder, and German prejudice against Americans adopting dogs from Tierheims (even if it is justified), it seemed like we’d be a single dog household until we eventually depart Germany, and I have no idea when that will be. One day, I posted on Facebook that I really wanted another dog.
Within minutes of my post, my friend Mary sent me a message. She said she could put me in contact with an American woman who rescues dogs. Before I knew it, I was chatting on Facebook with Meg, who had lived in Kosovo, a tiny breakaway nation that was once part of Yugoslavia and is not recognized as its own country everywhere. Meg now lives in Germany, but still has many dogs in Kosovo who need homes. She is very committed to seeing that the dogs she rescues all get the sweet life off of the streets of Kosovo.
My heart was already kind of leaning toward adopting a dog from the East, even before we lost Zane. I have another Facebook friend named Trish who used to live in Stuttgart and was also living there when we had our latest Stuttgart stint. Trish adopted a beautiful female dog from a shelter near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Trish had said her dog, Phoebe, was the “best souvenir ever”. I had watched in delight as she posted pictures of Phoebe, who went from homeless Croatian street dog to beloved canine family member. I was inspired, even if I’m really used to beagles.
Anyway, after establishing contact, Meg sent me pictures of the dogs she had… and when I saw Noizy’s face, he made an immediate impression on my heart. I asked Meg about Noizy and she gave me some of his details. I told Bill about him and shared his story and photos. But we knew it would take awhile before Noizy would be part of our household.
First, he’d need to pass a blood test. Then there would be a four month waiting period after the test. There was also COVID-19 to consider, with borders opening and closing at varying intervals on a weekly basis. COVID-19 also made it temporarily impossible to export Noizy’s blood sample to a veterinary school in Germany, where it would be tested. Planes weren’t flying for awhile in the spring, and that was the only way to get the sample out of Kosovo. I think that logistical hassle added a month to the wait. Then the transportation had to be arranged.
All told, we’ve waited almost six months to bring Noizy home. There were times when it seemed like he’d never get here. Sometimes, I wondered how we were going to coordinate everything to get him to Germany, especially given the COVID-19 situation and the grim news reports about how there will be a second wave.
Noizy arrived last night after a very long, yet whirlwind, two day journey from his homeland. This series I’m going to start today is about that journey. I’m going to include the usual hotel details, as well as what little I got to see of the places we stayed, but this trip wasn’t about sightseeing. It was about expanding our family to a very special dog whom I hope will have a long and happy life with us. I’m sure this is just the first of many stories I’ll have about our new family member, a big dog from a tiny country… who came to us all the way from Kosovo and has already made a home in our hearts.