Biergarten in Groß Wasserburg
Enjoying the Biergarten next to our camping spot in Groß Wasserburg

As with life in general, things on the road can go from great to bad very quickly. We’d had a great time in Berlin and arrived in Unterspreewald, a UNESCO conservation area one hour’s drive south that is an area of canals, marshland and numerous watery channels which is a haven for wildlife plus the options of canoeing, walking and cycling.

We’d not long arrived at our overnight camping spot, when a couple of Brits – Chris and Tamsin turned up with their Collie-cross, Fingal. With our commonalities of age, language and dog ownership, we did not waste the opportunity to invite them to have a beer with us at the adjoining Biergarten, which they did. It was really nice to have other people to chat to and they were so nice too! There was no shortage of conservation and we realised they were as dog-mad as we are. In actual fact, they had spent a year travelling around Europe in a VW van a few years back with their dog Oscar, and had written a book about it. The Borderless Collie. I can highly recommend it, for a laugh out loud travelogue and dog caper. (

The next morning we discovered Bodger had been unwell in the night. After dealing with it (thank goodness for Rug Doctor!), we didn’t think much of it and weren’t surprised to see him eat some grass which is fairly normal when animals have tummy problems. We were pootling about and watching as Tamsin led Fingal around his own personal agility course. (Apparently when he was younger he was a bit of a handful and their vet advised them to do agility with him, and it worked a treat so they’ve kept it up.)

It was then I noticed Bodger kept coming to me for reassurance, I gave him a stroke and noticed his muzzle was swollen and felt rock hard. Something was wrong. We soon realised the swelling was spreading to his nose and eyelids, I started to worry and we began packing up to go to the nearest vet as this was obviously an allergic reaction to something and we didn’t know how severe it would become.

Poor Bodger with a swollen muzzle from an allergic reaction

Prepping the van took far too long for comfort – as Tim had to pack up all the bikes and dog buggy and I had to wash up. We finally said our farewells to Chris and Tamsin who were very kind and supportive and gave us their number and that of someone who could help translate if needed.

We drove to the nearby town of Lubben and stopped at the address of the vets but it was nowhere to be seen. At that point a car stopped alongside us and I thought, oh no here comes some abuse from an irate driver whose way we’re in. But no – he asked if we needed any help. He led us in convoy to the town square where we got out and explained in full what we were looking for. Then once he understood, he drove us in convoy again to the location where the vets had moved to. Then he got out and he explained the situation in German to the vet, who saw us immediately even though it was out of surgery hours. Our knight in shining armour then shook our hands and when we thanked him he said – “I love the Royals”! If we’d had longer we’d have perhaps got into conversation about royal weddings and which royal was his favourite but we were more focused on our swelling Labrador at that time so it wasn’t to be.

Bodger it turned out, was thankfully not in danger as the reaction was local, but in my panicked state I had foolishly given him some Meloxidyl which I thought would ease any pain he was in. This had the unintended consequence of meaning that the fast-acting anti-histamine option would not work, and so the vet could only give a slow-acting one which would take 12 hours. If this had been a life-threatening situation, I dread to think of the consequences of my action.

We went on our way and felt huge relief that Bodgie was going to be ok. But little did we know it was just about to get worse. That afternoon his tummy problems intensified and in the night one or the other of us was up every two hours as he barked once to let us know he needed to go out. We realised he must have a severe bout of gastroenteritis.

The following day we decided to stay put in our lakeside camping spot so that we could rest him and allow him to recover and I cooked up some bland rice and meat to aid his digestion. It didn’t seem to work, he looked incredibly poorly and was obviously in discomfort.

That evening his heart rate and breathing became scarily fast, and he slumped in a corner of the van – shrinking and looking smaller than his normal bulk and his head drooping. We began to think we were losing him. Tim soothed him while I tried to control my rising panic and began washing up as fast as I could so we could make an emergency dash to the vet. It slowly subsided over the next hour but we were shaken by then. We resolved to go to the vet anyway the next morning if there was no improvement.

The next morning I took Charlie down to the lake for a paddle and Tim stayed with Bodge. When we walked back to the van he got up and trotted over to greet us and I thought – this is a good sign.  Long story short, Bodger recovered slowly, but this had given us a serious scare and despite the excellent care and attention we’d received from the vet in Lubben, we felt vulnerable without the back up and proximity of our vets back at home.

It also taught us that our dear scavenging Labrador could not be trusted to roam at will as he is not discriminating when it comes to eating stuff he finds. It might be ok in our back garden where we know there’s nothing that could harm him, but it’s not necessarily ok in a public place. From now on, he’d be on a lead or else watched like a hawk when roaming free.