From Fredericksburg, Texas to Potsdam, Germany: Dog Grief is Universal

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 7 of 31: Journeys (my theme for March)

After Luckenbach (a town named for a German nobleman), the next stop on the tour of Texas Hill Country was Fredericksburg, Texas, a town founded in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia.  Fredericksburg has a distinct German culture and offers authentic German food and beer in its Bavarian restaurants.  Although German was spoken for a full century after its founding, descendants eventually took on an American dialect and today speak a blended language that is known as “Texas German.”  For lunch, I chose a German restaurant and had a Hahnchen (chicken) salad with a side of spaetzle before making my way to the Fredericksburg Brewing Company for an El Hefe, a local craft Hefeweizen. 

El Hefe

My hot flash medication says I should not be consuming too much alcohol – okay, okay…any alcohol- but I felt a deep inner need to secretly toast my little nephew Feivel’s own blended German roots and fully immerse myself in the culture of this charming place in Texas Hill Country. I also took time to honor his French heritage by tasting four different wines at Becker Vineyards. 

Satisfied that I had fully toasted him over the Rainbow Bridge and that he was now in the very capable and loving arms of my mother and meeting Jesus in these first moments of his final destination, I resumed my search for a souvenir to remember my trip.  Bracelets are my preferred choice – they take zero suitcase space when they are worn home, they always fit, and they keep trip memories…..well, handy. I was seeking a bracelet with Texas Bluebonnets on it. But the search would continue; I did not find it in Fredericksburg.

Sanssouci at Potsdam, Germany, May 26, 2019

There is a gold strand mingled in among the common threads of this day. In Berlin, Germany in 2019, we took an excursion to Potsdam, where the Potsdam Conference – the last of the Big Three meetings between Churchill, Stalin, and Truman – was held in July 1945 to discuss the balance of power following the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, leading to the signing of the Potsdam Agreement. During that trip, we visited the home of Frederick the Great (a distant ancestor of the Frederick for whom Fredericksburg, Germany was named), who’d shared a close family bond with his sister. They actually wrote letters to each other from the perspective of their dogs (and, very likely, had special voices and perhaps even nicknames for them). Frederick absolutely loved his Greyhounds and Whippets – so much, in fact, that he wished to be buried with all of them upon his death – and eventually was after a bit of rearranging.

“His beloved whippet Superb was in his room when he died at Sanssouci on 17 August 1786. He would eventually share his actual burial vault on the terrace with the greyhound Alcmene, an extraordinary honour not shared by the other ten whippets, who were instead interred alongside their celebrated, royal master.” (Retrieved February 23, 2022 from https://royalcentral.co.uk/features/royal-dog-letters-107816/)

Frederick the Great was also known for bringing new crops to Germany – including the potato, earning him the nickname “The Potato King.” If you visit his grave at Sanssouci on any given day, you will see where visitors have lined his headstone with potatoes.

Grave of Frederick the Great – the Potato King – Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany May 26, 2019

Considering the significance of historical figures and their influence on places, pondering that on a palindromic day in history, 2/2/22 on a 2sday where GOD and DOG are not palindromes but sure do share the same set of letters and offer more unconditional love than we can ever fathom, I can only wonder about the coincidence of my being in Fredericksburg on this day, eating a German chicken salad, spaetzle (a German noodle), speaking one last time to Feivel by speakerphone in my special “aunt voice,” and toasting the life of my nephew dog, I hear a bit of Twilight Zone music. Oh – and did I mention that my brother, Ken – a kid who grew up on the southeast coast of the United States playing Matchbox cars and building forts in his Davy Crockett coonskin cap and having no known ties to Germany – minored in German at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama?

It would not surprise me if my brother decides someday to have his own remains interred alongside Feivel’s. They shared a remarkable bond – one that transcends death, with “Feivel footprints” that are indelibly imprinted on moments of the past that that reach far into the future.

Genesis 1:29 

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

5 Replies to “From Fredericksburg, Texas to Potsdam, Germany: Dog Grief is Universal”

  1. Kim, I almost pointed out that palindrome yesterday when reflecting on the meaning of Feivel’s name. How fascinating – how ordained, really – is it that as you mourn his loss, you should be in a place tied to the origins of his breed and at the grave of a man who so loved his dogs that he’s buried with them. The potato, incidentally, is a symbol of love; sustenance which continues sprouting roots…beautiful and poignant slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So many things to snatch from this fact-packed slice, but I snatch a similarity between us. I also like a little memento from my travels. Bracelets seem like an amazing idea that I’ve never considered. I have two quirky searches, both sprung from family situations. One is spoons, these crazy, old-fashioned decorative spoons. I think I’ll tell that story this month. The other, smashed pennies, also an idea. Perhaps you could write about your bracelet collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kim,
    We visited Potsdam in 2019, too, and I was surprised to see the potatoes, which, of course, fascinated us because we live among potato fields. This is such a rich post, and I love the way you link Texas to Germany, link the dogs and owners, connect it all to food, both of the heart and place. Have you visited Leavenworth, Washington? It’s a little Bavarian town in the mountains. You’d love it as it has an authentic vibe. I also buy jewelry when I travel. But my favorite thing to buy is art.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: