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Arran’s chemo treatment #7…

Last week, Bill kindly volunteered to take Arran in for his chemo treatment. This week, as our appointment was in the morning, it was my turn to take him in. It was cold and wet yesterday, as is pretty common in Germany this time of year, although it’s not as cold here as it tended to get in Jettingen. Anyway, because it was chilly, I decided to wait until after chemo to take the dogs for a walk.

I was surprised when I got to the vet clinic and was invited to sit in the waiting room, especially since there were a couple of people in there. Up until very recently, only one person was allowed to be in there at a time. That meant sitting outside or in the car. But anyway, there were a few of us waiting, all of us masked, of course. I’m sure this is no longer a thing in the United States, at least not at veterinary clinics. Here in Germany, masking is still required at any healthcare facility, to include those that serve pets.

While I was waiting for the vet, a vet tech carried some lady’s dog into the waiting room. She was wearing low rise jeans. I don’t understand this trend, since most people seem to underestimate the sizes of their butts. The tech put the dog on the floor, and in doing so, caused her shirt to ride up, while her pants rode down. I got a view of about two inches of plumber crack… a half moon, if you will. I tried not to react, but again… I don’t understand this particular fashion trend.

The vet called for Arran, and because he was being balky about going into the exam room, the same vet tech picked him up. Arran squawked a protest. She put him on the scale, which revealed that he’s gained a little weight, mainly because he wants to eat all the time, and it’s hard not to give in to his demands. The vet said he doesn’t need to gain weight, but she’d rather him be eating than not, and lymphoma causes patients to go off their food. In early October, Arran kind of quit eating and lost weight. That is definitely NOT a problem now.

Probably because of his crying, the vet did a thorough check to see if his lymph nodes had enlarged. Then she listened to his lungs. I waited to hear bad news, but she didn’t have any. She drew blood, and much to my surprise, Arran didn’t protest at all. After dosing him with his first IV push of Vincristine, we were invited to sit in the same infusion room where Arran got his first chemo treatment in October. Arran usually lies down immediately, but yesterday, he was curious and was sniffing around outside of the door. He didn’t lie down on the bed until it was time for his third push of medication.

The vet told me that Arran’s red blood cell count is still low, but not any lower than it was on previous visits. She invited me to wait for the rest of the blood test results, which would be ready in about ten minutes, or she could call Bill. I decided to wait, since I didn’t have any other pressing business to attend to, and I know sometimes the vet plays phone tag with Bill.

The office was really busy yesterday, and people were coming in and out. One lady who was holding a plastic cage, had what appeared to be a guinea pig. She seemed charmed by Arran, and asked me if he’s a beagle. I answered that he is, although obviously he’s not all beagle. He has a pretty healthy dash of coonhound in him, which is where he gets his spots and cuddly personality. He also has some setter in him, which makes him pretty good at birding.

I am convinced that the hunter who bred Arran’s parents was trying to make the perfect hunting dog. Arran, however, did not make the cut, and wound up surrendered to a veterinarian in North Carolina, who gave him up to Triangle Beagle Rescue. There, he went through a few foster homes, and was adopted and returned by his first family.

It always amazes me when dogs end up with miracles… Arran is perfect for our family, even though he can be cranky and stubborn, and he does things like crap on the floor and raid our pantry if we don’t thoroughly “beagle proof” the house (especially since he’s been on Prednisolone). In spite of that, we’re about to celebrate ten years with him, should he make it to January 12… and it’s plain to see how much he adores us– especially Bill. It’s tough to see him with cancer, but he’s such a fighter, and once we go home from the vet, he’s living his best life.

I’ve noticed that Germans seem fascinated by beagles. When we came here the first time, back in 2007, we had two different beagles with us. At that time, it didn’t seem like there were many beagles here. People would stare when our dogs would bay. Nowadays, it seems like beagles are much more popular in Germany, but they are usually bigger and stockier than my American beagle rescues have been. Of course, Noyzi has no beagle in him at all, and it’s been fascinating to see how he’s different than my hounds have been.

The vet later told us that Arran had a couple of slightly elevated liver and kidney values, but they are expected because of the medications he’s on. We’d love for him to have more red blood cells, but for now, he’s able to live with what he has. And once we got the results, Arran practically sashayed out of the vet’s office and back to our car. He knows which one is ours. I do have to help him get in now, but he can get out on his own, and once we were in the house, he ran around like a puppy, hoping for a cookie or two. He got a walk instead.

I’ve been doing an abbreviated walk route lately, mainly due to the weather and my own laziness. At one point of our normal route, there’s a narrow “Weg”, with dense bushes on either side. We were about a third of the way down the weg, when we encountered a woman with her dog. She stared at us, giving me a clue that she didn’t think the path was big enough for the five of us, so we turned and went back the way we came.

A couple of minutes later, we ran into another woman with what appeared to be a border collie. That dog was lunging and barking, as she repeatedly screamed “Nein!” I crossed to the other side of the street as we passed the lady and her agitated pooch. Finally, as we approached home, our next door neighbor appeared with her labrador, Tommi, who jumped into the back of her station wagon. Noyzi LOVES Tommi, so he jumped out of the car and they started to play. Our neighbor had carrots, so I correctly assumed she was going to go see her horse. I miss having a horse, but not on cold, foggy, wet days…

I do believe that if Noyzi and Tommi had a big backyard to play in, they would wear each other out!

Arran is hanging in there… and Noyzi has definitely developed a love of YouTube. Especially when I watch dog shows. He was enchanted by the Purina National Dog Show, where we managed to catch the toy dog division. I think Noyzi is pretty fancy for a street dog. He’s definitely well behaved and stealthy!

