This Old Dog

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Backyard lilacs a couple of weeks ago

You know the old saying about not being able to teach an old dog a new trick.

And yet, you can.

Or an old dog can choose to learn something new if properly motivated.

With her hearing disappearing over the last year, Cleopatra has learned to watch our hands as we gesticulate at her. (This is usually done after calling repeatedly with raised voices that only the neighbors and horses can hear.) But she now follows the direction of where we point, which is usually towards the house to come inside for cuddles, love and play or bedtime, or towards her outdoor kennel for breakfast or supper.

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“What?”

Which is something new for a dog who is at least 13 years old.

And not that I’m calling myself “old” or anything but I’m certainly not a youngster. As I traipse through middle age I realize there are certain things I do that may make me seem “set in my ways.” Much of those behaviors are more to do with liking being organized and perhaps having a slight over-achiever tendency and Type A personality.

Like my color-coordinated closets and alphabetized CDs and spices.

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Its just easier this way, trust me!

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But I can also learn new tricks…

You see, I won an online cooking course through a local grocery chain’s “Monopoly” contest they ran this spring. I get carried away each year collecting game pieces, and choosing items and brands to purchase based on whether or not they could earn me one more chance to win big.

Each game piece can also be an instant-winner, which is why we have a plethora of table salt right now.

 

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There’s even more on the shelf above…

A little bag of flour, several small tubs of sour cream, bagels, a $5 coupon, photo prints and a canvas bag from Shutterfly… these are all the goodies this cheap Doukhobor and the cheap Scotsman she married coveted even though we didn’t win the million bucks or the dream home.

When I peeled back a game piece and saw that I’d won an online cooking class I honestly had no idea I would learning some new tricks this spring.

I looked the school up (Rouxbe.com) and it seemed reputable and professional enough but I still figured I would be watching a 15-minute segment on scrambling eggs. I had to claim the course before the end of May so last month, when Alistair was in Bismarck, I grabbed a pen and small notepad (you never knew, maybe there was an integral part of egg-scrambling that I had missed my entire life) and chose “The Cook’s Roadmap” to watch before whatever golf I had DVR’d was going to start.

 

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My course…

I’ll just say, we aren’t scrambling eggs.

What we are doing is learning! 10 Units, 173 tasks and 224 videos comprise this particular course and I am absolutely loving it! Its not even like I sucked as a cook- I kind of thought I was pretty decent, actually. Nor was I in a rut as I have always experimented with new recipes when Alistair isn’t here, sharing them with him when I figured I had nailed it or it was something I knew he would enjoy.

I had my classic chicken mozzarella, my alfredo, the onion-olive dish, artichoke chicken, spaghetti, honey mustard chicken, stir fries and big Montana breakfasts and generally all the food got eaten when company was here.

But now I’m learning how to create dishes on my own. I’m learning the why’s, the how’s and the not’s about cooking and I’m learning the basic science behind it all.

 

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Tools of the trade.

I’ve learned to embrace stainless steel and how to cook so that food doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. I’m learning about so many different oils, acids and salts and how to combine things to make my own vinaigrettes in used glass jars that I can use for mixing. I’m learning to use my steamer for a variety of different things and that rice can be so much more than a backdrop for other dishes. I spent last night learning a lot about grains, which I had always avoided because I had no clue what to do with them.

For a whopping $6 I roasted a chicken for Alistair and I the last time he was home that was as ridiculously easy as it was flavorful and simple.

The course focuses on health and balance and they offer non-course video segments on plant-based diets for general information.

More learning!

Its the perfect time for this right now because the weather hasn’t been very friendly for my golf habit.

 

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Happening right now.

Its grey, cool, dark and drizzly and while I enjoy suiting up with Alistair when he’s here and pulling the sides down with the heater on in Norman, it isn’t anywhere near as much fun by myself.

I haven’t minded the new Couch Time in the evenings with Sport and Bebe purring away while the instructor’s voice describes how to sweat the veggies (or, mirepoix) versus saut√©ing them. Or how to mix up the rice you’re going to Pilaf and which rice to use along with which aromatics to throw in there. And let the stuff rest for Pete’s sake! (Who knew?) I used to have a fear of rice. Just ask Alistair. Rice has always been his domain but now I’m ready to fight for that honor with a bounty of grains and techniques I’ve yet to perfect.

 

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I love learning. I also love island golf…

Which is another fun part of all of this- the practice. Like anything worthwhile I’ve attempted and tried to learn in life, I have had to practice. I couldn’t heat the pan to the right temp the first few tries any more than I could land the first axel I tried. Or the first suture knots I threw. Certainly not the first golf ball I tried to hit!

My vinaigrettes have been too oily, my steamed potatoes took way too long and my garlic got browned and sour the first time or two I’ve tried new methods so far. Even chopping with the Chef’s knife is an art form to be continually worked on.

I’m even loving the fact that I’m humbled by what I am learning. Not unlike the golf game or surgical techniques, there is always much more out there and my brain wants to grasp it and my body wants to master it.

 

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I didn’t learn how to be this overnight!

