Dear Angie




Angie Kimmel this winter. Photo by Juan de Santa Ana

Dear Angie.


I’m writing you this letter because I can’t pick up the phone to text you or your mom to see if you guys want company. I can’t bring Cleo along for a fun walk through the neighborhood with you and Kali. And  I can’t randomly swing by, either, and hope to visit you because your bright smile and tired body left us on Oct.27th.

We celebrated your life yesterday at your folks’ resort on the lake and it was lovely. You would have approved.

I absolutely loved seeing all of your artwork throughout the house along with your amazing photographs that deservingly won awards over the years. I always loved seeing your photo entries at the Alpine Artisans auctions and still am in awe of the incredible pictures you took during the Jocko Lakes fire that nearly devastated our little community.



Me, back in the day , 2007

You used to work at Lindey’s Steakhouse back then and you were building your photography business. Your eye for detail and love of nature shows in the photos hung or displayed at your old house.

I’ll never forget you coming into my little clinic with your liver & white Springer Spaniel puppy you had got from your aunt in Spokane 3 days prior. My records say it was November 29th, 2007. We bonded immediately because we had had our hearts taken over by our own Springer, Cleo a couple of years prior.

Kali was almost too smart for me and my Easy Cheese routine (Springers!) but we got her completely vaccinated and then I spayed her in March of 2008. Man, it doesn’t seem that long ago, does it?



My first Furry Scurry walkathon at the inaugural Dog Days of Summer!

I’ll also never forget my very first Dog Days of Summer. I remember telling you about the party and why I created it. I was annoyed that the local medical group wouldn’t let me do microchipping and toe nail trims and a walkathon as part of their annual medical fest for humans so the Dog Days were created. You supported my craziness 100%!



Angie, crazy enough to walk our young girls, Cleo & Kali in the walkathon

I was busy doing microchipping at that first event so you volunteered to take The Girls for their walk wearing their cute bandanas and all. The Furry Scurry raised money for the local pet shelter and turned into a huge part of that annual summer party.

We didn’t have a really large turnout but it was still pretty special. We had the discounted microchipping, a veterinary technician doing toe nail trims, goodie bags, bandanas and a fun BBQ for everyone who came.

And you and I and The Girls made the paper in a full spread that the local Pathfinder covered that summer!



All smiles, enjoying the party with Cleo & Kali

You got your 2 kitties soon after you got Kali and I remember joking with you that you were collecting pets like I had done. You even found a black lab one day and we laughed our heads off when I said you were totally becoming a Fyfe and that I even had a single brother-in-law if you wanted to make it legit.

Your laughter radiated through the phone lines as we worked out who the Labrador belonged to and you remained exclusively a Mum for Kali and the kitties.

Your laugh is one of the most special things we all talked about yesterday. Your wonderful brother, Jeff told us all by the bonfire, through tears, as stunning lanterns were being released on the still lake behind him, how he used to try extra hard to be funny just so he could hear your laughter.

I got that. We all did.



Up at the ranch today.



I’m feeling a bit melancholy today, which is unusual for me. One of the many things we had in common was our happiness and joy for life.

Even when you were diagnosed just over 2 years ago with a brain tumor your attitude remained bright, cheerful and strong.

You lit up like a lightbulb when we ran into you one day in Missoula when you & your mom were eating at The Shack. I plopped down on the bench next to you and we talked about how you were cheating a little bit on your well-researched diet. Your mom worked tirelessly to find the best foods for you as you fought back against your diagnosis. She has been your number one Champion throughout all of this.

I had fun walking with you and The Girls last year and sharing lunch and I enjoyed just visiting and hanging out at your place. I loved your garden the past 2 summers and hearing what you had planted and what the plans were.

Cleo never did go in the wading pool you had set up for Kali, did she?



After our Bling for Angie online fundraiser a year ago!

You were so shocked almost exactly a year ago when I came by with our fundraiser check after my trip to Kauai. I love this picture of us because we’re both smiling (as per usual when we’re together) but also because I remember how much you liked your pretty birthstone earrings, my second book and the fact you wanted to go to Kauai.

That online fundraiser brought a lot of folks together all to support you. We sold bling in MT, FL, ID, CA, OR, AK, AZ, WA and even Alberta & British Columbia all because so many folks love you and wanted to help out. I realize now that some of those women who shopped were at the house yesterday and even though I may have met them I didn’t remember the fundraiser. I introduced myself as your vet and your friend. A lot of your family seemed to know who I was and that made my heart so happy.

I was also happy to see Kali and Bentley roaming around. Bentley is so outgoing now! They both found me countless times; what a joy to see Kali doing so well after her dog-attack this summer.



Cleo (last month) was pretty worried about Kali this summer!

I loved when you, your mom and Kali came by to drop off the dog kennels this summer and you got to see the farm! It was a gorgeous, warm day and you were able to walk around and watch the dogs play in the creek. UB and Cleo showed Kali the creek and we talked about ear meds, Chambers of Commerce, barn cats and how peaceful it is up at the farm.

You and your mom both saw why Alistair and I love this place so much and we all laughed and everything was cool. Kali explored the creek but she mostly wanted to be with you.



Loki, doing some sniffing this afternoon in front of the creek.


Randi and I talked about that dog attack yesterday and how your bond with Kali is so special and unique. Her dog, Lily was at the lake when the lanterns were being released and it feels so wonderful to know how many people and their pets you have touched with your life.

I’ll never forget our last visit, when I brought a bit of Hawaii to you because you never did get to go there. Your rolled the shell lei around in your hands and let me babble on about our upcoming trip to Maui, the golf tournament, my golf addiction, the bling, the state of the Fyfe pets, Loki pin-balling her way around the house, vaccine clinics and house calls, trips to Bismarck, our garden, your garden, your cats and even the upcoming election. I said “hi” from Lynn and from Alistair and even from Cleopatra and we talked about how everyone was doing.

I am so happy we made the trip outside that afternoon because the sun was making an uncharacteristic appearance that week. We bundled you up and the sunbeams found you and that was a lovely day & its a beautiful, special memory I will cherish forever.



A couple of weeks ago with Kali and a sunbeam.

Because, as it turned out, that was our last visit.

The last shared giggles and laughter of two Springer Spaniel-loving, cat-cuddling, gardening brunettes who both came to Seeley Lake as outsiders who have a love and respect for the land and beauty that surround us.

My life is richer for having known you, Angie. My heart breaks for your folks, your brother & his family, your friends like Becky and Kathy who cried with us all yesterday and for everyone who has met you and maybe been lucky enough to have heard your incredible laughter.

And I know Kali is mourning you, too, but she has a lot of love surrounding her and she probably knows more than we think because of your amazing bond.

I love you, Angie. Thanks for playing. I miss you.

Love, Tan



Me. Today. xo

















Mahalo, Maui




Swaying palms at our resort in Kapalua

Hawaii just happened.

I am filled to the brim with Aloha, sunshine, warmth, mai tais, ukulele music, crashing waves, golf balls, mahi mahi, starry skies, pineapple, veterinary dermatology and relaxing evenings on our lanai.

The islands have always done wonderful things for my soul and the past week spent on Maui was no exception.



My Aloha toes done by the talented Tessa Stevens of Seeley Lake! View from our lanai.

We were trying to make it across the Pacific twice a year as both of us have conferences we can choose from. To be honest, the vets only have one or two but the human doctors have several that are offered.

We stumbled upon this particular veterinary conference on our first trip to Hawaii back in 2009, wandering around Kauai finding things to do before our night flight back home. We were exploring the Marriot for lunch and I saw Royal Canin and Virbac posters down a hallway. We found a happy veterinarian who told us about what was then called the George Muller Dermatology conference.

I have attended every single year since.

The conference brings together some of the top minds in dermatology from around the world. Most people don’t believe me but I actually love going for the seminars themselves.



Playing the Plantation course at Kapalua on our first day.

I also love going for the ocean views, the golf, the mai tais….

We haven’t been back since last fall’s veterinary conference, though, because its just so hard to leave our special needs animal companions behind. Not just anyone can or will take care of a blind dog with a host of issues and a deaf dog, let alone a ferret! And that’s just a few of who remain now. We had 3 ferrets for much of last winter and even Boomer was still around until February.



Alistair and our ‘trio of trouble’… I miss those days

With Loki’s needs and limitations we have to have someone staying at the house overnight. It is a lot to ask of someone and I don’t like to over-utilize the amazing pet sitters we have had.

Luckily this time good friends from Bismarck were in need of a peaceful break from their hectic jobs. They eagerly leapt at the chance to come to our ranch and camp out for a week.

Theresa, Brian and their Dachshund, Roxy arrived last Wednesday and quickly learned the ropes of Fyfe Life. We left our mountain Paradise for island Paradise the next morning and everybody thrived.



Roxy, enjoying some cuddle time on our farm in Montana (not my photo)

Loki even liked Roxy, which was amazing. For much of her life Loki hasn’t liked other little dogs. Big dogs were fine, especially ‘her’ big dogs, Casey and Harry but she used to bark her head off at dogs her own size.

Thankfully she has mellowed in her old age. I wonder if she just decided that making friends was more fun than being a bitch. Theresa told me that the 2 little gals would cuddle up together for afternoon naps. That makes my heart smile! Loki… making new friends!



Aloha from the Plantation golf course in Kapalua!

And so, we golfed. In fact, we golfed every day!

Our first day we hit the famed Plantation course near the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua where we stayed (and where my conference was… veterinarians don’t have the money or any business staying at the Ritz but that was the deal this year.)

We were joined by Dr.Brock, from Indiana, who had first attended the conference on the Big Island 2 years ago. He was a part of our golf foursome back then and we have kept in touch ever since.



Dr.Brock, me and Alistair the first day.

He had never played golf on Maui so we invited him to join us for a round after our morning conferences the next day at the Bay course in Kapalua.



Waiting on the 16th tee on the Bay course… a doozy of a hole where you take the words, “Cart Path Only” very seriously… that’s if your drive makes it over the ravine immediately in front of you. Note the rainbows…

Both courses weave through the luxury resort area of Kapalua offering breathtaking views of the ocean from several of the holes. The Plantation course is where the PGA kicks off the calendar year each January with their Tournament of Champions. It is a more challenging course with daunting distances, curving fairways and a sentry of bunkers guarding the greens. It is also the course we had our annual veterinary golf tournament on, which was a sold-out event this year.



And Barb makes it a foursome for the tournament!

We finally met our 4th for our tournament foursome just before the round began. Barb (the wife of a veterinarian who doesn’t play golf) was the perfect fit in her skill set, wit and sharp humor.

Our giggling team played at 2-under par for the day and Alistair won one of the longest putt prizes (on the only hole our team birdied that day)! How to make Wifey proud!



Mr. Long Putt won $60 for his 29-foot, 10 inch putt on the 18th!

The lunch was amazing after the tournament and will be tough to follow next year. We were so full we skipped a night of fine dining and just had drinks and sandwiches at our resort lounge with Brock later that evening (in Kapalua that sort of thing still sets you back $140.) Yikes!

Barb enjoyed herself so much that she joined us the next day for our post-conference afternoon round at the Bay course. She hauled her clubs all the way from Colorado, why not use them a few times?



Barb and I having some fun on the back 9 of the Bay course.



Brock & Alistair on the 3rd hole of the Bay course, looking right towards our block of rooms!

Golf has been such a fun opportunity to explore different places in a new way for us. We also get to meet new friends who enjoy working on an activity while being outside. It doesn’t lend itself to much wine-drinking but the boys liked having a beer or 2 during each round.

Its fun getting to meet people from different walks of life and different parts of the world. Barb is an avid reader and Brock told her about my books so I gave her a signed copy of my first book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake. She has already read it and texted me how much she enjoyed it. Heart smiling again.



Pretty water feature on the Bay course with my new avian buddies.

Our final day of derm came and went and Alistair and I tried to get onto the Plantation course again but it was booked up. Luckily the Bay course was wide open.

Non-golfers out there might be shaking their heads at us. What about snorkeling? Hiking? Maui Ocean Center-ing? Volcano-ing? Shopping?

Yes, all of those things appeal to us but we have spent previous trips to Maui doing them. Our golf courses in both Seeley Lake and Bismarck have closed and we knew this was the end of our season so we wanted to make the most of it.