So ends another week of canine chemo treatment for our dear, brave, saucy Arran. He’s amazing.

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Health

Chemo treatment number five!

Here’s a short Veteran’s Day post to update everyone about Arran. He had his fifth infusion of Vincristine yesterday. We also got the first bill for his first two treatments on October 13th and October 20th. I thought some readers might be interested in knowing what chemo for dogs costs in Germany.

Arran is still doing very well. We took a short walk yesterday, mainly because I had things I needed to do. On Wednesday, he demanded a longer walk. When I told the vet, she was delighted to hear it. He also gained a little weight last week, because we gave him a little more food. Last week, he had lost weight, and the vet said he wasn’t too skinny, but seeing him lose weight worried her a little. But his weight loss isn’t because he doesn’t want to eat. On the contrary, he wakes us up in the middle of the night and insists on eating. So, when he gained a little weight, we showed that he can gain weight, which the vet was glad about, although he doesn’t need to for health reasons.

She did a blood test that indicates that he’s making improvements internally. His red blood cell count is still low, but it’s higher than it was in the previous weeks. He is not in remission yet, but he’s definitely much better than he was a month ago. And, like I’ve said, our goal is to get him to January, and his tenth year with us. Whatever else he gets is “gravy”.

Below are two photos from yesterday…

He looks a bit more relaxed this week. Arran shrieked once when the vet put in the catheter, but she was very pleased by how well he tolerates the treatments, which last about 30 minutes. Sure, he’d rather be somewhere else for those 30 minutes, but once they’re over, he can take walks, eat, play with his toys, and catch peanuts, like he did last night…

He’s feeling much better now!

I also want to share the bill we got yesterday. I posted it on Facebook and shocked my friends! In the USA, this would have been much, much higher.

This bill is equal to about $285.14 in US dollars, since the dollar and euro are about equal in value right now. It covers two IV push treatments of Vincristine, 20 Endoxan tablets (another chemo drug), 20 Prednisolone tablets (20 mg), 40 Prednisolone tablets (5 mg), two blood tests, catheterization, hygiene, and 19 percent tax. The tax we could get refunded, since we are Americans here on SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) status, as opposed to being “regular residents”. All we have to do is turn in a VAT form (value added tax) to omit the taxes (45 euros). I’m not sure if we’ll bother.

Since this bill was tallied, he’s had three more treatments. I predict the bill is still under 1000 euros. It’s crazy that veterinary and other medical care in the United States is so expensive. However, I am really glad Arran is able to access this treatment now. He’s still very sharp and wants to live, and this treatment is giving him the chance at a good quality of life for however long he has left.

Well… Bill has called me to breakfast, so off I go. I think we’ll have a nice holiday weekend!

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Health

Canine chemo treatment number four…

Yesterday started out sunny and pleasant, but later became overcast and a little depressing. I took the dogs for a walk, noticing that some kind of event was going on at the local church. A lot of people were dressed in black. I wondered if maybe there was a funeral going on, even though our town has a cemetery with a chapel.

It was Thursday, which meant that Arran had a chemo appointment in the afternoon. It was his fourth. Arran has been doing surprisingly well with the lymphoma treatments. He willingly scarfs down his medications, mainly because he’s always hungry due to the steroids, and because I wrap the pills in yummy things like chicken, peanut butter, or beef.

Arran and I got the vet’s office early and met a couple of local ladies who thought he was adorable. They asked me many questions, and we were hampered by our masks and our mutually terrible German/English skills. That is, they spoke perfect German and limited English, and I speak perfect English, and very limited German. But I did manage to tell them a little about Arran, and one of the ladies told me about her dog, who is 12 years old and was evidently at home.

My dog was totally eating up the attention, trembling a little either due to nerves, or the slightly chilly weather… or maybe both. He willingly went to the ladies, and enjoyed being the center of attention as they called him “Schatzi” and petted him. He’s still such a gorgeous dog, with a beautiful, lush, thick, glossy coat. But he’s also clearly an elderly gent.

For a moment, I wondered if I should tell them why we were there, but then realized that people can be judgmental about dogs getting cancer treatments, especially when they’re as old as Arran obviously is.

I will admit that Arran did look a little sad and scared at the vet’s office, and maybe some folks might think it’s wrong for him to be subjected to cancer treatments. What other people don’t see, though, is the way Arran is the rest of the time, when he’s not at the vet’s office. They wouldn’t have seen him jumping excitedly when I held up the dog “seatbelt” before we left the house, or dancing around for his food, or on his morning walk, when he wanted to go the long way… They wouldn’t have seen him giving me sweet beagle kisses at the table, or snuggling with Bill. Obviously, Arran isn’t sorry to be alive.

In the end, I decided to keep my mouth shut. It wasn’t their business, anyway…

Before long, the vet called us into her office in Haus B, where we had the conversation about Arran’s slimmer physique. She drew some blood, then inserted the catheter and gave him his first dose. Then, we went back to a chair where she had set up a bed for Arran. He laid down and, just like a champ, took the next two IV push infusions. Half an hour later, we were done. Arran was happy to get into the car and go home, where he enjoyed his evening rations and a nap before his favorite person came home from work.

In the past few weeks, Arran has lost a couple of kilos, which he could easily afford to do. He gained a lot of weight during the lockdowns and was, at one point, up to about 19 kilos. Now he’s getting back to his fighting weight, but I think we’re going to either get him regular food, or feed him more of his senior food. Last week, he weighed 17.6 kilos– down from 17.8 the week prior, and yesterday, he was 17.2 kilos.

