A Happy Surprise

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Cleopatra running to see why the lawnmower died in a puff of blue smoke yesterday…

Being a veterinarian brings with it certain bonuses when it comes to having your own pets. There’s meds at cost, no need for prescriptions or pharmacies, access to x-rays (when I had my clinic… I have to say, that’s one of the things I miss the most, particularly for our own bodies!), access to information about new products for pets and of course the knowledge about conditions, problems and diseases that creep up from time to time.

Many of you who have followed the blog know that the knowledge I write about has led to “that sinking feeling” from time to time when I have really disliked being right.

How I wish I was completely wrong about Harry’s hemangiosarcoma or Mulder’s cutaneous lymphoma.

 

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Mulder and Mummy a few years ago

I really wish I had been incorrect about Casey’s laryngeal paralysis and how the warmer weather and his exuberant personality were a bad combination his final spring with us.

 

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Prepping for Casey’s first run with Dad through an Agility Course

And how I wanted to be completely off base with the cancers that I suspected as we watched Calypso, then Phillipa and eventually sweet Luigi gradually succumb over the last two years.

 

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Phillipa, Calypso & Luigi when Luigi was new to the family! Man, I miss these 3!

Knowledge is a wonderful thing but it can be a bitch when you know what horrible things can be making your beloved pet behave a certain way or show particular symptoms.

Which is why I’ve had a bit of fear nestled in the back of my mind and heart the past three months regarding our springer spaniel, Cleopatra.

 

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Miss Cleo!

 

As I was finishing writing my book early this spring, Cleo and UB would cuddle either under the desk at my feet or behind me on one of the couches. It became apparent sometime in March that a certain someone had a pretty icky smell coming from her mouth.

Initially I didn’t think it was too bad of a deal. Cleo is at least 13 years old and could be even older. She definitely has some tartar and it was possible she had a bit of an infection. So, being a good veterinary-Mummy, we began a routine course of antibiotics that are great for teeth and the smell cleared up.

Until I stopped the antibiotics.

 

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Cleo & Jockey yesterday watching UB flying towards us after the lawn mower conked out.

Then the smell gradually reappeared and it was very dental-smelling and pretty icky. Around that time she also started lapping up her water in an unusual, aggressive sort of way. Water would fly out in all directions and then she would trail some away from the water bowl afterwards.

Which was when the vet-brain started making clickity-clickity sounds and I started wondering…

Could it be a tooth root infection? One that was causing her discomfort and would require a trip to Missoula with general anesthesia and a lengthy dental cleaning with possible extractions? I would want bloodwork first because Cleo hasn’t had to have any medical procedures in years and, again, she is at least 13.

 

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“I dunno how I got the stinky breath, Mummy…”

Or could it be something even worse than that? Like an oral tumor? Squamous cell cancers like to hide in mouths and there’s that whole being at least 13 years old thing that went through my mind several times a day.

Cleo let me palpate her as much as I was able to, with and without her Daddy helping. Her lymph nodes were never enlarged and she never pawed at her face. Her eating and drinking continued, albeit with the piggy-dog style of lapping at the water.

With us traveling to Vancouver I didn’t want our house-sitter to have to worry about anything so I started a second, longer round of meds using a different antibiotic that is also very good for teeth and bones.

 

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I have a bit of a stash…

Her breath was lovely for the two weeks I kept her on that particular antibiotic but we were right back to square one once we finished.

And then, as we were relaxing on the couch with Cleo and UB one night I saw her reach up and paw at the left side of her  mouth with her back leg. An indication that something, indeed, was there and now it was bothering her.

It was time to do something, even though I dreaded the fact that my one of my suspicions was likely to be correct.

Damnit.

 

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Last month with UB and Cleo in Bismarck

Because I’m really not ready for any more loss at this time. We’ve made it through 3 months without any tragedy and its kind of nice.

And Cleo is as much my dog as her daddy’s and we both love our furry princess with all of our hearts. She’s affectionate and polite, feminine but tough and she prances like no other when she’s found something special in the forest that she wants us to see but won’t relinquish unless you’re really serious about it.

