October

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Front yard. Happening now.

I think October is my favorite month.

Its not just because its my birthday month, or the month when my annual Aloha veterinary conference might actually happen again.

Its because of this:

Back yard. Also happening now.

And this:

Brilliant lilac bushes showing off some new color in the afternoon sun.

The brilliant colors surrounding our mountain home make me pause and catch my breath. I’m so fortunate to live in a part of the world where there are four distinct seasons. I grew up in British Columbia and the weather and the vibrant colors are very similar to western Montana, especially in the fall.

We have crisp evenings and frost on the ground in the mornings but lately the day has continued to open up with sunshine and warmth.

Warm enough to keep hitting the local golf course!

A few days ago, on the 10th green in two and I made my birdie putt in the autumn sunshine!

It was exactly 8 years ago after I closed my veterinary clinic here in town when Alistair and I got bit hard by the golf bug and we hiked around the local course lugging our clubs over our backs deciding that we wanted to really get better at the game we used to scoff at.

Its hard to imagine that is has been so long since my cute little clinic closed its doors for good. I’m not super nostalgic about it anymore, especially since so much good has come out of that life-changing decision.

Obviously, golf is one of those good things.

And my books! I never would have had the time to create my fantasy world with my fictional high school friends and the dragons who live nearby if I still had my clinic.

And now my position at Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic in Deer Lodge is another very good thing.

Me and Tabasco, one of our affectionate clinic kitties.

The drive in and out of Deer Lodge can be anywhere from an hour and ten to an hour and forty minutes given the road and weather conditions. I usually have a teensy bit of a lead foot, too, so once the snow and ice have gone its been closer to the shorter drive time.

I have paused on a couple of mornings, though. Certainly its getting darker when I leave around 6:30 each morning but the views that accompany me along the way are nothing short of breathtaking.

The snow-capped Pintlers not far from the clinic recently.

We had some cooler temps and precipitation a couple of weeks ago and the higher elevations got dusted with snow! Most of it is gone by now but with the rising sun that particular morning I actually stopped the truck for the photo shoot.

I did the same thing just a few mornings ago when the sky was just too pretty to ignore.

Turning at Avon a few mornings ago.

Hardly anyone else is on the road these mornings, save for a random school bus or the highway crew paving the road just after I turn off Highway 200 right now.

With it being Fall now I cruise to work with the sunrise and I drive home with the sunset.

I can’t complain.

Me and a super cute adoption success story!

I did said beautiful drive a lot the past few months. Its that whole “running-to-stand-still” thing I’ve referenced before (its an old U2 song that has always resonated with me.) We work hard so we can play hard.

When its play time I don’t want to be interrupted or distracted.

I want to hit the course and play 18 holes.

Lets do it!

I want to sit in our Aloha hot tub and chillax with an adult bevvie in my hand, lit tiki torches and Hawaiian music playing softly in the background.

I want to veg out on the couch watching Supernatural, or figure skating, or Dancing With the Stars, wine in-hand, providing commentary to Jockey or the ferrets or Alistair if he’s home.

These are my coping mechanisms.

These are the things I need to help prevent compassion fatigue from veterinary work and Covid19 and the slew of unvaccinated people who deny science while waltzing into my husband’s clinic, exposing him and so many others who may or may not be vaccinated to this horrible Delta variant that is killing left, right and center, which hit home with the deaths of my cousin-in-law and my uncle within hours of each other, and my other cousin remains on a ventilator while the facts are there that nobody dies from the vaccine but you sure as shit can die from the virus and the majority of local Covid19 tests being done are coming back positive and local people ARE dying but we’re pretending they’re dying from CHF or a stroke but everyone knows they were on ventilators and I’m just tired of armchair scientists and pseudo-science right now

My audience listening to me comment on Len’s grumpy judging last week on DWTS. Coping mechanisms!

I need these hard-core play times when I know I have had a tough veterinary challenge. As long as I have been doing this I know myself well enough to totally let myself be present for the sad farewells and emotional appointments.

Like on Friday last week when I had to help a family’s dear old canine friend across the Rainbow Bridge.

The appointment was made days prior and the assistant who made the appointment said the owner was crying on the phone at that point, which made her cry, too. That, in turn, already had me tearing up days before the actual appointment.

I had a moment Friday morning with Cobalt, the other clinic kitty that was tender and sweet and peaceful. Almost like he knew what I had to do later that day.

Dr.Fyfe and Cobalt. On-the-job coping mechanism.

And when it was time for the appointment, my super-sweet assistant (who knew the family… its how it goes down in rural small towns) told me the 3 adult children were there with the parents of the dog and that everyone was pretty busted up already.

With the beautiful fall weather we were able to sit outside on the clinic grass, in the back of the clinic, and talk about how things would go down.

How I would sedate the big dog with bone cancer eating away at his forelimb.

How it might take a bit longer than normal because a breeze had whipped up and we aren’t very far from a busy Interstate with noisy rigs and campers hauling ass to wherever they were going.

How I would let everything happen at the family’s pace and choice, that I had no hard and fast rules for euthanasias.

Colors of Fall.

The owners and their adult children wept openly and shared stories of when they adopted their best friend and the other dogs he knows.

They showed me a short video of him awkwardly trying to jump and wag his tail with his buddy he saw that morning, who is one of the daughters’ dogs.

The dad fessed up, with a welcome smile, that they stopped at McDonald’s and got their old friend a Big Mac and fries on their way to the clinic.

And, eventually, I put their sedated dog to sleep when everyone was ready.

Driving into Deer Lodge Friday morning with another stop-and-enjoy moment.

One of the things that was really profound for me for this particular farewell was that this is a family of little means. Maybe some wrong turns along the way, maybe some bad luck here and there. Regardless of choices made, this is a family without much of anything.

To them, their dog was everything.

It is poetically heartbreaking.

So that kind of broke me up kind of like its breaking me up a bit now.

Which is also how I decompress- I let it all out. (On top of the golf, the hot tub, the wine and the guilty pleasure that is Dancing With the Stars. )

Decompressing yesterday with friends!

The fun level of Fyfe Life is about to kick up a notch soon as Ivan and Fallon, the 2 cute ferrets we sometimes babysit are on their way here right now. They will join Barry, Andy and Maurice for a full week of goofiness and shenanigans and snuggles and that will put a smile on my face every moment I see them. More mechanisms to deal with life.

Work hard to play hard. Running to stand still. However you want to look at it I feel that I need to earn my little freedoms and moments, which allows me to enjoy them that much more.

Happening now- our ornamental apple tree out front. We only have the one tree so nobody is sure how the apple sex happened a few years ago when the blossoms initially showed up.

I’m more than ready to enjoy everything October brings me and I hope to get in a few more rounds of swing therapy. Alistair is back on the front lines in North Dakota but we had a lot of great golf together and with friends when he was here and he managed to get out to our Painted Woods course yesterday and today after work.

I know winter is coming and it will bring its challenges along with it but for now I’m going to sit outside and wait for our ferret house-guests in the early evening brilliant sunshine.

Goofing around in Norman on our local course with this guy a couple of weeks ago!
Fall in Montana at the Fyfe Farm.
A huge dragonfly visitor early last week! He hung around for awhile, too!
Its how we roll.
Not yet, Big Red. Not yet.

The Curious Life of Straight-Haired Tanya… or, What A Week

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Normal me with a super cute kitten!

Everyone who knows me knows this version of me. I have crazy, curly hair that sometimes lets me think I’m in control of our relationship.

I had poker-straight hair until I had my tonsils out as a teen and a bunch of my hair fell out. What grew back in was curly. Unruly. Goofy.

I yanked it back into tight pony-tails for years because that’s all I knew to do with it. Its not like anyone in my family had curls like that and hey, figure skaters need pony-tails, right?

Containing the curls within a ball cap on the golf course.

I mentioned in a ‘Road Trippin’ with Tans’ Facebook post the other day that I think some people cut me some slack when my normal hair is a little unkempt. There is no rhyme or reason to why some days it looks half decent and other days it looks like I just got out of bed.

But that all changes when Straight Haired Tanya rolls into town.

A stylist I had in Saskatoon when I was in vet school in the early 2000s first flat-ironed the ringlets and it was fun walking the halls of the veterinary college and having nobody recognize me. (Granted, most vet students are in a fog first thing in the morning… likely from too much studying, too much drinking, too much information and not enough coffee… or any combination thereof…)

Surprise!