The vet asked if he was eating. I said, “Yes! He constantly wants to eat. Should I feed him more?” She said no, that he’s not too skinny yet. I guess the disease and the treatments are making him use more calories. That, and he’s moving more, because he’s not so lethargic.

Arran is still not obviously suffering from the treatments. Yes, he wants to eat all the time, but that was also true before he got sick. The one change is that now he’s more insistent, and he gets us up in the middle of the night because he’s hungry. This morning, he woke us at 2:30am. He wanted some of our breakfast a little later, too. Now, he’s gone back to bed, as I listen to a classic jazz song and wonder if I should try to record it.

I love fall. I like to savor these cozy days. Especially since I know that our time with sweet Arran is growing shorter. But I can’t say that I’m sorry we’re giving him this extra time. I think he’s grateful for this time, because he’s still engaged with life. I don’t regret treating him. I know that if we hadn’t done this, by now he would already be a memory.

Below are a few photos of Arran taken during her chemo treatment… This represents about a half an hour of his week. The rest of the time, he’s decidedly more cheerful and cute, as he appears in the last photo, sitting on the bench of our table. Two weeks ago, he couldn’t jump up there by himself. Now, he can jump up there, and on our bed, where he’s gone back to sleeping.

He’s not done fighting yet. So we’re going to help him for as long as he wants to fight.

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Health, markets

Chemo, COVID, and another weekly market…

This week has really flown by. Here it is, Friday morning, and it’s time to write another blog post for my “travel/German living” blog.

Last time I posted, I mentioned that Bill wasn’t feeling well. In that post, I wrote that he was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue from two back to back TDYs, and some kind of respiratory illness that wasn’t COVID. Well, it turned out we were wrong. Bill went to work on Monday, and learned that a couple of his colleagues who had been at the conference in Bavaria had come down with COVID. Since he still wasn’t feeling well himself, Bill decided to test. Sure enough, he had a positive result, so he’s been working from home for the rest of the week.

He’s actually feeling fine now, and never got very sick with the virus. He didn’t have a fever at all, never lost his sense of taste or smell, and aside from some coughing and fatigue, hasn’t been much worse for wear. Yesterday, because he’s over the virus, he took Arran in for his chemo treatment, and we attended the weekly market, although we made sure to stay on the periphery of the crowd. He’s working from home today, too, because his boss told him to, but he’s pretty much recovered from the sickness. I haven’t been sick at all, perhaps because I had COVID myself back in July. While Bill was at the vet’s office, he was masked, as everyone is required to be in any healthcare setting in Germany.

Arran is still doing well with his lymphoma treatment. His blood test didn’t reveal any progress, per se, toward technical remission, but we can see a difference in his energy level. For instance, a few days ago, I was eating a sandwich on my bed, and Arran managed to jump up on the bed by himself. He has pretty much quit doing that lately, but before he got sick, he always slept on our bed. He’s also been jumping up on the bench of our Eckbank Gruppe, which he always did when he was well. I know a lot of people wouldn’t want a dog sitting next to them on a bench or sleeping in bed with them, but for us, it’s a normal thing. I’m just glad Noyzi doesn’t do it, because he’s a lot bigger and hairier.

We had gorgeous weather yesterday for the market, so we went down for about an hour or so. We got some cheese, cold cuts, and beautiful produce. Maybe I’ll make a homemade tomato sauce today and we’ll make lasagne or manicotti. Of course, we also enjoyed some local wines, and waved to our neighbors. I really love the weekly market. I know the markets are common in larger towns, but our little neighborhood is unusually close knit, so the market is intimate and convivial.

Our town manager is always there to oversee everything, too. I think he does a great job. He’s very active on social media, and approachable. This is something we didn’t experience when we lived near Stuttgart. I didn’t know who the town managers were in our previous neighborhoods, nor did we have weekly events like we do in Breckenheim. But then, I don’t know if what we have in Breckenheim is the norm for the Wiesbaden area, either. I’ve noticed there’s been an uptick in events here just over the last year or so, but then, we did have to deal with COVID restrictions. Anyway, Bill and I both really like that they do these events here, and we have enjoyed meeting some of the locals with whom we share space.

Below are some photos from this week. First, are a few shots of our Arran, who is obviously feeling much better. Bill asked about the bill for his treatment so far, and the vet said there’s no pressure to settle up at this point. As Americans, we are allowed to use a “VAT” form, which exempts us from having to pay local taxes for the treatment. Whether or not to accept VAT forms is voluntary on the part of local merchants, since it involves paperwork for them. But it sure is nice for us when they do that, especially for expensive things like non-routine veterinary care, or big purchases like furniture.

This week, I read an article in the Washington Post about a woman who got expensive cancer treatment for her dog. She got a lot of rude comments from people, which I ranted about. Last night, she left me a very nice comment on my post, which you can read here. In any case, so far Arran is doing well, and we’ve been enjoying some priceless time with him. I also don’t expect that his care will cost as much as it would in the United States. As soon as we have a bill, I will confirm or deny that expectation for the curious.

And here are some shots from the market… Someone had some heavenly smelling bread. It smelled like garlic bread. I never did find the source, but they were also selling waffles with powdered sugar that reminded me of the early 90s, when I worked at Busch Gardens making waffle cones. I worked in “Germany”, and wore a dirndl. Little did I know what the future would hold.

Bill found some lovely Italian cheeses and cold cuts, as well as gorgeous, colorful produce… but I was there for the wine.

