Schwarzwald

Baiersbronn in the Black Forest– Bareiss Style! Part two

Travel insurance is important for expensive trips!

It’s a good thing that I bought travel insurance for our trip. In the weeks leading up to it, we learned that our older dog, Arran, has lymphoma. We had another dog named Zane who also had lymphoma, and sadly he died just one week after he was diagnosed. In Zane’s case, the cancer appeared while we were vacationing in Scotland back in August 2019, and we had no idea that he was sick. A week after we got home, I felt swollen lymph nodes under his jaws and a week later, he was gone. So naturally, I was worried about how Arran would do while we were gone. We didn’t find out about his lymphoma until canceling would have required us to pay 80% of the cost of the reservation at the Bareiss. Then, we would have been fighting the insurance company. Nevertheless, the thought of canceling did occur to us.

We ultimately decided not to cancel, because Arran is overall healthier than Zane was when he got sick. We also took him to the vet last week and she said she thought he would be okay during our time away. We had a fine needle aspirate done to see what kind of lymphoma Arran has– it doesn’t appear to be as aggressive as Zane’s was. We also knew that since we’d just be in the Schwarzwald, it wouldn’t be a problem to come back and deal with Arran if the need arose. We didn’t get any calls from the Hundepension while we were gone, so we assume he did alright. He has an appointment to see the vet on Wednesday, at which point we’ll determine what can be done to make the rest of his time the most comfortable.

I’m bringing up travel insurance for another reason. A friend of mine from back home in Virginia was fretting the other day because she had booked a cruise, and the area from which the sailing was occurring was affected by Hurricane Ian. She did not buy travel insurance. Fortunately, it didn’t turn out to be necessary; the cruise was delayed, rather than canceled. But she was lamenting about not being “smart enough” to get insurance. I don’t always insure my trips, but I will for expensive hotels that I can’t cancel, and for things like cruises. This trip, being well into the four figures, was expensive for us. So I sprang for the insurance with “cancel for any reason” coverage, just for the peace of mind. I really recommend it, even though it adds an additional cost to the trip. We buy our insurance through USAA, but you can purchase it through many outlets. Be sure to read the reviews before taking the leap! Not all travel insurers are created equally. In fact, given how much service at USAA has been slipping lately, maybe it’s time I re-evaluated getting insured through them. 😉

Edited to add: I am pleased to report that Arran made it through his time at the Hundepension with no issues. He’s home, and delighted to be back with his favorite person, Bill!

Now… on to happier matters!

We decided to start our trip on Wednesday, because our dental visit was scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Downtown Stuttgart is about a 90 minute drive from Baiersbronn, and we didn’t want to be in a situation in which we were arriving late. In retrospect, it would have been okay to arrive on Thursday. I just thought it would be better to be checked in and settled before the dentist visit, especially since we had never been to the Bareiss before and didn’t know how things worked there. Besides, we love luxury hotels, so an extra night is never a hardship.

On the way to the Schwarzwald, we stopped at the Hundepension with Arran and Noyzi. Noyzi was absolutely delighted to be there. He loves the young lady who takes care of him– and young women in general. He also loves to play with other dogs. I expected Arran to be sulky, but he was actually pretty chill. Noyzi practically dragged me to the gate, while Arran moseyed along quietly, touching noses with a few dogs who greeted us on the way in. When we got to the gate, Noyzi literally pounded on it with his paw! He was so excited to see Natasha, the caretaker.

We explained about Arran to Natasha and I asked her to contact us if she had any problems with Arran, since we were only going to be a couple of hours away. Natasha didn’t contact us, so I’m guessing Arran was a slower, finickier version of himself. Bill will go get them in a little while.

Once the dogs were dropped off, we got on the road, stopping at a Rasthof for a bathroom break. Awhile later, we both needed another potty break. Unfortunately, at the second time we needed a break, there weren’t any full service facilities available. Bill decided to pull off at one of the “free” WCs on the side of the Autobahn. Those things are a mixed bag. Sometimes, they’re relatively clean and well maintained. Sometimes, they are something out of a horror show. The one we encountered on the way to Hotel Bareiss was closer to the horror show. The floors were a bit flooded, and there was toilet paper strewn everywhere. I have seen some truly gross facilities in my time, having lived for over two years in Armenia, where the public toilets were so nasty that one was happy to find a squat hole, rather than a commode. We should have moved on from that toilet, but I decided to hold my nose and go. It was not a good decision, as the gross water on the floor got on my pants.

Bill did come away from the experience with a funny story, though. A lot of the men were just going behind the facility and peeing in the woods. I should have done that myself, actually. But one elderly German man braved the toilet with Bill, and complained to him in German. He said something along the lines of, “So, this is Germany. We were in the Netherlands for four days last week. Everything there was right. Look at the state of things here in Germany. Shameful!”

I was pretty grossed out by that bathroom experience, and especially by the souvenir left on my pants. I actually considered changing pants before we got the hotel, I was so offended. But we pressed on, and arrived at the Hotel Bareiss in the early afternoon. We pulled up the grand structure with the electric gate, that didn’t open for us at first. But then we arrived at the front of the hotel, and a very kind and friendly man in a green blazer welcomed us. We walked into the lobby for the first time, noticing that the doors opened electronically just about everywhere on the grounds.

A young man at reception eagerly welcomed us, easily finding our booking. He spoke English, but had some sort of severe speech impediment. I don’t know exactly what it was– maybe stuttering of some sort, or perhaps dysprosody? He was very professional, and I was amazed by his ability to explain things to us in English, in spite of his obvious problems speaking with fluency. We tried to put him at ease to make it easier for him to speak clearly. The only issue was that he had a trainee with him who appeared somewhat amused by his colleague’s difficulties speaking to us. I suppose that’s a human reaction, but it was kind of uncomfortable to witness.