I had a super fun fundraiser to attend on Thursday for Youth Homes of Missoula. A very good friend is on the board and he bought a couple of tables for friends to come and share a great meal and a silent and live auction. I got to sit at the “kids” table which was an absolute blast. I can only hope they raised a boat-load of money (for the record, I did bid on the motorcycle-style golf ‘cart’ for Alistair but the bidding got way too high for my comfort zone!)

When you put an hour into straightening your hair and you don’t think its going to rain you try to milk this and keep it dry for another day or two. Straight Haired Tanya showed up at the vet clinic in Deer Lodge the next day and it was a good thing she did!

Heading to Deer Lodge Friday morning!

There was potential for the day to be a total shit-storm with both kennel workers out and a kennel full of parvo puppies. Sadly, we all arrived to one of those puppies not making it through the night so the general mood wasn’t necessarily upbeat. Add to that a full schedule and maybe too many dental procedures and an emergency eye removal in another puppy that my boss had to tend to. We also had a pretty full schedule of tech appointments and a team of techs who were already spread thin.

This seemingly no-nonsense version of me just made a point to grab those tech appointments (making sure my own technician, Brandie was alright with each addition) and fit everything in around my own full day while making jokes and laughing at myself or any given situation whenever I could.

It was helpful that the Angel of Darkness wasn’t needed for sure.

It was also helpful I got to play with a couple of adorable puppies, including this Malamute cross.

One of the best perks of the job- puppies!!!!!

This little one got me thinking about our own husky, Harry, which made me smile. There was a time, during the 2 years of “Attrition” and for a while afterwards that thinking about our rag-tag gang of misfits brought a tear (or more) to my eyes even if most of my memories are wonderful. I shared our animal companion’s lives on here and I also shared when it was Time to say goodbye.

And when I said goodbye.

And how.

And where.

And I managed to get through typing those words just now with a smile on my face (full disclosure, my right eye has a tear behind it but its hanging back!)

I used to smile every day coming home to this! Cleo, Casey, UB and Harry, several years ago.

You might think that Straight Haired Tanya doesn’t cry or that she is devoid of emotion. I don’t know why that’s the case but I have been told that that particular version of me is “intimidating.”

Here’s the thing, though… a little secret…. it doesn’t matter what my hair looks like.

No, really.

I’m still just me.

Still me, laughing it up at the Youth Homes fundraiser the other night in Missoula. (All vaccinated and masked much of the night).

I’m chuckling as I type because obviously that’s a no-brainer but I DO get treated differently sometimes with my straight hair. Not always and not by everyone. Its usually by people who don’t really know me or have just met me. Which is part of the fun of shaking it up.

That said, it was a veterinary colleague years ago who told me that I intimidated him with my hair like that.

So today I’m back to being normal me.

Which isn’t very “normal” with all that I try to fit into my world.

Impromptu golf party last week!

In the last several days I’ve been fortunate enough to play a few rounds of golf with good friends and laugh it up out on our lovely local Seeley Lake course. The course is in outstanding condition and I’m playing more so I’m sucking less. (Don’t get me wrong, I managed to swing & miss the other day in front of the ladies… thankfully I can laugh at myself.)

Celebrating a one-putt a few mornings ago with the ladies!

I worked a couple of real estate days on the floor and cruised into Deer Lodge with the sunrise a couple of days as well. And I delivered books for new buyers and met with a good friend and our shared real estate clients for supper and met with another wonderful friend and we laughed until we cried on top of attending the Youth Homes fundraiser this week.

I’m whupped!

More perks to being Dr.Me!

All of these things have been happening with smoky skies and clear blue ones as well.

And I won’t whine about being whupped because these things are all wonderful things that I am privileged enough to do and I absolutely love being me.

Even when the Delta variant of the Covid 19 virus continues to run rampant in the 2 states we call home and my MD husband had to see 105 people one night and 95 the next, as they ran out of Covid tests so they only had the 24-hour PCR one to run and people were bitching about wearing masks and how the virus isn’t real and then when they test positive and ask, “what do we do now?” and he has to tell them its a little late to be asking that and he gets home at 1:30am only to have to drag himself back to the clinic to do the same thing and breathe the same air and wish that people stopped “researching” on Google and stop listening to some weird guy they went to high school with and that they would just wear masks and get the damned vaccine!

Even when my first cousin and his brother-in-law, who played a very special role in my life when I lived with them in Japan, are both on ventilators in a hospital in British Columbia where my other cousin can’t visit her own husband or her own brother, while her senior father is quarantined at his house and sick, hoping to not need to be ventilated himself.

This also happened last week but the gang at Clearwater towing saved my ass right away so I chose to laugh about it.

When I consider what people I care about are going through it makes my life look pretty fresh and easy.

Regardless of which version of Tanya steps out the door.

If you are trying to figure out what the point is to today’s blog, its pretty simple.

Wear a mask.

Socially distance yourself.

Get vaccinated.

Survive.

Barry and me pre-bath yesterday on the last legs of my straight haired run.

And I’ll keep on keeping on trying to be the best version of myself. For me. For my husband. For my friends and my team-mates at each office I work at. For my clients. And for every animal I get to care for, whether they are our own crazy companions or they’re yours.

Happy weekend.

Be well.

Maggie & Mummy!
Jake & Mummy!
Accidentally left the cupboard doors open post Bee Gees bath last night! Ooops!
Fun little surprise when this young cat who was brought in by Animal Control decided to have her kittens during our busy workday on Friday. It was pretty magical, actually.

Bamboozled

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Ferrets… the Fyfe Bee Gees specifically… masters of bamboozlement!

Webster’s dictionary says the word, bamboozle, is:

“to deceive or get the better of (someone) by trickery, flattery, or the like”; or,

“to perplexmystifyconfound.”

The first definition definitely suits the ferrets. They are always trying to get away with something (usually sneaking into a carpeted room they aren’t normally allowed in) and they’re cute and loving about it. I liken that to flattery.

But the second definition is a bit like my life right now with all careers continuing to hit on high between two large states during a global pandemic.

I managed to carve out a few days and buzzed back to Bismarck this month. Apparently I was buzzing there a little too quickly…

*sigh*

I think I actually passed him and another car, totally unaware it was a cop. I had the PGA tour radio on and it was the last big weekend tournament before the FedEx Cup Playoffs. This is big stuff! And the road is straight and I’m “ten-and-two” and I have a lead foot.

There. I’ve said it and I’m glad.

Thrilled to see that it was a male trooper (whew!) I thought about trying to flirt my way out of a ticket. Its been a long time since I’ve been pulled over and I knew I had to be close to 90mph but what the heck, right? Fortune favors the brave!

Turns out he clocked me at 86mph (speed limit is 70) so my chances of no ticket were slim. Still, I owned my speeding and told him it was the intensity of the PGA tour and the fact I know the road that led to me flying across MT hwy 200. We got chatting and he plays golf but he just moved here from Illinois and he doesn’t like Chicago and is more of a small-town guy, which is why he lives in Stanford, MT. I did sneak in the fact I was flying to ND to see my doctor hubby who had been on the frontlines of Covid since it began and the fact I’m a veterinarian. I may drive too quickly but I’m not stupid!

Amazingly, he let me off with just a warning! He actually said, “you’re just so nice… plus, you owned it.”

I don’t feel so much that I flirted with him or was even trying to get away with something. I think my curious life and my chit-chatty ways are more bamboozlement than anything.

Fyfe ponies in ND!

I got to see Fumie, Shilo, Penner, Frankie and Zeus again at our peaceful prairie farm in Bismarck. With Jake and Maggie in Montana with me, we are down to a collective head count of seven horses. Amazing, really. Other than Jake these are all our foals from mares we loved for many years.

We had close to thirty horses when we moved out to Montana and those were busy years. Keeping a stallion healthy and separate from the herd was a chore itself, not to mention feeding enormous round bales with our big tractor. I loved anticipating what each Paint foal would look like but I don’t miss the sleepless nights and anxiety trying to catch the birth to make sure nothing went wrong.

Frankie and his half-sister, Fumie.

Despite some smoky skies thanks to forest fires all over the place I still had a wonderfully relaxing week. Ridiculously hot temps (in the 100s for a couple of days) and poor air quality didn’t stop us from hitting up Painted Woods Golf Course, where we have our ND membership. Its a completely different course than our home course in Montana with its own challenges and risks. We laughed with “the boys” who work there every day and the hours spent on the road and the intensity of working on real estate and the sometimes-pressures of tending to animals who need my help melted away after the first round.

