dogs, family, Germany, YouTube

Our “Noyzi” year…

The featured photo was taken the day we adopted Noyzi– October 4, 2020.

Looks like it’s going to be another sedate Sunday here in Germany. Today is German Unity Day. It’s also Sunday, which means everything’s closed, anyway. Looks like rain is in the forecast, too. I have a feeling we’ll be chilling at home. Maybe we’ll watch a movie or get hooked on a Netflix show or something…

For now, though, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the past year. It was a special year for many reasons, mostly because of challenges related to COVID-19, and because some people who were friends and relatives have moved on to the next world. It’s also special because this year, we’ve had Noyzi.

Bill and I adopted Noyzi last year after we lost our sweet beagle, Zane, to lymphoma. We had tried to adopt a dog from a local rescue, but it was during the first days of the pandemic. We weren’t allowed to travel to get him ourselves, so the rescue arranged for a pet taxi to bring him to us. The pet taxi driver who drove him from up north neglected to secure him properly before she took him out of the car. He escaped, and was killed on the Autobahn.

I was heartbroken after both of those dogs died. One day, I mentioned on Facebook that I really wanted another dog. My friend Mary happened to know an American woman who rehomes rescue dogs from Kosovo. Mary put me in touch with Meg, Noyzi’s savior, and we embarked on our journey to bring Noyzi home. It took about six months to get everything set.

First, we had to get a blood test for Noyzi to make sure he was rabies free. Then we had to wait for the borders to open, making travel to Kosovo possible for Meg. Then we had to arrange a weekend when we could meet her halfway and pick up the dog. I chronicled that trip on my travel blog, which you can find here.

Prior to picking up Noyzi in Kranjska Gora, a border resort town in northwestern Slovenia, we had never seen him in person. All I knew about him was what I had seen in pictures and videos of him. A lot of the photos and videos I had seen were of when he was a puppy. Consequently, I didn’t know how big he was before we picked him up. It’s a damned good thing we have a SUV. He had to ride in the back cargo area, because Arran was not too happy about having a new canine pal. The backseat also isn’t quite big enough for Noyzi, either.

Noyzi was petrified when we brought him into our house. He was confused by the glass doors, and bumped into them a few times, thinking that since he could see through the glass, he could just go outside. And when he first went outside, he wanted to stay there. I’m guessing it was because that was what he was used to. In Kosovo, he lived outside with a bunch of other dogs. They had shelter, but they didn’t spend all of their time in the shelter.

Within a couple of days, Noyzi realized that being inside was a good thing. So then he didn’t want to go outside, because it was like he was afraid we were going to make him stay out there all the time. He was afraid of both Bill and me, but he was less afraid of me. He wouldn’t let Bill pet him at first, and then he would only let him pet him if he was lying on his bedding. He would also submissively urinate when Bill made sudden moves, like taking off his belt or a jacket.

After a week, Noyzi got his own bed. It was his safe space. He would stay there about 95 percent of the time, never venturing beyond the immediate area around the bed.

Noyzi also did not know how to walk on a leash. I had to teach him that the harness and leash were his friends. After a few lessons, we trusted him enough to take a walk through the neighborhood. It was quite a thrill when he finally got the hang of it. And now, a year later, he demands walks every day. If I don’t take him out, he’ll bug me. He’ll even bark at me until I get up. Then, while I get dressed, he’ll goose me in the butt.

A few months ago, Noyzi abandoned the bed in the living room, where he’d been spending most of his time. Instead, he gradually moved himself upstairs, finally installing himself on some old bedding in my office. When it became clear that Noyzi wasn’t going to be sleeping downstairs anymore, I moved his big dog bed to my office. He now hangs out there most of the time, but he’s not averse to going to other rooms. He used to be afraid to leave his bed at all.

This is the first video we have of Noyzi. It was made a few minutes after we got him home. He was pretty scared.
This video was made almost a year ago. This is Noyzi’s very first bath, ever, in his lifetime. Notice that he seems to love it.
This video was made in early November 2020. Noyzi had finally learned how to walk on the leash.

Noyzi made friends with our next door neighbor’s Labrador, Tommi, who is very young and playful. For awhile, it looked like Tommi might crawl under the fence for a play session!

Sadly, Tommi doesn’t visit under the fence anymore.

In the spring, we put up a new fly screen, because the one we had was all torn up and Noyzi had destroyed it even further by pawing at it. Noyzi didn’t know what to make of it. He still comes bounding through it in a panic most days, but it no longer deters him from coming in or going outside.

It’s time I made a new music video…
Noyzi now tells me what he needs. He barks at me when he wants a walk.

As I’m writing this, Noyzi just came over for a pat on the head. He’s become such a loving, goofy, funny family member. He’s also remarkably well-behaved. I never even had to house train him. He somehow knew from the beginning not to pee in the house. I’ve only had to clean up a couple of messy accidents caused by dietary indiscretions. He does, on the other hand, shed a lot. Every week, I sweep and vacuum lots of hairy evidence that he’s in our lives.

I have never had a dog like Noyzi. Actually, I could say that about any of our dogs, but I can especially say it about Noyzi. He’s completely different from any dog I’ve ever had. He’s the biggest dog I’ve ever had, and the only one that wasn’t American. Most of my dogs have been hounds. We had a couple of dogs when I was a child who weren’t hounds, but they were small dogs that were easy to handle and move. Noyzi probably weighs about 70 pounds. Thankfully, he’s taught himself to jump into the back of the Volvo, which spares my back.

Noyzi on the day he left Kosovo… Two other lucky dogs also made their way to new homes that day.

Noyzi has really made a lot of progress from the shy, terrified, pariah dog he was a year ago. Now, he’s much more confident and happy to be part of a family. He’s even made some progress with his fear of men. He will come up to Bill for snacks, and when the plumber was here a few days ago, Noyzi bowed down to be petted. Just a few weeks ago, he would not have done that. It’s so rewarding to watch him evolve, and let go of all of those fears he’s had for so long. I think we were meant to have him… and having him has taught us so much.

Below are some photos that show Noyzi’s journey…

I’m so glad we adopted Noyzi. I have never regretted taking in any of our dogs, but having him has been especially rewarding and educational, on so many levels. He’s taught us so much about survival, trust, love, and Kosovo, which I will admit is a country I knew almost nothing about before we met Noyzi and Meg. He really is a wonderful family member. Even ol’ Arran is coming around to loving him as much as Bill and I do.

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dogs, lessons learned, psychology

What are the odds?

Last night, I read an article about elderly people who suddenly find themselves homeless since the advent of COVID-19. The piece, which appeared in The New York Times, featured the story of a man named Miles Oliver who lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Originally from Chicago, Oliver came to Arizona by way of the Army over thirty years ago, when he was a new recruit assigned to Fort Huachuca. He liked Arizona and decided to stay there once his stint with the Army was finished.

According to The New York Times article, Mr. Oliver had been able to make a life for himself in Arizona by working day labor jobs and delivering pizzas for Papa John’s. But then COVID-19 struck and Oliver was soon out of work. To make matters worse, work had already been slow in February, before things really started to get bleak in terms of the virus. Oliver was soon face with the difficult decision of either paying his rent or paying his car note, $230 for a 2007 Ford Fusion. He decided to pay the car note, since it was a source of shelter and transportation. By the end of April, he was kicked out of his home, forced to grab just a few necessary items– reading glasses, socks and underwear, and Metformin for his blood sugar, before he hit the streets in his car. By late June, his car quit working.

Oliver has an ex wife and two children. His older son is estranged and hasn’t spoken to him in years. His younger son is a student and in no position to help him. He doesn’t speak to his ex wife. He has diabetes and sleep apnea, and although he is a veteran and qualifies for some benefits, his future looks dim.

As I read about Mr. Oliver’s plight, it occurred to me that he’s about Bill’s age. Once again, I was reminded of how quickly and drastically things can change. I’ve been doing what I can to mitigate the risks that someday, I’ll find myself homeless. I looked at Bill and said, “You know what? I think if I were in that situation, I’d be tempted to just check out.” I said this mainly because although I am not necessarily estranged from my family, neither am I particularly close to them. I don’t have children, and although I am well-educated and privileged, I was never able to parlay that into a job that paid me enough to live on. If I couldn’t do it 20 years ago, how can I do it now? And why would I want to? Without Bill, I’m not sure why I’d stick around this hellhole we call Earth, which is swirling with plagues, natural disasters, and selfish, shitty politicians like Trump and Mitch McConnell.

