She was about 5’6, of slight build, dark hair, black plastic rimmed glasses. She spoke English pretty well but spoke German to me as a matter of principle. The only visible clue about her visit to our home were the papers she was clutching. Otherwise she could have been any visitor. We’ll call her Frau X.
Our hopes were buried in those papers somewhere. It had been about six months since Sam passed away. Sam was our short haired retriever that came over to Germany with us from California. His passing was no surprise. He was already seven years old when we adopted him from animal shelter back in Oakland, though they said could not be sure of his age and indications were that he was actually quite a bit older. On top of that, he had hip dysplasia and related back arthritis.
Being a dog, these things didn’t slow Sam as much as they would a human. He still came to greet us when we got home and complained when we didn’t walk him. Still, an 11 hour flight and moving to an entirely new world and new climate was just too much for him. After being in Germany for less than a year he succumbed to dysplasia.
Now the time had come to welcome a new member to our family. Dina. She was a completely different animal than Sam. That was part of the point, in fact. Dina was only nine months old, and being a Border Collie mix she was about half the size and much more energetic. Sam was an alpha dog. Dina… not so much. Her personality was so different that we could focus on building a new life with her and not falling into the trap of pretending to be with a Sam that just looked a little different.
When we found her at the shelter (Tierheim) in Bonn we instantly fell in love. We knew she was the dog to come home with us. The thing is, the shelter did not know that. To convince them, we were about to embark on a personal drama that, in spite of being only a few days long, rivaled any personal growth stories. Our emotions were just too wrapped up in it.
In my time here in Germany I’ve found that some of the stereotypes we Americans have of Germans are flat out wrong. Punctual? Nope. Lederhosen? Nope. Organized? Not really. Trains run on time? Don’t make me laugh.
But some stereotypes have a certain amount of truth. And this week’s dose would be:
- No “customer service” skills
The shelter, in accordance with normal practice, sent an inspector to our home; Frau X. Her job was to interview us and inspect the house to make sure Dina would not be mistreated intentionally or otherwise.
For the most part, the US is very different in this regard. We not only had adopted numerous cats and dogs from American animal shelters, we were also volunteers who housed animals waiting for adoption. We had housed and taken care of orphaned kittens that were as young as six days old. We knew we what were doing and even had a certain amount of credibility in the animal adoption circles.
While those things were in the records of Frau X, they were mere data points. She did not know us. Nobody at the shelter knew us. We were again at the mercy of our international expatriate lifestyle. Moving from country to country can be a great growing experience, but you have keep starting over again. And then again, and again and so on. In other words, we were just faceless generic people who promised to do well by this sweet friendly young dog. And we had to prove it to Frau X.
We were on the line and totally unprepared.
What happened next? You’ll have to come back for Part 2 of our story.