And we played well! Like any sport, more consistency leads to better performance. I’m not saying the LPGA should be watching me (wouldn’t I kick that tour up a notch in hilarity?!) but I really shot some decent golf. (I shot crappy golf here and there, too, but as each round went on I shot less and less of it.)

I re-connected with one of our former hockey players from our Hazen days (1997-98, I think) and he invited me to his course in Bismarck. I had never played Hawktree so I was a little bit nervous but Mitch was a great host and, other than the 10th hole (seriously… So. Much. Trouble….) I hit ’em straight and had some hot putts! You never know on a brand new course how its going to go. We also had a boat-load of fun and once again I’m reminded of how fun it is to know my students as adults, too.

Me & Mitch Haugan, Hawktree golf course

Before, during and after my ND trip I have been working on a real estate transaction that has had its challenges. I met the buyers 3 years ago on Floor duty at the office and we have been friends ever since. They live in Arkansas, though, so that coupled with our ridiculously low inventory has made finding them a place in Seeley Lake somewhat challenging.

They planned to come & just hang out here this summer and not put any pressure on themselves to buy because there wasn’t much to see but, holy smokes, we got a cute place under contract and we are hoping to close early this coming week! I’m thankful that they have put their trust in me with this project. It minimizes the stress but it doesn’t eliminate it altogether.

I did a final walk-through for them yesterday in the afternoon sun and we texted back & forth a few times.

Yesterday at the cute log cabin my friends are hoping to close on in the next day or two!

And veterinary medicine has me in Deer Lodge a few more times than normal right now and through September with one vet off for mat leave and another having to have been on Covid quarantine thanks to a positive exposure. I was there Friday and there the next 2 days, as well. We’ve had a few difficult, bamboozling cases that came through and ones that didn’t end in any ways the owners would have liked.

I know I’ve wrecked the entire last 2 weekends for 4 separate families. Its not my “fault” so I’m not carrying guilt or anything inappropriate. I do carry some sadness because I didn’t get into this gig to euthanize young animals. Healthy, vibrant animals with horrible fractures that leave only 3 humane options: surgery ($3500-$4000); amputation ($1500 and an eventual bad ‘other leg’ thanks to the pet’s huge size); or euthanasia.

And we veterinarians have to give permission for owners to consider/elect euthanasia. Its a horrible, terrible, very sad, very permanent option but sometimes it really is the only clear choice for some families.

And we veterinarians have to give permission for our team members to talk or cry it out because they, too, are sad and frustrated that we couldn’t save that one.

And we have to give permission to clients who have been friends for 14 years, whose little dog I’ve known since he was a puppy, to come to Deer Lodge and let me help him and hold them as we all said our tearful goodbyes.

2 weekends ago. Wrecking an older couple’s weekend by truly saving their less-than-2-year-old dog by helping her cross the Rainbow Bridge with peace and dignity.

And I gave silent permission for the family I worked with last Monday to try to save their dog and her confusing case. They drove her to a specialist in Missoula the next day to try to save her but it looked like her cancer had come back. Or maybe it had been in her spleen the whole time since we removed skin versions of the tumor in March.

It was a bamboozling case but not because the cancer was trying to be tricky. In this particular case it was perplexing. Cancer can be like that. Cancer can be a dick.

We will likely get the splenic aspirate results back in the next 2 days when I’m in Deer Lodge but it won’t matter because my patient crashed through the night on Thursday and, immediately after crying with my assistant while the broken-leg dog took his last breath thanks to me, I went outside to talk with my family.

I brought the box of Kleenex and that sometimes feels like it is a permission slip to grieve and let go.

Veterinarians aren’t there to judge. We are there to advocate for animals. We are their voice.

Its up to us to try to make sense out of the bamboozlement of word soup I lay at people’s feet trying to explain reticulocytosis with or without anemia and why both of those can be critically bad.

Last weekend’s patient. Reticulocytosis without anemia. And an abdomen full of this.

Sometimes words aren’t necessary. A syringe with the wrong colored fluid that came out of a pet’s distended abdomen is all that is required to make the case for a controlled transition.

There are days when its important to remind the team around you to take care of themselves. I don’t know if everyone has a support group or partner like I do, or if they have coping mechanisms. Alcohol is certainly one mechanism but it can never be the only one.

Fun coping mechanism early this past week!

And hey, truly I’ve been smiling way more than I’ve been sad lately. WAY more.

The golf course helps, for sure.

Alistair and I got to team up with Kyle & Lee Huestis for a fundraiser here in Seeley Lake. It was a 4-person scramble which means you don’t have to be a rock star with every shot. Its a great way to keep people together so you can visit more and chill-ax.

We didn’t start the 17th hole spectacularly and then all 4 of us blew our drives on 18 so we decided liquoring-up was going to be our only hope. Thankfully, the bar cart appeared (like magic!) and the 3 Canadians and 1 wanna-be Cannuck got the bevvies going.

We didn’t get drunk or anything- can’t have it affect the game like that- but we had a fun, light, golf-supporting buzz and the round whizzed on by. Can’t wait to tee it up with this foursome again!

First round of the day for Lee and me!!!!

(The canned red wine isn’t horrible. I mean, its not what sits in our wine fridge but it wasn’t bad.)

My last self-bamboozlement is spending today as a writer.

Clearly, I’m back to the blog. Its been far too long but I’ve been far too busy being in far too many roles in houses far too far apart.

I also wrote my next newspaper column that will go out to 4 newspapers for September. I enjoy that writing but its definitely different. Its non-fiction, for starters, so I have to do some research beforehand. (I research the Hell out of my novels, too, but I can be loose with dialogue and, come on, I write about modern-day dragons in western Montana… there is a bit of leniency there!) I also have a 500-word cap on these columns and that bites. I’m verbose (no kidding, you mutter under your breath) and I like detail. But you can’t be detailed in 500 words or less.

I’m always chopping up sentences and cutting words without cutting out what I’m trying to convey. People seem to enjoy the columns and the topics have been varied. I tackled Wellness Exams today. It sits at 510 words and that’s the best I can do.

Team Fyfe last week. Each other’s support system!

I’ll wrap up and head into the local golf course to join Alistair for a few holes. He’s played the esteemed “Salmon Bake” 2-day tournament this weekend with one of the members whose normal partner isn’t golfing this summer. Its more serious than we normally play and the course pro somehow gave him a 4 handicap yesterday which affected their scores… seriously, a 4. We’re both thrilled if we can keep a round to 100. Which most definitely is not the scratch golfer a 4-handicap would imply.

Still, he’s all smiles and we laughed a lot about it during our Aloha hot tub last night and I’m sure we will laugh a lot more today.

And we’ll laugh some more when some member today asks me why I wasn’t in the tournament. I love telling them all I’m not old enough. 🙂

Time for some cute golf clothes. My outfit, alone makes me smile. Maybe I can bamboozle the golf ball with sparkles and glitter?

My drive home from ND following Alistair in Arnold for 11 hours.
Hung out with all sorts of friends at last week’s Charlie’s Helping Hands golf fundraiser!
My therapy puppy on Friday after 3 euthanasias and low team morale in the morning. If there was ever a way to wrap up the day, this was it! xo

Home Sale Know-How

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Working Floor duty earlier this month

The whole reason I took my real estate agent license a few years ago was because I had never really understood all of the paperwork we signed each time we have bought and sold homes.

Our real estate and title agents have always been great (except that one who blurted out, “I just have to ask you…. how old ARE you?” 20 years ago when she first met me after having already showed Alistair some homes…. for starters, you don’t “have” to ask anyone anything and next, take that horrified look off of your face). They have always explained each page of the stack of papers in front of us but I never completely understood the whole process.

Even the whole confusion around a Home Inspection versus an Appraisal is very real. I didn’t differentiate the two and a lot of my friends and clients are the same. So I thought I would walk you through the deets that go down when you decide you might want to list your house with a realtor!

A listing I took for friends/clients a couple of months ago… we are under contract!

These days, the real estate market is crazy. Depending where you live, inventory is low and buyers are on the hunt. Competitive offers come in on most “move-in-ready” homes for buyers who may not even see the listing in-person for a few days. Most buyers have all been burned at least once or lost out on a home because they moved too slowly or their offer wasn’t competitive enough. Sellers get burned, as well, when they accept an offer and their listing goes off the market until a home inspection digs up something unexpected that scares buyers off.

This is one reason I’m recommending pre-listing home inspections right now. This is the exact same inspection a buyer would purchase when they go under contract for your home. It is a great way to unearth any potential surprises like high radon levels or bathroom vents that don’t vent to the outside in your attic. Many inspection results can frighten buyers, especially if they are from another state and don’t understand radon in western Montana, for example. (Its there, its not a big deal, it can be mitigated, its an odorless, colorless gas, its not a difficult thing to test for.)

Wouldn’t it be great to know your house had elevated levels before you listed, though, so you can mitigate ahead of time? Boom- one less surprise on home inspection!

Shameless promotion of the local gang who are most excellent with radon and a bunch of other things. Bo is friendly, professional, very knowledgeable, and an all around good guy!

Fixing questionable things that come up on inspections before you list eliminates the potential for your home to disappear from the market when its under contract only to keep reappearing when buyers back out for whatever reason. When agents and buyers see this happen more than once we start to question, ‘what is wrong with that house?’

Not all home inspectors offer pre-listing inspections but talk with your real estate agent ahead of time. Most of us have about three inspectors we will recommend. We all have one we try to use the most but they might not always be available so we are happy to give our clients a few names to call on. I have had a lot of success with Ian Cooke of Pillar to Post out of Missoula.

Concrete countertops in my UC listing here in Seeley Lake… I absolutely love these!

When you do get around to actually listing your home, your agent will come over and take a bunch of photos of the inside and outside of your home as well as the surrounding area if you have some fun landscape or waterfront that we want to highlight.

Decluttering ahead of time is definitely something I recommend.

“What do you mean by decluttering?” one of my sellers asked after I mentioned it. That would be the 3 full storage units and 2 trips to goodwill plus over 20 trips to the dump they completed before we got new photos taken and their home under contract within 24 hours of re-listing.

Not everyone has that much furniture and artwork around their home but the main thing is that potential buyers want to walk around your house and imagine their furniture in the rooms and their photos on the walls. Ideally, address any staining or painting issues as well as landscaping hiccups before photos are taken.

Your realtor will have you sign some forms that I call Agency Forms. These establish everyone’s contact information, our duties in how we represent you (as a buyer or a seller or a potential dual agent) and how long we will all commit to working together. The actual Listing Agreement is a multi-page contract establishing your asking price as well as our commissions and what we offer to other agents representing any buyers. In Montana, buyers do not pay commissions to their agent. We agents all disclose on our mls member listings what we are going to pay a buyer’s agent out of our own earned commissions.

Examples of said forms.

Your agent will also have you fill out and sign various disclosures as you list your home. Be honest about any known liens against your place or any knowledge of negative or adverse material facts- most of these things will show up after inspection of the home or your title anyhow and at that point you may risk losing the deal if you didn’t disclose them beforehand.

Once all of these are signed and we list your house, if its in decent shape and move-in-ready then most likely it will have showings within days, at least around Seeley Lake right now!

During showings plan for all humans and pets to be out of the house. It can be a drag to do this over and over so plan in advance where you can take your pets. Cats can often stay because, for the most part, they will likely hide someplace they feel safe but most dogs are too curious or friendly (or protective) to leave home during showings. And not all people love animals so it really is best to have everyone out of the house.

Once offers begin to come in your agent will advise you on what features of the offer make it more or less attractive than others. Buyers who are already pre-approved for the offer amount and ones who are putting a larger down payment down (or ones who are paying cash) are definitely more attractive and than ones who haven’t even begun looking for financing.

Some buyers are even waiving home inspections to be more competitive in this crazy market. I, personally, do not recommend skipping this important step to buyers I am representing.

Hanging out on floor duty at the office a few weeks ago.

Once you accept an offer you get to decide whether to continue showing your home for potential back up offers or if you want your listing to go Pending. Some sellers don’t want to keep packing the kids up and having a bunch of day-to-day things hidden in cupboards in case of potential showings so they go Pending. I sometimes recommend that if an offer is solid and buyers are pre-approved for the amount offered; it gives buyers some confidence that you are satisfied with their offer and won’t continue to show your home in order to get back-up offers.

The home inspection is usually scheduled soon after by the buyers. Inspectors don’t want sellers in the house for the inspection but if your pets aren’t going to attack them then they usually can stay, as long as they aren’t going to be crawling all over the inspector!

A buyer’s agent will submit any things they want fixed/replaced/removed to your agent and everyone can negotiate how they want to address this. Hopefully the buyer’s agent has educated their buyers that a home inspection is not a fix-it-list and that inspectors are hired to point out any and every adverse thing found, including light bulbs that don’t work and a lack of gutters, which may or may not be pertinent to where you live.

Assuming you all come to an agreement, the next most common thing to happen is for the buyer’s bank to schedule an appraisal (if they are financing their purchase.)

Again, this is different from the inspection and I can honestly say I have seen appraisals happen in very different ways. Some have been done completely on the outside of a home, where we were never contacted ahead of time. More commonly, though, the appraiser needs access to your house to complete a thorough appraisal. Appraisers aren’t going to care if you are home but please respect their need to get things done and don’t be chit chatty.

The hubs, helping me put signs out for my super-cool Beaver Creek listing that just closed earlier this month!

During this process the agreed-upon title company will work on getting all aspect’s of your property’s title put together and submitted to both parties in the transaction. Generally speaking, most titles are clean but sometimes an easement through your property or a long-lost cousin Vinny are discovered and may affect the sale moving forward. More negotiations could happen because of this but, again, this is not overly common.

Our office has successfully partnered with First American Title Company although there are others who are great to work with, too. FATCO, as we call them, has offices all over in a variety of states so we can usually handle transactions for buyers who aren’t in our immediate community.

At this point you are pretty much set to coast into your anticipated closing! While I learned right off the bat that “nothing is closed until its closed”, you tend to have a feel for transactions once you’ve got a few behind you.

Buyers can close in a different state and overnight paperwork to wherever you are closing. Your title company will be communicating with your bank and your real estate agent the entire transaction to make sure this all happens. The title company will pro-rate things like taxes, Home Owner Association dues, propane and other things and they will also handle everything you have negotiated regarding the home and title inspections. They will also arrange paying-off any outstanding mortgages or liens on the property you are selling.

A fun showing that turned into The One for awesome buyers I represented a couple of years ago!

When its time to close, bring a photo ID and a blank check or deposit slip for where the funds are to be deposited. Don’t plan on writing a check for a brand new truck after you leave the title company because it can take another day before funds are deposited. In fact, in most cases, the closing isn’t even complete until the title company records the deed that you just signed over.

So that’s listing and selling your home in a nutshell!

No two transactions are alike, however, and what is currently happening in your community may affect how you negotiated various things. For example, it is really challenging finding a builder right now in Seeley Lake so while you might be able to get electrical or plumbing issues sorted out post-inspection, you may have to offer funds back at closing for things a building contractor would fix.

As licensed real estate professionals, it is our job to explain these things to you and try to find the best solution for everyone. We want our sellers to be happy and we also want a buyer and their agent to be happy as well. It makes for warm fuzzies all-around and it also makes us more likely to want to work with another agent down the road if we have shared a good transaction that closed with all parties content.

The view from that closed Beaver Creek transaction. Buyer’s agent and I shared a positive, professional experience on this and I am more than happy to work with him again!

I recommend using a licensed real estate agent when listing your home. Most of us won’t “just do the paperwork” on For Sale By Owner (FSBO) listings- it isn’t worth our license if something hinky goes down. We will generally steer you towards a lawyer who can handle everything for you if you want to list or purchase as a FSBO. Online sale sites do not have actual humans running some of the listings so there can be a lot of variance and not much accountability.

If you have questions about real estate, please ask! The market is hot if you’re a seller right now but make sure you have somewhere to move into ahead of time if you’re going to list a decent home in Seeley Lake!

Not where I wanted to find Jockey just now!
And, yes, this is what I mostly do but I enjoy helping my real estate clients make their dreams come true, too!
This isn’t new news but the twitter post from the Book Excellence Awards happened this week! Just another of the versions of Me!

Its About Time!

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Me, slinging real estate today!

I haven’t written a blog since late May.

There was snow on the ground back then and the Montreal Canadiens were just starting the run that would take them to the Stanley Cup Final. I had also just listed a cute house a couple of blocks up from the office I’m in today.

Wow, have things have changed since then….

Montreal lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Final (oh, Canada… one day we will bring the Cup home again.)

There is no snow but the summer haze of forest fires has engulfed Seeley Lake once again.

And that cute house is happily under contract!

My summer wardrobe is all about the golf course!

I’m also down to one layer of clothing most days and my wardrobe is suitable to pulling off the highway on my way home to hit a few golf balls.

With a membership I don’t necessarily feel like I have to play 18 or even 9 holes. Sometimes its just 1, 2, 3 and 9 or 10, 11 and 12. The course configuration is set up to allow for me to whack the heck out of a teed-up ball with Driver and even try to make par or birdie on one par 3 hole. Sometimes that’s all I need.

We’ll see how busy the course looks when I cruise past it later today.

Can you believe it????

Another completely different aspect of my life compared to May is that we are finally getting our deck built off of our master bedroom. This is the deck that collapsed during the massive snow load of winter, 2017-2018 (the blog posts and pictures are cray cray.)

A combination of unbelievable events led to this epic reconstruction of our beautiful home.

It has been farcical to say the least but right now we are just happy to think that someday we will be able to sit on the deck and listen to the breeze shift the cottonwood branches above the creek that’s bubbling away.

Its getting there!

I also cruised back to Bismarck for a few days since I last blogged. It was a tune-up for Tanya with a visit to my dentist as well as my stylist, Tiffany #1. (There are two Tiffanies… and, yes, they know about each other. We’re actually at the point where they ask about each other’s lives when I’m in their chairs now.)

The weather was great for my ND journey although the sunny, blue skies and 100-plus degree weather didn’t combine well with our furnace/AC that died. Thankfully Alistair was on top of it and I got to write a check for 5-digits when a crew installed a brand spanking fancy new furnace for us. It will save us coin in the end because Alistair will be able to change settings the day he leaves Montana to get the house heated or cooled for his arrival 11 hours later.

The herd in ND

I got to hang with my pretty ponies on the Bismarck farm and finally attend to the one full-bred Arabian left. It was time to give Jessi the freedom to run in pastures in the sky without pain in her forever-foundered hooves. Jessi was given to us by a veterinary client years ago and never had a person on her back. She lived a charmed life as a Fyfe horse, munching rich prairie grass and hanging with her buddies her whole life.

It was still sad to say goodbye because she really was a loving, gentle spirit who was the first to approach me in the fields.

It must have affected me more than I thought because I’m having to wipe away at some naughty tears I wasn’t expecting, all while hoping a billionaire doesn’t waltz into the office right now.

Frankie and me back in Bismarck a few weeks ago

We played fun golf out at our ND course, Painted Woods, too.

It is a sprawling course that brings challenges in the form of elevation changes, a winding creek that comes into play on a bunch of holes, and the incessant wind. It, like our course in Montana, is also seeing a surge of new members who have discovered the joy of playing a game that allows for natural social distancing. While we’re happy to see both of our courses flourish, admittedly there is a selfish longing we both feel for having our courses almost completely to ourselves again.

Ah, but those are clearly first-world problems, aren’t they?

The Hubs on the tee at Painted Woods last month

There are a lot of other changes in my life compared to back in May.

I’m working a lot of days as a veterinarian in Deer Lodge. I’m still loving it but I have had challenging moments that forced me to do unthinkable things. It can be hard to walk to the door knowing what the path is on the other side but with a solid team around me and the skill set to open the difficult door, it is easier to walk that pathway afterwards.

Its also easier when we choose to add some humor when appropriate and that solid team is always eager to laugh with me.

One of our clinic cats, Tabasco…. he makes the days great, too! (not my photo)

And real estate… wow… I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around the lack of inventory and the insanity of the market in Western Montana. Us agents are all hopping busy right now. I wish we had more homes to offer to the folks who dream of moving to this gorgeous part of the world.

I am happy for my friends who have trusted me to list their properties or find them their new homes. Most of my current buyers and sellers have come to our office through my veterinary world and it makes my heart happy to have them entrust me as their realtor, too.

Showing listings this past week!

And with all of the busy changes in my life these past weeks since May one of the most profound and poignant ones is the fact my busted engagement ring is happily seated back on my ring finger just in time for a special anniversary.

It broke weeks ago and it took awhile for me to get it to a jeweler’s in Missoula. Then it took awhile for them to get a whole new setting for the solitaire marquis-cut diamond and even longer for us to get back to Missoula to pick it up again.

But its here and its happily back on my hand in a thicker, skookum-looking setting ahead of tomorrow, which just happens to be our 25th wedding anniversary.

Its back!!!

July 12th, 1996, Alistair was allowed to take his pager off for a couple of hours after Whitney and I picked up two pretty bouquets, and Gretchen poured me a stiff amaretto and OJ and Gareth put on his 10-gallon cowboy hat and Beth left the rodeo for a few quick minutes to witness for us while Alistair’s nurse, Deb married us in a church that I’m pretty sure is legit on a summer afternoon in then-sleepy Watford City.

We eloped to get the green card process going for me sooner than our planned on-ice wedding in Grand Forks, BC that fall but our lawyer informed us the next business day that they had revamped all of the rules for that sort of thing a few months prior.

Oh, well.

July 12th, 1996!!!

I was 23, Alistair was 37… so long ago with so much in-between and I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday.

We’ve loved, we’ve shared, we’ve moved, we’ve changed countries, we’ve flown, we’ve helicoptered, we’ve whale-watched, we’ve golfed, we’ve emceed, we’ve reunion-ated, we’ve raised kids, we’ve raised horses, we’ve raised pets, we’ve said tearful goodbyes, we’ve gardened, we’ve evacuated, we’ve played hockey together, we’ve poured each other drinks, we’ve shared knowing looks, we’ve cried, we’ve kissed, we’ve eaten many great meals, we’ve golfed, we’ve canoed, we’ve hiked, we’ve explored, we’ve bought a new furnace for 10 grand, we’ve shared music, we’ve done hospitals, we’ve been there “in sickness and in health”, we’ve skied, we’ve boated, we’ve weddinged, we’ve funeralled, we’ve celebrated, we’ve theme parked, we’ve hot tubbed, we’ve won and lost umpteen games of crib, we’ve rolled our eyes and, my goodness, we have laughed together.

A lot.

On our course in Montana a few days ago.

We will be in different states tomorrow but that really doesn’t make the marking of 25 years of marriage any different for us. I’m glad I have my ring back.

So in the time since my last blog so very much has happened. My life is generally very busy but all aspects of my life seemed like they were in high gear for most of June. I think it should be a bit lighter once July starts to wind down but I’m going to make sure to enjoy the sunshine and the golf courses and the rush of veterinary medicine and the craziness of real estate while I can.

Thanks for reading and I hope you can find or make the time to enjoy the big and little things in your world, too.

4th of July Clearwater crew getting ready for the local parade!
Professor Higgins & D’embe inspecting the work on the deck.
Jake & Maggie with me in Montana
Busy but happy!

No Country for Norovirus!

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Happening now….

Merry Christmas!

While its not typical to have a full day of heavy, wet snow coming down at this time in May, no weather patterns are off limits in Western Montana.

Especially in the spring!

I think everyone I see posting about this on social media today is mostly disappointed because Mother Nature actually gave us a few days of warm, happy, squishy sunshine not long ago.

People wore shorts and flip flops.

The golf course was busy (darned tourists and newbies, anyway!)

The Ice Cream Place and BBQ Pit are back open.

These, not unlike the return of the hummingbirds, are harbingers of Spring and one layer of clothing and laying out under the stars next to the propane fireplace and ball caps versus toques and rolling the windows down.

This was just within the last 2 weeks staring down the 2nd.

All is not lost, though, because the PGA Championship is on this weekend and its exciting watching Lefty staying in focus and relevant. He’s only a couple of years older than me (which is weird) and I love seeing athletes “of a certain age” still killing it.

Mickelson seems like a nice enough guy, too, which most of the PGA tour players are. Why be a dick when you’re making bank every weekend?

I find it admirable his brother, Tim is his caddie. There is no way on this planet my sister and me could caddie for each other. Too competitive. She’d start grabbing clubs out of my bag and say, “This is how you hit the ball!”

(Who am I kidding? I’d do the same thing to her.)

I’m trying not to watch… taping it for later today but every now and then I hear the crowds go nuts!

Its like seeing videos of Simone Biles right now and her insanely gutsy Yurchenko vault that she nailed last night. I admire high level athletes, no matter what their sport is. I admire the Toronto Maple Leafs managing to keep their game going despite watching their captain, Tevares, get accidentally slammed while he was already down and be carried off the ice on a stretcher in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup finals. (Tevares is okay structure-wise but he did get a concussion… something we hockey fans worry about when we think about players’ lives after hockey.)

(Toronto is playing Montreal, the series is tied 1-1 with game 3 on Monday the 24th.)

First thing this morning outside of our kitchen. Its still coming down…

While I’m enjoying elite level athletic success and while I’m watching the snow begin to accumulate outside, its a far cry from where I was last weekend.

Lordy, the damned Norovirus that is infiltrating Western Montana just like this errant blizzard hit my unsuspecting body Saturday evening and while I didn’t die during the process it certainly wasn’t the worst option.

O.M.G.

I had been doing some real estate stuff at the office and stopped off to play a few holes at our sunny (but fairly busy) golf course that afternoon. Its on my way home. We have a membership and Norman is always waiting for us. Sometimes I play 3 holes, sometimes the full back or front 9, it doesn’t matter to me.

But my game was just a tad off. I was hitting alright, and I felt fine (at that point), but everything was just a tad wayward. So I packed it in after playing 1, 2, 3, then 2 and 3 again and headed home.

Where I just didn’t feel quite right.

Happening now. No star gazing next to the propane fireplace tonight!

I felt a bit queasy on my walk out back and figured I should eat something. I get so busy with all my careers hitting on high right now that I sometimes don’t eat like I should.

I regret the frozen rice bowl immensely given what happened when Norovirus claimed my body like a bad-assed demon from Supernatural. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to eat rice again but it won’t be anytime soon.

This bad boy virus hits hard and it hits fast.

I spent the next couple of days rehydrating.

Probably for the best that I didn’t have any days scheduled to be Dr.Fyfe in Deer Lodge this past week!

New in-town listing!

I felt strong enough by Tuesday to head over to my friend’s house to work on taking a new listing for them. I’ve known this family since day #1 when I had my veterinary clinic here and I’m honored to be asked to help them move once again.

And I felt pretty much normal yesterday when I headed down to the beautiful Bitterroot Valley to join my friend, Carey for the Bitterroot Chamber of Commerce annual fundraising banquet. I finally got to see her new house and visit with her fun pets again, too. Then we spiffed ourselves up in snazzy dresses and repped our agency in downtown Hamilton. That was the most food I’ve eaten since Noro-gate last weekend and it tasted great.

Carey and me. We clean up not too badly.

There is something about wearing good quality, heavy spandex that is adorned with sequins and beads. Once a skater….

This former professional athlete just watched Phil Mickelson, who is also “of a certain age” win another Major golf tournament.

I’d be lying if I said my eyes were dry.

Enjoying Phil’s first Major win in 8 years.

I hope you don’t get the Norovirus. I feel awful for kids who endure that nightmare.

I hope you don’t get socked in with a blizzard like I’m apparently in for as nothing has let up all day today and it really is starting to accumulate.

I hope my showing goes well this week for my new listing and that I can help my friends with the next journey for their family.

And I hope Phil Mickelson cherishes his moment once again in the sun and that I get more opportunities to play dress up in the future.

At a showing last week in the rain that wasn’t my listing. Pre Norovirus. Hydrated and all that.
Did I mention the super cool concrete countertops in this new listing? All spiffed up (thanks to the family for the photo!)
Leaving Hamilton last night post banquet. Give local when you live local!

The Unfortunate Three-Peat (or, How Ike Unbecame A Fyfe)

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Ike, while he was still a Fyfe

There was potential for this to be a tremendously heart-breaking blog.

Instead, its just a sad blog in lots of ways.

Because Ike isn’t a Fyfe anymore and even though Hims is the goodest boy ever he has one of the most terrible vices a dog can have.

Ike ate another large rock and it got stuck again.

Couch cuddles last weekend.

See, back in February when Alistair and I decided to take a chance on this love-bug we told each other that it was a one-chance type of deal. He had eaten a rock that got stuck back in December and his previous owners were still paying that surgery off. Ike is young (2 years now), kind, and nicely trained so we went for the surgery to remove the second stuck rock after hours (thank-you, again, Dr.Sami and Cody) and a few days later Ike came home.

To Fyfe Life.

Ike’s first day on the Montana Fyfe Farm a couple of months ago!

I mean, you have to be smart about these things. A young dog who is a repeat offender for chasing cats or barking at the UPS truck is one thing. Generally you can try to change these behaviors. Retrievers, in particular, are very trainable because they truly want to please you when you are upset about something. (Unlike, say, a Jack Russel Terrier who might clearly recognize that you’re mad but they don’t really give a hoot as to why.)

But rock eating, not unlike fence-jumping if you live on a busy road, tends to have life-threatening consequences. A one-time situation isn’t a deal breaker in my head (unless you honestly can’t afford the surgery and, hey, this is a no-judgement zone on that one.)

And the two-time situation back in February was questionable for sure.

Ike’s previous owners knew there was a chance for a three-peat and elected euthanasia unless we could re-home him with someone willing to pay for the second surgery.

Tuesday morning walkies with Mummy.

We just wanted to give the cute little fella another chance.

And boy, did we have fun!

Hims got to travel to the ND Fyfe Farm and bond with Alistair and even our neighbors for 3 weeks and they travelled back here where he got to bond with his new canine bestie, Jazz Champion for 3 weeks.

They ran, they leapt, they smashed into each other, they played, they found body parts in the forest, they got treats, they cuddled on the couch, they rolled in the snow and they cuddled with Richmond & Paige Champion when they spent the night before taking Jazzie back home to her world in Stevensville.

Champion family portrait!

That was Saturday night.

I already had worries in my head at that point because I saw a rock in Ike’s poops the day before (yes, I know whose poop is whose… Jazzie’s poops are dinosaur-sized!)

When you’re a veterinarian you look at your pet’s poops. When you’re a veterinarian who adopted a rock-eater, you do so with even more scrutiny.

The rock wasn’t hidden or anything, either. It was a decent size and I had it in my head to be on the worry for Ike.

Who didn’t poop on our walk Saturday evening.

Or Sunday morning.

Or Sunday evening.

Bedtime snuggle buddy after Jazz Champion had gone home.

Or Monday morning, for that matter and while we do have a forest behind our home and he often runs around in there while I’m walking the driveway, usually he did his ‘thing’ close to the road. But I had the worry and the concern in my head so it was no real shocker to me when he vomited his mostly undigested kibble Monday afternoon.

And he vomited a couple more times through that night, too.

Alistair was in ND but he was aware of everything every day and we kept reminding ourselves what we had agreed upon back in February.

I’ll add that I spent a great deal of time crying Monday and Tuesday but you probably knew that already.

Ike, Monday evening. A little subdued.

I could have taken care of things on my own at the farm here but, I’ll be honest, after recently doing that with Sport and Bebe the mere thought of it almost made me ill to my stomach. Alistair didn’t want me to do that, either so when Ike was pretty subdued and glued to my side on Tuesday morning’s walkies we decided to go for some confirmation.

I called my Internal Med vet friend in Missoula and asked about taking some x-rays. His technician on the phone was all cheerful and friendly until I explained that if there was a rock the appointment would then be a euthanasia.

I had some more snuggles with our lovely boy and then we loaded up and drove the hour to Missoula together.

Where my Internal Med vet friend and I took x-rays that revealed what I already knew to be true.

*sigh*

Yeah.

That big radio-opaque honker is the rock.

My Internal Med vet friend and I discussed the why’s of canine rock-eaters and neither of us had an answer. He agreed that three lodged rocks in five months’ time was too many and the final decision should be made. I told him I hadn’t brought my own drugs so, barely getting the words out, I half-sobbingly asked him if I could use his supplies to put Ike down.

Which is when he told me that his technician had already said she would want to save the dog after she and I had talked on the phone earlier.

And she called her husband (like I had done in February) and they chose to pursue the surgery to remove the rock and then take Ike home to their house (like we had done in February.)

I mean, that’s great, right?

Fantastic, even!

Ike & Alistair in ND in March

Ike was getting a third chance to prove he knows how to stop eating rocks!

But I worry that we just passed the buck here.

My Internal Med vet friend and I both explained to the technician (who I don’t even know, to be honest- I had never met her before that day) how these types of repeat offenders tend to have a habit of breaking human hearts. I tried to make it very clear that this was NOT a money issue because she seemed a teensy bit judgey and made a comment about “not being able” to pursue the surgery.

I’m not slagging her at all.

She and her family saved Ike.

And the very next day when I was vetting in Deer Lodge I got email confirmation that the rock is out and Hims was recovering nicely. I will connect with them this coming week to get them his microchip information and briefly touch base one more time.

My Deer Lodge vet day was perfectly messed up on Wednesday so it was a terrific distraction. Only Dr.Sami knew the situation because, frankly, I would have lost it if I had shared what went down with our staff who all loved what had transpired back in February.

*sigh*

Last Wednesday we were ridiculously short-staffed but we still had a wonderful team. We all pulled together and helped each other and what could easily have turned into a massive shit-storm turned into a pretty cool day. Our packed parking lot up front was a clear contrast to the almost empty staff parking lot out back and there was every opportunity to feel overwhelmed but we chose to focus on being the best versions of ourselves that we could be.

And all of our clients were very understanding and appreciative.

And the sun was shining all day and it felt good to go out and talk with people about their pets.

And the Universe rewarded me afterwards with puppies.

Because, you know… puppies.

I do think the Universe sometimes gives me these things when I am faced with terrifyingly sad or frightening things that I absolutely have to do.

Like sending Sport and Bebe over the Rainbow Bridge on one day together earlier this month.

HRH Sporto Fyfe

And like bringing Ike in for conformational radiographs and being ready to do the really difficult thing but then choosing to let someone else give him another chance.

Maybe the Universe is saying, “hey, Fyfe, you frigging tried, alright? No more you can do here. In the meantime, here’s some puppies.”

Big, fuzzy, tubby Newfoundland puppies.

16 of them, to be precise.

Yeah, that’s not an exaggeration, either. My technician and each I carried a small bear cub of a puppy into and then out of the clinic where we would then march back to the puppy-strewn Suburban and trade off for 2 more fuzzballs.

8 times we did this.

(I know the folks in the red pickup truck were jealous!)

PUPPIES!

And I was telling a realtor friend of mine about Ike and then the crazy vet day on Friday and sharing how everything went down when out of the blue, in marched a client with his brand new Harlequin Great Dane puppy I had a huge part in arranging for him. He had just picked him up in Deer Lodge and the dog is so stinking cute and my client is so stinking happy.

I turned to my realtor friend and said, “See? Puppies!”

Tuesday after I confirmed that we were going to Missoula.

So all is good, albeit sad without Ike in the house.

I guess we were just meant to be Ike’s foster family.

I’ll hike with the barn kitties (who aren’t complaining, by the way… in their words if they want to choose to climb a tree they’d like to choose that on their own, not with a black dog chasing them up!) down the driveway or we’ll hike without any animal for awhile now.

While we were able to save sweet Ike for ourselves, we couldn’t save him from himself.

Maybe his new folks can.

xo

Clinic cat, Cobalt in Deer Lodge, always up for loves
A favorite memory!
Perfect spot to just sit with my latte & my thoughts Thursday morning during a home inspection for my seller.
One final ride in the truck with Hims. xo

Beginnings

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Trying to be Spring up in western Montana

I’m trying to feel the wondrous rebirth that comes with Springtime right now. I want the warm sun to beat down on my bare skin for more than just a few hours at a time. I want to trust that warmth and know it won’t leave me tomorrow. I want to give in to complete surrender, believing I can, for sure, without any doubt, leave for a walk in the forest and not have to bring my jacket.

That I won’t regret my jacket-less decision when I’m too far from home base and a gust of wind with a taste of winter lingering inside of her whips up and I shiver.

And we had a hint of that type of day yesterday but there is still just a teensy bit too much snow on the ground in places where I walk so I brought my jacket. At points I got to tie it around my waist and let my arms enjoy what warmth there was so at least its a start.

Still a bit of snow out there for Ike & Jazzy.

And we have a house guest right now who absolutely LOVES the snow so I guess its not all that bad.

Jazz Champion is staying with us again while her rodeo rock star of a daddy gets bucked around on saddle-less horses and her Olympic figure skater Mummy cheers him on. She stayed with us last fall after a bit of snow and she loved the squishy, soft, cold white stuff that she had never seen before.

Now she loves the goofy, lovey, super fast buddy named Ike who she had never met before!

Coming off of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day with the feline Fyfe kingdom recently, watching Ike and Jazz play with each other at warp speed has been like a salve for my soul.

They run. They jump. They crash into each other. They crash into us less and less. They run off but they always come back.

They seem the absolute best of friends!

Walks out back with Dad/Uncle Alistair

Alistair would take them way out back into the trees for long hikes on days I was veterinarian-ing in Deer Lodge. Ike and Jazz would “help” with the plethora of chores that Alistair does that are never-ending when you have a farm (and a bunch of big toys to use on said farm!)

“I’m an excellent driver, Mummy!”

They run around so much that often when its time for our Aloha hot tub/cocktail hour, the two of them just lay on the deck or on top of a nearby pile of snow.

Alistair drove to Bismarck last week and the dogs won’t leave my side. It is cute and endearing but also awkward trying to walk with 60 pounds of dog attached to both of my legs. After a few minutes they eventually take off and leap, run, bark and play together but they keep returning to me as if they are checking on me.

Or protecting me.

Either way.

It has been good for me.

D’embe and Professor Higgins a couple of mornings ago

Also good for me are the remaining cats, two of whom reside primarily outside. D’embe and Higgins have both sent in their applications for Indoor status but D’embe and Jockey do NOT get along. Plus, it really isn’t all that bad being a Fyfe “barn cat”. They get top notch Royal Canin kibble which is supplemented with a shared can of moist food every single day and there are a few cat beds to choose from in the nice “barn” they get locked into every night.

Clearly, they aren’t starving.

Clearly.

I’m down to Jockey and the Bee Gees for room-mates but even that is okay because Jockey has taken over the role of Couch Time companion every evening after the ferrets get put away. Jockey was always a lover but Sport took over the couch (and my lap) after Loki died a few years ago and I wasn’t sure if Jockey even knew there was a position on the couch at night (and in my lap.)

He purrs on the couch and he purrs in bed when he lays right next to me every night.

Exactly where Sport used to lay.

Jockey isn’t just all about me, though. Alistair is the one who first brought our big red-head into the house back in Bismarck years ago. They go back to when Alistair broke his pelvis in 2012 so Jockey still enjoys time with his Dad when he is here, too.

A different couch- this one is behind my computer chair where I write.

We are hopeful that the snow will continue to disappear on our march through April (see what I did just there?) because, you know…. golf.

Some courses are open. Alistair has been playing Painted Woods in North Dakota since last month and we got out together on a particularly sunshiny day in Missoula a couple of weeks ago!

It was so good for my heart and my brain and even though we only played the front 9 it felt incredible. And I didn’t suck! We both made par once and we even found a couple of balls. (We also got me stocked up with red wine, which is another integral component to keeping a smile on my face.)

Back in my happy place (with Mulder and Jinxie!) at Canyon River golf course.

Alistair joined me in setting up ‘For Sale’ signs at my fabulous off-grid listing north of Seeley Lake last week and it was a beautiful day of sunshine and mountain views. We are definitely enjoying more and more of these blue-sky days so even though the sky outside the window to my right is grey and a little bit dark I still have hope that Spring will turn warm and I can finally trust the sunshine to stick around again.

Realtor’s helper!

And yesterday morning the highs soared yet again for another of my career paths when I received an email announcing that my fourth book, The Runaways of Missing Lake, won its third award! Book 4, like book 3, is now a Distinguished Favorite in Teen Fiction for the Independent Press Awards! While my eyes have burned from too many tears lately the ones that crept in yesterday morning were joyful ones that threatened to slip down my laugh lines and into my dimples.

https://www.independentpressaward.com/2021distinguishedfavorites

No prize money.

No guarantee of fame & fortune.

Just more stickers and hey, that’s cool, too.

This baby gets a third sticker soon!

So even while I choked up telling a friend about Sport and Bebe yesterday I know I am going to be okay. It actually caught me a little off guard because I have been able to talk about that misery-filled morning without losing it but that’s fine. I’m doing fine. We are all allowed to feel for our loved ones when we aren’t expecting to have to hold those feelings in check.

And I feel loved.

The outpouring of sympathy and concern from so many friends and family on social media when I shared my last blog post continues to hug my heart. So many veterinary classmates wrote about Sport and how sad they were that their unique classmate was no longer with me in a physical sense.

And I feel the love from everyone when they share my joy with the books and the awards. I want to bring you all along on this journey with me! Climb aboard! Lets see where this all can go!

All the feels!!!!!!

With what is remaining of today’s daylight I had better head outside to get semi-mauled by very adoring dogs so they can get more exercise today.

I’ve worked my veterinary, real estate and now writing careers today and my brain feels kind of full. In a very good way, of course because we are all together sharing in the beginning of Spring (and more vaccines in arms, People, please!)

