Category Archives: Animal Interests

S is for (Silent) Scream

(A to Z Blogs April 2015 – Back to Africa)

“Can you tell the driver if I see a monkey I’ll scream,” I said to my soul-sister, Bintu, as we drove from Kigali through Nyungwe Forest National Park headed to East Congo. Forewarned the driver gave us a big heads up when he spotted this fella–and I managed to only scream with excitement on the inside so I could shoot this video for you. ūüėČ

A couple folks couldn’t get this video to operate here. Link to it on youtube with this link:¬†

L’Hoest’s monkey (Cercopithecus lhoesti), or mountain monkey, is a guenon found in the upper eastern Congo basin. They mostly live in mountainous forest areas in small, female-dominated groups. They have a dark coat and can be distinguished by a characteristic white beard. (Wikipedia

What is it about seeing an animal in the wild?



 Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.


Tags: , , , , ,

L is for Lake Kivu

A walk to the shore of Lake Kivu

A walk to the shore of Lake Kivu

In 10 seconds name as many continental bodies of water as you can that are in Africa…Go!

Honestly it’s not a challenge I rise very well to meet. Now that I’ve visited Lake Kivu, though, I can add another one whose beauty I appreciated first hand. Every morning I rose early (about the birds that made me do it), and found my way to the porch to write while looking over Lake Kivu.

Writing Oasis on Lake Kivu

Writing Oasis on Lake Kivu

The most famous of the African Great Lakes is Victoria, and several people I’ve met asked if I visited¬†Lake Tanganyika when I mention the Rwandan border. Every place around here seems to have connections to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide including this lake, known as a dumping ground for many victims. This is history below the surface, hopefully as well sunken into the past as sediment into Kivu’s 1500+ feet depths.

Here in the heart of Africa is inspiration. When my day kicks off with breakfast, the busy schedule set for me by our mission’s Operations Director will over rule all else. For these early moments, redeemed time from sleep, I long for a kayak.

To skim across the glassy water by the strength of my own two arms.

To discover the shapes of creation in eddies along the shore and reflections of foreign skies and jungle mountains.

To soak the beauty in my skin, taste it in deep calming breaths, and remember the gifts of life and grace.

White buildings of the U.N.  compound cut across a peninsula but don't hide the splendor of the mountains beyond.

White buildings of the U.N. compound cut across a peninsula but don’t hide the splendor of the mountains beyond.


 Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.



Tags: , , ,

B is for Birds That Wake Us

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 4.24.35 PMWe sleep in a guest room on solid wooden bunk beds, my niece and I. The need for the cooler night air circulating overrides the fear of mosquitos who might carry malaria or Dengue fever among other diseases. Of course the window has an intact screen to keep most of the bugs out.

What the screen won’t contain is the birdsong, bright and strong to¬†wake us. At first I smile at the unfamiliar chorus of calls. Then I see that I’m supposed to have another hour+ before I rise.

As if they know what I want and think no one should sleep past 5:30, they become louder. Have they turned their heads to face the window? They are joined by what must be a Great Dane-sized bird who would serve very well at the local fire station to signal emergencies. Closing the window stifles them just enough, and I roll back over before the heat wakes me again.

During the day I’m delighted by the various birds, some similar enough that I think I can identify their bird family, but different enough in plumage that I’m not quite sure. That one looks to be the¬†cousin of the robin red breast, except this guy’s beak is 3 inches long. The squawky one¬†is built like a blue jay with a Batman¬†mask and shades of gray coloring as if he is¬†a black-and-white photograph of his American kin.

IMG_0654I discover¬†though, it’s the smallest birds that are the loudest. I search the branches of high-five palm trees and two-story flower bushes for these little guys. Is that a mouse-tit I see? Some kind of finch? I love for my large camera with the zoom lens. The next time I will bring my heaviest, best photographic equipment. I will make a “Birds of Bukavu” book, I think. I wish. My soul-sister, Bintu, keeps me so busy this trip even though it’s Christmas and New Year’s holidays, I know the time will get away from me when I come again.

But I will come again. How can I not?

The most easily recognizable bird is the raven, same as the ones I’ve moved away from in Maryland, same strong profile, same dark sleek feathers‚Ķexcept‚Ķthis one appears to wear a wife-beater T-shirt.

What do I know?

Maybe that’s what this Baltimore Raven is wearing under his jersey too.


 Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa which is based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is from Kentucky (USA) and lives as an expat in Holland.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.42.04 PM


Tags: , , , ,

Doggie’s Health Improving

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 11.13.11 PMI never thought I’d be so grateful to see our golden lab hike a leg to urinate. Three times I’ve seen this phenomena today and count each one a blessing. An actual walk of 5 minutes with him sniffing around, that interested light beginning to return to his eye, was a feat. Whether it’s the antibiotics, thyroid medicine or the other pills, something seems to be working.

We’re not out of the woods yet as he is not drinking as much as needed and still hardly eating enough.

“Feed him anything,” the vet’s assistant said. “Boiled chicken is usually good,” she gave me three prescription foods (very high calorie and nutritious) to try to get him to eat.

Only hours after the one can of Science Diet a/d critical care food, he tackled the stairs for the first time.

My husband says, “That vet saved his life.”

We are so grateful for each day.


Kristin King is an author, publisher, and President of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa. She currently lives in Holland as an American Expat.


Posted by on March 9, 2015 in Animal Interests



Sick Doggie’s Dutch Vet and $$$ (Part 3)

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 10.01.05 PMArgos is doing a little better today–walked a couple short distances, seemed more alert. I’m praying this is due the medications treating what ails him and not just because he got fluids at the vet yesterday afternoon. He’s not drinking or eating as much as he needs which is worrisome. Our oldest son slept on a pallet in our bedroom floor last night to be close to his dog. Tomorrow is a return trip to the vet for follow-up care and blood work.

Speaking of blood work, the vet had such a hard time getting into Argos’ dehydrated vein¬†for blood that they injected his first fluids under the skin rather than poke around any more. My husband was describing for me how they pulled up the extra skin between our dog’s shoulder blades and literally injected IV fluid under there and waited for his system to absorb it.

Once Argos was with the vet, they were all diligent, working with Argos (in and out) for four hours before sending him home with meds. Some 15 tests were run, and he received IV fluids and a blood sugar balancer. The Dutch are big on economy and being careful with money, so the vet laid out the costs for each item to make sure that was okay with us as an expense. The most pricey blood work was the thyroid test which came to about 70 euro ($95), but then we were so glad it was done as the thyroid results indicate malfunction. If the thyroid is messed up that could explain both the kidneys and pancreas results–and we should see improvement with the meds. All together (pharmacy items included) the emergency care was around 500 euro.

The office itself was fairly minimal, one vet and assistant doing everything. The assistant was lab tech, receptionist, cashier and vendor for pharmacy as well as dog food and sundries.

At one point the assistant was busy and the vet asked my husband, “Does blood bother you?”

“No,” he answered and was thus drafted into helping handle Argos and apply needed pressure for a blood draw.

This lines up with my experience at our smaller, local vet office. However, this city-vet had a bit nicer facilities for customers such as those I’ve described in previous blog posts at the emergency room, opthamologist’s and other Dutch places where customers will probably have waiting times. In this case there was a machine distributing free hot coffee, hot tea or hot chocolate–but this one had something we’ve not seen before in our 6 months in the Netherlands–a hot soup option.

Comfort in cup. A common courtesy in Holland.


Kristin King is an American Expat living in The Netherlands and working on her third novel while raising four sons, volunteering at their school, planning travels, reading voraciously, etc. She is grateful to God for every day and for those she gets to do life with.


Tags: , ,

Doggie Needs E.R. Part 2 (Living in Holland)

Argos resting this evening, leaned against my jean's leg.

Argos resting this evening, leaned against my jean’s leg.


If you read my earlier post today, you saw how ill our family pet has been. Argos Nicopoulos King is a golden lab about whom people are always astonished to learn his age because he has the heart of a puppy. He is almost 12 years old. Doggie Needs E.R. (Part 1) focused mostly on our anxious search for emergency care when Argos turned up so ill he was not walking, no tail wagging, was listless, and was so bad off my husband had to turn Argos’ head to the side when our pet vomited (so the dog wouldn’t choke).

I’ve arrived home from Germany to no¬†doggie greeting at the door. Argos is laying on a blanket not far away, uneaten food, full water bowl and an untouched dog biscuit nearby. He doesn’t raise his head to even look at me. So I sat, then laid down on the floor with him and finally receive a bit of a tail wag. After a while he raised his head a once to listen to our younger sons who I’ve just brought home with me. I offered Argos his water while his head was raised and he drank a bit.

