Forever Plus, Mouse


King of the barn cats, Mouse, lounging around the back deck a couple of summers ago

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.


Harry Fyfe


And then Mulder surprised us in February by having cutaneous lymphoma and leaving us around the age of 17.


Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe

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?


Dad & Casey’s last hike together

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.


Cooper… aging before our eyes earlier this year

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.


Mouse always followed me around the farm, helping me with whatever chore I was doing or mess I had created for myself.

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.


Mornings with Mouse

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.


Mouse & his sister, Georgia in the barn

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”.


Jockey & Mouse, our big boys this summer.

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.


Harry & Mouse in January, just days before we lost our husky

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.


The boy kitties, Mouse, Hissy Phitt and Dogget back in Bismarck

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.


Hissy Phitt a few years ago hanging around the stallion pen visiting Dash

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.


Mouse helping me outside on the stallion fenceline

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.


Mouse telling me what a great golfer I was last summer

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.


Last winter, a bobcat-wanna-be

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.

Internal Lymphoma.



Enjoying the seasons with Mouse

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.


Mouse & Mummy on the bench together back in 2010

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


Alistair getting in some good bonding time late this past spring with Mouse & Jockey


Full-on head-butt action from Mouse in February


Mouse would convince me I needed to sit down and relax with him over the years


Oh, Mouse!

‘Tis The Season


I love the seasons in Montana.

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. Conference Season!!!


Aloha toes! You know what that means!

My annual veterinary dermatology conference was on Kauai this year which is probably our favorite of the islands.

Hawaii’s islands all have a distinct flavor or feel to them.

Maui is happening. Its hip. Its trendy. Its where tourists flock with their families and the place has a real vibe to it.

The Big Island is enormous and covered in black lava. And there’s a volcano erupting that keeps the snowbird retirees from the mainland interested. It vibrates a little slower than Maui.


View of the southern shoreline from the Grand Hyatt.

And then there is Kauai where life moves even slower.

The trade winds had stopped blowing our first couple of days there so things heated up. It was unusual to experience that and even the locals were sweating up a storm.


Getting toasty on the Poipu Bay golf course our first day!

You get used to 3-shower days because the mix of 100spf sunblock and sweat feels just like you imagine it does.

Anything that isn’t cotton attaches itself to your body like a second skin and driving around in circles in the golf cart as fast as you can to cool off makes total sense.


The view from the last 3 holes at Poipu Bay were spectacular.

The Poipu Bay golf course became our home-away-from-home-course. The staff were hilarious and treated us like Ohana the second time there. The course was in great shape and we were some of the only players there each day!


Our second round at Poipu Bay… views like this and the place all to ourselves!

Alistair became somewhat of a celebrity during an organized one-hour lesson for the 14 veterinarians who had signed up for the annual golf tournament.

It was a free lesson and we showed up on time (which most veterinarians have a hard time doing). Everyone else was an hour late so that gave us time to visit with head pro, Chad. (Chad had been stationed in Great Falls years ago and remembers being cold for 10/12 months.)

Chad asked for a volunteer to try using his directional tools that he’d set up and Alistair went for it.

The rest is history.


Cart crew hamming it up with Alistair with his busted Driver head.

Chad: “I’ve never in my life witnessed anyone shear their Driver head off and send it flying like that.”

They leant us a Driver for the tournament the next day.

The tournament was great for Alistair and Dr.Rich and his son-in-law, Danny but it was a complete bust for me.


Golf cart parade heading out to tee off for the tournament!

I don’t even know why I’m admitting this because I’m usually pretty competitive with myself but I totally sucked that day.

My only real saving grace was my drive on a par 3 that landed a few inches from the hole. Our only birdie.


Our foursome, Alistair, me, Rich & Danny

Our team still laughed a lot and I played great golf every other time Alistair and I went out so I’m not worried. Embarrassed, perhaps, but not concerned.


One-legged, healthy-looking Nene at the golf course.

We did so many more things than just play golf, though.