And lets not even go into what she means to UB…

 

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Cleo & I at the 2012 Dog Days of Summer

So Cleo joined me when I had to take Alistair to the airport in Missoula so he could fly back to Bismarck and we visited our favorite Internal Medicine veterinarian who is a hilarious, no-nonsense guy who always gets to see our train wrecks.

He was stumped. I mean, the odor was there but nothing else.

He listened to her ticker (minor heart murmur noted) and together we knocked her out on gas (she was a perfect angel throughout it all) and we put gloves on and started to muck around in her mouth.

And we were still stumped. Which is when he mentioned the whole Squamous cell thing and my heart rate picked up. Until we rolled her over for one more peek on the other side and he said, “What the heck is that?”

 

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“I stumped you, didn’t I, Mummy?” (Cleo’s look known as Square Face)

NoCleo had a small, half

centimeter diameter stick embedded into her upper palate, wedged tightly between her upper teeth that had been silently festering away for weeks and weeks, targeted by white blood cells and becoming infected, then getting cleaned up with meds, all the while jammed deep into her tender tissues.

 

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The culprit.

No wonder she drank her water like that!

It made a “shlucking” sound as Dave removed it and my poor princess had an indentation across her palate from tooth to tooth. The teeth are fine and the indentation didn’t bleed and Cleo slowly recovered and was a bit groggy for awhile. And a bit smelly still so we did one more week of antibiotics.

Dave was thrilled. His assistant was thrilled. Mummy was thrilled. Our house-sitter, Jessi was thrilled. Lynn, who sleeps with Cleo when she visits was thrilled.

And Daddy, who had made a point to have a private word and a rub with Cleopatra when we dropped him off at the airport, knowing the things we would be looking for and hoping to not find that day, was thrilled.

 

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Cleo & UB goofing around in Bismarck

And UB gets to keep his big sister and run off in the woods together or cuddle on the magic blanket when we drive the long roads to see Daddy in Bismarck and Cleo gets to flop on her side on the lawn so I can scritch her belly and she’ll hold her paws ever-so-daintily when I trim her toe nails and I can gaze into her dark brown eyes when she sits so nicely for one of her “things” and I’ll get to watch her take potato chips from the kindest of Daddies and she can talk to us with her slight lisp in her southern belle voice as she tells us again about relying on the kindness of strangers and both dogs get to go to the groomer’s on Tuesday for a fresh spring tune-up.

And to try to get the lingering smell off of UB from his meeting with this year’s annual skunk.

 

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My shop dog back in the day. Had to have a surgery cap just like Mummy.

And I was wrong!

And I love it!

That doesn’t mean I won’t think about her heart murmur or last year’s Vestibular Disease if she seems off. Just like I remind myself how old our Siamese cat, Sport is when he misses the target on a jump. No different from me wondering about diabetes with Bebe, the cat if I think she’s drinking too much.

But, in general, my mind and heart are so happy that I was wrong.

So here’s to warmer weather, my 3rd book getting some promotion, book events being set up, (June 9th at the Double Arrow Lodge, local peeps), sports cars that blow a lot of smoke when they overheat but are able to be limped home, and our golf games being worked on.

Now, back to that lawnmower…

 

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A puff of blue smoke and then it just stopped. Hmmm….

 

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Personally, I think its a spark plug… (yesterday)

 

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“C’mon, Lynnie, one more treat…”

 

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“See, I know everything about this here lawn mower!” (2010)

 

 

 

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Never was sure why she was trying to shove me deeper into the hot tub… did she want Daddy to herself? Classic Mummy and Cleopatra!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Kids Back in the City

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Lions Gate bridge & downtown Vancouver

It had been 7 years since we had been in Vancouver and, thanks to an appropriate conference, good timing, and easier mobility with fewer pets, Alistair and I flew back to the sprawling city we have both called Home.

Alistair was born there and grew up in West Vancouver. He attended UBC for both his undergrad and medical school training. I was born there and lived in the suburb of Port Coquitlam until my family moved to Grand Forks, a much smaller town. I returned for 6 months of every year after I turned 12, though, for my skating and I spent a lot of time in the city during my Chilliwack-college years in the early 90s.