For some reason, the editor isn’t letting me put comments on the photos… Luckily, most of them are self explanatory. I did notice the Gastatte sign for the first time yesterday. Breckenheim has little signs on its historic buildings, as well as “stumbling stones” (Stolpersteine), placed in honor of local Jewish people who were victims of the Holocaust. The stones are now making appearances all over Europe. You can search my blog for more information on those.

Since Bill is feeling better, maybe we can get out of the house this weekend. We do have plans to carve pumpkins for Halloween this year, since we have new German neighbors with small children who requested it. I’ll post about that when the time comes. 😉

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Uncategorized

Arran’s second round of German style chemo… So far, so good!

As I wrote on my main blog yesterday, I was kind of dreading yesterday. When we still had Zane, I took him to the vet all the time for allergy shots. It got to be quite a grind, which I found kind of nervewracking. That was when we still lived near Stuttgart, and our vet was a several miles away. It wasn’t a big deal to drive there, obviously, though I don’t do a lot of driving anymore. I’m not sure why I’m like this now. Before I got married, I used to drive all the time. But then I got sucked into this stay at home wife gig, and I don’t get out much anymore. It’s not because I can’t go out, though… more like I choose not to. So, having to drive Arran the very short (even shorter) distance to the vet is kind of anxiety producing, especially in the COVID era.

I made a point of not getting to the vet too early yesterday. Noyzi demanded a walk, so I gave them one. Then I put Arran in his “seatbelt” harness and loaded him into the Volvo. Ordinarily, I would have driven my Mini, but it’s parked in the garage, and accessing it would mean moving the Volvo out of the driveway and getting my car out. And while Arran fits fine in the tiny back seat, getting him in the car when he’s mobility challenged, and there are only two doors, isn’t that easy. It’s a lot simpler to put him in the Volvo, since he doesn’t have to crawl over the driver’s seat to get in the backseat. I no longer have the upper body strength to simply drop the top and put him over the car door. There’s also a concrete barrier on our driveway that makes it harder to access the backseat.

We got to the vet at about fifteen minutes before our 11:00am appointment. I picked up a beeper from the receptionist and sat in the car with Arran until it went off. It was noticeably chillier this week than it was last week, although the skies were as overcast. Arran slowly ambled into Haus B, a part of the vet clinic I had never been in before. Arran’s regular vet wasn’t in this week, so another vet gave him his treatment. I liked her. Weirdly enough, she kind of reminded me of Mick Jagger. No, not necessarily because of her looks, but more in the way she carried herself. And her face and coloring bears a slight resemblance to his. I know that’s a weird observation, but I don’t mean it as a put down. I think Mick Jagger is an amazing force of nature! Anyway, she seemed somewhat easier to talk to, and less rushed. I don’t really know the vets at our office well, because Bill is the one who usually takes the dogs. But since Arran is getting chemo, I guess I’ll be getting to know them better.

The vet drew some blood to make sure Arran would be medically able to tolerate the chemo. After a few minutes, she showed me the results. Arran’s red blood cell count is still low, but his reticulocytes– immature red blood cells– are on the rise. That means that his body is responding to the anemia and making more red blood cells. In the meantime, “young” cells are being released into his bloodstream. This is a good finding, because it means that his bone marrow is still functioning and trying to repair itself. If there weren’t more reticulocytes being released, that would mean his body wasn’t responding and had “given up”– aplastic anemia. I’m sure in the short term, it would mean he’d need a blood transfusion and in the slightly longer term, it would mean he was on his way to the Rainbow Bridge.

After the happy news that Arran’s regular vet’s fears that his bone marrow was irreparably damaged (she had communicated this in an email to Bill) was incorrect, Arran got his second IV push of Vincristine. Haus B is a slightly less “house like” environment than the main office is, so I sat in an area next to a window and watched as many people brought their dogs for treatment. Dr. Konrad Blendinger, the man who, with his veterinarian wife, owns the practice is a vet who does highly specialized reproductive medicine for dogs. He mostly only sees dogs who are being bred, and it looked like some of his patients were waiting for him yesterday in Haus B. It was the first time I’d ever seen him in person, although I have seen him performing music in locally produced videos. I’ve noticed that part of German culture is having hobbies, and music is apparently one of his! We have that in common.

Arran was pretty calm during the chemo. He laid on his side and took the drugs like a champ, only managed to pull the cap off the port, which wasn’t a big deal. The female “Jagger” vet expressed mock dismay, then covered up the port until she was ready to administer the medication. After an hour or so, we were finished, and I loaded Arran into the car, asked for a bill (which wasn’t yet ready), and drove home. Bill came home a few hours later, and they had a lovely reunion!

The dogs were so happy to see Bill, as was I!

Arran has responded very well to the treatment so far. His lymph nodes have gone down; he’s stopped coughing and gasping; his poops are mostly very normal; and he’s eating like an Olympic athlete. He still can’t jump on the bed, but he clearly feels much better. We still don’t know how much this will cost, but it’s been so nice to see Arran behaving more like himself. To be very honest, I think if we hadn’t started treatment last week, he might not be here today. The disease was definitely starting to progress. My main goal was to make sure Arran wouldn’t die without Bill– his favorite person– by his side. Now, it looks like that will be what happens, but we aren’t sure when. But then, that would be true for anyone, wouldn’t it? As this week’s events in Ukraine have shown us, one never knows when death will occur.

Anyway, we’re just going to enjoy this time, and do what we can for our sweet Arran. I think this experience will teach us a lot, not just about canine cancer, but about cancer in general. The drugs he takes are the same as what many humans take when they have cancer.