Bill, who is eternally optimistic and has survived some pretty dim odds himself, gave me a pained look. Although he knows I suffer from depression and that makes me look on the dark side of things, I don’t think he’s ever gotten used to that unfailingly pragmatic aspect of my personality. It’s also kind of anti-American to “give up” on life. Bill has never felt the urge to off himself, despite his brush with death when he was a teenager. I, on the other hand, used to feel suicidal somewhat often. I’ve often felt ambivalent and apathetic about life. I was told more than once that I wasn’t wanted by the people who were responsible for creating me. They later came to appreciate me, but those comments left a deep scar that has affected my self-worth. And I just feel like if I were in a situation as an old woman without a home, family, or friends, I wouldn’t want to bother going on. But then I started thinking about it some more and realized that maybe I was wrong to think that way.

I thought about all of the challenges facing Mr. Oliver. He’s an older Black man, with no family able to help him and, it appears, few friends. He’s got health problems, but no money or resources to take care of them. There’s a pandemic raging, and we have a president who doesn’t care about people. And yet he is clearly a survivor. He has reached out for assistance. His story was told in The New York Times. Maybe I got the wrong message.

After I told Bill about why I felt it would be more expedient to “check out” than try to rebuild life as a homeless person, I looked behind me at Noizy. He’s still stuck in the corner of our living room, slowly getting braver by the day. I started to think about how he’d once been a homeless puppy, weaned too early from his mother, and left to die in a country where dogs aren’t appreciated. It’s kind of a miracle that he’s here with us in Germany. What are the odds?

Noizy was brought to his American rescuer, Meg, by a young man in Kosovo who had seen him in the street, screaming for help. He brought the puppy to Meg because he didn’t know where else to take him. Kosovo has a big problem with street dogs, but the culture doesn’t support animal rescue too well. Many people in Kosovo are Muslim and many Muslims consider dogs impure and unclean. Meg didn’t need another puppy to take care of, but she decided to keep Noizy anyway. She watched him grow from tiny puppy to gigantic adult. I’m sure she wondered what his future would hold.

And then, Bill and I came along, looking for a new canine friend. We had just tragically lost a dog we’d tried to adopt, one who was much closer to the type of dog we usually take into our home. It took some time for us to decide we really wanted another dog, and it was definitely not our plan to adopt a big dog– especially one as large as Noizy is. But once I saw Noizy’s face, I was hooked. There was something about his eyes that touched my heart. I have never been sorry when I’ve taken in a dog, and every single one we’ve adopted touched me through a photograph.

I started thinking about all of the people who came together to see that Noizy found a home. He spent 18 months living on a farm in Kosovo, one of many dogs living there, cared for by a farmer who has a soft spot for dogs and was willing to help Meg, who had moved from Kosovo to Germany and couldn’t take her rescues with her. She had paid for the dogs to be taken care of on the farm while she looked afar for potential rescuers. Most of these dogs haven’t lived as pets in a home.

I just happened to have a friend who knew Meg and introduced us. I met this friend in Stuttgart a few years ago, again by chance. We’ve only seen each other in person once, but our mutual friend is very involved in dog rescue herself and has a couple of exotic dogs from far flung countries like Thailand and Afghanistan. She told Meg that one of her dogs would be very lucky to be placed with us. It was like the stars aligned.

I just met Meg in person the other day. She is very impressive. Somehow, she has managed to develop a powerful network of people in Kosovo, Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia who have helped her on her mission to save some street dogs. What are the odds that a tiny puppy like Noizy would end up in Meg’s care? What are the odds that she would be found by a local young man who cared about the puppy’s life enough to seek her out? It was much more likely that the noisy puppy would have languished and died.

Even once we’d decided when to pick up Noizy, there were challenges. First, there was the whole COVID-19 situation, which is causing countries to shut their borders again. Fortunately, that didn’t affect us during our trip, although it as definitely a concern. And then, when Meg was bringing Noizy and two other dogs up to Slovenia to hand off to Bill and me, her car broke down. Another American couple (younger and able to take another day to travel) drove an extra 400 kilometers to help Meg get the dogs to Slovenia. They drove all night, very slowly, to make it happen.

