Maui Magic and Mai Tais


Hibiscus flowers at our resort



As unbelievable as it may seem, we just returned from Maui.

This most recent trip to the Hawaiian islands was for continuing medical education for Alistair.

For me it was a much-needed break from my rough start to the new year.


Enjoying the mandatory relaxation on our lanai a week ago

I was able to leave 4 feet of snow, ice-covered decks and roads, my scarf-glove-toque-jacket-leggings-snow pants-boots outfit, wood piles, wood stoves, a limping barn kitty and a house without Harry behind as I smelled the Hawaiian air and felt the sun on my bare skin.

It didn’t matter that our plane was 2 hours late.


Somewhere between 1 and 2am finally getting our ‘aloha’ on

It didn’t matter that I lost Alistair at the airport after picking up our rental car because I was watching a feral airport kitty cross the road.

I lost him for over 20 minutes and finally texted him, “Where are you?”

I mean, where can a guy with 2 huge suitcases and 2 full golf club travel cases and a knapsack go at Kahului airport at close to midnight????


Sights and colors of Maui

(It turned out he was sitting right by where a cute feral cat had just crossed the road…) (Ooooops…)

Apparently I brought some other baggage along on the trip only it wasn’t something I had packed.

It was all neatly tucked away in my over-active subconscious just teasing me with mild distraction, waiting for the opportunity to leap to the forefront of my life.


Leaping Humpbacks!

Like the leaping Humpback whales we got to see up close and personal on a whale-watching tour with Captain Steve and 20 of our closest new friends.



The whale tour was magnificent.

Awe inspiring.



Mama whale and her calf off the shores of Lahaina

We were right on the water in a zodiac watching a mother whale teach her calf how to breach.


Mama, doing some teaching

The whales return to the warm, shallow waters between Maui and her neighboring islands of Lanai and Molokai every winter to calve and mate before journeying back up to Alaska.


Whale dive

It is something to behold, particularly when the whales were putting on a show like they did for us.

After Mama and her calf left we had a pod of males chasing a female, hurling their massive bodies out of the water all around us.


Just… Wow…

That was our second morning there.

The morning after my subconscious did its thing.

I had slept really well that night, after a day in the sun and on the Bay Course playing a round with Alistair.


Teeing off on the first hole on the Bay Course in Kapalua, Maui

It had been a bit weird when we found out we were playing with strangers.

More so when ‘Denise’ was kicking all of our asses with her long drives, pars and birdies.


View towards our Ritz-Carlton Kapalua from just off the 4th green on the Bay Course

After 7 strokes I picked up my ball on the 1st hole.

The 2nd didn’t go much better.

But I breathed and I relaxed and I laughed and we all got lost in our parade of golf carts (following Denise!!!) and I felt some Aloha wash over me and nothing mattered because we were on a sunny island in the middle of the Pacific.

And then I played golf.


View towards our 3rd floor room from the green on the 3rd hole… where I remembered how to play golf

Denise later fessed up to being the Kansas state ladies golf champ 7 years running after learning to play from her professional golfer father at the age of 3.

I didn’t feel so bad after that.


Signature hole on the Bay Course, a par 3 that plays along the ocean. A bit distracting but beautiful nonetheless

We played 2 more rounds, including one on the famed Plantation Course where the PGA had just wrapped up the Tournament of Champions.


All smiles as we were about to get our butts spanked on the Plantation Course!

We played alone on the enormous, undulating, grueling course.

Which was great when we found a ton of golf balls embedded in the ground on the 5th fairway!


Absolutely stunning views from the Plantation Course

How to make a Scotsman and a Doukhobor happy!


Happy Scotsman posing after his drive cleared the ravine and landed just off the green

Rejuvenated, relaxed, expecting to play with others and humbled by the Plantation Course a few days prior, we hit the Bay Course in our fancy new duds one more time the day before we left.

We played with ‘Matt’ from Chicago and the 3 of us were very well matched in golf play and colorful language.


Fancy Schmancy duo on the 17th tee at the Bay Course just before sunset

And all of this was maybe more enjoyable because I had got rid of my mental baggage that 2nd night in our hotel room when I thought I had slept so well.

When we woke up before going on the whale watching tour Alistair asked me, “Do you remember anything from last night?”


The tee box view from the Bay Course’s signature 5th hole

That’s not a question a sleepwalker wants to hear.

A sleepwalker whose most recent wanderings led to the closing of her clinic and a new approach to her mental, physical and emotional health 2 years ago.

Alistair had woken up around 2am to a steady knocking at the door.


The Ritz Carlton Kapalua… apparently I needed this!

And I wasn’t in bed.

Or in the bathroom.

He cautiously answered the door to find me blankly staring at him from the resort hallway.

