Adventures in Americaland: Part Bee

And in this adventure story, there will be hurricanes, DNA results, surgeries, Lyme disease, new old cars, a road trip to the rural South of Georgia, new opportunities, broken things, fixed things and lots and lots of boxes.

Adventures in Georgia - Tip of the Hurricane

First – the hurricane. If you are even vaguely aware of the weather around the world, you would have seen in the news the swath of destruction left behind by Hurricane Joaquim. Luckily for us, it focused its rage on South Carolina, and we only got the tail/tip – but it was pretty heavy even then. Pouring, driving rain for 5 days straight, windy and ranging from very cold and wet to very warm and wet. Strange times. The dogs and I got soaked, generally (I went through a lot of socks) as I wasn’t keeping them indoors anymore, because we were in the middle of discovering/mentally mapping our neighbourhood and checking out all the walk routes we had on offer. Note: there are LOADS of different routes, some nicer than others, some to be avoided in the mornings (too many kiddies on the way to school “OOH PUPPIESCANIPATTHEMCANICANIOMGTHEYBARKED *cue the screaming* and also the forest paths are lovely but best avoided in the early morning and early evening as that’s when the deer come out… and thus.. the hunters. Seriously.) and others to be avoided around lunch time as that’s when people come home during their lunch hour and feel it’s fine to just kick the dog out and “let them be” outside. No lead. No tether. No watchful eye. Nada. Odin does NOT like this idea and we’ve had a few frothing snarling snapping sessions while I drag him down the road, accompanied by barking (excited) Azzie and growling and barking (protective) Gina. Tim (from BH) was right: there was a great deal of “regression” for Odin in his behaviour, but he seems to be coming right now. It’s much easier to remove him from a situation than it was when we first got here – he was a monster. *Deep breath* I don’t even want to think about that first week.


Speaking of Odin! His DNA test results (thank you Wisdom Panel) came back today! And we were TOTALLY WRONG about the breeds he has in him! No Greyhound whatsoever (of any type) or Border Collie for that matter. Guess what he is? German Shepherd…. and… Irish Red and White Setter… AND… wait for it… Keeshond! Yes, you heard me… Keeshond! We were NOT expecting that one! Not sure where that falls in with his traits and behaviours and looks… but there you have it. He’s truly a mix and match, our gentle boy. I was on the right track with his training though – they are all tracking/hunting/search dogs, and of course GSH love agility too, so we’ve got him right there. Now we just need to find a local area to practice/socialise him again. And the girls.

Adventure Dog Odin - German Shepherd Dog, Red and White Setter, Keeshond
German Shepherd, Red and White Setter, Keeshond. Who knew?

I finally bit the bullet and bought the training collars… tone and vibrate only. We’re going to test it on ourselves first anyway, and then decide HOW and WHEN we will use them. Azzie will get one as well (I bought the 2 pack) to help curb her various naughty habits. We’ve tried everything else and she just ignores it and does what she wants, so I think this will work. I’ve been consistent. I’ve been patient – but over 2 years and she’s still doing her own thing, despite my best efforts? Yeah. Time for a new angle, right? I would never hurt my dogs – let me just state that right up front – but for distance training (for Odin) and catching Azzie in the exact moment of her bad habit (various ones!) will be much easier with this option. I’m still reading every bit of literature I can find on training using the collars, and we will only begin when we feel totally sure of what we are doing. My dogs are too precious to me to mess it up by just wading in and learning as we “go along” kind of thing. Nuh uh.

Precious dogs being Bernese, we keep a watchful eye out for lumps and bumps… and we found two (and now THREE) on Azzie, of various sizes. So on Friday morning last week she went in for surgery to have them removed. She didn’t go under – she was heavily sedated though, because she’s wriggly – but there was a heavy local anesthetic in the affected areas. She came through fine, none the worse for wear. The incision on her back is quite large, and for some reason the vet missed a stitch.. so there’s a little gap between two of them (6 stitches altogether) which we are keeping a close eye on for infection. She’s handling it well – I trimmed the excess hair around the edges of the shaved part, as it was tickling her and making her lick/scratch the area – and has been 80% good about not messing with the surgery areas. The one on her front leg is healing very quickly (only 1 stitch) and she has totally stopped licking that one now. She goes back to have the stitches removed in just under 2 weeks time. We MIGHT have to go in earlier if it gets infected, despite our best efforts. Here’s hoping they hold out until then.

