Friday, January 20, 2017

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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