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Guter Hund!

October 6, 2012 by Kaitlin

I sat down to write the obligatory post-international travel blog post thinking about a lot of things: the strength of German public media*, the unique situation on the international economic stage Germany currently finds itself, and the ups and downs of group travel.

But what I kept coming back to were German dogs.

Just checkin’ each other out at Görlitzer Park

Yes, I saw some gorgeous German shepherds, but I also glimpsed French Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, Pugs, and tons of scrappy mixed breed terriers. Most of them weren’t attached to leashes.

All over Berlin, people were out with their dogs. At the cafes, at the parks, on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn and tram. It’s like the city got together and came to an agreement. I’ll train and socialize my dog, take him on lots of walks, and you won’t freak out when you see him in public.

The result is a community filled with lots of chill canines that are allowed to be, well, dogs. They don’t have dog parks because every park is a dog park. It’s a set up that made me super happy.

Now, with those pictures serving as an awkward transition, I should mention the people who made it possible to go to Germany for 10 days and then mosey on back and think about dogs. First, friend and fellow journalist Arezou Rezvani, who went last summer, and clued me in to even applying. The Germany Embassy in the US put on the program with the Goethe-Institut in Germany. Our local guides in Munich and Berlin were fantastic. But the trip coordinator from the embassy, Stefan Messerer, really stole the show. From the moment I met him at Oktoberfest (where he had somehow managed to reserve a table last minute at the Hoffbrau Haus—if you’ve been to the festival, you know this is truly a miraculous feat), to our final group dinner at I Due Forni, he was full of nonstop energy and enthusiasm. He really made an effort to talk to and to get to know each of us on the trip—a true diplomat!  There’s been talk of a stateside reunion. I hope it happens. And that I can bring my dog.

*One short note about this and then I’ll shut up. In this country we’ve got a presidential candidate declaring he’d cut subsidies to PBS. Right now, Americans each pay about $1.35 annually to public media. You could essentially give the change found in your dryer every year and you’d be giving more than most. In Germany, they work on a fee-based system where each household pays about 20 euros…every month. And well, you can see the difference. German public media has no pledge drives. Their facilities are top-of-the-line. And they produce stunning content, even on a regional level (not that American public media doesn’t, but the Germans can do it with more than a shoestring budget).

In the same way the culture has decided to collectively have common sense about dogs, they’ve also made a group decision about public media. They saw it fall into the hands of the Nazis and turn into nothing but a propaganda machine, so the desire to keep and maintain an independent media unattached to any political party and strong enough to afford to be fair is palpable, even today. It’s something they’re willing to pay for and the results match accordingly.

That note was not short. And I didn’t mean to compare public media to dog ownership. But if there’s one command I hope a strong public media and clever German dogs both follow, it would be “stay.”

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