We got to hang out with Alistair’s daughter, Whitney and her husband, Lau and we met his fun parents, too. The kids made a great BBQ for us at their place and we all laughed and relaxed and told stories about our adventures in life.


Me, Alistair, Whitney & Lau at Tidepool’s restaurant. This was when the trade winds weren’t blowing and we were as warm as we look here.

The kids met us for Smith’s Luau, which is a well-known place and show. Its also where the famous Fern Grotto boat tours take off from.


At the luau!


Lau and Whitney with us at Smith’s

The food was terrific and the stage for the show was beautiful under the starlit night. The performance was pretty good but if you’re going to jeer the crowd and tell us we need to clap more and you’re the fire thrower-guy, you maybe should practice tossing and actually catching those things a bit more.

I’m just saying.


Ready to load up for our incredible adventure!

Our biggest adventure this trip was an afternoon jaunt over to the remote island of Ni’ihau, where non-Hawaiians are not allowed to go.

Unless you’re invited.

Or you charter the helicopter owned by the Robinsons, who own the island.


We’re going to Ni’ihau!!!!!!

Whitney, Lau, Lau’s mom, Fredlyn and our new best friend, Tony from Ohio joined Alistair & I on a twin-engine bird that was over 30 years old.


Lau and Fredlyn just before the flight!


Up, up and away!

Our pilot, Dana was incredibly knowledgeable and gave us a superb aerial tour of the island before setting us down on our secluded, gorgeous, sandy beach where we spent the afternoon.


flying towards Ni’ihau

There is so much I could say about this trip but then the words fail me. It was beautiful. It was a privilege. It was Ni’ihau.


more of our aerial tour


Largely untouched shoreline on Ni’ihau


No fishermen that day. Some of the villagers ride a horse for 2 hours just to get to the shore to fish.


shells, lava, debris…


Our beach for the afternoon.

We snorkeled, we relaxed, we hunted for shells (which we were allowed to bring back), we pontificated, we watched a monk seal sunbathe, we beach combed and we admired the beautiful land on the traditional island that a few hundred pairs of feet get to walk on each year.


Snorkeling off Ni’ihau! It was like living in a giant saltwater aquarium!

I’m sure it was different for each of us. Particularly Lau, whose stomach didn’t enjoy Dana’s showboating in the helicopter on our way there. ‘Nuff said.


Trade winds came back! Southern shores off the Sheraton.

Then it was back to reality (which is unreal on Kauai) and a few more conference days for Alistair.

We dined at Dondero’s, Tidepools, Merriman’s, Keoki’s, Duke’s, Rum Fire, Red Salt, Ilima Terrace, Lava’s and the Plantation Gardens. We highly recommend a stroll through their amazing gardens even if you don’t eat there.


“Fraggle” plants at the gardens.


orchids at the gardens


The Plantation Gardens

We managed golf at the former Kauai Lagoons, (now Hokuala, which means Rising Star) where the airplanes landed immediately adjacent to a couple of holes on the back 9 and the term, Jungle Golf took on a whole new meaning.


One of our trips through the jungle at Hokuala!


Hokuala’s signature hole with a cruise ship docked at Nawiliwili in the background. None of our balls went swimming!

We had one more round at Poipu Bay where our Ohana treated us well and before long we were dining at Duke’s and then killing time waiting for our night flight out of Lihue.

We are rejuvenated and relaxed and tanned and ready for winter. The wood stove is on and the first few inches of snow in Montana has already melted. Loki had another seizure the day after we returned so I’m keeping her close. We still walk & talk, though, and she did a once-around the entire house & yard yesterday.

We love our Aloha adventures but we love to come home, too. Mahalo for reading, and it was great to see Aimee, Richard and Bruce and of course Whitney and Lau and meet his cool parents, David and Fredlyn. Aloha. Until next time.


One of those no-trade-wind-days on the golf course early in our trip


Fun supper at Dondero’s with one of my veterinary classmates, Aimee and her boyfriend, Jason!


the Sheraton luau dancers as seen from our walkway


Our beach on Ni’ihau


Final golf of the journey, once more at Poipu Bay, hours before we had to fly home.