So I will happily, eagerly let my perfectionist, Type A self work her butt off to become a damned good chef! Just like I worked to be the skater, the veterinarian, the writer and the golfer. I continue to work at these things because I will never be an expert at any of them. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, especially if its something enjoyable. If its fun, then practicing doesn’t seem like work.

I do believe I’ll sign up to be a Rouxbe student after this free course is over. As long as I’m smiling and having fun and as long as I’m not poisoning Alistair, that is.

And who knows… if the LPGA plans don’t pan out in my future maybe one more hat to wear will be a fluffy white chef’s one. Maybe this old dog has a few more tricks up her sleeves!

 

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More things that took work, perseverance, patience and time…

 

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Celebrating my 3rd book this month with good friends in Seeley Lake!

 

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Another of my skill sets… stay tuned for a summer return to the coaching side of things for me!

 

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Practice, practice, practice back in vet school… ūüôā

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Surprise

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

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

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

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

 

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Mulder and Mummy a few years ago

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Miss Cleo!

 

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

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

Until I stopped the antibiotics.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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I have a bit of a stash…

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

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

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

Damnit.

 

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Last month with UB and Cleo in Bismarck

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

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

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

 

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Cleo & I at the 2012 Dog Days of Summer

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

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

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

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

 

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

NoCleo had a small, half

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

 

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The culprit.

No wonder she drank her water like that!

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

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

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

 

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Cleo & UB goofing around in Bismarck

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

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

 

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

And I was wrong!

And I love it!

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

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

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

Now, back to that lawnmower…

 

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

 

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

 

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“C’mon, Lynnie, one more treat…”

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Kids Back in the City

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Lions Gate bridge & downtown Vancouver

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

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

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

For one thing, there’s the traffic.

 

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Downtown Georgia street. Cars perpendicular to one another.

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

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

 

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Rear view mirror of the line-up behind us

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Robson st.

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

 

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BC weed on display… with cops right there.

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

How even more Canadian.

 

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Loved this!

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Our hotel

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

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

 

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Hotel Vancouver on the left.

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

 

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Hello, Ocean!

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

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club in the background

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

 

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Eagle Harbor yacht club

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

 

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Alistair’s childhood home

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

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

 

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Alistair getting ready to play along the Fraser River

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

 

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

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

 

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On the 2nd tee along the river at Shaunessy

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

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

 

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Jaclyn, Alistair, Gareth & Whitney, downtown Vancouver

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

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

 

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Blurry. Back at our hotel.

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

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

More friends.

 

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Lori and I enjoying lunch downtown

More familiar roads.

 

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Getting ready to cross Lions Gate Bridge

More favorites.

 

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

And more familiar stomping grounds.

 

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Jellyfish of the Vancouver Aquarium.

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

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

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

 

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Alistair and I hiking in West Vancouver

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

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

Here’s to you, Vancouver!

 

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Fun Shaunessy foursome with Liz and Danny G!

 

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More ocean time at Eagle Harbor

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have I Been?

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Oh my goodness, I haven’t updated the blogosphere about Fyfe Life in weeks!

 

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OMG!

In my defense, I’ve been kind of busy.

The dogs and I loaded up and headed east to Bismarck where we spent almost a full week while Alistair had to work some extra days for a colleague.

It was our second trip back without little Loki riding shotgun and I missed her at the rest stops. I didn’t miss the mayhem that ensued with all 3 dogs, none of whom are very well leash trained anymore but I missed looking over at her¬†little sleeping¬†body curled up on its blankie on the front seat next to me.

 

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My travel companions en route to ND!

UB and Cleo adapted to their other home just fine, as always, and I got to reconnect with the horses and various friends. The downtown scene was maybe even more vibrant than our last trips there during the winter. When prairie folk get the feeling that their long, hard, frigid winter is coming to a close the energy is palpable.

We enjoyed a few fun suppers out at great new restaurants like J60 and dined with friends to celebrate their retirement at our old classic, 40 Chophouse.

And we cuddled on the recliners at night watching Netflix and begging Daddy for potato chips (I wasn’t a part of that but I did enjoy the cuddles and Netflix.)

 

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Recliner time with the Bismarck version of our “magic blanket”

And, wonder of wonders (not that it was planned or anything, no sirree), our golf course in ND, Painted Woods opened our last day and we were able to play a breezy, fun round!

 

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Painted Woods golf course in Washburn. Quite a different view from our Montana course!

The course opened on a Sunday and we were happy to see a few carts and golfers losing balls out there with us. (The wind, water hazzards, buttes and valleys here necessitate that you carry at least 30 balls in your bag, at minimum, even if you’re a stellar golfer.)

And ever since Alistair had his final surgery in February he hasn’t felt an ounce of pain when we play, which only adds to the fun and enjoyment when we get out there.

 

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Our back yard in ND

Alistair had also just opened up Fyfe’s Backyard Pitch & Putt before I got back so we made sure to use our membership regularly.

As you can see by his attire, the weather had warmed considerably and even now, back in Montana, the weather hasn’t been as nice as it was that week.