Did I mention I was naked?

At 2am.

In the hallway of the Ritz.


the power of Maui…

There is such a feeling of loss (of time, memory) and of being cheated (by myself!) after I learn I’ve slept walked.

And of course the wondering… where did I go? Did I meet people? I’m sure they were nice to me because I was naked but seriously, how long was I gone and what did I do?


Kapalua Coastline in front of our resort…. good thing I didn’t wander far that night!

But that is all a part of who I am and the journey I’m on and how I learn about myself and how I handle things like stress.

So we laughed.

What else can you do?


Calming tidepools off the shores of Kapalua

One of the reasons we enjoy the Hawaiian islands and the spirit of Aloha so much is because our lives on ranches with animals in 2 different states is challenging at times.


Saying farewell to the day, Hawaiian-style


Hawaii is a real escape where we can play golf in January and watch whales and wear shorts and sandals and have bare skin and eat incredible seafood and hike coastal paths and play with sea urchins and look up at a dormant volcano on a clear day.


Hawaiian flora and fauna

Its also where I can get a mean mai tai just about anywhere and that also is a key to my affection for Hawaii.


Maui Mai Tai

Now its back to the snow and Casey’s floppy laryngeal fold and a barn kitty who isn’t limping and blind Loki pin-balling her way around the house and frost in the mornings and a second book to write and frozen mahi mahi to cook.

I love this adventure I’m on.


Watching 2 feral kittens play in the bushes by the ocean


Alistair at the Dragon’s Teeth formations of wind- and water-whipped lava



Even managed a book event and a few sales at Sandy Pages in Kihei (with Rod, the owner)


Our Ritz-Carlton Kapalua pool area in the morning


Loving the journey I’m on and the guy who chose to go on it with me!






































Post Script… for Harry and hubby


Alistair and “the kids” enjoying the beauty of Montana last winter

In my self absorbed grief and sadness last week I didn’t put any pictures of Alistair and Harry on my blog.

I had meant to.

I had uploaded several.

It was an oversight rather than a conscious act.

Grief can do that to a person.

In thinking about it I also realized that I didn’t highlight Alistair’s unique relationship with Harry and the other dogs.


Harry and his Dad

When I used to work full time and Alistair came here for his 2 week stretches, he often would hike, snowshoe or go horseback riding with the dogs.

Harry would silently sneak up on Dad on the trail and follow or herd him (if he wasn’t watching after UB or Casey).

The 2 of them developed this “man” thing that I never could appreciate… for obvious reasons.


“Its a guy-thing, Mummy”

Alistair would stop for a pee break and Harry would come up right next to him.

He would look up at Alistair and then down at the ground.


Then down.

Not seconds after Alistair finished, Harry would then ‘mark’ it himself.

None of the other dogs ever did this or showed any interest. I think Cleo, like me, was kind of confused by the whole ‘marking’ thing.


More Montana treks with the gang

That’s not the only type of bonding the 2 of them did.

I often caught Harry sneaking in for some one-on-one time with Alistair when nobody else was around.

And Alistair happily gave Harry every scritch he had time for before Casey would come bounding up to mow them both over.


The pack, last fall

So its getting easier each day as all of us make sense of Harry not being here.

I’ve received so  many heartfelt comments and thoughts about our big boy.

Many of my veterinary classmates shared memories (usually of Harry spinning) as he was another member of the class way back in 3rd year.

Instead of crying this time I’m smiling as I write this thinking of the wonderful years we had after I brought him home from school.


Harry and Mouse earlier this winter

And thankful that all of these fascinating spirits got to meet Harry and know him for his Woo Woos and his marking and his spinning and his inability to be house-trained and his little kisses and his trust and his inability to understand what ‘fetch’ was and his flopping over so you could scritch him and his harmonizing with the wolves and his gentle, quiet, big, kind ways.


Happy Fyfe Dogs last winter

Alistair, in particular.


2 special boys














Lies, Truths and Love


I’ve been lying.

To Facebook Friends, blog readers and anyone who has asked me how I’ve been doing lately.


Just a few mornings ago

I’ve been lying because it was a whole lot easier to not face the truth.

I’ve been hiding behind a smiley face and snowy pictures and happy-happy joy-joy comments while slowly a large part of my heart was dying on the inside.

I had to lie.

If I told the truth then I would have to actually say the words.

Words that hurt so much and made tears come to my eyes and fall down my cheeks.

If I wrote the words down on a post or a blog then that would make them real.

That Harry was dying.


Beautiful Harry

I didn’t want to face this ugly truth for so many reasons.