Enjoying the Bay course together one final time.

We weren’t paired with anyone else so we made sure to stop for photos when we could. When the snow is blowing in Montana this winter I’m going to need to go back to these to maintain my sanity (and my Aloha).



Jinx and Muldy enjoying the view of the Bay course



Between the 4th and 5th holes. Ahhhhh….

We spent one more night and were able to sleep in as my conference was over. We loaded up at the resort’s breakfast buffet that was stocked with Eggs Benedict, Kahlua pork hashbrowns, mahi mahi, amazingly fresh fruit and tantalizing pastries with pineapple & cinnamon jam, packed up, checked-out and drove across the lovely island to spend some time Upcountry.

Normally we hit the beautiful Lavender Farm and then the Kula lodge for supper before our night flight home but this time we figured we’d try one more round of golf at a more local course in Pukalani.



Pukalani golf course, looking out towards Kahului and the ocean down below.

Upcountry Maui is on the slopes of the sort-of dormant volcano, Haleakala and is much less touristy than the rest of Maui. Everything is more reasonably priced (round of golf was $45.50 each, cart included!) and the people are even more laid-back.

The course wove through local homes that were less luxurious than those in Kapalua and it provided a more homey feel. Alistair made par 3 times (balls for the wall!) and we enjoyed our final day with temps 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the island.

Cooler temps have led to the survival of a non-native species, the Jackson chameleon. We’d never seen one of these guys before but there she was on our cart path! Apparently a group of 13 young ones were released from a pet store because they weren’t thriving many years ago. I guess they have since thrived…


Our new friend in Pukalani

We enjoyed one of our best meals at the unassuming clubhouse that day- appetizer, platefuls of fresh seafood and a couple of drinks each came to less than $100. Unbelievable for anywhere on the islands!



Towards the end of our final round of golf this trip.

And now I’m back in Montana and Alistair is back in North Dakota and we’re back to normal Fyfe Life. Which is anything but normal.

Loki didn’t have a single seizure when we were gone but she woke up seizing our first morning back. It was mild, as they almost always have been and it was likely from being so jacked up and excited when we got back the day before.

I really wasn’t so sure Loki would be here to return home to a year ago. And I’m still not sure how long we have ahead of us with our little train wreck but she’s laying on my feet as I type and I’m not about to change a damned thing.



“helping” Step Gammy write her blogs.

We have added ground beef to her kibble morning and night and she hasn’t lost any more weight. We stick to our routines and we enjoy cuddle time on the couch with the Magic Blanket at night and then cuddles in bed. We Walk & Talk when we’re exploring outside and we enjoy the heck out of every minute together that we can.



“Over this way, Step Gammy.”


We were so fortunate to once again have friends stay at our house and love on our pets just like we do. They kept the routine going so that the blind dog, the deaf dog and everyone else could keep on keeping on.

And we could fly to Maui and recharge. Refresh. Learn. Play. Explore.

We could hit golf balls and lose golf balls and find golf balls (!) and eat at new restaurants with pompous waiters and so-so calamari and enjoy old restaurants and restaurants that surprised us because they were in a trailer on a local golf course but it was the best meal of the adventure and we got new golf hats and shirts and I wore lots of bling and we laughed and joked and made a new friend and caught up with an old one and we were completely relaxed because we knew our home and our animal companions in Montana were going to be just fine.



the island of Molokai off in the distance as seen from the Bay course.


If you have the opportunity to visit Hawaii I highly recommend it. Certain things aren’t for everyone but everyone can find something magical to be a part of while they’re there. And here’s to coming home to everyone as happy as they were when we left. Here’s to Loki. Here’s to Roxy. Here’s to mai tais, golf and Maui magic.

Here’s to Aloha.



First mai tai of the trip was at the Sea House restaurant in Napili Bay!



Snazzy golf duo at the Plantation course 10th tees! (Brock is cruising up in the background)



Making new avian friends on the Bay course



Love this photo from the Pukalani course!



She was super friendly!



Aloha from Pukalani, friends! Mahalo for the vacay, Maui. Until next time!