The equine Fyfes all look pretty good except for 26 year-old Susie, one of the grand dams of the herd. She’s looking a lot more weedy and hasn’t shed out her hair coat as much as the others have. Susie was a great broodmare for many years and she’s earned her keep at our ranch. She is still able to boss everyone else around with kicks and tosses of her head so we aren’t going to rush to any sad actions until she needs us to.

 

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Our older Arabian mare, Susie

The adventure to Bismarck was one of the reasons I haven’t had or made the time to blog. The other, main reason is that I’ve finished book 3 in my Missing Lake teen fiction series!

No joke!

Its done!

And then I had to wait for my team of editors to get through their edits and get them back to me.

 

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UB deciding he should “help” Daddy with the editing.

Then I go through each person’s stack of papers with red felt pen, pencil, blue and black ink markings and circles and then I’m ready for my final edit.

Which I’ve been doing today. With my own bright yellow highlighter and pen.

UB and Cleo have been very helpful with this round, as well.

 

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Ben Brick, illustrator (not my photo)

Our friend, Ben Brick, once again eagerly leapt at the chance to do my cover art for this book. His artwork was part of the success of my 2nd book in the series, The Dragons of Missing Lake and it was loads of fun working with him and his concepts.

Ben and I were able to meet over lunch when I was back in Bismarck this most recent trip and the final product is outstanding.

So now its just a matter of time before I share Luke Houser’s tale, from the middle of nowhere in Montana, with everyone once again.

 

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Social media banner by Ben Brick

This story picks up as Luke’s sophomore school year is winding down in the mountainous town of Missing Lake. I explore more of the relationships he has with his friends and develop some of the other characters more. The sled dogs take a bit of a back seat just because of the timing of the book but there are plenty of animal stories and events that shape this third book. Zagros and Tabitha have 2 eggs to hatch as well so there is no end to the fun!

I’m hoping to hit “enter” and then order copies within the next few days, after my final round of editing is done.

Which is great timing because our local golf course has also opened and it has been calling to me.

 

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A sunny round of golf this past week at the Double Arrow golf course in Montana!

I managed a sunny 9 holes on the back yesterday because the weather report predicted rain and cold today. I knew I would dedicate the day to the final editing process.

So I’ll leave it at that and get back to the final few chapters and maybe some supper. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be with Secrets¬† Abound in Missing Lake officially published!

 

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Norman came out of storage and he’s already back at the course! (Jockey is telling Dad he’s an “excellent driver”…)

 

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Pretty Fumie and Jessi in ND at the beginning of the month

 

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Some of the herd watching me as I watch them from our back deck in ND

 

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Shed-hunting in Montana… the first shed we’ve found in a couple of years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Week of Watching Worlds

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World’s ladies podium from Helsinki, Finland (not my photo)

Its the time of year when the figure skating world culminates in one spot to crown its new champions and I sit on my ass with coffee in-hand and watch, mesmerized.

I’m mesmerized by the incredibly beautiful costumes, the intricate, challenging choreography, the focus and intensity of the athletes and their coaches and most definitely the level of skill required to compete at the senior level nowadays.

When I grew up, my idol, Katarina Witt won World and Olympic championships with a triple loop as the top jump in her arsenal.

 

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Katarina Witt, 1980s (not my photo)

Now women absolutely must have a triple-triple combination and everything up to and including a triple lutz. And that’s just the women. The men’s and pairs disciplines have upped the ante making for tremendous challenges for the skaters and coaches.

This season the quad-fest that is the men’s event started to evolve early on. I thought I was finally watching creative routines that included one or two quadruple jumps (usually a toe and salchow) as well as beautiful movements and step sequences that tried to tell a story.

Until Nathen Chen blew everything out of the water at US Nationals back in January.

 

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Nathen Chen at Nationals (not my photo)

With two quads in the short and four in the long, including a quad flip in combination, Mr.Chen took the sport in an even more aggressive direction. And yet, he is quite balletic. Critics used to nail men like Elvis Stoijko for including too many quads because it took away from the artistry of figure skating but you can’t say that about Nathan. He was already an accomplished ballet dancer before he chose to pursue skating as his sole focus and it shows in his arms.

 

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Nathan Chen, this week in his short program at World’s

He arrived in Helsinki for this week’s World Championships with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. Not only was there buzz that he would quad his way to the top of the podium, he was also expected to earn back three births for the US men into next year’s Olympics.

Pre-Olympic years force more pressure onto skaters from countries with more than one who can rightfully earn a trip to the¬†biggest event of them all. If a country has one skater placing in the top 10 at World’s the year prior to the Olympics, that country gets to send one to the big show.

If you have two skaters whose placement numbers total thirteen or less, that country can send three skaters to the Olympics.

So not only do you have to skate lights-out, you also have to place high enough that everyone in your home country doesn’t hate your guts for losing a spot.

 

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Chen during his ambitions long program yesterday at World’s (not my photo)

Chen’s coach brazenly told reporters and fans that his pupil was going to go for six quads in his long program. He nailed the two in his short but sadly fell on the triple axel so he needed something ambitious to beat the men ahead of him and get that podium finish.