The young man showed us the little “mailboxes” in the lobby, where we could store our car key fob for easy access when we wanted the car brought to us. Then he took us to our room. I booked the Double Room Rotunda Landhaus II. This room– LH 35– had a huge balcony with a nice view and was outfitted with quaint floral accents. There was a large heart on our door that read “Herzlich Willkommen!” I noticed the heart sign was on the doors of all newly arriving guests. The bathroom had a huge bathtub in it, that I never got around to trying. It had his and her sinks, a bidet, and lots of gold fixtures. There was lots of closet space and a minibar, as well as an adjustable bed, couch, and a flat screen television with German channels. Below are some photos of the room:

Because it was still early in the day, and we hadn’t had lunch, we decided to see what we could find to eat. It was about 1:30pm, so they were serving lunch in the dining room where we had most of our meals. Lunch is not included in the price of the room, but breakfast and dinner are. That was different from the Hotel Engel Obertal. There, breakfast and lunch are included, but dinner isn’t.

Bareiss has several a la carte restaurants, including the Kaminstube, which we didn’t try, the Dorfstube, and the Forellenhof, which we tried last year. The hotel also has a Three Star Michelin Star restaurant called Restaurant Bareiss. Of course, to eat in the fanciest restaurant, one must reserve well in advance. Maybe we’ll try Restaurant Bareiss if we manage to stay at the hotel again. I would love to do that, since I was impressed by our a la carte lunches. The meals we got from the board option were all excellent, but I was very impressed by the a la carte dishes that we paid for separately. I definitely think there’s an even higher standard with those menus. Below are some photos from lunch, which we purposely kept small, because I knew dinner was liable to be a big production.

After lunch, we took our first walk through the “Waldpark”, which includes a short barefoot trail and a petting zoo. We met the hotel’s delightful goats and ponies, as well as some of the rabbits kept on site. Bareiss also has pet deer on the premises, but we never got around to visiting them. I was too enchanted by one special goat, who proved to be very friendly and willingly posed for several photos. I wanted to get a pet goat after meeting the ones at Hotel Bareiss!

For dinner, the hotel management requests that guests dress in smart casual attire. I didn’t see this rule being enforced, much to the chagrin of one European TripAdvisor reviewer. I did bring a couple of dresses, which proved to be useful, especially on Saturday night. Most nights, I wore pants and a sweater, while Bill dressed like he was going to work. Some people wore jeans, though, and weren’t turned away at the door. The staff all wore traditional German attire. I was impressed by the beautiful dirndls and dresses the women wore. I don’t generally like uniforms, but I thought the ones at Bareiss were very nice looking.

As for dinner itself– it’s extensive. Each night, there’s a theme. Most meals begin with a trip to the humongous salad bar/buffet, where there are many different dishes available, according to the theme. The array of choices is incredible. I counted over 35 different cheeses offered. I don’t eat much cheese myself– at least not the fancy ones that Bill likes. I do enjoy watching him enjoy them, and he sure went to town.

Then, you choose courses from the menu– starters, soups, fish dishes and red meats, cheeses, and desserts. If nothing on the themed menu impresses, you can order steak, or other cold dishes that are always available. Beverages are not included in the price of dinner, but they are included at breakfast. Each night, we enjoyed a different bottle of locally produced German wine from the hotel’s vast cellar. And, in case anyone is wondering, yes, they have wines from other places, too.

Below are some photos from our first dinner, which had an Asian theme. I wasn’t very hungry, due to the lunch we enjoyed late in the afternoon, so I only had fish and dessert… and wine, of course. The family that owns the hotel gifted us with a complimentary glass of Sekt. Dinner is served from 6:30pm, and the staff requests that people come between 6:30 and 8:30pm, although it’s possible to come later– until 10:00pm. Our waitress the first two nights was the same lady who looked after us at lunch. She was very friendly and professional.

I’d say our arrival was a success! Stay tuned for part three.

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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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rants

A rant about the CDC’s new rule about importing pets…

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you know that I have two adorable furry family members. At this writing, our dogs are Arran and Noyzi. Prior to our acquisition of Noyzi, we had another dog named Zane, who sadly died of lymphoma on August 31, 2019. The featured photo today is of Zane and Arran on August 2, 2014, when we flew from Houston, Texas to Frankfurt, Germany on a Lufthansa flight.

Bill and I have always had dogs. Next month, we will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Our dogs have been our family members, because we were not able to have children. Although I don’t require an emotional support animal, I do rely on my dogs to keep my company when Bill travels. Prior to the pandemic and, more specifically, the new CDC restriction on bringing animals into the United States, it was a pain in the butt to move abroad with pets. Now, it’s become a real hassle for people who have to return home from living overseas. I fear that this new rule may cause a lot of pets to be abandoned. Here in Germany, that is bad news, since Americans already have a terrible reputation for abandoning their pets when it’s time to move. It really sucks for those of us who are dedicated pet owners.

This morning, The New York Times ran an article about the new rule and how it affects people who travel with their pets, or Americans who live abroad. I am a subscriber to The New York Times and have gifted this article, so you should be able to click the link and read it for free. I am a member of a Facebook group for people who are “PCSing” with pets, and there’s been a lot of worry about how to get dogs and cats safely to places abroad. Many of the people traveling with pets are young folks who don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on hiring pet shippers. And many of the people in Germany or other countries with pets brought their animals before this new rule suddenly went into effect. I have noticed that the government has, sort of, been trying to gradually phase in the most draconian parts of this new rule. But they still pose a huge problem for a lot of people who make their living abroad.

My dogs have always flown as “excess baggage”, which means they flew on our flights in the hold of the aircraft. That is the most economical way to transport pets. When Bill was still in the Army, our dogs flew on United Airlines and Delta Airlines respectively. Last time we flew with dogs, back in 2014, they flew on Lufthansa, which is a wonderful airline for pets. The luggage hold on Lufthansa is light and temperature controlled, and the animals are loaded at the last minute, so they don’t have to sit on the tarmac. But the United States government has a rule that makes using pet friendly airlines tricky for people who are flying on the government’s dime.