Obvious reasons, like he’s one of the coolest dogs I’ve ever known and we share a special relationship that is just plain different and fabulous and he protects me when we hike or snowshoe and he protects UB and Cleo and even Casey and he plays with the barn kitty, Mouse and he always wants to be with me even if I’m splitting wood or shoveling snow and I just love our Husky fur-ball so much.


My snowshoe buddy

And less obvious reasons, like the fact I have been preparing myself mentally and emotionally for the loss of our aging animal companions but Harry wasn’t even on that list.

Casey. Boomer. Maybe even Loki.

They are all older (we think) or they have health concerns that could conceivably take them from us at any time.


Happy Husky!

But not Harry.

When he began to have episodes of weakness and collapse after exercise a few weeks ago I was suspicious.

His gums would get alarmingly pale during these episodes.

But after several minutes of me sitting with him and talking with him he would slowly get to his feet.


Enjoying his favorite season a few winters ago

There are few diseases that cause this in older dogs.

I feared… no, I knew it was probably hemangiosarcoma- a fairly aggressive, blood-filled cancer that grows on spleens and then spreads via the bloodstream to other organs.

It isn’t necessarily a painful disease so it seems to creep up on animals until one day a tumor ruptures and the animal starts to bleed internally.

That’s when they get weak and pale and often collapse.


More forest fun with Harry last winter

With time, smaller tumors can clot off and the dogs seem normal again.

Like Harry did.

Until his next episode a couple of weeks later.


Autumn hikes with “the kids”

And then the worst one just earlier this week when he couldn’t stand and wouldn’t eat his kibble.

I sat with him and cried and told him everything that needed to be said because I wasn’t sure if he would survive the night or if I would have the strength to do what might have needed to be done.

Alistair, who is in Bismarck, asked me to hold off.

He wanted a definitive diagnosis because he’s a human doctor and they like that sort of thing.

He also didn’t want to lose our Harry.

Harry wasn’t suffering or in any distress- he just was too weak to stand or eat.


Early this winter

I set out blankets for him and cried some more and when I went out first thing the next morning both Cleo and Casey were laying on either side of him, right next to him.

Dogs know when something is up.

Our dog pack is pretty tight.

Those 3 have been together since Cleo joined us almost 10 years ago. She has never known a world without Harry.


Cleopatra and Harry, great buddies!

But Harry rallied slowly that morning and I was fortunate to have him with me for a few more days.

We didn’t hike or do anything extravagant; Harry really didn’t have all of his energy back.

But he followed Casey around and he followed me around and he laid with Cleo and he ate his kibble with newly-added canned food and he slowly spun or walked his circles to the left and he watched me split wood and shovel snow and he occasionally threw in a “Woo-Woo” and he wanted his chew treats and he ate them like always with Cleo and Casey.


Eating chew treats a few days ago. Just part of the routine.

And yesterday morning was a very good morning.

He spun his circles, he shouted his “Woo-Woo’s” and he devoured his breakfast.

He had good energy following me when I went to get water for them all and I was looking forward to having them with me when I would be splitting wood in the afternoon.

I had a book event to go to but was only gone a couple of hours.


Harry’s turn being the spokes-dog and T-shirt model at the 2011 Dog Days of Summer

When I got home, though, my heart sank.

Harry was down.

Really pale.

Really cold in his paws and limbs telling me he had been down awhile.

Really breathing slowly.

I laid with him in our barn and put blankets on him.

Cleo and Casey came in and out but I eventually left them goofing around in the snow outside and shut the barn door.


A better morning a few days ago… checking to see if I got the 5 feet of snow out of the kennel, perhaps.

I told him that he was brave and that I loved him.

That Whitney, Lynn, Jessi, Loki, UB, Cleo and Casey loved him.

That his daddy loved him and had hoped to see him again but that was okay because he would have memories of his running-around, Woo-Woo-ing, UB-protecting, wolf-howling, lefty-spinning, pee-on-Cleo’s-head or Loki and everything in sight, fastest furry friend in the world.

And that he brought such joy and fun to our family and that everyone thought he was so handsome and amazing and wolf-like and that I always felt so safe when he was hiking behind me.

And I looked at him and we both knew it was time.

Harry wasn’t having any fun anymore.


Its time to go, Mum

He deserved better, so I gave him better. One final act of kindness and love.

As he sedated peacefully, Mouse, the barn kitty nuzzled against both him and I.

I don’t  know how I found a vein through my tears or how I held my hands still while I sobbed.

But I did.

And Harry is gone.

And my heart is broken.

And Cleo and Casey seem a bit confused.


Cleo & Harry last week

Even though I’m a veterinarian I’m still just like you.

I don’t want to talk about my pets’ terminal diseases because that just makes it real.

I would rather not have written this (and cried much of the time) but its important to understand that everyone has a different idea of when its “time”.