And he tried.

But it didn’t quite work out. He landed four out of six quads and ended up in sixth.

He did, however, help the US earn a third spot on the Olympic team because team-mate, Jason Brown (who fell on his inconsistent quad but dazzled everyone with his brilliant moves and effortless footwork) placed seventh. Six plus seven equals thirteen. Whew!

 

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Hanyu’s electrifying short program at World’s this past week (not my photo)

Japan made skating history by having two of their men take the top two spots on the podium with Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. While it was no surprise to see Hanyu on top again (he is the current Olympic champion, after all), he got there in a round-about way.

I love his short program to Purple Rain, by Prince, including the wicked knee slide thing he does to the high-pitched electric guitar part of the song but it hasn’t been received the same way by all of the judges.

And if you don’t land all of your jumps it isn’t going to receive top scores, either. His wonky landing on his first quad combination landed him in fifth place, which he admits was pretty depressing.

 

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A different, incredibly focused story for Hanyu’s long (not my photo)

Thankfully his team helped him keep his head together and his confidence high and he went out and performed one of the most incredible long program’s in men’s history. His focus was intense (see above photo), his choreography exquisite and his jumps were so solid and of such high quality they looked like doubles. He landed… no, he nailed four gorgeous quads and two triple axels and deservedly won back his championship title.

 

 

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Celebrating with Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson his unprecedented 223.4 point score for his outstanding long program yesterday (not my photo)

It is worth trying to find a video online if you’re a skating fan because the routine is sublime. I love when everything can come together for an athlete- the planning, the preparation, the training, the practice, the coaching, the hard work and finally the fulfilment. Way to go, Yuzuru Hanyu!

And good for Shoma Uno, who sometimes can be a bit pissy and petulant when things don’t go his way. He also is a wonderful skater and artist on the ice with probably the softest knees of the current leading men.

 

 

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Boyang Jin of China during his Spider-Man short program at World’s (not my photo)

 

And great work Boyang Jin of China who wrapped up the men’s podium for the second time in a row. It was the first time ever that men from all Asian countries placed in the top three.

 

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The Men’s medalists at Worlds! (not my photo)

While I enjoy seeing things work out wonderfully for an athlete like Yuzuru, its heartbreaking to see things completely fall apart. Such was the case of Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya, last year’s bronze medalist.

A good skate in the short had her in 4th place, within one point of the podium. She had been known, up until last season, as one of those skaters who could have a complete and total meltdown on the ice. Sadly, THAT Anna showed up to skate her long program.

 

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Pogorilaya, looking good during her short which landed her in 4th (not my photo)

Oh, dearie, me, it was awful. I mean, after the third fall I was kind of thinking (wishfully, sort of) that she would just get off the ice. It wasn’t just wipe-outs, either. There were stumbles on other landings, triples popped into singles and slow, off-centered spins. After the grim-faced performance she dropped to her knees and sobbed. To the point where it became uncomfortable.¬†Really uncomfortable.

The crowd rallied to show their support and she eventually got up and made her way to the boards but she once again dramatically fell to her knees to bawl some more. Hey, I get it, it sucks, we’ve all had a bad skate, its embarrassing and demoralizing but please, for the love of all things holy, get your ass off the ice. Thankfully her coaches dragged her off.

 

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Elegant Carolina Kostner in her long program (not my photo)

While nobody else had quite the mess of a routine, many of the ladies were off during their long programs. The ethereal Carolina Kostner of Italy, back in action after an international ban, placed sixth with a few boo boos. She doesn’t have a triple lutz in her current arsenal so if you’re going to compete with the big girls you had better land everything else solidly.

She didn’t.

 

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Karen Chen of the US during her short program this week (not my photo)

Neither did the spunky new US Ladies Champion, Karen Chen competing at her first World Championships. She bore a lot of pressure because she bombed at the Four Continents championship last month, causing many to question her selection to the World’s team. See, the ladies, like the men, had the challenge of earning back a third spot for the Olympics.

Everyone figured Ashley Wagner would pull off a top spot. She won the silver medal last year and she likes a good fight for her long program but nobody knew what to expect with the newbie, Chen.

 

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Wagner during her funky short program, which placed her in 7th

Ashley sat in seventh after a sub-par short and then completely underwhelmed everyone in her long. It was actually a somewhat boring routine where her pesky under-rotation demons returned and she didn’t land all of her jumps.

Her coach looked more annoyed than anything as she awaited her marks.

Chen looked up at the scores before her warm-up and saw that Ashley placed lower than expected. So not only did she have to prove she deserved to be there, she also had to place well for all of America.

Thankfully, the diminutive skater did, earning a well respected fourth place behind the Russian and two Canadians.

 

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Yeah, you read that correctly. Two Canadians. Women. On the podium. At World’s.

Its simply never happened before. While Canada is known for creating amazing skaters and hockey players, we just haven’t been able to do it with the women. Its been discussed for decades why we could only produce a Liz Manley and a Joannie Rochette every now and then but not alongside another top tiered woman.