Because of the Fly America Act, people who are flying on taxpayer funds must use an American carrier for as far as possible. At this writing, only a handful of American carriers are still allowing pets to fly. Some people can get around that rule by booking their flights on a codeshared flight. Say you’re flying to Germany. To comply with the Fly America Act, you should be booking your flight on United or Delta. But you can book a Lufthansa flight through United and still be in compliance. Of course, thanks to COVID-19 and the new CDC rule, it’s gotten much harder to book flights. Some airlines won’t fly animals in the baggage hold anymore. Some will only fly small animals in the cabin, which can be problematic for those who have pets who are too big. Military servicemembers can sometimes use the rotator (Patriot Express) to fly their pets, but spots are limited and book up very quickly. I have read a lot of horror stories from stressed out servicemembers trying to figure out how to get their pets home.

Many people have used pet shippers to fly their pets. I suspect that if and when Bill and I have to move to the States with pets, we will have to use a shipper. Noyzi is a big dog, and he will probably need a special crate. He isn’t very heavy, but he’s tall and long bodied, and there are very specific rules on the sizes of the carriers that can be used. I have been saving money, because I’m sure he’s going to need to go cargo with a pet shipper, and that costs several thousand dollars, as opposed to the couple hundred per pet charged when flying them as excess baggage. Flying with a shipper is also a hassle, since it involves the dog going through a different part of the airport and possibly not coming on the same flight. We are currently fortunate enough to be able to afford a shipper, but not everyone is.

All of this is a real pain for anyone with pets and living abroad, but what is actually prompting me to write this morning are the negative, ignorant, and dismissive attitudes I’ve seen in some of the comment sections on the articles I’ve seen about this new CDC rule. I get that a lot of pet owners have done some “crazy” things, like bringing their emotional support kangaroos or peacocks on planes. I also understand that there’s been some very bad press about animals dying because they were transported in weather that was too hot or cold, or because someone put them in the overhead bin (which is just plain stupid). But there really must be a safe, affordable, and accessible way for people to travel with animals. Especially if we’re serious about not abandoning pets at shelters. This new rule is going to cause issues from negative troop morale to hostile host country relations. It will probably also result in a lot of wonderful pets dying or being abandoned.

So many comments on The New York Times article were from people who wrote things like, “It’s just an animal” or “Good! I hate flying with pets!” or “Americans who live overseas shouldn’t have pets.” This self-centered attitude is really distressing to me. I don’t have a problem with my dogs flying under the cabin, but it should be safe and affordable. And people should not be so narrow-minded and shitty about people who need to move their pets. A lot of these self-entitled twits are the same ones who condemn other people for needing to rehome their pets. It would be nice if people, in general, would have more empathy and understanding for those who aren’t like them. I get that some people have allergies or don’t like animals. I don’t like dealing with some people or their kids… some of them give me a rash or a pain in the ass. It is what it is. Flying is a hassle for everybody.

One lady kept writing about how when she was a “military kid living overseas”, her parents didn’t allow her to have pets. She implied that those of us in that situation should “suck it up” and live without pets. I finally had to offer her a cookie and a reminder that as a military “brat”, she should know that military families are diverse. To some military families, pets are beloved companions who make life easier and more worthwhile. And while it may not be practical to have pets when there’s a chance one could move overseas, life happens to everyone. Sometimes people in civilian jobs get the opportunity or find that they must move abroad. There should be a solution for those people, too.

In my case, I was not able to have children, and I’ve followed my husband to several different states and twice to Germany for his career. The career I planned for in public health and social work, back when I was single, has turned into blogging. I know a lot of people don’t think my blogs are worth anything, but they give me a reason to get up in the morning. My dogs help keep me sane and happy, especially when he travels. I don’t have a lot of human friends. We rescued Noyzi from Kosovo, where he lived outside with a bunch of other dogs. He wasn’t being abused in that environment, but he’s much happier having a family. Every day, we get to see him evolve and become more loving and trusting toward us. It’s very rewarding for us, and, I imagine, for him.

When we moved to Germany with Zane and Arran in 2014, the rules were already stricter than they had been in 2007 and 2009, when we flew with our previous dogs. Now, they have become downright oppressive. We made the choice to move here in 2014 because we wanted to live in Germany, but it was also the only place where Bill had a firm job offer after his Army retirement. It was either move to Germany, or be unemployed and soon land in dire financial straits. The move was a good one for us, but thanks to this new rule from the CDC, we’re going to have to do what we can to stay here for as long as possible. Abandoning our dogs isn’t an option, and it shouldn’t be something people are forced to do over well-intended, but impractical, rules imposed by the CDC.

At this point, Germany is not on the list of high risk rabies countries, nor are other countries in the European Union. But because of the CDC’s new rule, a lot of European airlines are not wanting to transport animals. They don’t want to deal with the hassle. And who can blame them for that? After January 2022, it’s going to be a lot harder to bring animals into the United States, because only three “ports” will allow them to enter– Atlanta, JFK in New York City, and Los Angeles. That will cause backups for sure. I truly hope this rule will be amended or abolished at some point soon. Otherwise, Bill and I will have to stay here until Noyzi crosses the Rainbow Bridge. At twelve years old, we may not have to worry about Arran for too many more years… although he’s proving to be a real scrapper in his old age.

Rant over for now… tomorrow, we go on vacation, and the boys go to the Hundepension. Hopefully, it will go off without a hitch, and I can write some new content about actual travel.

Edited to add: Here’s a link to a book review I wrote about a lady in Virginia who, along with her mom, adopted dogs from Turkey. Military and government employees aren’t the only ones affected by this ruling. She rants about the new rule in her book, too.

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anecdotes, emergencies

Pet pandemonium pauses our promenade!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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dogs

We just got a visit from the “ghost” of Zane…

It’s been two weeks since we lost our beloved beagle, Zane, to canine lymphoma. I’ve really missed him a lot. It’s been hard getting used to not having him with me all the time, as I have for the last ten years.

I usually get “signs” when I lose a pet. Often, the signs come in the form of vivid dreams about the recently deceased animal. For years, I have had dreams about my long deceased pony, Rusty, who was my best friend in high school. I also get other “signs” that trigger memories. A lot of times, the visits seem to come in the form of unusual behaviors in surviving pets. For instance, Arran was never a particularly gentle dog when we had Zane– or especially compared to Zane, who was extremely gentle– but lately, he’s been a little more Zane-like. Unfortunately, Zane hasn’t influenced Arran to be as well behaved as Zane was, but Arran seems to be trying harder lately. I took him to the vet yesterday and, for once, he was a perfect gentleman who didn’t shriek the whole time.