I’m still going to wear my jacket.

5074, Beaver Creek Road… I’m just saying…
Barry, Andy & Maurice are always making me smile!
Yesterday with the barn kitties.
Being more than just fine.

My Worst Morning (Even Though it Wasn’t About Me)

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Bebe and Sport curled up in my legs in 2019

I have been working hard to not go back to Friday, April 2nd because the instant I think about it my eyes well up with tears and my heart leaps into my throat. I have had some real estate transactions get going and several veterinary days in Deer Lodge since then plus Alistair and Ike are home and our doggie friend, Jazz is staying with us and I just didn’t have time to melt down.

But I have set this time aside today because I need to share this.

Partly as therapy for me but also because 2 very special spirits deserve the tribute.

And, no surprise, I’m already crying.

Sporto, December 2020

You see, I had to send Bebe and Sporto both over the Rainbow Bridge that morning and Dr. Me and Mummy Me both had one Hell of a time coming to grips with the whole thing.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Dr. Me had decided that Bebe’s quality of life had gone down since the return of her oral cancer. Her days consisted of calling out for her morning Greenies, then sleeping all day in a head-pressing kind of position. She would occasionally ask for more Greenies and she was still eating her nightly canned food but the tumor was causing her to drool and smell and there is only so much Clindamycin one cat can get.

Bebe was 18 and had lived a great life, even if most of it was in the shadows of the other cats. She loved cuddling with Oscar (all the ladies loved cuddling with Oscar over the years) and she was cuddly with Boomer but it wasn’t until Boomer died a few years ago that Babs became kind of sociable in the house.

Bebe excelled at the art of Sunbeaming (back in 2016)

And I’m okay writing about Bebe because we have been expecting this and I knew I was going to do The Deed that Friday because Alistair and Ike were coming back to Montana that day and I wouldn’t be alone in my grief.

Plus Sport and Jockey were doing fine until, quite suddenly, Sport wasn’t.

Sport was 2 months shy of his 21st birthday and he had been gradually losing weight over the past couple of months but it was gradual. We called him my “appendage” for several years because he preferred to live life as an extension of my body. Whether he was on my lap at the computer, in my arms, draped over my legs during Couch Time or under my arms spooning with me at night, Sport was truly happy being with or on top of me.

HRH Sporto, 2014

You see, Sporto was my heart cat. I spent more time with him over the past 20 years than I have with my husband. No joke. Sport came to vet school with me in Saskatoon not long after he became a Fyfe (one of Alistair’s nurses’ new husband was allergic so we welcomed the quirky little Siamese into our house.) (For the record, the new husband didn’t last long either.)

Sport was only a year old back then and initially he didn’t take to the feline herd that was the Fyfe Farm at the time. He lived under my stepson’s bed and crept out at night to rip into the bread on the counter for sustenance.

Until one day when he just sort of joined the whole group and made the best of it.

Then I got to bring him and Cooper to Saskatoon with me and the intense bonding began.

Fritzie and Sporto

Sport kind of became an honorary classmate of the class of 2005. He especially loved his Fritzie, who is also a Siamese cat lover. Whenever Danielle hung out at my place Sport was all over her.

He also had his own column in The Times of Our Lives newsletter I put together with Cory, Pat, and Nate, the Sports Column. It generally had nothing to do with sports but it was funny and he was a part of the team.

The contributing writers for the TOOL at one particularly disastrous Beer & Wing Night.

When Alistair leaves me every 2 weeks to return to Bismarck for 2 weeks Sport stays and snuggles and drapes himself all over me. Or I carry him around the house in my arms or on top of my shoulders and he lays on the kitchen table waiting for me to finish my supper so we can go & get Couch Time going for the everning.

Two days before I knew I would be putting Babs down Sport started giving me signs that he wasn’t having as much fun anymore. And he didn’t come and ask to sit in my lap when I checked my emails Thursday morning. He was even hiding next to the wet bar mini fridge that morning, which is really unusual behavior.

When cats display hiding behaviors like that it is usually a big sign that they know something isn’t right. Evolutionarily they know they are more easily picked off by predators. Dogs will display hiding behaviors as well. See…? I can quite rationally explain this kind of thing as Dr. Me until I have to be Mummy Me and make that horribly painful decision.

Sport in my lap just a couple of weeks ago, still feeling pretty good.

So… Friday morning…

At least he did come to my lap for email time but he didn’t stay long.

I knew Bebe was in her cat bed by the kitchen and Jockey was conked out in our bedroom so I put the Aloha music station on and gathered my things.

Then I gathered my beautiful, loyal companion of 20 years and picked him up for some final dance time together. Sport has always enjoyed laying in my arms as we sway to Keali’i Richel or Iz or Jack Johnson and it seemed like an important thing to do.

For me as much as for him.

Eventually we sat at the cribbage table (another favorite spot for him where he would join us for cards and cocktails, always in my lap.) That’s where I gave him his sedative and told him over and over again how much I loved him.

Mummy and Sporto, 2014

He sedated peacefully but quickly, too.

And then the final injection.

And that was it.

I should add that after he sedated I completely lost my shit and I’m okay with that.

I lovingly wrapped him in a towel and took my bag of tricks to the cat bed Babs was sleeping in and I felt bad waking her up but I also felt like I needed to say a few more “I love you’s” to her, too. Even though I say Sport was my heart cat, it doesn’t mean I have any less affection for the other Fyfe kitties who have shared our homes. Bebe was an odd cat but I respected her for that and I have enjoyed her new personality the past few years when she came out of her shell.

So I sedated her and she, too, gave in quickly.

With Hawaiian music still playing in the background.

Baby Bebe back in Bismarck, 2004

The Angel of Darkness was in fine form that morning.

Two sweet, special souls are packed away in our freezer and while I haven’t allowed myself time to grieve their losses until today I do feel a sort of closure right now.

It helps that Jockey is sitting on the couch behind me as I type.

And it helps that Alistair is outside watching Ike and Jazz romp around together as new BFFs.

It also helps that my clinic in Deer Lodge remains a fun and rewarding place for me to work (I sutured up a dog yesterday! I haven’t sutured anything since I took out a couple of Alistair’s sebaceous cysts!) (Not that I used that line to the dog’s owners yesterday…)

And it helps that I still have real estate transactions on the go knowing, too, that I will have 3 listings by the end of this coming week.

Yesterday at Clark Fork Veterinary post-vaccine #2!!!

Also helping is that I got my 2nd dose of the Moderna COVID19 vaccine yesterday and I feel great. I know a lot of you have felt like ass after the 2nd dose but I guess I dodged that bullet.

Maybe the universe thought I’d been through enough lately, I don’t know. I do know that I feel like I am part of the solution with this vaccine even though I’ll continue to socially distance myself and wear a mask when I’m around people.

Cooper, Oscar, Bebe and Boomer back in the day.

The whole saying about being nice to people because you never know what they are going through kept circling around in my head the past week and a bit. I smiled and laughed and showed homes and wrote offers and drove back and forth to Deer Lodge and vaccinated pets and looked at eyes and ears and wounds and cracked jokes and straightened my hair and just lived life without allowing myself to drift back to that fateful Friday morning.

Until now.

If you ever met Sport and Bebe then you are richer for it.

Rest in Peace, my Loves. A good life deserves a good death and I think I was able to give both of those to both of you.

xo

Sport and me a couple of weeks ago. He always did this upside-down thing on me during Couch Time. Pretty sure my eyes are glassy here because I was beginning to realize it was almost Time.
Babs noshing on her Greenies in January
Bebe and Sport outside a couple of years ago.
I dabbled in pencil a couple of years ago prior to becoming a realtor. I’m so glad I did.

5 Qs & 1 A: Tanya Fyfe

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A fun re-blog from a great friend!

All That's Write

Welcome to what I hope will be a regular segment on my blog, featuring five questions and one author. I meet many talented writers and work with many authors that become friends, and I feel they deserve to be shared with the world. This first interview is special for me because it’s with one of my best friends, who I can also say is one of my longest life friendships. We proudly go back to the mid-80s, with our matching black stirrup pants and Miami Mice sweatshirts, roaming the halls of Grand Forks Secondary School (Grand Forks, BC, not North Dakota). Even then my friend was accomplished with her figure skating and it was obvious by her enthusiastic personality that her life would be adventurous and full of great things. Tanya Fyfe is a woman of many talents, which you will see, but today I am highlighting her as an…

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