Adventure Dog Azzie - Bernese Mountain Dog
Azzie ponders things in the back of the minivan

My other precious Bernese, Gina, got a faint positive for Lyme disease before we left Germany, so the vet there suggested (strongly) that we get her tested again when we settle in here. So we did. Took over a week for the results (they do off site testing, unlike Germany) and it came back with another faint positive – so she either HAD Lyme disease (which is totally likely with the HORRIBLE ticks we had in Baumholder, who were seemingly impervious to anti-tick stuff!) at one point recently, or currently has it. Either way, she is being treated now and hopefully no damage has been done to her (already delicate) kidneys. Also hoping it will clear up the random lameness issue she has. It should, if it’s Lyme related.

Adventure Dog Gina - Bernese Mountain Dog
My sweet girl

In our urgent quest for a reliable and suitable second hand car (before our rental had to be returned) we have traveled far and wide around Georgia. One of our trips was far out into the country to view a comfy and well loved and used 4Runner. We headed down toward a place called Lincolnton and a road called Lincoln. This was the real South, people. The one you see in the movies and on TV shows about farmers and small towns. White fences, huge acres of grass, big drooping Willow trees, horses, cows, beloved old trucks kept in mint condition, combine harvesters, rolls of wheat resting in cropped down pastures, men and women sitting with their dogs on the porch and enjoying the afternoon light and the sweet smells from the Sweetpea flowers. Idyllic. Breathtaking. Peaceful. The light was absolutely gorgeous and I wished I had brought Bertha along. Little Ziggy (my purple point and shoot) did just fine though and I got some lovely shots as we drove through back roads and tree lined avenues that went on for miles and miles in one direction. It was a serene trip, there and back, and we had comfortable silences and many interesting and amusing conversations. We didn’t bring the dogs on this one, as there wasn’t much space in the back of the small rental car (we swapped it out a few days before – got rid of the minivan, as we didn’t need it anymore) for them to relax on a long trip like that. We checked out the 4runner, but it was a little TOO worn for our liking (knobs and things missing, bits falling off, and an unsettling smell that we couldn’t quite narrow down) and we thanked the VERY nice people and headed back home. Dogs were thrilled to see us of course. A few days later we went to check out an SUV (also an older one) and that was even more “well worn” – but luckily the man who was sorting the sale out for his elderly neighbour said “well I have this car here that we’ve done up and we’re selling” and we walked across the road to have a look at an older Honda Accord Station Wagon. We liked her, the moment we saw her… but we still had others to check out, so we drove her a bit, had a think and said we would get back to him. We then checked out a whole bunch of other cars and it all came down to a choice between a younger Honda Civic and this older station wagon. It was a difficult choice, but in the end a vast array of Pros in favour of the station wagon won out and we purchased her two days later. The Georgia DMV – Augusta one, anyway – is rather nice :) We had no issues and soon we had plates, and license, and registration and then we had to think of a name. It took a few days, but we settled on Daisy. As in… driving Miss Daisy. She’s adorable and the dogs are LOVING all the space in the back! We’ve been giving her lots of TLC (new tyres, new sparks, etc etc) and she’s giving us back a smooth easy ride. Match made. Happy us.

Adventure car - Miss Daisy Adventure car - Miss Daisy

Before we even left Germany we were on the look out for a washer and dryer (they don’t come with the house furnishings, unfortunately) and we found a set for a good price. We asked the reason for the good price and we were told that the dryer “just needed a starter button” and it was good to go. Lies. LIES! We’ve changed the starter button, changed the thermal fuse, tested all the wiring with a (newly purchased) volt meter and WE STILL CANNOT GET THE DAMN DRYER TO WORK! So it’s been “hang it outside on sunny days” old school laundry for us. The Sears serviceman was meant to come and check it out this morning, but they called and changed the date so we’re without a dryer for ANOTHER week. Meh. Hopefully it stays sunny for the next few days so we can get some laundry dry.

At least the washer works well.

My DIY husband handyman has fixed a few things in the house on his own, and when our shelves arrived with our HHG, he also (with a tiny bit of help.. seriously, hardly any help from me – I just held things and handed them to him) put them up and anchored them like a pro. Very proud of his handiwork!

