2015 has been a difficult year to fathom on the Fyfe Farm.
I mean, we aren’t stupid. We’re both medical doctors and we knew that we had a lot of aging animal companions. We also knew that several had already passed their expiration date and some had medical issues so it was no surprise that the Year of Attrition began as soon as the New Year did.
There we were in January losing Harry, who was at least 13.
And then Mulder surprised us in February by having cutaneous lymphoma and leaving us around the age of 17.
And while those two deaths tore chunks out of our hearts and they weren’t really expected we were able to rationalize them because both of them were senior citizens.
Attrition took the month of March off but hit us hard again in April when Casey finally succumbed to his laryngeal paralysis.
At least he was older. At least he was on The List.
How screwed up is it that I tell myself these things?
That I try to compartmentalize my grief so that it can maybe fit into nice, neat little boxes. It isn’t to minimize my grief.
Maybe its to allow myself to let it all out.
But Attrition took a break again and we Hawaii-ed, we golfed, we reunioned, we grew gardens, we laughed, I sold bling, I blogged, we made plans, we medicated pets and more of 2015 passed.
We watched Cooper lose weight and move around slower and sleep more.
Our noble stallion, Dash was having trouble with his breathing and he had started to look a bit rough so in the middle of summer we said goodbye to them both.
But even those losses made a bit of sense because they had both aged before our eyes.
Both of them were over 20 years old and both had lived wonderful lives on the Fyfe Farm, just like Casey, Mulder and Harry had.
So the farewells were tragic and we both cried and our hearts got torn up just a little more but it still made some sort of sense.
And while we didn’t forget about the Year of Attrition, we were able to put it on the back burner.
We golfed some more and we helped bale hay and I finished writing and we all edited.
We ate, we drank, I slung more bling, Alistair saw patients, we Hawaii-ed once more and we knew The List was there but Boomer and Loki continued to do well.
And I sat almost every single morning when Alistair was in Bismarck for 15 to 20 minutes out front on our wooden bench with the barn cats, Mouse and Jockey.
We have done this for the 8 years we have lived here.
It has been one of the most special moments of my day and for 8 years I have told them that.
I go down to the barn and Mouse comes leaping out and we go and sit up at the house together whether its sunny, raining, frigid or hot.
I told them every day how much I loved them and how it was important to sort my day’s activities out together.
I’d tell Mouse that I would love him forever and he would me ask me in his squeaky voice, “And then what?”
Then I would laugh to myself (and maybe you’re laughing because you know damned well this actually happens up here) and tell him I’d love him “Forever Plus”.
Mouse and Jockey helped me with everything around the farm. Even just last week Mouse was helping me Walk & Talk with Loki. He would head-butt her and she would sniff him and things were normal up here.
Mouse was everyone’s friend. He didn’t care if you were a dog, cat or human. I think he saw us all as spirits he lived with.
When Harry laid down and I sedated him in the barn it was Mouse who comforted him. He head-butted his big wolf-like buddy and curled in with him throughout the rest of the sad procedure.
Mouse’s head butts could knock you off balance. At 10 1/2 years old he was at the prime of his life.
He and Georgia are 2 of the only Fyfe pets whose ages we actually know because they were born in our barn in Bismarck the summer I graduated from veterinary school.
Hissy and Mouse were pretty close and they moved to Montana with me at first.
And we walked and we talked and we played with the dogs and they head-butted Dash and they climbed fences and killed vermin and we sat outside on that bench when Daddy was gone and life was good.
Until a resident mountain lion took Hissy and little Jinxie from us.
Mouse mourned the loss of his feline companions with me as I sat and bawled my eyes out.
But I could compartmentalize that particular tragedy because we chose to live in the mountains with the wildlife that had been here first. We just made adaptations and the barn cats have been in the garage every night ever since.
Mouse was just everywhere as long as we were with him.
Feeding horses. Mowing Lawns. Splitting wood. Stacking wood. Carting it over to the house.
He even helped me split wood and haul it to the house just over a week ago, before Alistair got back from Bismarck.
And then he was fine after that, prancing up to the house in the snow, eager for head-butts, seeing what he could do to help and leaping up into our arms if we bent down.
So when Alistair said, “Hon, Mouse has something going on. He is limping on a back leg” exactly one week ago I didn’t panic.
He was never on The List.
Sure enough he seemed a bit wobbly but he gobbled up his nightly soft food and there were no obvious swellings or scabs. His pupils were wonky, though which I tucked in my Doctor Mummy mind for later.
Like, Monday morning when he was more lethargic without a fever. One pupil was big and one was small and Georgia was on top of him, knowing he wasn’t quite right.
Our internal medicine veterinarian friend in Missoula heard the confusion in my voice and fit us in that morning.
The ultrasound showed what couldn’t be but what was confirmed with aspirates.
Mouse lived until we decided he wasn’t really living and we said our last goodbye and kissed our last kisses on Wednesday with Jockey grooming his buddy’s forehead as he sedated.
I’m a bit of a mess over this because he is one of the youngest Fyfes and because he was SO healthy and vibrant and because he wasn’t on The List and because I’m so sick of Attrition.
There is no category for this one to put it into to make sense of it and I just have to suck it up and live in a world without Mouse.
On Thanksgiving I was thankful that we had a diagnosis and that Alistair was home with me.
I was thankful that Georgia and Jockey got a few more days to lay with their bestie in the hay bales as we all wrapped our minds around losing Mouse.
I am thankful that scraggly Mama Cat had her kitties in our barn and that Mouse was my outdoor shadow the 8 years we have lived here and that my heart is more full, despite the gaping hole his loss has torn from it, because he lived his life with gusto and affection and head-butts and style.
Good-bye, sweet Mouse. I’ll love you Forever Plus. xo