dogs, lessons learned, love

Hugo and Viva put things in perspective…

This post also appears on my travel blog.

I was really struggling for something to write about today. I wanted to write something nice… something non-depressing. I wanted to write something different than my usual stuff. As I was enjoying lunch with Bill, I happened across a new video posted about a disabled dog I’ve been following on Facebook. His name is Hugo, and he has a Facebook page all of his own.

I first became aware of Hugo when my German friend, Susanne, shared his story with me. Hugo was born in Romania, where there is a big problem with stray dogs. Someone very cruel wanted Hugo dead, and decided he should die in an incredibly inhumane way. This person took Hugo to a pile of snow, tied up his legs with wire, and left him there to suffer as he waited to die in agony. No one knows how long he was left like that. Although the dog did manage to free himself, unfortunately, when he was found, all four of his feet were necrotic. The vets in Romania could see that Hugo was a fighter, so they decided not to euthanize him. But all four of his paws had to be amputated, leaving him with stumps that didn’t want to heal too easily.

Hugo’s story… in German.

For six months, Hugo was unable to stand up, and he lost a lot of muscle. He was eventually adopted by a German woman who lives in Baden-W├╝rttemberg. Unfortunately, the stumps were miserable for Hugo. His new “mom” tried everything she could think of to help him. One day, she asked for ideas about how to cover his stumps on Facebook. A local shoemaker named Daniel came to the rescue and made custom shoes for Hugo. The shoes made all the difference. Hugo can now walk and run, although the shoes have to be repaired occasionally. Daniel did this work for free– unless you count the chocolate he was given by Hugo’s grateful family, who make it a habit to adopt special needs dogs.

On December 12, Hugo’s family visited the Tierheim (animal shelter) in Heilbronn, where they found a little dog named Viva who has no hind legs and gets around using a “wheelchair”. Hugo came along for the ride so he could meet Viva. Apparently Hugo liked Viva just fine and was happy to have a new “sister”. Viva became part of Hugo’s family, along with an existing blind dog named Bertl. Another dog, still in Romania, will soon be joining these three. And how are Hugo and Viva getting along? See for yourself! Bertl is also in the video, but plays a supporting role.

When I saw the video I linked above, my heart just melted. These two dogs don’t seem to realize that they’re in any way “handicapped”. They’re happy as they can be to be able to play together in a loving home. And they’re able to play pretty much as if they were both completely normal dogs.

Maybe I should think about Hugo and his friends next time I’m feeling depressed and incompetent. A lot of people would have euthanized Hugo when they saw how badly injured he was when he was found in Romania. But he was given a chance and he’s risen to the occasion. The same goes for little Viva, who is certainly living up to her name. Both of these dogs have indomitable spirits, and they have been able to thrive thanks to the loving care of good people who were willing to find a way to surmount what must have seemed like insurmountable problems.

There are some really terrible people in the world. People who have no qualms about screwing over their neighbors to get what they want. People who would resort to violence and threats to get their way. People who are abusive and mean, who lie, cheat, and steal, or commit violent acts against innocents.

But there are also people who would help dogs like Viva and Hugo, and do whatever it takes to give them a good and loving home with an excellent quality of life. And there are kind people like Daniel who want to help, and create special shoes that not only helped Hugo, but also provide a precedent for another animal who might be in the same predicament. My heart is so full after watching these two beautiful animals play together, so happy and carefree, and really wishing for nothing more than what they already have. We could all learn a lot from them.

Incidentally, our own rescue dogs are doing great, too. Noyzi, our pooch from Kosovo, is getting more and more acclimated by the day. This morning, I let him out to pee and he got a sudden burst of crazy dog and went tearing around the garden at top speed. You’d have to see him in person to understand what that looks like. Noyzi is a big boy, so he can cross our backyard in just a few strides. But he’s quick and agile and can turn on a dime. He was especially animated this morning, and kept dive bombing Bill’s empty garden plot, which is still full of soil. When he was finished getting the tickles out of his feet, he came back inside and relaxed, very contented and happy.

Noyzi has discovered people food. He’s a fan.

I have never once regretted adopting any of the dogs we’ve had. Noyzi has been especially rewarding to get to know. He’s come so far in just under three months. He’s still afraid of Bill, but every day, he’s a little bit less so. It’s obvious that he loves having a family and a nice warm bed of his own. It’s an honor to be able to provide that for him.

