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…

View original post 1,479 more words

Friends and Strangers and Where I Fit

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Straight-haired Tanya has made a few recent appearances again! (Thanks, Tiffany2!)

My head and my heart have been called to action several times over the past couple of weeks as my careers are once again colliding at a fast pace. I can not complain- the highs are super high right now in my book and real estate worlds and its pretty fun.

Even my veterinary world continues to be fun when I get to play in Deer Lodge with my new gang but there have been a few heavies that were centered around a 5-day period. And the heavies weren’t Fyfe heavies. Not yet, anyhow. Dr. Me and Mummy Me need to have a talk about little Bebe, our dwindling 18 year old kitty and I kind of thought it might be today but she scarfed down the plethora of Greenies she demanded from me this morning and I’m just not up for it. Of course I would if she was suffering but its more that I’m not convinced she is loving life right now.

Alas…

I went back to working the floor at our local real estate office this month and right off the bat I got a listing. Its not out there yet but its going to kick ass when we go live next month.

I’m just saying…

I had listed a cool log home in Seeley Lake when I wrote my last blog 2 weeks ago but then more friends from my veterinary world asked me to list their UBER cool off-grid house and it is being shown this afternoon already.

And its not as off-grid as some places- this one is only 10 minutes from the highway. Sure, you have to maintain about 2 miles of road but if you get yourself a reliable buddy like Big Red its not a big deal. The 14+ acre property borders US forest service on 2 sides (meaning you have the freaking forest to yourself!) and the house has some pretty outstanding views.

Pretty. Outstanding. Views. (From the deck)

It was a gorgeous day and I followed my friends up to this incredible property and I found myself repeating over & over again how I could totally live there. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, jacuzzi tub, pool table, nice bar…. all it needs is a hot tub for Fyfe Life but that’s easy enough to do.

I enjoy working with my clients (especially on days like the listing appointment day!) and taking pictures of the properties. Granted, the land itself shows better without snow on the ground but those snow-capped peaks of the Swan Range… breathtaking!

Front of the house with that incredible Swan range again.

I’m only sad because I don’t envision this particular listing hanging around for very long so I won’t get to show it too often. This is a good thing for my sellers, though and right now we are all excited to have a listing or 2 because the inventory in Western Montana is extremely low.

People call the office wanting 20 to 40 acres, a stream or lake, level building site or a log home already on the place and even IF they have the coin for something like that we just don’t have the listings! I don’t even have anything shitty to sell right now. I mean, usually there are a couple of fixer-uppers at bottom prices but even those don’t exist.

Without homes to sell we are moving more raw land listings than I’ve seen since I started this career 3 years ago. On my floor day yesterday a fun couple came in trying to find listings in town so I was able to give them a map and answer some questions and send them on their way. They were thrilled to see our ‘Open’ sign shining brightly in our window.

Morning supplies for me yesterday- Sparkle Pens, latte and magazines. Note the empty racks on the wall….

They came back and actually sat down and we got visiting about their needs and, lo & behold, we actually have a new subdivision in town that fits the bill. We got more maps and sheets printed off and away they went to check out ‘Alpine Trails’ just on the north end of Seeley Lake.

When they got back they were excited to have me write up an offer for them and I’m happy to say as of this morning we are under contract! (Granted, my boss is the listing agent and he had to counter with the correct address of the lot because my head is full right now and you’ll understand more as you keep reading but boss-man is very kind and it was a quick fix and I’m hoping he was smiling when he saw my goof… ’cause, you know, addresses are sort of important in real estate… ) (Hey, I had the correct legal description so I wasn’t completely off-base…)

Me on the floor yesterday morning. Who knew I’d have another transaction by the end of the day?

So, yeah, the highs are high in my real estate career.

And my book career, too!

I’ve submitted my recent book, The Runaways of Missing Lake, for a couple of awards contests and it won one a month after being published and now it just won a Book Excellence Award for Young Adult Fiction, too!

I’m pretty stoked! This award comes with stickers (of course it does) but also some marketing info and tools that I have yet to take advantage of other than downloading this baby:

(They had banners and social media-specific JPGs and things to download, too. So I did!)