Until now. When Gabrielle Daleman and Kaetyln Osmond put their skills, training and mental preparation all together at the right time and the maple leaf flew high two nights ago.

 

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Gabrielle Dalemen, 3rd after the short, en route to the bronze medal here during her long (not my photo)

Gabby was in third and held that spot even after following the champion, Evgenia Medvedeva, and hearing the roaring crowd after her record-breaking scores had been announced. That can be a bit rattling when you step out onto the slippery surface but Daleman held it together and put on a fun, sassy show to that old warhorse, Rhapsody in Blue.

Skating immediately after her team-mate, miss Osmond, who trains in Edmonton with my dear friend, Ravi Walia, put on her own jumping clinic with a mature, silky, elegant long program featuring a soaring triple-flip, triple toe and blurringly fast, centered, gorgeous spins.

 

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Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada, ready for that silver medal at World’s (not my photo)

Both girls gave intelligent, sweet and friendly interviews together (you can look them up at cbc.ca) and proudly wrapped themselves in the same Canadian flag after the medal ceremony.

On a side note, watching as the camera zoomed in I noticed Kaetlyn’s earrings… Through my friendship with Ravi, I had offered to sponsor some jewelry to the Canadian champion back in January. She and I spent a morning online in my Chloe & Isabel boutique (www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe… you have to check it out now, right?) and she chose the sophisticated Bianca collection. Which includes lovely, on-trend ear climbers.

 

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Which she appears to have worn¬†during her short program…

 

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And in her silver-medal winning long program!

Who would have known?

My beaming smile was more for the ladies’ placement than the bling, though, but it still made me chuckle.

 

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Ladies medalists, live, at World’s

So Canada gets to send three women to the Olympics! Huzzah!

And we get three ice dance teams as well thanks to Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir returning to competitive skating this season and winning everything they entered, including World’s. It wasn’t simple, though. In first place after their awe-inspiring short dance (to Prince songs), Scott stumbled during their free dance and the two-time former World champs from France actually won the free dance.

 

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France’s Papadakis and Cizeron after their emotional, strong, high-scoring free dance (not my photo)

The French had to settle for silver behind their training-mates, Virtue & Moir. American cutie pies, the Shibutanis finished in third. Sadly, the US team, Hubbell & Donohue, who were in third after the short dance, tumbled and missed the entire twizzle element which sadly sent them tumbling down to ninth place.

 

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I thought Hubbell & Donohue were finally going to claim some glory this year but it wasn’t to be. (not my photo)

Ice Dance is art on ice, with athleticism thrown in for fun. The skaters are all beautiful (I think its a requirement nowadays), they all fly around the ice (especially the Shib-sibs) and they perform dangerous, acrobatic moves that leave the audience breathless as they watch. The Olympic showdown will be fabulous.

The Pairs event wasn’t so hot for Canada or the US this year, particularly since the Americans only had one team finish in the top ten… meaning the United flight to South Korea next February won’t be as full with only one team getting to go to the Olympics.

The former two-time World Champs from Canada, Duhamel & Radford, fell off the podium thanks to a pesky hip injury that flared up for Eric. They are always exciting to watch and they finished in seventh, which isn’t that terrible. (Maybe I should have sent¬†Meghan some earrings?)

 

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Skating their free program at World’s, Meghan Duhamel & Eric Radford (not my photo)

They’re right behind their team-mates, meaning Canada gets to send three teams.

The brand new World Champions are from China and hardly competed at all this year. Sui & Han sat out while she had both feet operated on several times to repair shattered ligaments that are the result of years of Chinese level throw jumps.

 

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Han throwing Sui into orbit (not my photo)

I’m happy for them that they won. The world has watched them grow up together on the skating stage and this is perfect after all that they have endured.

Behind them is the somewhat newer team of Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot. They represent Germany, where neither of them is from but you just have to let that go. In third were the Russians, Tarasova & Morozov, arguably the tallest male red-head to ever grace the ice.

 

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World pairs podium (not my photo)

So, while nothing got done around the house, I was relaxed and able to fully enjoy watching World’s this year.¬†Our Siamese cat, Sport, watched much of it with me from my lap, my shoulders or the back of my chair.

I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on the state of figure skating, the point system, the outfits, the lack of scandals, the Russian drama, the choreography or whatever. Figure skating is my first language and I still speak it fluently.

 

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Virtue & Moir, golden again! (not my photo)

 

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Evgenia Medvedeva, gold medalist again during her weird, 9-11 themed long program (not my photo).

 

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Former two-time World champ and global heart-throb (sorry, ladies, Miki Ando has him) Javi Fernandez of Spain won the short but (as you can see) wiped out in the long, falling off the podium and into fourth place.

 

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The Beautiful People of ice dance (not my photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Change

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Today at the Fyfe Farm- can’t wait for the lilacs!

While the seasons change throughout the year I am always most amazed at the transformations that occur when winter turns to spring.

It is probably more profound for those of us who live where there are four dramatically different seasons. That’s not to say I wouldn’t relish life if someone offered me a home on Kauai but I do think I would miss the changes.