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dogs, family

Arran’s first family…

Next week at this time, if all goes well, we will have a new family member to welcome. As I write this, our new dog’s rescuer is in Kosovo, getting several dogs bound for Germany vet checked. Next weekend, we plan to drive to Slovenia to pick up Noizy. He’s a big boy… bigger than any other dog we’ve had so far. I am a little apprehensive about how Arran will react to him, and how Noizy will adapt to us. But not counting the unfortunate dog that we failed to adopt in the spring, he will be our sixth rescue, and the only one who isn’t a beagle mix of some kind.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned this before, but our dog, Arran, was adopted once before we took him from Triangle Beagle Rescue out of North Carolina, which was where we lived when he joined the family in January 2013. Arran’s predecessor, MacGregor, had died a week before Christmas in 2012. We usually get new dogs soon after losing one. This past year with just Arran in the house is unusual for us.

Until a couple of days ago, I knew very little about the people who had taken Arran before we did. We were told that his first family lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were a couple, and the female half was an attorney. They kept him for about nine months before they returned him to the rescue. Apparently, his separation anxiety was more than they could handle. Or, at least I think that was what we were told. We were also told that they called him Marley.

Arran and Zane got along pretty well. They were about the same size and close in age. Both liked to play. Since I stay home most of the time, we never had any really serious problems with Arran and separation anxiety. In fact, I’d say he’s probably been one of the easiest dogs we’ve had yet. Zane was also pretty easy, once we got him housebroken and he quit chewing everything up. Zane was a year old when we got him, while Arran was about four.

The day Arran and Zane met. As you can see, the tails were going fast and furious!
Zane and Arran the day of the adoption.

Anyway, I happened to run across a blog post written by the guy who was fostering Arran, at that time called CD, when the first couple took him. He included a picture of the couple, along with their first names. They’d also had a female beagle named Sydney. From that post, it wasn’t hard at all to find the couple all over the Internet. They are quite different than Bill and I are.

I would guess that the couple is quite a bit younger than we are. When they adopted Arran, they weren’t married, but I soon found a wedding site for them from 2015. The photographer mentioned that their dog was involved with the wedding, too. I’m assuming that was Sydney.

They are Black, and very attractive. Indeed, the wife is a lawyer, while I’m not sure what the husband does. She’s very active in her community and does African dance. He looks like he’s a lot of fun. I found many photos of them dressed up as if they were going to costume parties.

I got the sense that this couple isn’t home much, mainly because they appeared to be busy. I also found out that last year, the wife had a daughter. I guess I can see why Arran didn’t work out for them. He’s probably a little too needy.

I look at Arran and see how much he likes to snuggle with us, especially Bill. I see how even at his now advanced age, he occasionally has accidents in the house. For example, this morning, he left us a nice pile in the living room. Sometimes, I still find wet spots on one of my favorite rugs, although he’s gotten much better in the past year. I know how he vocalizes when I pet him in certain areas, sounding like he’s having an orgasm. He’s not been as noisy since we lost Zane. Zane would often get him riled up. But he’s not totally quiet, either. He also has a little bit of a temper, although he’s generally very sweet, lovable, and agreeable.

People often criticize folks who rehome their pets. In fact, I remember the couple who fostered Arran when we took him (different than the guy who blogged) were kind of disgusted with Arran’s original family. They kept him for nine months and the decision to bring him back to the rescue probably was traumatic for him. He has always been a very sensitive dog who needs reassurance that he’s secure. But when I see how much Arran adores us both, especially Bill, and how happy he is now, I realize that the decision to surrender Arran was probably one of kindness. I also appreciate that they were good enough to bring him back to the rescue, as they agreed when they adopted him, rather than giving him to someone else, ditching him at a shelter, or turning him loose in the woods.

I was also kind of surprised by how easy it was to find these folks, just based on a photo, first names, and a city location. I know a lot more about them than I probably should… but then, I guess people know a lot more about me than they should, too.

I’m so glad we have Arran. I hope he and his new brother will get along. It’ll be a big adjustment, especially since the new dog is a big boy, quite young, and will have to be trained. But at least it’ll give me something constructive to do as COVID-19 ramps up again in Europe. Hopefully, he and Arran will get along and Arran can teach him a few tricks.

I still really miss Zane, but I don’t miss seeing him sick. I like to think the dogs who have gone to the Rainbow Bridge inspire the next ones who come into our lives. Maybe that seems a little ridiculous, but I like to imagine it. There were many days when Zane reminded me so much of his predecessor, Flea, who was probably the only purebred beagle we’ve had.

A new era is about to begin. I wish I’d brought that rug to Germany.

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silliness

“I’m getting in the plane… let the daredevils get ON!”

I had a silly thought as I was walking Arran today. Arran, by the way, is feeling pretty good this morning. He actually came to me while I was practicing guitar and asked for a walk. No, it wasn’t because my guitar playing still sucks… I was working on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” today. Yes, I need more practice, but it was actually recognizable, even if it’s not quite in the key Stevie Ray Vaughan did it.