And I shared this to social media and Facebook’s post is still blowing up. Its exciting and its fun and I cherish the support from all of my friends and family around the world who are on this little adventure with me. I mean, its weird announcing these things because I sometimes feel like I’m bragging and I am not a boastful person by nature but like my friend, Tessa wrote, “if you don’t how else are we going to know what amazing accomplishments you’re making.”

Plus I am proud of my books and the work I put into them. When I began writing after first closing my clinic in 2013 I honestly had no clue if I could finish writing a book. Alistair, Lynn, Dona and Gary were the only people who knew and they were sworn to secrecy in case the final project sucked.

So, again, more waves of happiness that carry me high into the air and keep a smile on my face.

From back in February at Clark Fork Veterinary clinic

But Dr. Tanya Fyfe had some emotional lows these past 2 weeks that had nothing to do with being in Deer Lodge. I haven’t worked there since the 16th and I’m not due back until the 31st, which, maybe was all by design so that I could be in the right places at the right times for a few good people.

One neighbor actually reached out when I was in Deer Lodge for assistance… Angel of Darkness type of stuff for their senior rabbit. We set it up for the next day when I would be back in Seeley Lake.

It was a beautiful, warm afternoon, too, so we were able to sedate the little bun (whose hindlimbs had stopped working the day prior) on the tailgate of my pickup and my friend and I shared a bit of a breakdown because she told me, as I had expected, that the little bun was one of the last tangible, real things that belonged to her son.

The son whose gun accidentally went off a few years ago and ended his life.

It was a sunny, poignant Wednesday and eventually we did chuckle a bit because she told me that his “asshole cat is still around.”

Picture of 20 year old Sport who is helping me write (and keep my shit together right now.)

A few days later another neighbor up here called to check scheduling/organizing/planning because it was suddenly Time for their 10 year old Bernese Mountain Dog to transition as well.

As before, the timing couldn’t have worked out better.

So on the Sunday, while the young adult son who was this dog’s Human since they both were just young pups and his fiancé crouched in the snow together as the Angel of Darkness gave her injections and cried alongside every family member there.

I told his mom that if I stopped doing “this” (pointing to the tears streaming down my cheeks), then I would have to stop doing “this” (gesticulating towards the young couple and their dear, special companion who had crossed the Rainbow Bridge.) I have to be able to let the sadness out because it has a danger of building up inside every veterinarian who does these appointments. For friends. And strangers.

Believe me when I tell you I’m not all smiles at the moment.

And then… (yes, there IS a then…) the very next day I was required to assist a senior miniature Dachshund whose dad and I hadn’t met but we had talked on the phone for the 2 weeks prior planning for when it would be Time. Turned out that Monday was Time.

It was another nice day for a drive to his little cabin by the mighty Blackfoot River and he and 2 of his best friends were there and they told me about the adventures, road trips and hikes the little dog had been on. He had lived a life most of us would envy and it was peaceful and lovely even if it was the hardest thing that man probably ever had to do in his life when he let me give my final injection.

One of his friends burst into, ‘Amazing Grace’ and I’m still torn by how hauntingly beautiful it was even though it ripped me up inside even more. Who knew watching 3 complete strangers weep over the loss of 20 pounds of cute dog would make the former sparkly figure skater from Canada who never owned a single pet until she was in her 20s weep alongside these kind souls who all laid together cradling their canine buddy’s body in front of his favorite wood stove?

Angel of Darkness

But those days and those moments are not about me.

They are about having the knowledge, skill set, and the privilege to allow families to pick and choose the time and place where a spirit can have their last moments surrounded by those we choose to have around us. How amazing when we can do it in their own homes or yards!

Amazing Grace.

Indeed.

So while those past moments were not about me, Dr. Me and Mummy Me might have to be chatting soon but I’m not going there by myself today.

Ike in Bismarck. In MY chair.

Ike and Alistair will be back next weekend.

And I have Deer Lodge with my friends and likely a bunch of strangers on Wednesday to look forward to.

And my books are rocking amongst friends and strangers.

And I have real estate happenings happening that are great- especially when I get to help out my friends and also help out strangers!

And I’m happy it was me who was able to assist friends and strangers in giving their beloved, special friends one final act of kindness and compassion.