Not to leave out Noyzi, below is a video I made of him reacting to The Handmaid’s Tale, as Serena had her baby. He was very curious and empathetic. Noyzi is a true gentle giant.

Noyzi is a big, sweet, Balkan goofball.

And a couple of photos of our regal Kosovar rescue, Noyzi, who is now living his best life in Germany. He sure has come a long way!

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Health

German style chemotherapy!

Before I get accused of posting “clickbait”, I want to make it clear that this post is not about Bill or me. It’s about our elderly beagle mix, Arran, who was recently diagnosed with B cell lymphoma. I’ve been posting up to the minute updates on my main blog, but I wanted to post here for those who hit this blog because they’re specifically looking for information about life in Germany. I have a very different “audience” for this blog, although it seems like most of my readers come here to read about our trips to the nude spas. 😉

A week ago, I posted about how we were trying to arrange chemo for Arran to treat his cancer. Originally, we thought we’d rather just make him comfortable, because he’s already about 13 or 14 years old. We thought the vet would just prescribe prednisone or prednisolone for him, to help ease the symptoms of the lymphoma. For some reason, the vet said they didn’t usually do that. Then I noticed that Arran didn’t seem ready to go to the Rainbow Bridge. He was still pretty active, and B cell lymphoma supposedly responds to treatment better than T cell lymphoma does. I was also curious about canine chemo, since Arran is our fourth dog to have cancer and our second to have lymphoma. Our first lymphoma casualty was Zane, who died just one week post diagnosis.

Bill finally got ahold of the vet on Monday, and she ordered the necessary drugs for Arran. He’s been at Grafenwoehr all week, on a business trip. He will be gone again this coming week. I was very worried that Arran would get much sicker and die while Bill was gone. Everything I’ve read on the Internet tells me that Arran should have already died by now. But, as I’ve explained many times, Arran is a real fighter, and he’s not ready to go yet.

I brought Arran to the office on Thursday at 3:00, but had to stop by on Wednesday to get analgesics for him, as his lymph nodes had gotten so large that he was having trouble moving without pain. In Germany, COVID restrictions have been relaxed almost everywhere, except in doctors’ offices and other healthcare delivery facilities, and on trains and busses. So when we arrived on Thursday, I had to wait for the clinic to open, then get a beeper and wait outside to be called. I was the first one there, because I really wanted to get the appointment over with. I hate afternoon vet appointments. I find them exhausting. I’d rather go to the vet in the morning, so it’s done. When we had Zane, I was constantly taking him to the vet for allergy shots, so this is a familiar routine for me, except for the face masks, which are still required in doctors’ offices.

Arran went into the exam room and the vet quickly put in a catheter, then drew some blood. She later told us he was a bit anemic, which was concerning to her, although not all that uncommon for lymphoma patients. She told us to bring him in if he was in pain, short of breath, or had pale gums. Then she administered the first of several syringe vials of diluted Vincristine, which is a chemo drug. She explained the rest of the protocol to me and even printed out a schedule. Arran will come back for another dose of Vincristine on Thursday of the coming week. At home, he will get Prednisolone and Endoxan (known as Cytoxan in the US). The Endoxan is a chemo drug in pill form, and I’m supposed to wear gloves when I give it to him, and when I clean up his waste.

The vet asked about my schedule. I told her the only thing we have planned is for November 16th through the 20th. The 16th is our 20th wedding anniversary, so we are planning a trip to Ribeauville, France. The dogs will be coming with us. We have been to Ribeauville a bunch of times and have stayed in the apartment we rented several times. The owner is very dog friendly, so I feel comfortable in going there with the boys. I don’t care if we just sit there and drink wine and eat macaroons and madeleines. I would have liked to have planned something grander for the occasion, but there will be time for that later, when the chemo sessions are over. The effects of chemo, unfortunately, are temporary. But they will hopefully buy us some time.

After the first dose of Vincristine, we moved to an infusion room– a tiny little booth with chairs and an IV stand in it. It looked like the room had been built on to the side of the building, as there was a sconce on the wall that was obviously originally meant for outdoors. I thought maybe Arran would get an IV bag, but they used more syringes. It was surprisingly easy.

About an hour later, we were finished, and Arran culminated the treatment by releasing a rancid fart. Thankfully, the tiny room had a window in it. The receptionist said we could pay next week, since the vet had to ask the owner of the practice how much the treatment would cost. We aren’t too concerned about the money, because vet care is cheaper here than it is in the US, and because we actually have the money to spend. Living in Germany has been surprisingly lucrative for us.

When we got home, Arran, who had been obviously ailing before the appointment, actually wanted his dinner. Much to my surprise, he willingly ate kibble for the first time in over a week. I had been giving him chicken all week, and he’d had a little bit of bloody diarrhea. I was a little worried about how he’d handle the chemo, but he just ate his dinner and went to bed. I had put a blanket on the floor, and he made a bed and fell fast asleep.

At about 1:00am, he woke me up, because he needed to pee. I let him out, and he wanted a snack. I gave him a little more kibble, and we went back to bed until 4:00am, when he needed to pee again. Then, at 6:00am, I got up and made coffee. Both dogs came down to the kitchen for their breakfast. Again, this was a change, because for the past few weeks, Arran has been increasingly reluctant to rise in the mornings, and hasn’t been wanting to eat his breakfast. But on Friday morning, it was like old times. Because it was raining, we didn’t go for a walk yesterday. However, he was obviously feeling much better. His lymph nodes shrank noticeably, and he was eager to eat. He never managed to jump up on the bed by himself, but he didn’t cry when I helped him up, as he did on Wednesday.