Anyway, when I walk Arran, I typically clear my head. Sometimes I have thoughts that are serious. Sometimes, my thoughts are decidedly silly. Today, was a silly day. I was thinking about an old George Carlin routine in which he tackles idiosyncrasies of the English language. He was talking about people saying things like “I’m getting ON the plane.”

We all know what it means to get ON the plane. But George, who was so clever when it came to language, said, “Fuck you! I’m getting IN the plane. Let the daredevils get ON!”

Not quite the same routine, but he mentions getting “ON” the plane, rather than “IN”.

Yes… a silly thought indeed. I’m not sure why it crept into my head as I was enjoying the cooler temperatures that always seem to appear in Germany at this time of year, as if by magic. In fact, I remember thirteen years ago, Bill and I lived in Virginia and were preparing to move to Germany the first time. One of my friends, an experienced fellow Army wife, said to me, “Better be sure you bring a jacket.” Sure enough, she was right. I wasn’t in Germany a week that first time before I was buying the jacket I neglected to have available.

My friend, whose husband is now a general, has never lived in Germany. I think, thanks to what her husband does, she’s spent most of his career in Virginia. But she’s known enough people who have moved to Germany to know that September in Germany is NOT like September in Virginia. Even if it’s blazing hot in August in Germany, somehow September always seems to usher in refreshing temperatures, glorious late summer days, and some rain. We had a lot of rain yesterday, and Arran still seemed a little “off”, so we stayed in and I watched old episodes of The Brady Bunch. Watching that show always seems to comfort me, somehow.

I happened to catch an episode called “The Private Ear”. In the opening scene, the character Jan Brady, played by Eve Plumb, is in her bedroom, wearing a very short dress. As she does a scene with sister Marcia (Maureen McCormick), she sits on the bed, almost hiking up that super short dress more than it already was. For the first time ever, even though I’ve seen that show repeatedly since about 1978, I noticed that I could plainly see Eve Plumb’s underwear.

Jeez… everybody was always so dressed up on The Brady Bunch. They dressed up for EVERYTHING. Nowadays, I mostly wear my nightgown when I’m not walking the dog or otherwise out in public. Anyway, I see London, I see France, Jan…

I think maybe Arran was picking up on our sadness yesterday, as we were missing Zane. He probably also picked up on the anxiety that comes from realizing that Arran is also mortal and we will someday lose him, too. Today, he’s acting like his old self.

One thing I did notice today on my walk is that I was thinking of music and silly things. I was actually in a pretty good mood. I think it helped that today’s guitar session was relatively productive. I still suck at guitar, but I suck a lot less than I did a couple of months ago. I’m beginning to think I’ll eventually get the hang of playing and maybe even sound good someday.

And I also had a good singing day yesterday… I may have another one today, since Bill went in to work. He’ll work from home tomorrow, since Arran is going to go to the vet to get some shots and have his back checked out. He seems perfectly normal today, but we want to make sure no trouble is brewing. Besides, he’s due for a checkup…

Speaking of checkups, I’m due for one, too. I definitely could use a medical checkup, since I haven’t seen a doctor since 2010. But I need a dental cleaning, too. It’s been too long. Maybe we should find a Wiesbaden dentist. COVID-19 has made travel so much more complicated. It’s not so easy to pop down to Stuttgart to see our dentist there.

This post is really about a lot of nothing. Sorry about that. I’m still working on reading my latest book and hope to finish it soon, so I can at least post a fresh book review instead of a repost. But at least I’m in a pretty good mood for once. I gotta grab for the stars when I can, right?

I’m really not always cranky. It just seems that way most of the time.

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dogs, memories, obits

A year without Zane…

We had kind of a scary day yesterday. Our dog, Arran, didn’t seem to be feeling very well. He had a tragic look on his face, seemed to have trouble jumping, and when I touched his back, he yelped in pain. Arran is ten or eleven years old. He’s always been very healthy, but he’s not getting any younger. We also had a rather active weekend. He got walks and went with us to our visit to a winery on Friday night, as well as a day trip to Kallstadt, which is where Donald Trump’s grandparents were from.

Bill was worried enough about Arran yesterday that he took him to Tierklinik Hofheim, which is a really high speed veterinary facility near us. Our former vet down near Stuttgart told me, back when I was struggling with our other dog, Zane, that Tierklinik Hofheim is one of the best veterinary hospitals in Germany. I used to worry about how I would get Zane there, if he needed their services. It’s a good three hour drive from where we used to live. Now, we only live about twenty minutes from Hofheim, and about a year ago, Bill took Zane there and got the devastating confirmation that he had canine lymphoma.