This morning, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We get them no matter where we are. The only place we’ve ever lived and missed out on JWs was when we lived on Fort Belvoir. And that was because it is a military installation, and JWs aren’t supposed to serve in the military. Religious proselytizing is also not allowed on military installations.

A very confident woman who spoke perfect UK accented English announced to Bill that she wanted to “talk about the Bible”. Bill interrupted her and launched into a diatribe about an angry conversation he’d had with God regarding Zane’s recent death. Without giving her a moment to collect herself, Bill told our unexpected and uninvited German religion peddling visitor a story that probably rattled her sensibilities. I don’t know this for sure, but I have a feeling that even religious Germans have a hard time swallowing “Rainbow Bridge” talk about animals and their souls. Most Germans strike me as being much too practical to believe in animals having that kind of a connection to God… but, of course, I could be wrong about that.

Bill told the JW that when it became clear Zane was going to die, he’d told God that he was pissed off that, once again, we were going to be forced to euthanize a much beloved family member. But then, Bill got an “answer” from God, reminding him that euthanasia is ultimately a gift. We would have some time to make sure Zane was comfortable. I could take many pictures of his last days. We’d be there to ensure that he didn’t suffer, and he would not be alone as he took his last breath.

As Bill was relating that story, I could hear his voice raw with emotion. I knew he also had tears in his eyes, because I’ve seen and heard him like that before. I could hear the JW lady trying and failing to steer the conversation back to her pitch for the JWs. But Bill resolutely continued on with his thoughts on God and our dog’s recent demise. The JW’s male partner was silent the whole time, probably thinking they’d run into a nut.

The JW finally broke in and asked if we had a Bible in the house. Bill said we did. But then she concluded, “But you’re probably in a hurry, aren’t you? You’re too busy to talk to us, right?”

“No, actually, I’m not.” Bill said.

So they spent a few more uncomfortable minutes talking, and I could tell the JW was non-plussed about how to deal with this man who was controlling the conversation, talking about his recently deceased dog. It was pretty funny, and I could just picture the ghost of Zane defending the family, just as he always has, in his noisy, but offbeat, way.

Finally, she said, “Thank you.” and took off. I have a feeling she won’t be back. Although Bill might have gotten the same results if he’d just told her he was a Mormon and offered her a Book of Mormon and a stimulating discussion about religion, I am tickled that Zane’s spirit showed up just in the nick of time. He always was a very faithful and loyal dog who would protect us and the home with his life… or, in this case, his death.

Thanks for “visiting”, Zaneykins… Mama misses you. <3

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Germany, Sundays

Thanks to Ruine Mandelberg, our Sunday wasn’t ruined!

This morning, Bill called my attention to a swollen cut on my dog, Zane’s, face.  He and our other dog, Arran, had a fight last night.  After Bill broke them up, he thought both dogs were okay.  Neither appeared to have a scratch.  In fact, Zane had actually come out the victor, having scored a rare rawhide treat that Arran had momentarily let out of his sight.  We were marveling at that, since Zane is not really a fighter and tends to be the less aggressive of our dogs.  But then this morning, there was that swollen place on his face.

Zane enjoyed the freshly mowed grass yesterday, before he and Arran had their little spat.  He’s going to be ten in November and both he and Arran have had cancerous mast cell tumors that have had to be surgically removed.  But they’re still plugging along and at each other.  

Bill and I don’t have kids together, so we tend to be neurotic about our dogs.  Because puncture wounds can get infected quickly, Bill decided to take Zane to the on duty vet, a gruff guy in Herrenberg named Dr. Katz.  Dr. Katz took a look at Zane, said he was fine, and told Bill to keep the spot clean.  Then he said goodbye without even bothering to charge Bill for the visit.

Since Zane seemed to be okay, Bill and I decided to go out to lunch in Nagold.  Afterwards, we had plans to visit Ruine Mandelberg, another one of my highway finds during our many recent trips to the Black Forest.  I had noticed the sign for it as we passed the turnoff for the little hamlet of Bösingen, a true one horse district if I’ve ever seen one.  I had looked up Ruine Mandelberg on the Internet and I wasn’t sure if it was something that would excite me, but since it’s pretty close to where we live, we decided today was the day to see it.

We started in Nagold, where parking is free on Sundays and you never know what’s going to happen. Lunch was at Provenciale, a little Italian restaurant near the main square.  We had eaten there before, but it had been awhile.  For some reason, this restaurant does not get good reviews on Trip Advisor.  I don’t know why.  Our experiences there have been good.  In fact, today we both enjoyed our pasta dishes.  I especially liked mine.

We enjoyed malty hefeweizens.  Sometimes, when I drink one of these, I taste Ovaltine.  That sounds strange until you realize that beer is malty and so is Ovaltine.  Bill had to move as the sun did.


Bill enjoyed cheese filled tortellini with spinach, ham, and gorgonzola cheese sauce.  He said it was delicious, even if he preferred yesterday’s mushroom extravaganza more.  Personally, I preferred his choice for today, if only because it didn’t smell of fungus!  Sigh– if I only liked mushrooms, my life would be so much easier!


I went with the very safe Tagliatelli Salmone, made with cream sauce and very tender, delicious pieces of salmon.  I loved it.  What can I say?  I like comfort food.  It shows… especially on my ass.  

 

This particular restaurant also specializes in ice cream and we saw plenty of people enjoying fancy Italian/German style ice cream treats today.  I think many people were substituting ice cream for lunch!  Our bill came to 27 euros, which Bill rounded up to 30.  Before we left, we caught the Albanian cultural/dance club Shota marching by.  My German friend says they were performing at Kinderfest today.  I caught a short video clip of them parading by.  I’ll have to see if I can upload it to YouTube.

After lunch, we got back on B28 and headed for Ruine Mandelberg.  We drove through tiny Bösingen, which has an interesting looking antique shop, a gasthaus, a church, and lots of pretty scenery.  There’s a road where cars are not supposed to go unless they are going to the ruins.  There’s a small parking area near a park/picnic area.  It’s free to park there and, as you can see below, there’s playground equipment for kids.