The transition of spring to summer feels sleepy and easy. And the change from summer to fall sometimes sort-of sneaks up on you but it usually has no drama. And then fall turns to winter but by then we’ve probably had a bit of¬†snow and cold and the wood stove has already been running for weeks.

Its not the case this time of year.

 

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Spring in western Montana

After a long winter that had more than 3 feet of snow on the ground with days and days of plowing the roads and splitting wood and realizing I had to plow snow again, the changing season is a welcome relief.

Its beautiful, really.

There is actual warmth radiating from the giant, glowing yellow orb in the sky which has brought all of the snow off our heavily-burdened roof tops and is taking its toll with the subsequent melt. The creeks are high.

 

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The creek that runs past our house.

 

Dark, murky water bubbles and churns next to our house, breaching the creek walls and spilling out onto our still-snowy pasture at the far end of the field. I can hear it churning along even when I’m walking the dogs down our gravel driveway that is finally drying up.

The driveway that I plowed endlessly this winter.

 

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The back driveway this winter. We try to keep this one open, too.

We are the last home on the¬†road so if I want to have access¬†to the world¬†its up to me to keep things open. I don’t mind the plowing at all. I have my trusty old friend, Big Red and his kick-ass blade to shove snow from here to there. The Dodge Ram we designed as our wedding gift to each other in 1996 has served us well over the years and even if he had to be plugged in every night during the winter it was worth it to feel him shimmy and rumble and hear him fire up in the¬†frigid mornings after another 7 or¬†8 inches of snow had fallen.

 

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I love you, Big Red!

It isn’t just a visual awakening that occurs when winter takes off her snowy coat and welcomes the spring. The smell of the pine trees when we snowshoe and now hike out back is magnificent! Its profound how sudden the scent seems to appear although the trees have obviously been there all winter.

The dogs seemed fascinated by the scents they were detecting on one of our first treks after a lot of snow had rapidly disappeared. UB, in particular, was almost clingy with us. Had the melt uncovered mountain lion and bear scents? Had the neighborhood wolves left markings that had been hidden all winter only to be revealed on one sunny afternoon?

 

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Snowshoe trek with UB… (not the day he was so worried)

Not all of the scents are lovely, however. Like the overpowering smell that takes over when we drive up to our mailbox, which is located next to the neighbor who is calving in a small, wet, condensed area.

Or the unmistakable smell of skunk that wafted through the truck as I passed yet another neighbor’s often-targeted house. These are definite scents of spring.

A smell I miss is that of our woodstove. We’ve let the stove go out for the season.

 

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All done for the winter.

The reliable and steady source of incredible, comforting warmth is cool and quiet now and there are no animals congregating at its hearth. When we first moved here 10 years ago, Oscar, Chorney, Boomer, Sport, Cooper and Mulder could be found alongside Cleo throughout the winter on the carpeted stairs next to the stove.

I’ve laid there myself on cold evenings when I was chilled to the bone and Alistair was in Bismarck, wrapped up in any combination of cats and dogs.

Its the stove Loki laid in front of when I joined her and we spooned one last time before she eventually took her final breaths there.

It will sit silently, unobtrusively for the next several months until it is called to duty once more and I won’t smell the smoke from the burning wood which provides a heat like no other.

 

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Just last week.

With the changing seasons comes a change in our activities. The snow shoes and snowmobiles both got some love last week when Alistair was here. If you are an outdoors enthusiast, this is the perfect place to live (once you’ve got the wood split and the driveway plowed). We try to make the most of our incredible landscape.

 

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Our “back yard” forest a couple of weeks ago.

We didn’t make it to the ski hills around us, though, because the transformation into spring was happening even more rapidly in Helena, where the golf courses began to open. Our season has begun!

 

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Also last week!

With the change in our activities we noticed more changes in our own lives. This was the first spring we could drive the hour and half there and play a full, guilt-free 18 holes and then enjoy a lovely supper out before heading home. The previous 2 years, when Helena’s courses opened before any others nearby, we could only do the driving range. Or a rapid 9 holes with a cart.

Loki’s needs, which were never, ever resented, precluded us from being gone from home for so long. I initially felt sad that I didn’t feel any guilt but then I chose to enjoy both our memories and our new ability to spend the full afternoon there.

And I even made par on the par 3 16th hole. Another ball for the wall!

 

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New pink ball-for-the-wall!

Another aspect that makes the turning of winter into spring profound for us is how we manage the farm and day-to-day chores or activities. Something so simple as footwear or outer wear becomes completely different and takes up significantly less time.

There’s the long pants and possibly long johns. The turtleneck. The vest. Maybe the CarHartts. The big heavy coat or the double-layered jacket (depends on whether or not I’m splitting wood). The scarf. The toque. The gloves (the choice again depends on the wood thing… or maybe the hay thing).

Then there’s time you need to start the trucks (if they start) and let them run so that they will be warm and the engine will run smoothly. And don’t forget to unplug them before driving off!

 

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Big Red needed plenty of time to rumble in the driveway before we would get going.