And whether its a stranger reading my book or buying land or I’m helping strangers with that sad, sad event, in these careers we really all become friends in the end.

Hm.

Maybe there is something more that connects my varied career paths after all.

Game room from behind the bar in my new off-grid listing at 5074 Beaver Creek, Condon!!!!
View from behind the bar!
Ike trying his best to sit still in Bismarck
Most of the Alistair & Ike shots from ND are blurry but they still make me smile
Thanks, Linda N for the picture of her collection that she (my friend) shared with her friends.

Hims is a Very Good Boy

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Ike Fyfe, surveying his new kingdom

Remember that thing we did a week and a half ago?

The whole bringing-a-new-dog-into-the-house-again thing?

Turns out its going well. Ike hasn’t eaten a cat or a ferret (he doesn’t get to play with the ferrets but he sure is curious) and despite two indoor piddles on tiled floor we still love him.

His worst crime is when he stands on either of Alistair’s Covid toes which remain swollen, tender and red and are finally being recognized by the CDC as a ‘long hauler’ symptom. But Ike doesn’t know that (although he does sniff those particular toes from time to time.)

“Hims just wants to say hi to the little creature, Mum!”

Once his new dad took his E-collar off he’s never needed it back on. He hasn’t once tried to lick or scratch at the staples and everyone is just happier without him slamming into things/us or tearing the collar apart.

Learning new routines and trying to placate stressed-out senior cats wasn’t my only occupation last week. I also took a big new listing on a super cool log home here in town and I’m hoping to grab another equally cool one this coming week. All with 2 trips to Deer Lodge to be a veterinarian one day and to start getting vaccinated for Covid19 yesterday!

SUPES excited right after the vaccine!

Our clinic owner asked who wanted to get the vaccine ball rolling and they set it up for yesterday at a grocery store pharmacy. Sure, it meant another 3 hours on the road and a day away from Alistair but we both were totally pumped that veterinarians and their teams are now able to do this.

Because this is science. And this is part of the solution. Wearing my mask and social distancing are also parts of the solution so lets keep on keeping on with those things, too!

I stayed at home a ton last year. For me. For you. For your grandma. For your kid who has asthma. For your dad who is battling cancer. And even though I’m one dose in on the Moderna vaccine schedule I’m still going to stay home when I can and avoid large gatherings if possible while wearing a mask and standing away from you.

CFVC team members getting their dose yesterday! Go, team!!!!!

And I didn’t miss out on one more day with the hubs because we got discussing my upcoming week (Deer Lodge clinic, checking out the potential new listing, celebrating a new real estate office’s opening in Hamilton and a floor day at the office,) and the fact he was going back to ND today to cover this week for a colleague anyhow and we decided that life would be easier on everyone if he took Ike with him to Bismarck a day early.

Our outdoor kennel in Bismarck is all concrete so we don’t have to worry about Ike eating rocks when Alistair is at work and this will also give our aging cats a little break from the monster who (very rarely)barked at them.

(I’m not stupid. I know Ike and Alistair are enjoying their little ‘bromance’ right now, too.)

“Hims is going on an adventure with Dad!”

The boys headed east in Big Silver a couple of hours before I took off in Tabtha for Deer Lodge on a beautiful blue-sky morning yesterday and Alistair kept me updated with pictures texted from various spots along the long road.

And I updated my friends from the vet clinic as we were waiting out our mandatory 15 minutes post-vaccine because they all cared for Ike when he yelped and whined at them for 3 days after his surgery.

This was outside of Sims, Mt. “Hims just went through Sims! Hims is so FUNNY!”

Ike did very well on his leash and didn’t tear apart the truck if Alistair had to use a rest area himself. Ike travelled like a seasoned pro (maybe he drove around with his former folks a lot?) and never whined or barked. Thankfully he didn’t puke, either, because car sickness in pets can be a very real thing.

(If your dog gets car sick, talk to your vet. There is a great drug called Cerenia created just for this!)

Before or after Jordan, MT

Eventually they made it to our ND home and Ike got to explore a little before they came inside to call Mummy to let me know everything was great.