By Friday afternoon, Arran was looking really good. All week, he’d been waiting in the foyer, hoping Bill would come home. Bill has been away on business all week, though, so Arran would be left disappointed. Last night, Bill came home, and I got a video of the reunion. I would say it was worth the price of the chemo for that alone. If you look carefully at the featured photo, you can see that Arran’s lymph nodes in his hind legs are swollen. Those nodes have now shrunk significantly. One is no longer detectable, and the other is about half as big as it was. I gave him more Endoxan and Prednisolone today. These are the same drugs often used for humans, but in veterinary medicine, they are given in much smaller doses. The goal is preserve quality of life, rather than curing the disease. Even if we cured Arran, he’s old enough that he could die of natural causes, anyway. So far, we haven’t observed any truly bad side effects from the drugs, although they can and do cause side effects for some dogs.

What a change! This was taken last night. He’s obviously feeling a lot better.
He was so happy to see Bill!

There is a high speed animal hospital near us called Tierklinik Hofheim. I’ve mentioned it a few times, and we have used it for Zane and Arran, although Noyzi hasn’t been there yet. They have an oncology department. If Arran had a more complicated case, or was much younger, I’d probably take him there for treatment. They have the ability to get test results faster than our regular vet does, and they no doubt have a lot more experience with treating cancer. But, again, Arran is already an old guy, so we’re not inclined to be heroic. We just want to get him to a point at which we can both be with him when he’s ready to shove off of the mortal coil. If he can make it to January, and celebrate ten years with us, that would be icing on the cake. Many dogs who get chemo for B cell lymphoma survive for a year. I’m not sure that will happen for Arran, due to his age, and the fact that his treatment was a bit delayed.

I’m not sure if we have any plans for the rest of the day. The weather is pretty crappy today. It’s raining, although it’s not cold outside. So this will probably do it for today’s activities… I’ve already spent time on the phone talking to USAA again, because they declined a charge Bill and I both tried to make to pay for Ribeauville. Calling USAA is always an annoying experience, especially since the lady I spoke to answered the phone as if someone spiked her oatmeal with crack, or something. But, as I’m writing this, the doorbell rang, probably with the latex gloves I ordered. Arran barked, and hurried down the stairs, as if cancer had never darkened his door. So I’d say that so far, Arran is doing very well. It’s very nice to see!

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markets

Our neighborhood market is growing!

Bill came home a little bit early yesterday so we could visit our weekly market, which started at the beginning of September. We decided to go down there and see what we could find. I was impressed by how much was being offered. The first market only had four vendors, if I recall correctly. This time, there were at least twice as many trucks with different foods on offer– meat, fish, produce, apple most and wines, ice cream, and an awesome Middle Eastern Feinkost with lots of treats from Turkey, Lebanon, and Italy. Of course, there was also wine on offer.

We decided to leave the dogs at home. Arran is ailing, and Noyzi gets too nervous around people he doesn’t know well. That was a good decision, since there were a lot of people at the market last night, and some folks brought their much better trained dogs with them. Besides, it’s hard to enjoy drinking wine when you’re holding two leashes.

Below are some photos from yesterday’s trip to the Dorfplatz. The market in Breckenheim runs from 1-6pm every Thursday.

When we got home, Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see us. I videoed their welcome. Arran seems to be feeling okay, most of the time. Today, he’s going to the vet for a biopsy, while Noyzi gets a much needed dental.

The boys welcome us home after an hour at the market.

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Uncategorized

Another gloomy weekend in Germany…

We’re now at that time of year when Germany’s weather gets much less predictable. Today, the temperature is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s kind of overcast and rainy. It was sort of like that yesterday, too, although the sun did appear for a brief period in the afternoon. I tried to sit outside, but it was too windy to enjoy the sunshine, so back into the house I went.

Ordinarily, yucky weather wouldn’t necessarily keep us homebound, but we also decided to stay home because we’re a bit concerned about Arran. I mentioned in a few recent posts that he hasn’t been himself lately. A week ago, I discovered enlarged lymph nodes in his popliteal glands behind his knees (back legs). I immediately became concerned about lymphoma, which is the dreaded cancer that took our dog, Zane, in 2019. Bill took Arran in to see the vet last week, because besides the lymph nodes, Arran also had a few pesky fleas, which he picked up from the hedgehog who has been residing in our backyard.

The vet did a fine needle aspirate, and at this point, we still haven’t gotten the results. She also put him on antibiotics, which he’ll finish today. I would say he had a partial response to the antibiotics. The lymph nodes are still large, but Arran did seem to feel somewhat less lethargic. We treated him for the fleas, and I washed everything in sight, and that seems to have gotten rid of them for now. I just have a bad feeling that he has cancer. It might or might not be lymphoma. If it is lymphoma, it’s not like it was for Zane, who seemed to have a very aggressive case of it. He died exactly one week after he was diagnosed. Arran, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be ailing much, other than being a little slower to eat his breakfast, quicker to tire on his walks, and slightly less spry when he jumps up on the bed.

The dogs are due to get dentals next week, and if Arran is still with us, he’ll probably get a biopsy. Bill and I talked about it last night, and I think we agree that whatever we do for Arran will be conservative, because he’s about 14 years old. That is the human equivalent as a man in his 90s. Canine lymphoma is treatable, but it’s not curable. As sad as it was to lose Zane, though, his was the easiest of our canine deaths. He had a good last week. If that is what’s in store for Arran, I wouldn’t object.