Now, though, as spring has made her entrance into our world, none of the rigs are plugged in and going outside is a matter of slipping some shoes on and maybe a light jacket. If the wind is blowing I’ll grab the toque but only so my hair doesn’t fly around.

Our lives are dramatically different when spring comes around.

And this year, some of the changes are of our own design but they’ve added to the profound feeling that¬†things¬†are¬†really, really different now.

Klaus is gone.

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Klaus… our Jetta… enjoying his final winter on the Fyfe Farm.

 

Our 2009 VW Jetta was part of the emissions lawsuit that was settled late last year. After Klaus made the annual Christmas letter 2 years in a row we were more than happy to send our little car back to VW.

It took a bit of time to organize it all but early last week Alistair fired his old friend up one more time and off we went to Missoula.

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He didn’t seem overly upset about it, either.

And for the last time I followed the little grey hatchback in a different vehicle and although I didn’t feel melancholy I definitely flashed back to several of our treks between Montana and North Dakota over the years. Some changes can definitely make me smile.

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Following Klaus through the middle of Montana in 2015.

One more change putting a smile on my face most of the time is Jockey’s transition to being an indoors kitty. It wasn’t right keeping him by himself in the barn after we had lost Georgia before Christmas so the slow process of making sure everyone got along began and he’s camped out at my feet right now as I type.

 

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He found the bed pretty quickly!

 

 

He’s an enormous cat with big sharp claws but he had kept them sheathed until Sport must have pissed him off. I haven’t witnessed any altercations but Sport showed up with what looked like a bad attempt at a pierced ear the other morning.

Oh, Jockey.

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Sport, today, after several days of antibiotics, doing quite well.

Jockey is making the most out of being a “domesticated indoor cat” and everyone is adapting to the changes.

The changes in the season and the changes in Fyfe Life.

The sun and the ground are warm, the horses are shedding their long winter coats, the color green is peeking out from where the snow has melted and spring is upon us. I’m wearing less layers, the heavy boots aren’t being worn as much, the trucks aren’t plugged in and the wood stove is silent.

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Outdoor reminders of other seasons.

While its still cool enough to have a chicken noodle soup cooking in my crock pot right now I can finally see the bon fire pit and imagine sitting around a smoky, starry night with a wine glass in my hand and UB and Cleo playing in the creek.

And I think of when we had 4 dogs by the bonfire and 3 barn kitties to lock in at night and 5 dogs at the Dog Days of Summer and so many cats to line up every day for soft food and the ferret cage sits there, empty, and the freezer is ridiculously full and I miss couch time with Loki and I feel bad about not feeling guilty when I visit a good friend in the hospital and another good friend for lunch before finalizing the VW buy-back yesterday.

As much as my life has always changed, this current changing season has brought me to a totally new phase in my life. Where many things are the same but I feel quite different. I don’t know why. More mature? Perhaps. Wiser, in some ways, less knowledgeable in others. More prone to tearing up at a commercial that features animals, that’s for sure.

I welcome spring and all the rebirth and growth and challenges in front of me.

Now, lets get those golf courses open!

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Clearly not struggling with the transition.

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Yesterday, finalizing the buy-back of Klaus.

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I’m envisioning it but its still going to take a few days…

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Bye-bye, winter! We’re ready for spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There’s That

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Loki Fyfe, a few weeks ago

 

Three years ago when I started writing this blog I was worried back then about little Loki, our blind grand-dog. At that point she had advanced cataracts and a left eye that had been nailed by cat claws a few too many times. She had her pronounced heart murmur, reverse sneezing, her knobby dew-claw, advancing arthritis, a thinning hair coat and a general dislike for winter.

It was only my fifth blog (As Good As We Can, by Step Gammy) and it was April of 2014 and it was about our deal with the animals who join our family and how I always promise to provide a life as good as we can for as long as we can.

I had to make good on that promise on January 30th.

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Earlier in January, with Cleo snoozing on Loki and Gampy snoozing nearby.

In my blog three years ago I wrote that I couldn’t imagine life without Loki and in other blogs I’ve shared how important she was in our lives. I’ve included multiple pictures of her exploring her worlds in Montana and North Dakota where she navigated around both homes in her pin-ball fashion, always knowing where she needed to go and somehow always able to find me.

Her need to be with Step-Gammy increased dramatically over the past year & a half and the two of us have been pretty inseparable. To the point where I felt guilty playing more than 9 holes of golf by myself or lingering longer at a lunch date.

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Earlier this year… snoring….

We couldn’t go on overnight trips without months of planning ahead of time unless the dogs came with us.

Which made for several fun drives across the state with my three companions and several funny glances from other rest-stop-users as I handled a blind dog and two rambunctious dogs who have no clue how to behave on a leash.

 

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“Let’s get the show on the road, Gammy!”

 

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Thankfully we had Gampy along on this trip!

Evening time with Loki, whether her Gampy was home or not was a pretty special thing for her, particularly once supper was cleaned up and it became Couch Time.

Couch Time involved snuggling and snoring into some area of my feet or legs. We’d watch golf or CNN or whatever Netflix series her Gampy and I were hooked on and she’d snore and fart¬†and those snuggly evenings leading up to another favorite, Bed Time are a magical rear-view memory.