A map of the sights in the area.  If you wanted to, you could take a nice hike here.  There are lots of trails.

It looked like a group was having a picnic today.

 

We parked the car and started walking.  It was about 1.5 kilometers to the ruins themselves, though there were a couple of other trails and roads that made Bill nervous we weren’t going the right way.  

 

But then we rounded a corner and easily found the ruins, which date from the 12th century.  Actually, according to Wikipedia, the 11th century ruins predeceased what is there now.  The first time the castle was mentioned in documents was in 1287.  The castle burned down during the peasant revolts in 1525 and was never rebuilt.

A sign offering a brief history… in German, naturally!

The community of Pflazgrafenweiler purchased the property in 1970 and renovated what was left of the ruins.  In 1975, they renovated the keep, which is 35 meters high and offers nice views of the surrounding countryside.  Below are some pictures I took during our visit.


First glance of the tower.  A family of four was at the top when we first arrived.  They met us at the bottom as I was wondering whether or not I really wanted to climb up the extremely tight spiral staircases.  The parents were encouraging us in German, telling us it wasn’t unlike climbing the church spires in Ulm!

 

The first steps seem narrow…

 

And the tower seems high…  You do get two opportunities to pause on the way up and down.

 

But those steps are extremely narrow.  You must hold on to the railing and the center or risk falling.  Bill got dizzy going up the tight spiral.

 

But then you reach the top…  Thank GOD!  It’s very well fortified, so there’s no need to worry about falling.  Unfortunately, some people left trash up there.

 

At the top of the keep, we were rewarded with some very beautiful views.  Below are some pictures from the top of the tower.


This isn’t a great shot, mainly because the barrier prevented me from getting more of the grounds in the picture.  You can see the cistern on the left, which is unfortunately full of trash.

A couple of closer pictures of the cistern from the ground.

After a few minutes, we decided to climb back down.  Going down was less strenuous, but a bit scarier.  You can see how far down it is as you climb down.  I am very cautious about climbing, so I tend to go slowly.  The last thing I need is to faceplant in a tower.  When we got to the outside steps, I realized that might have been the best spot for picture taking, especially within the ruins.  Here is a 360 tour of the ruins.

Directions for other areas of interest.  I was too sweaty and dirty to hike more.

 

One last look at the tower.

Bill gazes at the view.

A cave?

With a friendly ghost?

Bars on the window…  wonder what for!

Auf wiedersehen, Ruine Mandelberg!

I couldn’t resist taking pictures of this pretty church we passed going in and out of the little hamlet.

I think these ruins are worth seeing if you’re interested in old castle ruins dating from the 12th century.  It might also make an okay stop on the way to Freudenstadt or some of the other attractions in the Black Forest.  It doesn’t take long to see the ruins, but if you wanted to hike longer, you certainly could, and the area is pretty and offers good picnic/play opportunities.  I’m glad we stopped by.  I was also considering visiting Herrenberg’s new Schönbuchturm, but figured it would be crowded, since it just opened yesterday.  Maybe we’ll do that next week!

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advice, animals

Making dog food with the Instant Pot…

Arran

Zane

 

Here’s a non-travel related post that I’m putting up because I know many of my readers have an Instant Pot and/or dog(s).  Making homemade dog food is one way to put that gadget to good use.  If you just want to see the way we made the food, skip past the first seven paragraphs of this post.  😉

At the end of October 2016, my eight year old dog Zane had a mast cell tumor removed.  In July 2015, my other dog, seven year old Arran, also had one removed.  Neither tumor was particularly aggressive, although Zane has shown signs of being more affected by mast cell cancer than Arran has.  Mast cell tumors are a sign that a dog’s immune system has gone a bit haywire.  Some dogs only get one tumor and that’s it.  Others can get very sick from mast cell tumors and die within weeks.  I realize that not everyone has heard of mast cell tumors, so here’s a link to an article offering a basic explanation of what mast cell cancer is.  Mast cell tumors are extremely common in dogs, so all dog owners should know something about them.  Some breeds are more susceptible to mast cell tumors than others are.

Before Bill and I had Zane and Arran, we had two other beagles, Flea and MacGregor.  Both of them died of different cancers.  Flea had prostate cancer and MacGregor had a very malignant spinal tumor.  Although neither Zane nor Arran are anywhere near as sick as either Flea or MacGregor were, I have about had my fill of canine cancer.  I have recently made some changes in my dogs’ diets to help them live as long and as well as possible.

MacGregor (left) and Flea (right) when we lived in Germany the first time.  Both were claimed too young by canine cancers.

When Arran got his mast cell tumor in 2015, the first thing I did was switch dog foods.  I stopped buying any grocery store brand food and got them the senior formula of Orijen, which is an expensive grain free, high protein food made in Canada.  I order it from Amazon.de, but I have heard it’s also available at local pet stores here in Germany.  There are other good quality commercial foods available, too, and they are a better bet than cheap grocery store brands.  That being said, it’s a good idea to stay away from kibble if you can.  Although feeding kibble is very convenient, it’s not the best thing to give dogs who have cancer, even if it’s really high quality stuff.

Next, I put the dogs on what is known as Cleo’s Diet.  It’s a high protein, low carb diet for dogs who have mast cell cancer.  Basically, it consists of mixing a little bit of ricotta (or cottage cheese, if you prefer) with either fish or krill oil and feeding it twice a day with high protein dog food.  I give Zane Tagamet (an antacid for humans that I get from Amazon) at each meal and both dogs get daily Benadryl (an antihistamine), although Zane gets more than Arran does.  The Tagamet is important for Zane because mast cell disease gives him an upset stomach.  Both Tagamet and Benadryl block histamine.  Dogs with mast cell disease release too much histamine, which can cause tumors and make them feel sick.  The medications help block some of the excess histamine and heparin that can make the cancer worse.  Tagamet also has some anti-cancer properties that can help prevent cancer cells from attaching to internal organs.

I also give my dogs CBD oil (made from hemp).  Zane, in particular, has really done well on the CBD oil.  It obviously makes him feel much better by reducing inflammation and pain.  I have also used CBD oil on myself to rather amazing results.  It helped me get rid of a stubborn skin lesion I’ve had for months.  I get my CBD oil off of Amazon.de.

