Monday, March 14, 2005

Dominique....May 14, 1991 - March 14, 2005

Dominique went to heaven this morning at 9:15 a.m.

We made the decision to put her down this past Friday when she was finally diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. She had really been going downhill all week. We even noticed her health deteriorating over her past couple of days.

This past weekend was very emotional and very difficult. Dominique had unquenchable thirst, and she drank "gallons" of water. During the evening, we had to take her out every forty-five minutes for a pee. During the mornings, she was OK. She was very tired, so we just stayed on the bed with her a lot so we could be with her. We tried bringing her out for a couple of walks, but she was only interested in walking (very slowly) for a few minutes. During the evenings, she would begin pacing and drinking water every couple of minutes. Even though she was drinking a lot, she was dying of thirst because her kidneys could not process the water any more.

We're heart broken, and we've shed a lot of tears. But at the same time, we're happy that she lived to be almost fourteen years old and we have lots of pictures and great memories. We've already begun looking at our photo albums and rehashing great memories. We think she lived a great life...and on two continents!!! How many people can say their dog lived in the U.S.A. and Switzerland, and traveled to France, Germany, Lichtenstein, and Spain?

We're going to miss her terribly, and she'll always have a place in our hearts.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Town Drunk...Swiss Style.

On the way to my German conversation class shortly after noon (12:11 to be exact), as I boarded the tram, I noticed what could be the politest and most orderely town drunk I've ever seen. Public displays of drunkeness are fairly rare here, and I made sure I chose a seat with a clear view so that I could enjoy the show.
I noticed the 60+ year old man holding a bottle of Coop Lager (the cheap store brand beer) the instant I got on the tram. He was unshaven, but other than that he looked fairly well kempt. He had on neatly pressed clothes, he didn't smell, and he happily greeted every person (including me) who stepped onto the tram. My first reaction was to avoid the guy, but as I said before, I wanted to be able to see what was going to take place on my eight minute tram ride.
As the tram began moving, the man began a soliloquy in slurred Swiss German which - while being very interesting to listen to - was completely incomprehensible to me. This gibberish continued for a minute, and then the tram slowed down at the next stop where an unsuspecting woman boarded the tram and sat right next to the man. This was going to be interesting...
The moment the tram began moving, the soliloquy began again. Now, if this had been in America, the lady would probably have made a noise of disgust and then moved to another seat. Afterall, who wants to sit next to a drunk? But not in Switzerland. The lady politely sat next to the man, and she pretty much ignored him. At one point, the man reached into his pocket, pulled out a bottle opener, and carefully popped the bottle cap off of his beer - of course he carefully put the cap in his pocket so that he could put it in the proper recycling container at some point in his bleary-eyed future. While he was putting the bottle cap into his pocket, he accidentally nudged the lady sitting next to him. He slurred out some form of apology, and the lady told him it was not a problem. At this point, I would definitely have moved to another seat because I knew what was coming next.
Because the lady talked to him, the man considered it an open invitation to begin telling her his life story. He began gesturing with his arms. Then, he pulled a little piece of paper out of his pocket and began reading and laughing out loud. A few seconds later, he began whistling what were apparently bird calls for some long extinct bird. All this time, the lady just politlely sat next to him and did not move.
Unfortunately, we arrived at my stop and I had to get off the tram. As I stepped off the tram, I looked back and saw the man offering the lady a sip of his beer. She answered him with a simple, "Danke, nein". Although she was beginning to look a little uneasy... she still did NOT move to a new seat.
As the tram began moving toward the next stop, I saw the man's arms begin gesturing again. The lady just sat there looking straight ahead.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Shanghai Surpise!

I just spoke with Mrs. TBF a few minutes ago, and she's doing well in Shanghai. She flew there from Singapore this morning, and told me that Singapore Airlines served up dim sum for breakfast. How cool is that?
I forgot to mention that Mrs. TBF cleared the wait list which means that she'll be coming home on Friday morning instead of Saturday morning - which is also very cool.

The Snowtime Trilogy is complete...