A long time ago I had a chat with a friend about ways to make money while being a stay at home wife and fur mother, herbalist, photographer and seamstress but also contribute to my awesome family in more ways (especially financial) I have found many things and done many things. Where we were living before (Germany) made it quite difficult to get green things going and maintain them (and we had no garden and anything I grew in pots had to remain behind when we left… which we did, just over 2 weeks ago. It was hard saying goodbye to Persephone, Bob, George, Terence & Phillip, and the little Bamboos, but we found them a good home with a lovely German lady who will take good care of them all) and my other hobbies and potential income avenues (vintage inspired clothing and photography) were not allowed on the military post. Long story. But NOW… now we are back in the Land of the Free, and I can once again pick up the reins of these various projects and I’m very excited. I’ve also added two more ways to add to the family income. One is a virtual assistant site that I am a proud member of (Fancy Hands, if anyone is interested) and the other… wow… the other is even more exciting. I’ve been accepted as a Merchandiser for the rather cool, clever and fashion forward company chloe + isabel.

Adventures in Jewelry - Chloe and Isabel

Now those who have known me since I was younger might be a little surprised at this (for a few reasons) and why I am so keen and excited about this opportunity. They perhaps thought I was too much of a tomboy to be “fashionable”, but I was always interested in fashion (even tried my hand at fashion design, much to my mother’s horror) but could never afford anything that I wanted and never had the tools to make anything properly. Or the patience, I will admit. I’ve always had very expensive taste (something I share with my mother and now my husband as well) and my idea of style was classic and elegant. (I’m an Isabel, according to the Friendship Philosophy of Chloe and Isabel) A complete opposite to what I wore (wear still…) when I was not in school uniform. Audrey Hepburn type of style: effortless, simple, classy and never going out of fashion. I secretly (and not so secretly) collected Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and any other fashion magazine I could get my hands on. Didn’t matter if it was 10 years old or 10 minutes. I’m not sure what happened after that (don’t remember – thanks head injury) that made me stop dreaming, but there were many years of quiet introspection where I “made do” with what I had and never really looked beyond my comfortable, useful and simple daily clothes. Work or weekend, I wore the same kind of thing. To be fair, I rode horses, walked dogs and stood around at events taking photos for 8 or 9 hours at a time, so comfortable was pretty key in what I wore.

The last few years, after marrying my gorgeous and awesome husband, I’ve started trying to develop my “style” – in between walking dogs of course. I’ve looked at starting a capsule wardrobe (after I learned that you don’t include “exercise” clothing or pajamas in the count! WOO!) and was looking at Stitch Fix as an option as well, but have since had a look at my wardrobe contents and I think I can make something out of what I already own, PLUS I will have all these GORGEOUS accessories from chloe and isabel!

jewelry adventures and why I love my branch necklace

Now to the point of this: moving to the States, settling into our little home and not having to move for a few years has made me realise that NOW is the time to start this: fresh clean slate, new me, new style, new attitude. I think that Chloe + Isabel is that kick in the bottom I need. I’m very excited about this!

When our household goods arrived two days ago (and with it, my clothes and shoes) I have been brutally honest and begun the process of paring it down to a few classic and timeless items that I can mix and match. The rest will go to charity/thrift shop. My mum is also going to send me what’s left of my stuff back home. It’s not a lot, but there are clothes there as well (I had to fit my life into two suitcases when I left home and moved to Germany to join my husband) and some shoes too (boots mostly, and riding things) and lots of books and music! I’m being positive about this all. I’m taking it all as a major opportunity to be the ME I’ve always wanted to be. I’m lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive husband as well. He makes all the difference. He said, “You have to spend money to make money, Andrea, so just do it.” I don’t want to let him down so I will be dedicated and try my UTMOST to make a success of this. I already have ideas, I have to admit, for things to do to get my name out there and start selling these beautiful pieces. Just have to get it all together. We’re still unpacking boxes from HHG, but we’re getting there and our house is beginning to look like a home already :)

I think that’s a good place to end Part Bee of the Adventure stories.

I’ll update more as it happens, of course.

Until then, thanks for reading!


quiet days

Husband left on mission again early this morning – I had to drive him down to where they were being transported from, just before 0100. Took the dogs with, and Azzie (being the sensitive fur child that she is) picked up on my husband’s excitement and nervousness and impatience (the army does things in weird roundabout ways that take ages) and behaved like a complete crazy idiot. She leaped around and barked and whined and bashed into people and pulled me around. Husband lost his temper (not his fault – a lot going on) and couldn’t understand why she was behaving like that – I tried to explain that she was just picking it up from him, but he felt he was being calm and didn’t agree. On the surface he looked very calm, but she’s a sensitive dog, so she saw what was really going on inside him. This was proven when we said goodbye to him and headed back to the car – we were barely 10m away and she was suddenly calm, relaxed, walking easily on the lead with no pulling and no excitement. Hopped in the car just fine and all three dogs were quiet on the way home – heads out the window like usual – and they didn’t even bark at the MP and gate guards like they did on the way out.