The news from the Dutch vet is not as good as we’d hoped. Argos was very dehydrated and given an entire bag of IV fluids today. The vet said Argos was not running a fever which is, in his words, “bad news.” A fever points to something treatable. I keep hoping that perhaps he has diabetes since thirst is a symptom and that also is treatable.

A spot of good news is that although Argos got into the trash and ate several indigestible items about 10 days ago, he is not suffering any bowel obstructions or stomach pain whatsoever. That is “unrelated” what to ails him.

So what does ails our beloved family dog?

Answer: Unknown–at this point.

Blood work shows elevated white blood count, no identifiable virus, and very low blood sugar. His kidneys aren’t quite right, although they are filtering. His pancreas might be an issue. His thyroid might be malfunctioning.

Treated for blood sugar and dehydration, given shots for pain and antibiotics as well as an energy boost. The vet prescribed thyroid medication, antibiotics and whatnot, the hope is that Argos will improve by Monday when he will see the vet again. If he is improved, it means something we’re doing is working. If nothing seems to help, it means he is an old dog, facing organ failure, and we will lose him in the near future.

The vet was pretty grim, “50/50 chance,” he said.

But a few minutes ago when Argos raised his head, I prompted “Outside?” and he looked toward the door. When I went to unlock it, my doggie made a failed attempt to rise. I said, “Stay,” went and opened the door and carried him outside (58 lbs, but don’t tell my physical therapist). I set him gently in the grass. He stumbled against the hedge, wobbled a few feet forward and squatted to relieve himself for a long time.

To me that looks like progress.

To me that looks like hope.


Kristin King is an author, optimist¬†and an American expat living in the Netherlands with her husband, four sons, and their golden lab, Argos Nicopoulos King. (Disclaimer: she has not been instructed to limit her lifting by any healthcare professional. ūüėČ )


Tags: , , , ,

Doggie Needs E.R. (Living in Holland Series)

IMG_0298Our family dog, Argos, needs emergency care in the off hours. As I blogged previously,¬†when my son needed the ER (i.e. emergency room), in the Nederlands you must call a “speed-number” (for people SMASH number) to find out which doctor is on duty and where. However, the person who answered for animal care last night didn’t speak enough English or us enough Dutch to figure out where we could go. It was an anxious night with me out-of-town and my husband laying on a pallet next to our family pet.

This morning, we are finding more information and hope to get Argos into care. Your quickest resources are much like mine: friends, local Facebook group, google. Which was best?

Friends had the same local number I had, and on the local Facebook group someone offered our area emergency number. No one answered at either number on a Friday at 9pm. Later in the night we got the translation issue and decided to check¬†the animal ambulance service which I’ve never seen outside the Netherlands. Who knows what it would have cost since the service put us back to square one: they have a van, do nothing medically for the animal, take your pet to whatever vet you tell them, and they have no additional information on which vets might be available. That’s on you.

Argos was at least drinking water, so we decided to wait for the morning.

The online site for vets in the Hague area lists 27, 2 different emergency numbers, and a weekend roster of who is supposed to be open to handle emergencies.  All of this is getting us no where except more worried as our golden lab struggles to walk, throws up occasionally, and has even soiled himself.

Google has finally given us an option. The search was for “weekend veterinarian Den Hague” and helped us reach the Animal Emergency Clinic of The Hague where we can call 24/7 including weekends and holidays (070-3660701).

Great news, right?


¬†We explained our night’s vigil and were informed that for emergencies they are open from 12-2pm Saturday. (See my jaw drop in astonished disappointment). Their website says they are available for emergencies at all hours, but I guess an emergency is your pet got hit by a car? I don’t know. Needless to say, this all taxes the nerves already strained with concern.

One of the great benefits of living in the land of bicycle travel is that our family only needs one car, most of the time. Today I have the minivan in Germany, and my husband is calling around to find a car to borrow. Although public transport is great, you don’t want to carry a sick dog to the bus station. The ambulance is a fall back if no one is around.

I am waiting for more news and will update you as well when I hear something. Always hoping for the best…


Kristin King is an author, publisher and an American expat living in the Netherlands with her husband, four sons, and their golden lab, Argos.

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 9.38.42 PM


Tags: , , ,