And apparently Ike woke Alistair up at the crack of dawn for piddles and poops this morning.

They cleaned out the dog kennel and Alistair picked up the plethora of golf balls he’d been chipping and pitching into the snow this winter at Fyfe’s Backyard Driving Range because who knows what Ike would do with golf balls!

(“Hims isn’t going to eat golf balls, Mummy!”)

“Nice digs but Hims prefers the inside of the house.”

Alistair even left Ike in the kennel today when he went into town for groceries. When he came home, our New New Neighbor’s wife (they are NOTHING like New Neighbor for those of you who have followed the blog) came over because she thought a dog might be caught somewhere thanks to all of the yelping and crying that was happening at our house.

“What? Hims was worried Dad had left forever!”

We assured her that Ike was fine albeit a tad melodramatic when left alone. NNN’s wife is a very sweet person who offered to come over and walk Ike if he was screaming bloody blue murder again when Alistair has to work. They recently lost their senior canine best friend so maybe there will be some healing involved. You’d think that would be “full circle” enough for this blog, which often touches on how things tend to fall into place the way they should but she also mentioned the white and orange cat they’ve been feeding in their barn.

Whitey!

Whitey in Bismarck, 2019 (through the front door)

Alistair has fed Whitey, the stray, for years but over the past couple of months he hasn’t been a daily regular. We had talked about it and both hoped, of course, that he had found a new benefactor but we also worried he’d been injured or worse. Even if neither of us has ever been able to touch the little guy there is a loving familiarity to our relationship and, hey, he did leave a dead rat for Alistair one time on the driveway!

So there’s some happy-squishy-good-feeling-karma-like-yumminess-and-sunshine for your hearts.

And our hearts.

And NNN’s wife’s heart.

“Hims is happy. This is Hims’ chair now.”

And Ike’s heart because that’s where this latest adventure and frolic through Fyfe Life began a week and a half ago and so many of you have told me how Ike’s story and near-euthanasia-experience touched you and made you smile.

Or maybe it made you cry a little.

I still get little tears from time to time.

Like when I was watching Big Silver drive down the slushy driveway yesterday morning even though I don’t tear up as much when Alistair leaves because its been 14 years that we’ve been doing this but sometimes the goodbye is just a bit more difficult for me knowing I’ll be alone up here rambling around our big house with a trio of kitties and a trio of trouble for 3 weeks instead of 2 and even though I’ll be busy driving and vetting and real estate-ing and even though the Players Cup has been more than interesting today and even though the wine bar is full and Stanley Tucci is exploring Italy for me tonight there are times out in the middle of nowhere in the last house on a long road next to the large forest I do admit to feeling a teensy bit sad.

Off they went!

Those moments don’t last long, though.

I can usually find something funny or ironic about any given situation I create for myself and before long I’m laughing at something the ferrets are doing or while watching Jockey seriously try to wipe out our fish tank populations. And soon after that Alistair will text me another Ike picture or someone will text me about a listing or I’ll look outside and see how very, very lucky I am to live where I live.

And to share it with the equine, feline and weasel companions as well as anyone who takes the time to read these blogs.

I hope Alistair and Ike continue enjoying their great adventure in Bismarck and I hope I can make it to my hair appointment on the 24th without taking a jiffy marker to my greys and I hope my friends have great success at their new office in Hamilton!

(Hopefully NN isn’t still reading my blogs like he did many years ago before they moved and left our farm equipment to us…)

“Hims is curious about the giant hot water bath!”
Somewhere by Lewistown, I believe
“Hims is a very good boy!!!!”
SO happy!!!
Remember that log home I just listed? The deck is fabulous!
My boys in ND!

Love, Again (or, How Ike Became a Fyfe)

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Mummy and Ike

I know most of you will be saying, “Told you so,” when I tell you that we caved and that the Fyfes once again are proud canine pet parents.

A lot of you probably wondered why it took so long but we lost Loki, UB and Cleo in short fashion after the 3 of them followed me around for a couple of years together and Cleo’s farewell in December of 2019 left a pretty big hole that we weren’t sure we were ever going to try to fill.