I had the third and final installment of the Snowtime Specials in the parking lot of Johannes Hakkaart's (that's what my receipt says) McDonalds in Füllinsdorf this afternoon while listening to the CD Mütter by Rammstein (ahhhhhhh...there's nothing like listening to some relaxing music while enjoying good healthy food!). Now that I think about it, I've probably eaten at McDonalds in the last three weeks almost as much as I have in the previous four years combined.
Anyway, this week's special is the Fondue Special. It's basically a Quarter Pounder with Cheese with a bunch of fondue cheese glopped on top and a special sauce which kind of tasted like yellow mustard. The bun was kind of like a sourdough bun, but I couldn't really pin down what it was exactly.
The verdict???? Damn good! Although, it didn't match the knee-buckling euphoria of the Rösti special. So, I'd have to rate them as follows: (1) Rösti Special (2) Fondue Special (3) Triple Cheese Special.
Also, I have to point out how expensive McDonalds is in Switzerland. Since my stomach was really growling while running errands today, I decided to go "Large" on my Menu (Value Meal). The cost??? 13.90 Swiss Francs which comes out to about $12.00 U.S.!!!! For a value meal!!!!! My receipt says: WIR FREUEN UNS AUF IHREN NÄCHSTEN BESUCH (We look forward to your next visit). Twelve bucks for a Value Meal??? At those prices, I'd certainly hope so!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

O sole mio...

I just spoke with Mrs. TBF. She's at Zürich Airport waiting for her flight to Singapore. On Tuesday morning she'll head to Shanghai, and then it's back to Switzerland either on Friday or Saturday. She's waitlisted for the Thursday night flight back to Zürich, but she's currently scheduled for the Friday night flight. I really hope she gets on that Thursday night flight.
In the meantime, it's just me, Dominique, and King. Mrs. TBF and I just bought a new flatscreen TV for our bedroom. So, I think I'll probably just go to bed early while Mrs. TBF's in Asia and watch TV or read a book.

A little bit of Switzerland.

Mrs. TBF and I ran into two Finns yesterday while doing a little shopping. First, we ran into a Finnish saleslady at Mobel Pfister while we were buying some towels for our guest bathroom. As I handed the lady my credit card to pay for the towels, she noticed my last name and immediately began speaking Finnish with me. As it turns out, she came to Switzerland 30+ years ago to study German for a year, met a Finnish man, they were married, and they never left. We spoke for a few minutes, she told me that there is a Swiss/Finnish Society in Basel with about 400 members and that there are about 10,000 Finns in Switzerland - imagine that!
After stopping at home to bring Dominique out to do her business, we headed out to a furniture store called Getzman to look for a new dining room table and chairs. The salesman who helped us has a Swiss father and a Finnish mother. I spoke to him in Finnish, Jo Ann spoke to him in English, and he spoke to us in a combination of Finnish, English, and German. It was a pretty interesting hour or so. His spoken Finnish wasn't great, but I could tell that he understood just about everything I said.
So, for me it was a rare opportunity to get in some Finnish language practice. I feel that my Finnish speaking skills have deteriorated somewhat while living in Switzerland, and I'm not happy about it. Pretty much all the practice I get is talking to my dad for about five minutes on the phone every week or so (he's not much of a phone talker), talking to myself, and occasionally speaking with a local Finnish friend - Anne (although we usually speak in English if Mrs. TBF is there).
The saleslady from Mobel Pfister gave me her home phone number so I could call her for some info about the Swiss/Finnish Society. Maybe I should give her a call and become a member of the society so that I could speak Finnish a little more often.
Mrs. TBF and I are thinking of beginning French lessons. English...German conversation classes, Finnish and French? How much info can one cram into their brain???

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I'm supposed to be in Klosters...but I'm not.

I was supposed to go to Klosters this weekend with a bunch of buddies for a weekend ski trip, but I had to cancel out at the last minute. Our suddenly very old dog has not been doing too well, and I figured it wasn't fair to Mrs. TBF to have to handle things on her own while I was off having fun.
Dominique has been kind of going downhill for the past two months. I brought her into the vet's office last week for blood and urine tests, and all the preliminary results were pretty normal. The problem is - her behavior hasn't been very normal.
For the past two weeks, she's been very hyper at night, drinking water like crazy, having to go out for a pee just about every hour during the evening, etc. When I brought her for the blood test, she was about 2 kilos lighter than the last time I weighed her. All of these symptoms pointed to thyroid over-medication (she's taken medicine for hypo-thyroidism for several years), so I just reduced the medication on my own while we waited for the thyroid blood test results. Reducing the medicine helped a lot, but the blood test ended up showing that her thyroid level was LOW. The doctor basically told me that since reducing the medicine helped, we should just ignore the test results and continue with the lower dosage of medicine. It got pretty bad last week. One night it was so bad that we started talking about the fact that it might be time to put her down.
I think it's just a matter of her being almost fourteen years old, and her body's just beginning to break down. She has cataracts, arthritis, and takes three different types of medicine which seem to help her a lot. She continues to poop and pee normally (although sometimes IN the house), she still has a ravenous appetite, and the tail still wags quite often. So, she still has some living left to do. But, instead of talking about her twilight years - I think it's more like she's now living in her twilight months.
It's all just incredibly sad, and I can't even write this without getting emotional about it. Mrs. TBF and I are just going to try to make the most of every day we have with her, and I'm going to try to not get too mad at "our baby" for having the occasional accident in the house...