Soon Noizy was in the back of our Volvo, with our other dog, Arran, looking pissy in the back seat. On his first night in our home, Noizy was obsessed with going outside. It’s what he knew. He hugged the door to our yard, taking every opportunity to go out. He bumped his head on the glass, apparently because he’d never seen a glass door before. Within 24 hours, he clearly preferred being indoors rather than outdoors. He’s staked out a part of our living room and won’t venture beyond that area. But every time he sees me, he looks delighted and wags his tail excitedly. He rolls on his back for a belly rub. He’s learned how to drink from a water bowl and eat from a dish. He’s even been pretty good (but not perfect) with peeing and pooping outside. Noizy is clearly game for the challenge of learning how to be a pet.

A few days ago, Bill had an epiphany about Noizy. In 2012, when we were vacationing in Scotland in honor of our tenth wedding anniversary, we got the devastating news that our beagle/basset hound mix, MacGregor, had a spinal tumor. At the time, we lived in North Carolina. Vets had told us before we left for our trip that they thought MacGregor had disk disease. If we had known it was a tumor (which they only discovered after he had a MRI), we probably would have made other choices about our vacation.

The night we found out about the cancer and the vet’s suggestion that we euthanize MacGregor, Bill had a nightmare. He dreamt he was being chased by many dogs. He thought they wanted to hurt him, so he initially threw rocks at them. But then he realized they weren’t trying to attack him at all. They all needed help. One dog in particular was kind of eerie looking. He had gleaming eyes, but he wasn’t menacing.

The next morning, we got off the Hebridean Princess and took a taxi to Edinburgh. As we were passing the lovely town of Stirling, Bill considered his dream and what it meant. He knew it meant we were going to be helping dogs… perhaps even a lot of them. As he thought more about his dream while we rode toward Edinburgh, Bill came to assume that the gleaming eyed dog represented death, which will always be there whenever there’s a living creature involved in a situation. The dream has stuck with him almost eight years later. This past Sunday, as we were driving to Germany with Noizy and Arran, Bill said “You know what? That dog in my dream looked a lot like Noizy.”

Later, Bill told Meg about his dream. Meg, who studies Jungian psychology, offered her take on it. Then she told us about what Noizy meant to her and how he came to be in her care. I hope Meg doesn’t mind that I share this one bit from her explanation… because I have been thinking about it a lot over the past few days. She wrote that to her, Noizy represents hope for the future. He should have died on the street, but he screamed for help (hence his name). A young man, native to a country that doesn’t necessarily appreciate dogs, came to his rescue and gave him to Meg, a woman who rescues dogs.

Why did the young man give Noizy to Meg? Because he had hope that Meg could save the puppy and give him a future. The alternative was to let him die. Meg told us that a lot of the young people of Kosovo don’t have a lot of hope. They are in a country that isn’t recognized everywhere yet. Their country is troubled, and the young people wonder if anyone cares about them.

Why did Meg give Noizy to us? She said it was hard for her. I could tell she was very emotional when we took him. He’s a big, powerful dog, though, and Meg has many dogs who need homes. Meg is also retired and has physical and financial limitations that may preclude taking care of Noizy the way we can. Even though we’re doing fine so far, I wonder what the future holds for us. I’m no spring chicken myself. 😉 But I do have plenty of time, and Bill and I– at least for now– have a secure home and money for food, vet care, and anything else Noizy needs. So we’re going to do our best to make sure that young man’s hope for Noizy will not be unfulfilled.

And maybe I can learn a lesson from Noizy, too. Against all odds, he’s up here in Germany, about to live his best life… to the best of our ability to give it to him. We’re an unlikely match. Bill and I have always had beagle mixes, after all… and we’re renters with a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. But I think I can teach Noizy a thing or two, and he can teach me even more than that. At the very least, he can teach me that maybe “checking out” isn’t the best thing to do when one is suddenly homeless or facing another major adversity.

I hope Miles Oliver finds what he needs to start over and live his best life with whatever time he has left. And I thank him for his story, which affected me more than I realized when I read it last night.

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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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