A lot of people swear by raw food diets for their dogs.  I do not give my dogs raw diets because they are not recommended for dogs with mast cell disease.  Mast cell cancer screws up the dog’s immune system, so raw diets can expose them to pathogens that might make the condition worse.  Instead, for us, the focus will be on not overcooking the food.  Homemade dog food isn’t just for dogs who are sick.  A lot of people feed raw or homemade diets to preserve their dogs’ health.

There are a lot of great groups on Facebook for people who have dogs with cancer or other illnesses.  There are also groups for making homemade food.  Since I got us an Instant Pot at Christmas, Bill and I decided to use it to make some homemade dog food yesterday.  At some point, I may take my dogs off commercial food altogether.  I bought our Instant Pot on Amazon.de, but it’s also available on Amazon.com.  It costs about $100 and you can get one with either 110 or 220 voltage.  I think there are two versions now.  I would opt for the higher speed one, as it also makes yogurt.

I thought some readers might be interested in seeing how we made the food.  It turned out well; the dogs love it and we can even try it ourselves.

The ingredients we used:  Fresh turkey breast, kale, spinach, broccoli, brown rice, lentils, water, salt, turmeric, and black pepper.

Bill prepares the ingredients.  We chose turkey as our protein source because Zane is allergic to a lot of things, including beef.  He seems to do okay with chicken, but we decided that since chicken is also a common allergen in dogs, we’d try a more exotic meat source.  We also have some rabbit that we’ll use at a later date.

The Instant Pot.  I was inspired to buy this handy appliance after reading rave reviews from one of my local Facebook friends who is a mom of three young kids.  Bill loves it for a lot of reasons, including the fact that it makes perfect hard boiled eggs.  The Instant Pot also makes yogurt.  I don’t eat yogurt, but it is a very good thing to have on hand for dogs with sensitive stomachs.  Bill likes yogurt, too.  Next Instant Pot project will probably be yogurt making.

Green vegetables are very important for a cancer fighting diet.  I picked up broccoli, spinach, and kale.  As you can see, they are of the frozen variety for now.

Arran was curious about what was going on.

One pound of turkey breast from the commissary, along with 1-1/3 cups of brown rice, 1/4 cup lentils (which we bought at a vending machine), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, and handfuls of the greens.  We could have also added a sweet potato and a regular potato.  Because we’re trying to avoid excessive starch, we omitted those ingredients.

We put the lentils and rice in the pot.

Bill cuts up the turkey.

Spoons out the turmeric, which is another powerful weapon against cancer.

A little salt.

Added to the pot, along with black pepper.

Next we added handfuls of the kale, spinach, and broccoli.

We added 3 1/2 cups of water…

and the turkey…

All set now.

I had made a video to go here, but the sound on it didn’t turn out very well.  I’ll have to try making one the next time we do this.  Bill set up the Instant Pot to run for 25 minutes on high pressure.  It actually takes a bit longer than 25 minutes because the pressure has to build and release.

This is what the food looked like after it had been pressure cooked for the allotted time.

It was a little bit soupy at first, probably because we used frozen veggies.  The rice eventually absorbed all of the extra liquid.

The end result was six cups of dog food.  We have already given the dogs a couple of very small servings to see how they react to it.  So far, they love the taste.

I am going to add links to a few great books for those of you who may be facing the same dog cancer battle we are, as well as links to some good Facebook groups.

Edited to add: Zane and Arran are still with us on February 8. 2018.  They still love this food and are as healthy as ever!

The Dog Diet Answer Book by Greg Martinez, DVM

The Dog Cancer Survival Guide by Dr. Damian Dressler

The two above books are good guides to learning about canine cancer.  The book below is a great book for learning about canine nutrition and homemade dog food.  The vet who wrote the book below also has some fabulous YouTube videos.  I recommend looking him up.

Canine diet and cancer Facebook groups I’m in…  All four have been helpful, but I recommend following them sparingly, because some of the stories and pictures are really sad.  On the other hand, there are also some great uplifting stories about dogs who have been helped naturally.

Holistic Help for Dogs with Mast Cell Cancer

Homemade Hope/Holistic Healing for Dogs with Cancer and Illness

Home Cooked Diets For Dogs

CBD Dog’s (for dogs with cancer) in honor of Crixus James Slygo Smith

Edited to add: I have left all but the first group: Holistic Help for Dogs with Mast Cell Cancer and the third group, Home Cooked Diets for Dogs.  The other groups were helpful, but my Facebook feed was getting clogged with sad stories about sick dogs.  Those two groups work best for us at this time.

Hopefully, this post will be helpful to readers who are also dealing with canine cancer.  My next post will be back to food and travel, as we are heading to France today!  And yes, Zane and Arran are coming with us!  Stay tuned!

Edited to add in November 2022: We lost Zane to lymphoma on August 31, 2019.  Arran, who is now 13 or 14 years old, was diagnosed with B cell lymphoma last month.  He is now getting chemotherapy with amazing results so far.  I left all of the Facebook groups listed above, but the information they provided was useful when I originally wrote this post.  We were not going to do chemo with Arran, but changed our minds.  At this point, I think it was a good decision.  If we hadn’t changed our minds, he would probably be dead now.

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Germany, veterinary care

Bonding with our German vet over cannabis…

Since Bill and I returned to Germany, I have been spending a lot of time in the veterinarian’s office.  The vet we currently use is the same one we used last time we lived here.  That vet diagnosed our dog, Flea, with prostate cancer back in 2009.  I never met her last time we lived here.  Bill took Flea to his vet appointments because we only had one car.  We also used the vet on Panzer Kaserne for routine stuff, but that proved to be a real pain in the butt since appointments were hard to come by.

These two dogs are Flea and MacGregor, the dogs we had during our first Germany tour.  Flea is the one standing behind MacGregor.

Flea survived Germany and we took him with us to our next duty station in Georgia.  He lasted another two months in the States before we sent him to the Rainbow Bridge.  About a month after we lost Flea, Bill and I adopted our dog, Zane, from Atlanta Beagle Rescue.  Zane is pretty much a bigger, sweeter version of Flea.