We had hoped for one last month with Zane, but he was gone a week after our regular vet told us she suspected the disease. August 31, 2019 was a sunny, hot day. We found Zane that morning, exhausted and curiously bloated. It turned out he was bleeding internally from a ruptured tumor in his spleen. By noon, we had said goodbye to him. It was very sad for Bill and me, but as dog deaths go, particularly from cancer, it wasn’t as horrible as it could have been. Zane had a good last week. He was able to eat, bask in the sunshine, and even take a couple of walks.

We have now lost three dogs to canine cancer. Zane’s death, while certainly not easy, was much kinder than the deaths of his three predecessors. Our first rescue died of a very rare mycobacterial infection that required special testing by the Virginia Department of Health. Our second had prostate cancer. Our third, wonderful MacGregor, died of a spinal tumor. All three of those dogs endured excruciating pain that was barely touched by pain medications before we helped them to the Rainbow Bridge. I did not get the sense that Zane suffered pain as much as he did exhaustion and discomfort.

It was a terrible shock to lose Zane so quickly after finding out how sick he was. Zane was always a very special dog to me. I’ve loved every dog we’ve had, but Zane and I had an incredible bond. He was like a ray of sunshine most days… always friendly, mostly laid back, often hilarious, and happy almost all the time. He loved to play games and had a comical side to him. He also loved to snuggle, especially in my lap, and he loved running and playing, even though he was kind of fragile and needed a lot of veterinary care over his almost eleven year lifespan.

This is all Zane.

I usually get a new dog about a month after losing one, but this time, it’s taken a lot longer for a lot of reasons. We tried to adopt a new dog a few months ago, but he escaped before he managed to come into our home. I knew he was doomed as I watched him run away. We live close to two Autobahns, and the new dog, who was from Sardinia and apparently not very socialized, didn’t know us. Sure enough, he was killed before twenty-four hours had passed.

Bill and I are now expecting to bring a new dog into our home in about a month. The new dog is from Kosovo and, for now, is known as Noizy. I’m not sure if we will change his name. I don’t always change my dogs’ names when I get them. It depends on how fitting they are to their personalities. I have heard that Noizy isn’t actually very loud, either. Anyway… I expect Noizy will also be special because all dogs are in some way. I have yet to regret adopting a dog. Even the one we tried to adopt in March ended up doing something positive.

First off, the lady who runs the Tierpension where we board our dogs when we take trips thought of Bill and me when a German family “dumped” an elderly cocker spaniel named Maxl. Maxl’s human “dad” had died, and his “mom” was unable to take care of him. Family members brought him to the Tierpension and asked the staff to help them rehome him. Maxl had some health issues that were neglected, plus he’s about twelve years old. A couple tried to take him, but Maxl was too “stinky” and, for whatever reason, they decided not to take him to a vet but, instead, brought him back to the Tierpension.

Since Bill and I had already committed to taking in Noizy and I know that Noizy will probably cause angst for Arran, we declined to take Maxl. However, I did share Maxl’s information in one of several Facebook groups I joined because of the dog that escaped. I had been wanting to spread the word and ended up staying in the groups. A group member in the Pets of Wiesbaden group decided she could take in Maxl, and within a couple of days, he was in his new home. If not for the dog who got away, I probably never would have joined that Facebook group because my experiences with Facebook groups in Stuttgart had kind of soured me on them– especially the ones affiliated with the U.S. military.

And secondly, there’s Noizy, who’s about two years old and was found wandering the streets of Kosovo when he was a small puppy. He’s missing most of his tail and part of an ear. His rescuer thinks maybe some kids mutilated him. I haven’t met Noizy in person yet, but I’ve seen many pictures and videos. I have a feeling we’re going to get along fine, although Arran may not be too happy to have to share us with a new friend.

As for Arran… he seems somewhat better today. We are going to take him to the vet. He’s due for a checkup anyway, and we’re going to update some vaccines that we stopped giving after he had a mast cell tumor. Zane also had mast cell cancer and that was probably what led to the lymphoma, but Zane’s mast cell cancer was much worse and more active than Arran’s was. Arran just had one lone tiny tumor that was low grade. That was five years ago, and he’s not had another since. Zane, on the other hand, had lots of lumps and some systemic involvement. He held on for three years until lymphoma took him– lymphoma often strikes dogs who have had mast cell tumors. It’s not recommended to give vaccines to dogs who have had mast cell cancer, although we have kept giving the rabies vaccine because it’s the law. Since both dogs had mast cell tumors, we stopped most vaccines for both of them. Arran hasn’t had another tumor, so he’s probably alright to get boosters now.