So next time we go say goodbye or send him off somewhere and the dogs come with we will ALL be glugging some Rescue Remedy down :)

Dogs are amazing, really. Can’t hide anything from them.

The “silence’ experiment is going quite well: I’ve been walking them in near complete silence, with only positive remarks occasionally. I think that my tone when I speak all the time is perhaps confusing the dogs because my body language says something else, or my energy or something, I really don’t know. Or maybe it’s because by not talking I’m expressing my frustration/annoyance less, so it’s helping me remain calm? Could be a combination of all of that. We’ve encountered a few dogs in the distance and while my dogs have been interested (a bark from Odin, a small whine from Azzie and Gina puts her tail up and huffs) we’ve kept on walking without incident and with very little resistance from the dogs, even while the dog we’re passing by goes nuts on the end of their lead. We haven’t seen the Smug Man and his Husky recently: that will be the ultimate test for this experiment.


Now I have to get back into “mission mode” while my husband is away. I have to stop checking my phone for messages, and stop expecting to see him pull into our parking lot in Helga (our BMW) or hear his key in the front door lock. Will take a few days for me to sleep as well. Always does.



Just wanted to update everyone on Odin’s progress with settling in. We just got back from an AWESOME dog training session – he mingled with other dogs, with no issue except with a very dominant over excited young German Shepherd named Delta and when Punchen arrived (the deaf Great Dane puppy – the size of a small horse already) the excitement levels in the ring went a bit over his comfort zone, so we quietly slipped out. He also had a bit of an issue with Buddy (a stray/rescue from Spain) but I think that’s because Buddy is so unbalanced (waivers between terrified/anxious and dominant/over excited) and Odin is actually a very balanced dog, since he had to be a real dog his whole life. He had quite a calming influence over a crazy, dominant German Hunting dog called Nina as we went for a short walk together (he needed to poop, and he doesn’t like doing it in front of all the other dogs, weirdly enough) and by the end of it she was much calmer. Still a feisty little thing, but much more relaxed around him.  Odin did the rally course (obedience course) twice and was near perfect – seriously: his only mistake was when I asked him to “wait” and I walked around him, he lay down instead of standing. That was it. Otherwise – BEAUTIFUL! Stephanie (Punchen’s owner, and the one who supervises the rally course) was so impressed by him and how far he’s come.

We also did a little bit of agility – he walked the raised ramp, even did the see-saw (raised up to a normal height, with a little help from the instructor) and I started him getting used to the weave poles: he’s a little wary of the plastic mounts for the poles. We also did some jumps (the instructor even raised them to give him a little challenge) and he did them really well :)
I was so proud!

On our walk this morning we also encountered a military working dog at the main gate and he was quite calm (calmer than Azzie, who I had to correct: but she also behaved after that) and I had no issues with him.


It was a good day. Long may it continue!


well pleased

This last weekend was our second attempt at dog obedience/training classes.
We took Odin on his own on Saturday, but unfortunately due to staffing issues, the trainer couldn’t stay and had to return to OR to man the desk/counter, so instead I sent Odin and husband off to walk with the only other people who pitched up: Punchen (not sure how to spell it) the deaf, albino Great Dane pup (only 7 months old and he is over 130lbs) and his owner, Stephanie. Initially Odin was very wary of the big lug, but my husband said that as they walked, he got over it, and eventually they were walking side by side for quite a bit of the walk. That’s awesome news.
And then Sunday, the trainer suggested we take Odin early, on his own, for the “puppy play class” just so he could chill and watch and see how things went without worrying about Azzie. He didn’t have to do anything (but he did go into the agility arena for a walk around with the other pups) and he just chilled, while the puppies ran around and played together. My husband said he was very good – just a few “moments” but much better.
Then I arrived with Az and G, and this time around I let Azzie greet all the dogs (on her own) and she was 99% better. She’s a social dog and likes to meet everyone, which is my main issue: when the dog doesn’t WANT to meet Azzie she still wants to go say hi – so I thought that letting her say hi and interact a bit with the others would put her more at ease… and it WORKED!!
I was so proud of her! The only barking/craziness came when she was playing with husband and Ods in the “time out” area (it’s enclosed, so he took them in there for them to play when we got there – as Odin desperately wanted to play with his big sister, after watching all the other dogs play together) even though they weren’t in time out, while I took Gina into the agility arena and ran her through that. Gina was AWESOME!! Everyone was so impressed. She didn’t do the raised walking thing, or the rigid tunnel (it was set up in a curve, so she couldn’t see the other side, and she’s never done it before so the trainer said don’t worry about it this time) and she did a shortened version of the soft tunnel, but she jumped everything, and even did the see-saw and BOTH sets of weave poles :) I was so pleased with her! She was also very pleased with herself! She LOVES to do that stuff!
Now that Odin knows some of the commands (he does, however lay down for “sit” and for “down” and for “relax” and for “gentle” – but we’re working on getting him to tell the difference) I took him through the rally course (obedience course) and while he was a little wary of the pieces of laminated plastic attached to the cones, he did really well :) He really is a smart dog, and is coming along so nicely. Everyone noted his progress, just as everyone commented on how good Azzie was this time around too.
Next week, I want to take Azzie through the agility course, and maybe even Odin… and then impress everyone with Gina on the rally course 😀