Friday, March 04, 2005

More of the "F" word...

What are usually the first words out of one's mouth every morning? Good peepee...? Those might be the words of choice for most people, but usually the first words uttered out of The Big Finn's mouth every morning are either "Fu**ing Primus" or "Fu**ing Migros"!!!
So far, I have very little to complain about as it pertains to our new apartment. I like the layout, the location, the proximity to grocery stores and downtown Basel, etc., etc. Overall, I'd have to say that we made a good decision to move to this place. One of the benefits - proximity to grocery stores - also brings up one of the problems.
We live right next door to a Migros grocery store. Migros, along with Coop, is one of the two major grocery chains in Switzerland. Mrs. TBF and I overwhelmingly favor Coop, but it is convenient having the Migros next door in case we run out of something and need it in a hurry. As a matter of fact, you can take the elevator down into our parking garage, walk out of our parking garage door, and walk right into the Migros parking garage without ever going outside. This gives you an idea of how close the Migros is to our apartment.
Not only is there a Migros next to our building, but there is also a company called Primus located right next door to the Migros. So if you look out of our bedroom window, you can see both the Migros loading dock and the Primus loading dock (the Swiss apparently do not believe in location, location, location when building houses). Here's the problem...
Anywhere from 4:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. I begin hearing familiar sounds from my past. As most of you may know, I was an account manager for various transportation companies during my fifteen or so working years. These sounds are the unmistakeable sounds of pallet-jacks and fork lifts loading pallets onto a trailer. After these noises subside, then comes the unique sound of a diesel engine starting, and then the sound of a truck driving off. When I hear these sounds, I moan out either "...fu**ing Migros" or "...fu**ing Primus." Up until this morning I was never quite sure which one it was. However, this morning, thanks to Dominique, I witnessed the culprits in action.
This morning, at 4:50 a.m., Dominique jumped out of bed which pretty much gives you about a two-minute window to get her outside for a pee (give her a break...she's old). I threw on some clothes, brought her up the stairs to the rooftop garden area, and she took care of business. As I rubbed the little balls of sleep from my eyes, I noticed light and motion coming from below. Lo and behold, I saw three Primus employees loading a delivery truck at 4:55 a.m.!!! "FU*KING PRIMUS!!!!!!!!"
Now the question becomes whether or not I go about the arduous task of filing a formal complaint (how Swiss of me!). I'm pretty sure they're not allowed to make noise until 7:00 a.m. To their credit, it did seem like the guys were trying to be quiet. But, it's one of those situations where you're trying to be really quiet, and then you end up making more noise than if you just moved about normally.
Yup, I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. I guess I can take on Primus and Migros which will leave me with only one more interrupter of my precious R.E.M. sleep.
A couple of Saturday nights ago, I was reveling in the fact that there was no way Primus and Migros would be waking me up early on a Sunday morning. So, I went to bed looking forward to hours and hours of uninterrupted sleep. Before I knew it, it was 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning (I think I went to bed at 2:30 a.m.), and I realized that something loud had woken me up. When I finally got my wits about me, I realized what had woken me up - "FU*KING CHURCH BELLS!!!!!"

Thursday, March 03, 2005


If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that a few days ago I made a rare stop at a local McDonalds and sampled the Rösti Special - a culinary masterpiece! It's one of three Snowtime! specials that McDonalds of Switzerland is currently offering.
Today, the autopilot on my car suddenly took me against my will into the Münchenstein McDonalds McDrive, and I was forced to order this week's Snowtime! special - the Triple Cheese. By the way, I love going through the McDrive in Switzerland. I order in German, but I say the names of the things (Big Mac, cheeseburger, etc.) with an American accent instead of a Swiss accent which results in massive confusion for the order taker. I'll say: Ich möchte ein Big Mac. And then I'll hear the McEmployee say something like: "BEEEK MOCK??"
Getting back to the Triple Cheese ("TREEEPIL CHEEESS?)...
As the name implies, the Triple Cheese is a burger with three types of cheese, plus some kind of gooey fondue sauce on a cheesy-baked bun. The verdict? It was good, but not even in the same league as the McRösti.
Next week's special is the "Fondue Special". I think I'll have to give it a try. Then, the Rösti Special comes back for an encore performance from March 14th - 20th. Mrs. TBF's mom arrives from Chicago on March 17th. I can think of no better jet-lag food than the Rösti Special small menu (Value Meal) for my Schwiegermutter. I guess it's a good thing I began stocking up on the prune juice today.