Young Cleopatra many years ago

Its not as if either of us said, “Hey, I miss having a dog around,” or we were cruising animal shelter websites looking for a dog. None of the 5 dogs we had were purchases- Casey and Harry came from vet school, Cleo and UB were both strays and Loki moved in with us when her mom’s living situation changed.

The new-dog-in-our-life story happening now is a different version of a dog finding us through veterinary channels and its just one of those things about being a vet.

With a very good husband.

During the decision making process…

“Ike” had an emergency appointment at Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic in Deer Lodge where I work a few days each month when I was working last Wednesday. He saw Dr.Sami as a repeat offender for swallowing rocks that are too big to pass through his GI tract. He was already a bit febrile and hadn’t eaten in a few days and was definitely not feeling well.

You would think that after having crazy Casey in our lives for so long that the thought of an almost 2-year-old black lab at the farm would be frightening but I found myself engaged in the conversations between Sami and her technician, Cody. In fact, the whole clinic was involved because that’s how it goes down at a clinic where communication is a huge part of why we are such a great team.

The problem: Ike’s parents (an older couple) were still paying off the bill from the last rock-removal surgery from a few months ago. The thought of paying out close to 2 grand (its very real, people… emergencies are expensive) again when there was a good chance he’d eat another rock because whatever their situation is, it didn’t get changed the first time… well, it was bleak. They thought about it and talked with family for a couple of heartbreaking hours but eventually, tearfully, they made the painful decision to euthanize Ike.

Meeting Ike

Let me back up a bit to earlier that day when I first showed up at the clinic after a beautiful sunrise morning cruise through the snow-capped mountains of western Montana.

When I first looked through my appointments I saw that I had one euthanasia scheduled for 2pm.

For a Boston Terrier cross.

My mind immediately went to sweet UB whose lungs were surprisingly full of cancer at his sweet young age a few years ago. UB was supposed to still be here with us now and I texted hubby back in ND what was in store for the Angel of Darkness. I could read it in his own words how sad he felt for me.

When my awesome technician, Jaycee and I sedated that kind soul that afternoon I laid with him and told him not to worry because UB would be waiting for him to show him around. I made sure my tears didn’t fall onto his face but they did stream down my cheeks and I think that’s the first time I let the staff there see my vulnerabilities. (Not that I’ve held anything in… I just hadn’t been in that position since starting there.)

UB Fyfe. Photo by Merielle Kazakoff (MMK Photography)

So, perhaps I was a bit emotionally charged to hear about Ike and his parent’s awful dillema.

I mean, I get it.

Dogs who eat rocks repeatedly make for extremely expensive pets and its not like the surgery is an easy one! There is great risk involved and there are all sorts of things that can go wrong and lets not forget about the after-care.

So the clinic was abuzz with the news and Sami and her veterinary technician were holding off as long as they could while a few of us texted whoever we could as quickly as we could.

I texted Alistair, who was at home after working all morning.

“Do we want a young black lab?”

UB and Loki Fyfe at the Dog Days of Summer a long time ago!

Everyone else had run out of options so I was acutely aware that everyone in the clinic was whispering, “She’s texting with Alistair, we don’t know yet.” I watched the drug lock-box get opened and dosages for the sedative being punched out on the computer. I wondered how crazy I was to even think of paying for another surgery on a repeat offender and if Alistair would agree to that assessment of my mental health.

Minutes passed and everyone was wrapping up the end of the day and I couldn’t take it anymore so I called our Bismarck home and Alistair answered. After a bit of explaining he said, “Well, of course. I mean, we have to do something, right?”

Awesome Dr.Sami and CVT Cody

And so… getting close to 6pm I helped Cody pre-medicate Ike and as I drove into Deer Lodge to get them Subway sandwiches (it was the least I could do for them staying extra late to operate on our dog) they started to prep the young black lab for his second surgery. (I asked Sami to put a zipper in him when she closed but she declined. Something about liability…)

Yay, Team!

I stayed as long as I could knowing there was nothing I could do other than crack jokes and tell stories but I wanted them to be focused so I hit the road back to Seeley Lake knowing Sami would text me that night with updates.