Zane, the tri-colored beagle… and adopted “brother” Arran.

When we got back to Germany and rented a house near Herrenberg again, we decided to use the same vets we did last time.  Because we now have two cars, the duty of taking the dogs to the vet often falls to me.  Zane gets allergy shots every month.  I could learn to give him the shots myself, but I’m a bit squeamish.  So every month, I take Zane (and often Arran) with me to the vet.  She gives Zane his shot and any other treatment he needs.  We’ve been in this routine for about two years now.

Many Americans who live in Germany comment that it can take awhile to get to know Germans well.  Germans seem to be fairly private people, especially in a professional setting.  That has definitely been the case for our German vet.  Our visits have been mostly all business.  In fact, until a couple of months ago, I was calling her by her colleague’s name.  I made this mistake because Bill got their names mixed up last time we lived here and passed his mistake to me.  Our vet didn’t introduce herself when I came in the first time, so I was assuming her name was her colleague’s name.  For two years!  It wasn’t until I mixed the names up in the vet’s presence that she corrected me.

Most of our visits have not been particularly friendly.  There’s been a minimum of small talk.  The vet has been very matter-of-fact about most things.  I actually found her kind of hard to talk to, although she seemed very competent.

Both of my dogs have had cancerous mast cell tumors removed by our German vet.  Arran had one taken off in July 2015.  It was a very low grade bump that, so far, has caused no more issues.  Zane had one taken off in October of 2016.  Zane’s tumor was a little bit higher grade and it was larger.

In the weeks since his surgery, Zane has also not really been acting like himself.  For several weeks after his surgery, he seemed lethargic and less social.  I suspected that he was in pain.  Thanks to the mast cell tumor’s presence, I started becoming obsessive about looking for new lumps.  I would mention them to the vet, who was astonished that I found them.  They weren’t exactly big and noticeable.  One was buried deep beneath some muscle.

After Zane was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor, Bill stopped by to talk to the vet and she said, “Your wife is really good at finding lumps on Zane.  She seems really knowledgable about diseases.  Is she a nurse or something?”

Bill explained my education and work background to the vet.  He later told me that when he explained my public health experience, it was like a lightbulb went off over the vet’s head.  Suddenly, she started becoming a lot friendlier toward me.  I went in to see her in late November to talk to her about changing Zane’s diet, putting him on Benadryl and Tagamet for the mast cell disease, and avoiding unnecessary vaccines.  She also asked me about my background and I told her.  I also used to work for a vet and spent most of my childhood working in a barn.  With that knowledge, it seemed like the vet started seeing me in a different light.  It was as if I wasn’t just some American hausfrau anymore.

Last month, I asked the vet about having Zane tested for tick-borne illnesses.  I knew that Zane would come up positive for ehrlichiosis, because he had it when we lived in North Carolina.  Ehrlichiosis can cause some of the symptoms Zane has been exhibiting.  Also, Zane was bitten by a number of ticks last summer, despite my efforts to keep them at bay.  He’s been chewing and licking his paws a lot.  I thought it was due to the allergies, but now I think he’s been doing it because he’s been in pain.  It was not enough to make him limp noticeably, but it was enough to make him not want to play or hang out with Bill and me.  I remembered Zane’s previous bout with ehrlichiosis, told the vet about it, and she agreed that he should be screened.

I also told the vet that Zane was having issues with his paws.  He would lick and chew the pads until they were raw.  Then he would have pain when trying to walk on the frosty grass because the raw paws would be in contact with the grass.  The vet had sent me home with medicated shampoo that was supposed to help heal Zane’s paws.  Having used this remedy a few times on both of my dogs, I didn’t have much faith that it would be that helpful.

Coincidentally, the day after our visit, I made a big change in Zane’s regimen.  I started giving him 5% CBD hemp oil.  Hemp oil is rapidly becoming well-known for improving the quality of life for dogs with a variety of ailments.

Yesterday, I took Zane in for a blood test.  We had a tick panel done in December and Zane came up positive for ehrlichiosis.  The vet wanted to do a more sensitive test to determine if the infection was active.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been giving Zane the hemp oil and I’ve watched him become more energetic and social.  He seems to have less pain.  He’s stopped licking and chewing his paws as much.  Now he confines the licking to one paw, rather than all four, and he doesn’t chew the pad until the skin becomes raw.  It’s been nothing short of astonishing.

Prior to yesterday, I had not seen the vet since I made this change.  While she was drawing Zane’s blood, we started chatting.  She was friendlier than ever.  I told her about the CBD oil I’ve been using and how amazed I was by it.  She started telling me about other essential oils that we could use for Zane’s allergies.  So far, I’ve noticed that the oil seems to make Zane feel better overall and perhaps helps him with pain and inflammation.  While he’s still not quite 100%, he’s probably now at 85% or even 90% as opposed to 65% or 70%.

She asked if I was using the CBD oil for myself and I said I’d tried it.  I mostly give it to Zane, though, because it tastes like hay.  She laughed and I ended up telling her about how I tried marijuana for the first time in The Netherlands.  She laughed and asked if we visited a coffee shop.  I told her about how it was my 43rd birthday and we got a space cake from a coffee shop near our hotel in Haarlem.  Then she told me about how she and the other vet went to Amsterdam with their husbands and the husbands wanted to visit a coffee shop.  It may seem silly to mention this, but remember, I’ve been visiting this lady for the past two years, often more than once a month.  And this was very close to a friendly conversation!  In fact, it was probably the longest chat we’ve ever had.

Having lived in Germany for a total of about four and a half years, I have come to realize that Germans, by and large, can take awhile to warm up.  But once they do, you start to see a very appealing side of them.  As we continued chatting, we started talking about politics and the vet amazed me by showing that she knows as much or more about American politics than I do.  I would be hard pressed to know much about German politics, although I did read yesterday that Germany has just loosened up the regulations on the use of medical cannabis.  So we chatted a bit about that… and I would not be surprised if she was surprised that I knew about the new medical cannabis legislation in Germany (which I think is a great thing).