On the other hand, it’s possible this is an infection and the antibiotics he’s been taking weren’t the right ones to cure it… or it could be another type of cancer. I really don’t know. I hate this part of having animals in my life, but I don’t hate it enough to give them up for good. Anyway, at this point, Arran is still eating, drinking, sleeping, taking walks, and hanging around with us. So this weekend, we decided to give him some more of our time.

Noyzi is also hanging out with us more. He likes to listen to me practice guitar, especially since he knows that when I’m done playing, if Bill isn’t home and hasn’t already taken him out, that means it’s walk time.

One thing that does worry me a bit is that we are due to go to The Black Forest at the end of the month, and we can’t cancel our reservation without having to pay for the stay. I did buy travel insurance with cancel for any reason coverage, but it’s not so easy to get reimbursed by travel insurance. Plus, I really want to go… Yes, we’ll be visiting our dentist, but I would also like to have a change of scenery. We haven’t gone anywhere since June. We’re long overdue for a trip.

I think that like Zane, Arran is going to stay with us for as long as he possibly can. He’s already the oldest dog we’ve had the pleasure of having. All of the others have died younger. He’s a very resilient, spunky dog, and he LOVES Bill so much. So we’ll see what happens. Below are photos that were taken within the past 36 hours or so. As you can see, the boys look fine. But I am still worried about those big lymph nodes.

Edited to add on September 19, 2022… Unfortunately, my concerns were on target. Arran does have lymphoma. So we will be speaking with the vet to determine what to do from this point. I think we are inclined to keep him comfortable for as long as possible, but we’ll see what the vet says.

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customs

The first night of Breckenheim’s very first wine fest!

This year, we seem to be attending so many wine fests! It’s probably on account of COVID-19 restrictions finally going away. October is coming, and there may be new restrictions, based on what the virus does. For now, Germans are having their beloved festivals, and where we live, they’re all about the wine. Remember that we moved to Wiesbaden in late 2018, so we missed the 2018 season. In 2019, it was “normal”, but we were dealing with stress associated with our departure from Stuttgart that put a damper on our spirits. Then came 2020 and 2021, and fests were significantly reduced. In 2022, things have rebounded a lot.

Our little town of Breckenheim is up and coming. We just got a weekly market, which started last week, probably to justify the installation of the new public toilet (which I got to use last night). This week, had a market AND a wine fest. I anticipate that there will be a lot more socializing in our village, and it’s a great thing. I’ve stated more than once how much we have enjoyed how convivial Breckenheim is. It’s a very different, friendly, mostly inclusive vibe here that helps to make up for losing the awesome beauty of the Schwarzwald in our backyard.

Bill came home from his latest business trip yesterday afternoon. He took Arran to the vet, because he’s been a little “off” lately, plus his run ins with the hedgehog in our backyard resulted in his getting fleas. Hedgehog fleas apparently don’t infest dogs and cats like regular fleas do, but they do bite. I noticed Arran had swollen popliteal lymph nodes, too. So he got a fine needle aspirate, antibiotics, and flea meds. One of the fleas was kind enough to jump off of Arran when he was being examined. Bill said the vet, two techs, and he all worked together to corral the nasty beast so it can be studied under a microscope. I’m hoping that whatever has Arran acting odd will turn out to be related to the fleas and isn’t due to cancer. He’s about 14 years old now, and our last three dogs succumbed to cancer. Arran was a little slow this morning, but after he had some breakfast and a walk, he perked up a bit.

The wine fest is going to go on all weekend. We’ll probably go again, because we had so much fun last night. At first, there were a couple of ladies giving us the side eye when they heard us speaking English to another American. Later, our next door neighbor’s mom came over to talk to us. She went over and sat with the ladies, and probably told them we weren’t tourists. Then our landlord bought us a round of wine. And then the young family who is moving to our neighbor’s vacant apartment came over with their kids, and we had a great time chatting with them. I have a feeling they are going to be good friends. They even asked us to carve a jack o’ lantern for Halloween, because they want to celebrate it. I’m happy to do that. I’m not very good at carving pumpkins, though.

Halloween is kind of hit or miss in Germany. One year, during our first stint in Germany, we had people come to our door and we weren’t prepared. Then we weren’t home other years. Bill now picks up candy in case anyone rings the bell, but no one ever does. Looks like this year will be different. This is the same family who brought me a piece of the pretzel the other day. I found out that the mom is half Italian, which explains why she found the Stuttgart area to be less friendly. It’s my experience that Italians are stereotypically a lot warmer– sympatisch— as my Italian friend who lives in Germany would say– than people from Swabia are. At least at first. I’ve found that most Swabians will eventually warm up, once you get to know them. It just usually takes more time than it does up here in Hesse.

We were only going to stay a little while last night, then go home and have dinner, which is why we didn’t try the food vendor’s wares. Instead, we ate a pretzel with Spundekäs, which wasn’t enough… especially considering how much wine we enjoyed. There were maybe four or five wine stands going, plus live music, plenty of seating, and the new toilet, which we learned last night cost taxpayers 120,000 euros or so… No wonder so many people were upset about it and a news guy from the local radio station was asking for opinions last year! But it is a nice facility, at least for now. And it’s Kostenfrei (free of charge), which really makes it special. 😉 I tried the new toilet, but failed to lock it properly. Luckily, I was finished when someone opened the door on me and said, “Entschuldigung!” (excuse me) I suppose I’ll learn the right way to lock the door, now that the village is about to be bustling with events.

Below are some photos from last night’s fun, plus a couple of videos from Bill’s return home.

Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see Bill after his trip. So was I!
Arran had to give his favorite person a hug. I was working on my latest puzzle.