All in all, a really good weekend with them. A huge relief after the hell-hounds of last time.

Clean slate, fresh start.

Due to some technical issues, I have unfortunately kinda “lost” my old posts and media.

My techno-whiz friend Vanessa (of The Vanessa Macleod Creative Agency ) has done what she can to save my archives (all the way back to 2006!) and they will be available as she gets the chance to import them.

But for now…

It begins again, from here.


So this is my first “proper” post on my new host.

A small update, I suppose, as I try and remember what I last posted about and what has happened since then!

First things first – just over a week ago (Saturday 24 November 2012) my husband and I made the decision to adopt/rescue another Bernese Mountain Dog. She was being moved from foster to foster and was already 7 months old and we wanted to give her a good home.

Her name is Azerenka Victoria – we call her Azzie.

She is a gorgeous girl with enormous paws (larger than a Great Dane’s, actually) and lots of puppy manic energy.

She’s learning fast – very intelligent, like the rest of her breed – but we are in the middle of house training her. Yes, 7 months old and not house trained. She’s from a litter of 11 so she was initially used to fighting for every scrap of food or treat or anything, and she never had her own toys.

She’s come a long way in the week or more that we’ve had  her – no more hoarding of toys, no more snapping at Gina when it came to food, no more panicked hoovering of her food to the point where she can hardly breathe.

She’s calmed down, has learned “sit” and “wait” and “uh uh” and “no” and “good girl” and is happily going in to her crate at night.

She has, quite understandably, quite severe separation issues, but we will work on those once we get her house trained – she’s growing DAILY, literally, and soon she will be too large for her crate, so we need to work on the house training first! Right now my husband are exhausted, as we have to take 2 hour shifts to take her downstairs to pee or poop (or both!)  – slowly extending the time by a few minutes each night. But it’s slow going – we don’t want to have any accidents, so we go backward in our training with her.

Gina has bonded quite well with her – after the initial posturing and figuring out who is in charge – G is starting to stand up for herself (a lot of that confidence is from playing tug of war with my husband – he goes on hands and knees and uses his teeth like a dog) and there is no more tension between them. Sometimes Azzie oversteps a bit, she’s a puppy – but Gina very clearly and quickly puts her back in place, without drama. She’s a gentle soul, our G-Girl, and she’s being every bit the “big sister” – including bad habits! But we’re working on that too.

One thing at a time, and baby steps!

Secondly – SNOW! SNOW SNOW AND MORE SNOW!!! It’s WONDERFUL!!! Bloody cold at night, when husband and I do our shifts taking Azzie down… but I’m still enjoying it immensely! My only issue is that my snow boots don’t do well with lots of water – they handle snow fine – so I get soaked, cold feet when we walk out in the slush, or in the wet grass. Meh. So I’m going through a lot of socks!


Thirdly – due to the new puppy and our tiring schedules with her, husband and I have not been swimming, and I have not been running since we got her :( We can’t leave her on her own yet, as she barks (LOUDLY! She has a HUGE bark) and we don’t want her to be a nuisance. We’ll work on that later. I told husband he needs to go though, on his own. I will give him his training schedule and he must just do it. However, with all the snow and icy weather, the roads (especially the very long, steep hill up to the swimming pool) are pretty dangerous, and Helga sometimes gets so cold she doesn’t want to close her door… Plus, husband is so tired from our up and downs at night that he is just not up for it.

We’re hoping that as we get the time extended between pee breaks, for Azzie, we can start finding a bit more energy for other things!