And while we know our way around and we have many, many friends and family members still there, Vancouver definitely isn’t our Home now.

For one thing, there’s the traffic.

 

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Downtown Georgia street. Cars perpendicular to one another.

It wasn’t surprising because Vancouver has had 3 million people and 3 bridges to the downtown core for many years but it still takes some adjustment to get used to after a long time away. We drive lonely gravel roads to get to our ranch in Montana and Alistair spends hours on highway 200 that darts across this enormous state where he won’t see another vehicle for 2 or more hours.

We both remembered the frustration of real traffic when it took 30 minutes to travel 5 plugged city blocks. On a Sunday!

 

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Rear view mirror of the line-up behind us

While the streets are all where we left them 7 years ago, they have been re-routed to allow for an incredible network of bike lanes. And these cyclists are hard core! They share the streets with cars, trucks, buses and taxis with a confidence that would seem to better fit a suit of armor versus just their little helmets. Which is another reason we could never come Home to Vancouver to stay.

 

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This was after the taxi cab decided he was going to cut through everyone.

I took advantage of a sunny morning while Alistair was learning all about Pediatric emergency updates and opted for a trip down Robson street… on foot. Vancouver is easily explored that way and there is no road rage.

Robson street is a classic for Vancouverites. Its where we used to drive up and down the road, bumper to bumper on Friday and Saturday nights, looking at everyone who was looking back at us. Cruising Robson street.

This time around, though, I was cruising somewhat as a tourist. Or, better yet, a spectator. The street and the city didn’t disappoint.

 

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Robson st.

I got to share in the festivities associated with Falun Dafa Day! (I had no clue at the time but its a traditional form of Chinese meditation that is persecuted in its homeland). There were drums, a band and dancing, all performed in brilliant colors with smiles on the performers’ faces. This all happened on the front steps of City Hall. How Canadian.

 

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BC weed on display… with cops right there.

Then there were the open displays of the various types of weed you can buy and what different things they were good for. Right in front of the street police. I overheard the big guy telling British tourists that marijuana wasn’t going to be a criminal prospect in the near future so they weren’t busting anybody anymore. Not for sharing information or selling T-shirts with the beloved plant leaf boldly celebrated.

How even more Canadian.

 

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Loved this!

I loved seeing the bikes you can rent around town. I mean, why not use those bike lanes, right? Its a Green concept and a healthy concept and its SO Canadian and it made me smile as I continued down Robson street on one of the first sunny days the city had seen in weeks.

 

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Oh, Robson st., you haven’t changed a bit.

I chuckled to myself when I saw the stores that had been there when we cruised the street close to 30 years ago.

And I smiled when I craned my neck upwards to gawk at skyscrapers on other streets during my little jaunt down memory lane.

 

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A little higher than the capitol building in Bismarck (tallest building in ND).

The city is full of construction and concrete and the skyline has grown. There appears to be no end to the impressive towers and while it was kind of neat to see it was just as nice to see the older, historic buildings of downtown Vancouver.

 

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Our hotel

Like the ancient Hotel Georgia, where we stayed up on the 11th floor. The bar there used to be known as somewhat of a dive but the entire place has been revamped and it was as beautiful as it was luxurious. (And pricey but we have that handy exchange rate on our side right now.)

Our hotel was across the street from the famed Hotel Vancouver, which is now a Fairmont. Everyone knew it from its copper peaks and it probably still is a feature to the skyline even if it sits in the shadow of an array of skyscrapers.

 

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Hotel Vancouver on the left.

With conferences and concrete and sirens and throngs of people downtown at all hours, it was a welcome relief to eventually cross the Lions Gate Bridge and head to West Vancouver. We couldn’t find parking at Lighthouse Park (Alistair’s neighborhood stomping grounds back in the day, where he would hike, swim and fish for hours without seeing a single soul) so we made our way to nearby Eagle Harbor for a walk along the ocean.

 

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Hello, Ocean!

It was a gorgeous day with hardly any wind and I remembered how it was so easy to fall in love with Vancouver during good weather. You can find peace and serenity if you look hard enough or you know the secret places.

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club in the background

The briny smell of the ocean was a wonderful sensory memory. It took me back to my parents taking our boat under the old Port Mann bridge in the 70s when we lived there. It transported me to walking in the sand at White Rock and eating the most incredible fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. And it delivered me to Kits Beach where we would meet with other skating friends for pic-nics in the early evenings after a full summer day at the ice rink.

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club

It took Alistair on his own journey as we revisited the house he grew up in. Its re-painted and has had a change or two done to it and there are roads and subdivisions with many houses behind it where there used to be train tracks and a forest but its still the house his dad designed many years ago.

 

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Alistair’s childhood home

And what’s a trip for us without the golf clubs?

We were excited enough just to see my dear friend, Liz and meet her hubby and even more pumped when they invited us to a round at their private golf club out towards UBC, Shaunessy.

 

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Alistair getting ready to play along the Fraser River

Some of the holes had temporary greens but most did not and our merry foursome shared old stories, updates on mutual friends and our families, a drink or two and much laughter.

 

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Tan and Liz, together again… with bottled Caesars! So Canadian!

The course has a lot of history, which Danny was able to share having grown up playing golf there. He is the best golfer we have had the opportunity to play with in our short golf lives and it was an idyllic, flower-adorned little place to lose yourself within the big city.

 

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On the 2nd tee along the river at Shaunessy

It was a great way to end a trip that brought our little family back together again. Yes, we finally got to enjoy time with both Gareth and Whitney this trip and it was as laughter-filled as ever.

Whitney’s bestie, Jaclyn joined us, too, which was also fitting as she has been an honorary Fyfe for as long as I’ve known the kids.

 

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Jaclyn, Alistair, Gareth & Whitney, downtown Vancouver

The 5 of us had a wonderful meal of incredible seafood at Yew restaurant in the Four Seasons right across from our Hotel Georgia.

And we picked up right where we had left off, which filled both Alistair and I with warm fuzzies.

 

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Blurry. Back at our hotel.

The kids joined us back at our hotel for more stories and for me to get my 3rd book into Whitney’s and Gareth’s hands. Jaclyn has to start from scratch so I gave her the 1st book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake.

Our trip back to our home land was an exciting journey and although we didn’t get across to Vancouver Island where more friends & family live, and we didn’t eat at a White Spot or Keg (so Canadian) and we had to pay a toll to cross the new Port Mann Bridge and it was a few days until I knew who was eliminated on Dancing With the Stars, there was so much that we did do and see.

More friends.

 

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Lori and I enjoying lunch downtown

More familiar roads.

 

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Getting ready to cross Lions Gate Bridge

More favorites.

 

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Alistair hand selected a tray of Purdy’s chocolates (Canadian classic!) for his staff in ND

And more familiar stomping grounds.

 

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Jellyfish of the Vancouver Aquarium.

And now we’re back home, together in Montana for a few more days before Alistair heads back to our ranch in North Dakota. Rainy cool weather has prevented many people from enjoying our Montana golf course but we’ve tried to get out there every day since we’ve been back.

It was fun visiting the big city again. Even if every Vancouverite wears black. How “city chic.” I guess. Like I would know.

I’m happy to have already lived such a diverse life in diverse places and I’m happy with where we are now. Sure, I’d like it better if Alistair and I were together full time but that’s not how it is at the moment.

 

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Alistair and I hiking in West Vancouver

Its good to be Home with the pets and my upcoming book events. Its good to be together. And while the politics of Canada are a little less frightening and volatile at the moment I’m okay to be where we are. We are both dual citizens, proud of certain aspects of each country that we call Home.

Because Home is where you feel connected, even if its not where you started out. As Toad the Wet Sprocket says, and as I’ve quoted before, Home is “not the place where you live, but the place where you belong.”

Here’s to you, Vancouver!

 

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Fun Shaunessy foursome with Liz and Danny G!

 

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More ocean time at Eagle Harbor

 

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Oh, Ocean, it was lovely to see you again!