Another thing I’ve learned during the two times I’ve lived here is that dogs can be excellent ambassadors.  I have met more Germans because of my dogs than I have in any other circumstance.  That was true when we were living here last time, too.  Our dog, Flea, actually got our first German neighbors talking to us after we’d lived next to them for over six months.  And when Bill and I ran into them last spring, they asked about our dogs (we have different ones this time).

I don’t know how long we’ll have with either Zane or Arran.  But I can see that the vet really likes my dogs and is particularly fond of Zane.  I could be wrong, but I think her opinion of me has changed a bit, too.  Our frequent visits are now a lot less awkward than they were even just a few weeks ago.  Who knew we’d bond over pot?

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friends, Germany

Finally went out last night…

But it was to have dinner with Bill’s co-workers.  We drove to Sindelfingen and enjoyed a very pleasant evening with Bill’s bosses.

It was nice to get out of the house.  I have been pretty much cooped up at home since we got back from Ireland.  Most of the reason I haven’t gone out is because I’ve been really upset about my dog, Zane.  Our local vet diagnosed him with a mast cell tumor.  The tumor was removed, but I’ve found other suspicious bumps on Zane.  Also, upon doing research, I determined that some of the other symptoms he’s had lately can be explained by mast cell disease.

This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with traveling or visiting restaurants.  Maybe I’m just writing about this because it seems like there’s such a difference between German veterinary care and American veterinary care.  Our vets here seem to have a different attitude about providing care.  In the States, it seemed like we were always getting reminders to get vaccines and wellness checks.  Here, it seems like the emphasis is less on preventive care.

Of course, there is a school of thought that Americans vaccinate their pets too much.  I’m inclined to agree with that assessment, actually.  I’m not anti-vaccine, but I do think it can get to be excessive.  Also, American veterinary care seems to be a lot more about business than German care does.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do about Zane… or even if those other lumps I found are mast cell tumors.  I have a feeling they probably are, but I don’t know for sure.  I’ve found that I have to ask for things here more than I did in the States.  Like, today, when I take Zane to the vet to have his ears checked, I will probably have to specifically ask for an aspirate, whereas an American vet would probably suggest it before I ask.  In fact, both of my dogs have had tumors removed here that I identified.

Anyway… my last three dogs died of devastating diseases.  One had a mycobacterial infection.  The other two had severe cancers– prostate and spinal.  Mast cell disease is not necessarily a death sentence.  It can kill, but it doesn’t always kill.  I’ve been giving Zane Tagamet and Benadryl and it does seem to be helping him feel better.  I’m not sure if the vet will approve, but at this point, I figure it’s better than simply watching and waiting.  I’ve noticed Zane isn’t as itchy, gassy, or sluggish as he was before I started giving him the medicines.

Tomorrow, I will get out again.  We’ll be going to a company Christmas party, where I’ll get to socialize some more.  Maybe we’ll even manage to make it to a new restaurant, too.  I need to stop brooding about Zane and get on with enjoying Germany.

Zane and his buddy, Arran… enjoying the sun yesterday.

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anecdotes

Hurling into 2016…

If you read my main blog, you might have read about my unfortunate New Year’s Day.  I won’t get into what I wrote on that post because it involves descriptions of body functions that not everyone wants to read about.  What we did end up doing yesterday was taking our dog, Zane, to the vet.

On New Year’s Eve, Bill cooked beef strips for us.  They turned out great.  Zane likes beef, but he can’t eat much of it because sometimes it upsets his stomach.  Most of the time, he can have a little piece and be just fine.  We have to be careful, though, because if he gets more than he can handle, it can lead to him having a vomiting episode.  He usually throws up once and that’s it.  This time, it was a little more serious.

Without getting too much into specifics, Zane ended up getting a touch of gastritis yesterday.  He seemed really uncomfortable and was pacing around restlessly.  He had an appetite, but couldn’t hold down any food.  He wanted to eat grass and was even pawing at the door to go outside.

Though I was pretty sure it wasn’t an emergency, I couldn’t stand to see Zane in so much discomfort.  I looked up our vet online to see who the local vet on call was for this weekend.  It turned out the vet who was open yesterday was in Gaertringen.  Bill called them and got someone on the phone who spoke no English.  He finally asked her if he could bring Zane in and got an affirmative answer.  I stayed home with our other dog, Arran, who was not too happy about being left out of a road trip.

Bill was gone for awhile and I started to worry a bit, but it turned out the vet was rather far away and it took 30 minutes just to get there.  Then, once he got there, Bill had to wait for three others ahead of him.  Apparently, the vet looked like Richard Gere.  Now I wish I could have gone with Bill so I could have seen for myself.

While Bill was waiting, he struck up a conversation with a German woman who spoke flawless English.  It turns out she’s living in the United States, getting a master’s degree in New York state.  She has an American boyfriend and had come to Germany for the holidays.  Her mother’s cat needed an ultrasound.

Anyway, after a thorough checkup, the vet gave Zane a couple of shots.  One was to quiet his rumbling guts and make him more comfortable and the other was to stop the vomiting and nausea.  He fixed Zane right up.  Bill paid about 60 euros for the visit and that was that.  Zane seems to be pretty much back to normal this morning after he slept off the antiemetic drug.  By last night, he was begging for chicken and rice.

One thing I like about living in Germany is that vet care is relatively inexpensive here.  Emergency care is especially reasonable, especially when compared to what we pay in the States.  Zane has a special knack for getting into trouble, especially on weekends on holidays.  I feel pretty sure that had we needed the emergency vet yesterday in the USA, the bill would have been several times what Bill paid.  I appreciate that in Germany, one can often get urgent medical help without resorting to using high priced emergency facilities.

The boys were both ready for dinner last night.  Zane is the tricolored one on the left.

 

I felt a lot better once Zane was back to his usual sunny self.  From now on, we’re going to be more careful about what he eats.

I’m kind of glad the holidays are over.  I’m ready for things to get back to normal.  I’m in the midst of preparing for our trip to Scotland and trying to decide what we want to do after our Hebridean Islands Cruise in March.  I can’t wait to blog about it.

Hopefully today or tomorrow, we’ll get out and try a new restaurant.

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