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anecdotes

Another week, another impulse Facebook purchase…

Once again, thanks to the weather and COVID-19, it wasn’t a very exciting week in Deutschland. Even if the pandemic weren’t an issue, I doubt I’d want to go out and about in the gloomy weather that happens every January in this part of Europe. It’s chilly–not particularly cold, which is unusual for Germany in January– and there’s a lot of rain. We had a couple of dustings of snow, but nothing remarkable. The backyard is still a slop pit. Last night, I was cutting pieces of our felled crepe myrtle and feeding them to the fireplace, surprised by how easily they burned, despite being newly cut and not seasoned.

Our landlord usually supplies us with free firewood, but he hasn’t offered any lately and Bill hasn’t requested any. We don’t use the fireplace as often as we probably should… we both love having fires, and we haven’t been lucky enough to live in a lot of places with fireplaces. So far, I count two homes with fireplaces and one with a really awesome masonry heater. Sometimes I wish we could transport this house and its landlord to Baden-Württemberg, where we had snow more often.

Anyway, none of that is either here nor there. Today’s post is about yet another Facebook purchase I made. I don’t usually buy stuff off of Facebook, but one night, I was on the brink of falling asleep, and I saw an ad for the DryMee quick dry bath mat. I was half asleep when I made this purchase decision, and once I made it, I kind of regretted it. The mat cost about 40 euros, after all. And then I noticed how long it would take to get to me– 10 to 15 work days, I think. Why? Because it was coming all the way from China!

But the mat arrived this week, and I have to say, I am pleased with it for one major reason, which you can see by the photo above. The mat is flat and thin enough to fit under the door when it’s open. So now I don’t have to stand on a wet floor after a shower or move a mat there while I’m showering. Also, while I can’t say that the mat is absorbent as it appears to be in the video on the Facebook ad I bought it from, it IS quite absorbent and makes quick work of sucking up the water from the shower.

On the Web site where I bought this mat, it says that they’re running a “New Year’s Special” with 50 percent off the suggested price of 79,90 euros. Well, folks, I think the suggested price is bullshit, and I wouldn’t pay that much for that mat or any other mat, unless it was capable of massaging my feet or something special like that. But for what it is, and what it does, I have to admit I am satisfied. It does what we need it to do, and I am delighted that I can open and close the bathroom door without having to move it.

One thing I also have to mention… When you order stuff from other countries, sometimes you have to pay duties or customs fees. I didn’t have to pay anything for this mat, although I was prepared with some euros just in case. When I made my hasty impulse purchase, I didn’t realize this would be shipped from China. If I had known it was coming from there, I probably would not have bought it… not because I have anything against China per se, but because it takes so long for orders from China to get to us. On the other hand, as I wrote earlier on my main blog this week, I have gotten some real and honest enjoyment out of some Chinese products, like the hat pictured below.

Yes, that is a picture of Mister Rogers with his two middle fingers raised.

Last year, an enterprising Chinese businessperson offered this nifty hat for sale on Amazon.de. And yes, as an impulse buyer, I decided to purchase one. The hat came in handy this week after an encounter with a drunk hoodlum in our neighborhood. You can read about that incident on my main blog, as it’s not PG rated enough for this blog. Kidding about the PG rating… but not about the obnoxious uninvited visitor. I also wrote an update after some of our other neighbors posted about the intruder in our neighborhood Facebook group.

Mister Rogers did this while singing with little kids. Clearly, he wasn’t aware that raising the middle finger is taboo.

I like how community minded Breckenheim is. I was going to cross post that story on this blog, since it needs some love, but I decided that a lot of the people who are currently reading this blog also read the other one. So if you’re not a reader of my main blog, now’s your chance to check it out. I hope it doesn’t offend.

Noyzi the Kosovar rescue dog went to the vet for some routine vaccines. He charmed the vet with his stumpy little natural bobtail, which is always wagging. He becomes more adorable by the week, especially as he trusts Bill more and more. It really is rewarding to have him. Sometimes, a little ghost of Zane (his predecessor) comes out. But Noyzi is very much his own dog with his own personality.

Noyzi does one thing that most of our rescued hounds have never done. I think the one exception was CuCullain (CC), our very first beagle mix (with husky) rescue. That is, Noyzi will often “stand guard”. He will sit or lie next to me, facing the door. CC was a tri-colored beagle mix with bright blue eyes and a horrific husky-like undercoat that shed a lot. But he did have some of those big dog– prey oriented– traits. Sometimes, Noyzi reminds me of him. Like CC, Noyzi also doesn’t bark much, nor is he a licker. He will, however, happily plunge his nose into my ass, especially if I’m bent over. As someone who usually has beagles, this is a strange thing to get used to. All of our dogs have been too short to do such a thing.

The only other major event that came up this week is that our landlord came over to settle the Nebenkosten (other costs– water, gas, etc.) for 2021. Once again, we didn’t use as much water and trash service as we paid for, so we got about 600 euros back. And once again, I am amazed at the differences between this landlord and others we’ve had. It’s so nice to rent from someone who is fair, honest, and treats us with basic respect. I hope we can stay awhile… at least until our stocks recover from the recent plunge. I doubt that will be a problem, given the state of the world today. But I’ve also learned after years as a spouse to a military guy, sometimes Uncle Sam has other plans. Or, barring Uncle Sam’s plans, some meddlesome, narcissistic twit who doesn’t mind upending other people’s lives based on their own whims.

Someday, we WILL travel again. Or we will eat in a restaurant. But for now, so ends another gloomy winter week in Deutschland… as the post Christmas blues slowly wane into the February blues.

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