Surgery went very well. Nothing had ruptured and rocks were removed. (Testicles were also removed as per our request/rule… you know, ‘Donate your reproductive organs at the door and get along’… that rule for moving onto Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Pets and Unwed Mothers.)

*sigh*

And Ike recovered in the clinic for a few days and I got lots of updates and apparently Ike yipped loudly or whimpered unless he was outside of the crate sitting next to someone and he drove them all nuts because its kind of a shrill bark that I could hear over the phone but he needed to be crated with the IV in his forearm and the staples in his abdomen but you explain that to a young lab and I am sure the staff rolled their eyes but everyone was still happy because we didn’t have to do the deed to this little guy and he was coming to a great new home and that kind of thing is huge at a close-knit veterinary clinic in a profession where we continue to die by suicide at alarming rates and they all knew that Ike would stop shouting at them on Saturday when his new parents would come and get him and take him home.

Meeting his new dad yesterday morning at the clinic.

I rode in the back of our big silver Ram with Ike and he slept most of the way with just a couple of little whimpers. He is, of course, still on pain meds and antibiotics and small feedings several times a day of a canned prescription food that is gentle on the GI tract.

And he is fitting in just fine despite a few hiccups last night trying to figure out how or where he could sleep with that E-collar on. He fits in a bunch of our crates just fine but the collar makes it difficult for him to move. He spent last night in my surgical kennel down in the barn with D’embe and Professor Higgins but we’ll keep him in with us most likely tonight.

You see, his dad got up at 6 am and took him out and removed the E-collar and kept him on a leash until we realized Ike wasn’t leaving our sides.

Welcome home, Ike Fyfe!

To say Ike has bonded with us is a bit of an understatement. He is laying next to me right now and when Alistair left to go to the dump a little while ago he whimpered and just stared at the door before resigning himself to a no-Alistair situation and coming to sit next to me as I type.

Happening now.

He hasn’t chased the cats despite not having been around cats in his life. He seems curious about them and Jockey is the only one who hissed at him a couple of times. Even then, Jockey is on the couch behind me right now so Ike can’t be all that bad.

We have walked outside a couple of times up and down the slushy driveway and Ike sticks close by to either of us. He hasn’t once made any move towards his staples and with his collar off he is able to do so many more things. Make no bones about it, though- if he is not in our eyesight the collar is back on. Veterinarians mean it when we say the E-collar is integral to the success of the surgery and the life of your pet!

This was the first E-collar last night. Glad I thought ahead to bring a second one home!

Ike isn’t easy on those plastic collars and the collars or cones are hard on our shins and our furniture but we will still put the second one back on when we go out to the hot tub. And Ike is still restricted in his activity so that his GI tract and abdomen can heal properly, too. Even though the new collar took a beating through the night in a steel crate.

Oh, dear.

I think I was in the right place at the right time for both the Fyfe household and clearly for young Ike. I have felt that way when we’ve made the choice to bring a new companion into our world for one reason or another over all these years. I had called Alistair back in 2004 with a similar situation Harry was facing and we were able to change the scheduled euthanasia to a neuter and within hours a groggy husky was en route back to his new home in a charcoal Ram with his new Mummy.

And maybe Ike will go back and forth with Alistair when he travels to Bismarck. Both of our outdoor kennels are concrete so there will be no rock-eating when we are at work. The rest of the time he will be under our watchful eyes.

Looking ahead!

And maybe… just maybe… Spirit of UB had a hand in everything that went down on Wednesday because of everything that went down on Wednesday. Maybe Spirit of Casey thought we needed another crack at a black lab who is already better trained than he ever was, even though we never faulted Casey for his faults. Maybe they all figured the Fyfe Farm wasn’t right without a dog. I don’t know.

Right now we are learning a new routine with a new soul in the family. The Fyfe Bee Gees are having a sleepover party with Ivan, Fallon and Joel & Jeanette so we can focus on making sure Ike fits in and we can give him the time he needs to recover from his surgery. We are thankful to them and Dr.Sami and Cody for staying late to save Ike’s life and to the staff at CFVC for enduring the shrill barking.

So far, so good.

You know I’ll keep you all posted. xo

Chillaxin, helping me make breakfast this morning.
Welcome home, little buddy!
Ike and Alistair this afternoon.