That even veterinarians struggle with this final act for our own companions and that every pet and every disease is different.

That sometimes people are smiling but you never truly know what personal Hell they might be enduring.

We are lucky to have loved Harry and privileged to have shared so many wonderful years with him. And I am lucky to have had these last few extra days.

Rest in Peace, Harold Fyfe. xo


I love you, Harry

















Running to Stand Still


Gee, I wonder what I’ll be doing today?

The title is a line from an old U2 song.

Its an obscure song with a bit of a dark, haunted sound to it but I absolutely love it. Not that I really know what they’re talking about with some of the imagery but I get the point of running to stand still.

I’ve done this so many times in my life its not even funny. In fact, I kind of live that way.

I work my ass off doing a million-billion things (all with a perfectionist’s attitude, of course) all day or all week or all month long so that I can have that ‘ahhhh’ moment somewhere down the road.


Enjoying that ‘ahhhh’ moment at our wintery ranch

I sometimes find it difficult to completely relax when there are things that need to be done.

When you live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of animals there are a lot of things that aren’t negotiable.

It doesn’t matter that the snow is up to my mid-thigh this afternoon and that they are calling for another foot or 2 through tomorrow.


Winter is here!

It doesn’t matter that I shoveled the deck yesterday and that my shoulders are a bit sore because the snow that’s laying on our already-bowed decks is heavy and it needs to come off.


I swear, I shoveled this baby bare yesterday.

It doesn’t matter that Big Red is buried and that the controls for the blade are getting a bit finicky and that the wipers keep getting iced up and I have to stop to de-ice them and the door isn’t shutting very well and I’m only plowing today to make plowing easier for ltomorrow.


Big Red. My 1996 companion who saves my ass every winter.

I love that truck.

He got all pimped out a few years ago with a cd-player, stereo and seat covers, the blade and a fix to the power steering.

Sometimes I tune in to Jack Johnson while I plow using Big Red… just for the irony of it all.

Lately, though, its Coldplay and Mylo Xyloto.

Para… para… paradise…

Because this is Paradise.


One of the peaks of the Swan range just north of us.

And if I want to stand still and take some time to enjoy it, I have to work my ass off now.


Our annual friend, The Icicle as he is forming. He goes through many adaptations each winter and he’s got a good start already this year.

There is wood to split, wood to haul, fires to keep lit, roads to plow, decks to shovel, roof tops to rake, snow from the roof to shovel, paths to carve out for little blind dogs, paths to carve out to feed horses, and ice to break open so the horses can drink fresh water.


The path to re-make through the stallion pen to open up the water

Horses don’t get enough water from licking snow. Yes, there are old ranchers who think that’s acceptable but our stallion, Dash is getting older and he gave us a colic scare this year already so I’d like to make sure he has ample access to water.

Or even just a little bit.


Dash, surveying my work as I take a selfie break from hacking away at the ice and snow.

I’m sure Dash appreciates my effort.

Trudging through the thigh-deep snow with a shovel and a huge mallet in my hands.

Heaving that damned mallet up in the air only to slam it back down again over and over, hoping the entire time that the ice I’m standing on doesn’t give way.

Shoveling an area for him and taking it down bit by bit so that he can actually reach the bubbling, gurgling, fresh open water.

And then feeding him about 20 shovels full of water because he still didn’t want to go to the creek.


“I think you can take some more of this snow down….”

Its just stuff that needs to be done.

Like the hay in the summer.

All these things must be done and nobody else is going to do it if I don’t.

Unless Alistair is here- he gets a LOT done around this place.


Alistair likes using the big boy toys!

But he is in Bismarck treating the 100s of sick folks who flock to the Walk-In clinic sneezing and coughing in his face for 14 days straight.

His own version of running to stand still.

He works his own butt off so we can continue to have the wonderful life we have.


Its the good life!

So we can enjoy the Paradise we call home as well as our other favorite Paradise half-way across the Pacific Ocean now and then.


November on Hawaii Island

I even feel a teensy bit guilty right now taking time to write this blog when I could be splitting wood.

I have worked on that guilt. I’m sure many writers have it.

I’ve worked on believing that what I write has meaning and that its my contribution to things right now.

Along with plowing, shoveling and clearing piddle zones for blind companions.


Loki, checking out today’s freshly cleared paths

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not complaining one bit. I love the exercise and being outdoors and the fact that I truly am contributing to our greater good.

And we laugh and joke when we work outside together and I let the big dogs out and they romp and play in the snow and everything gets done and my meal tastes better and my sleep is often deeper because of the hard work.

Because I’ve been running.

Or shoveling, as it were.

To stand still.


Cleo and Harry helping me shovel.


“You missed a spot over in the corner, Mummy.”