I still think about Zane every day. The house has seemed kind of empty with just one dog around, although it’s also been peaceful and Arran has kind of morphed into a better behaved dog. But Arran is mostly Bill’s dog. Bill is Arran’s favorite person, even though Arran does his best to pay attention to both of us. All you have to do is look at the many photos I’ve posted of Arran and his habit of worshipping Bill every day. I don’t need to be worshipped… neither does Bill… but it would be nice to have a dog of my own to snuggle while Arran basks in his love for his “daddy”.

Hopefully, Noizy will like me as much as Zane did.

Anyway… for those who are curious, here are a couple of videos I made to remember Zane. They show his progression from adorable “teenaged” pup, who was originally named Einstein and fresh from Atlanta Beagle Rescue, to venerable old man living in Germany and acting like a brilliant canine ambassador. We were very privileged to know him and have him in our lives from December 13, 2009 until August 31, 2019. Sometimes, it even feels like he’s still hanging around.

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housekeeping tips, musings

Wash… WASH… WASH!!! and dry… DRY… DRY!!!

Bill is really adorable sometimes. He often references the fact that I have a master’s degree in public health when he talks about health topics. One of the biggest mantras among public health professionals is the great importance of washing one’s hands. It’s one of the very best ways to keep at bay communicable diseases that spread on surfaces and through the air.

Thanks to the c-word, Bill and I have been washing our hands a lot. And when you wash your hands a lot, they tend to dry out. The other day, Bill came to me complaining about how dry his skin is. It’s gotten so bad that he’s getting cuts and cracks, which isn’t a good thing, since that provides more openings for germs to invade. The last thing we need is an infection on top of the c-word threat.

Last August, we took a cruise on Hebridean Princess and one of our stops was at the Isle of Harris Distillery. They’re in the process of making whisky, but already offer a really lovely gin. Because I love a good retail haul, I also purchased some skincare products from them. Amanda Saurin, Apothecary, has made a Rose & Honeysuckle hand cream and a Rose & Honeysuckle All Purpose Balm. I keep them by my computer because my hands get dry under normal circumstances. Over the past couple of weeks, they’ve become even dryer. The all purpose balm is a bit greasy and doesn’t absorb that well, but the hand cream is excellent. It’s very light, absorbent, and it smells good. It also really does a great job keeping the skin hydrated.

Since Bill and I are both using it and our supply is depleting, I went to the Isle of Harris’s website to see if they had any more of that hand cream for sale. I didn’t find it offered in their online shop. All they had were gin related products– bottles of Harris gin, glassware, and tinctures designed to enhance the flavor of cocktails. Since we’re in Germany, we have to order from a German vendor anyway. The gin is good, but we need hand cream more than booze!

I just sent them an email to ask about the hand cream. I don’t know why they wouldn’t have it available on their site. It’s a really great product. I wish I’d bought more when we visited. I don’t usually get excited about these kinds of things, but when I find something that works and appeals to both Bill and me, I like to keep buying it. I’m sure I could find something cheaper and more local, and if it comes down to that, I will. But since it’s not too girly smelling, it’s a good unisex option. Bill doesn’t like to use scented things that smell too feminine. ETA: I can’t get more of this wonder drug right now, because the distillery is closed, and so is the apothecary that makes it. Rats.

On another note, Vodafone, here in Germany, has done their part to encourage people to stay home during the pandemic. Check out Bill’s phone…

#StayHome VF.DE

Local businesses are trying to stay afloat by offering delivery and pick up services. We got a flyer for a local bakery yesterday that will do deliveries. We don’t usually buy German breads, but maybe we’ll subscribe. We like to support small businesses whenever possible.

I’m finding my patience with people getting thinner and thinner, too. I may end up socially isolating from social media, too. As I wrote a couple of days ago, I’m probably better off recording music right now. Fewer people pay attention to that, and it brings me joy to do it. Today is also the dreaded vacuum day. I guess I’ll do it… it’ll eat up about a half an hour. I probably could be more thorough and spend more time vacuuming, but I truly hate that chore with a passion, even if I do like the end results.

Arran has been a real comfort to me this week. This morning, after waking us up for an early constitutional, he came back into our bedroom and happily settled himself in my arms. I woke up later holding Arran, who was as contented as a clam. It’s hard to believe someone once adopted him and brought him back to the rescue after nine months. I’m so glad we were the people to give him a forever home. He’s turned into a wonderful companion. I only wish we could have had another companion join us last week. Maybe, when the c-word crisis is over, we’ll try again.

He’s such a blessing to us.
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