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Couch Time with Step-Gammy watching PGA golf from Kapalua, Maui

While UB was always pretty tight with Loki, Cleo had begun making it a very tight threesome over the past year. I’d get them to bed and go off to feed the cats and stoke the woodstove only to return to a snuggle fest when I got back. They would eventually move through the night (UB and Loki under the covers, tight against us) but I loved seeing the three of them as their own little canine gang.

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Earlier in January

I joked that “we four move as one” for the past year or two because that has truly been the case. UB is fit as a fiddle but Cleo had her own Vestibular Disease and balance issue last April and she is almost completely deaf (more fun at rest stops….) UB liked having both of his sisters close by, as though he felt responsible for them. I love his caring nature and the way he can be so serious about some things.

And I loved seeing him and Loki cuddled up in cat beds or on the carpet together by the woodstove. I didn’t know how I would be able to walk through the house without knowing he would be doing his best to take care of little Loki.

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A couple of years ago… Loki and UB.

Alistair and I hadn’t planned on putting our little train wreck through another winter but she was doing so well and the weather was so mild that neither of us could fathom ending things.

She met a new friend and enjoyed our house sitters in November when we went to Maui (a trip that was planned a year in advance, of course.) The snow didn’t fall in November so she enjoyed walks & talks with me several times a day around the farm outside. She played in the leaves, listened to the burbling creek and sniffed the air as the season changed.

 

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Getting in some good sniffing in November

 

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more sniffing

Her squished-in nose was, by far, her most important navigational tool outdoors and indoors. She was a whiz at figuring her way to the back of the house in Bismarck and a whiz at finding me in the kitchen cooking up the ground beef we added to her diet last September.

 

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Loki and her navigational tools last fall

The snow came down hard and fast in December, though, and things began to change. She was far more sensitive to the cold temps. She started “chibbering” as we put her jackets on her before we even went outside. She always did go out (unlike UB who¬†usually requires assistance out the door on cold, snowy mornings) and did her business but often she would be three-legged and seemingly frozen in place immediately afterwards.

Even if she did let us get the jackets on she was never a fan of them. We had a variety of sweaters or cover-ups and each one induced a Pavlovian type of trembling response from within the warm house.

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A couple of¬† years ago… this one didn’t work despite the fashion-forward scarf.

So a few days, unless it was so cold it hurt to breathe, we just skipped the jackets and stood over her so we would be right there when she was finished because it was minus whatever and it was frigging cold even for us in our coats and toques.

 

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Another fail.

But things started to change and we started to talk about them. Normally Alistair and Tanya try to avoid talking about our ailing pets but the Doctors Fyfe intervened.

Despite the ground beef and high-calorie prescription canned food, Loki lost weight. She lost hair and the margins of her ears became tattered. Her GI tract was making unusual sounds and despite the meds I provided her stools got more & more loose. Her appetite, particularly for chicken mozzarella with Gampy, generally stayed strong, though, so we kept on keeping on.

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Couch Time earlier this year

And every night we would cuddle and I would hold her tight and we’d be up in the morning and out into the cold and she’d get her Rimadyl and ground beef and follow me into the computer room or the bedroom where she would wait for me outside the shower on the bath mat and she would snuggle into clothes left on the floor and follow me to the computer where she would sit on my feet or behind the chair as I told stories of teenagers and dragons and a Boston Terrier named Baxter.

She helped me finish chapter fifteen and even though I told her how the story¬†would end, she won’t be here when this book gets published.

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Helping me edit book 2 in 2015

Loki won’t be here to enjoy one more springtime and she won’t feel another hot sunbeam on her adorable face.

She wasn’t there to join UB, Cleo and I as we drove across the state to help Gampy with one more surgery earlier this month.

She won’t cuddle on the couch to watch another PGA event and she won’t be spooned into my chest or neck ever again.

She won’t do “Geronimo”, “Boba-Fett” or her impersonation of a T-Rex off the bed in Gampy’s arms one more time.

 

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One of her last T-Rex impersonations on one of her last mornings with Gampy.

And I won’t cook up her ground beef or give her a post-seizure bath and I won’t have her riding shot-gun in the front seat of the truck and I don’t hear her snore at night in the too-quiet bedroom and I don’t feel her thrust her face into my chest when I pick her up¬†and I don’t have her at my feet, on my lap or by my side anywhere in the house. I don’t see ferrets toying with the blind dog, I’m not carrying anyone outside, I’m not standing her on the freezer to trim her toe nails and I’m not smiling as I watch her lay with UB and Cleo.

Because Loki had two pretty tough nights after Gampy went back to Bismarck in January. The first day after the first night was a day for me to come to grips with what had to be done and for her and I to spend time together. Walks and talks in some winter sunshine. Chapter fifteen. Couch Time and all.

 

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Immediately behind my chair on the final morning, helping me edit some more

Our last night wasn’t much fun for Loki and she didn’t eat her breakfast. Alistair and I had decided what needed to be done and we talked beforehand. Well, he talked. I sobbed.

And I cried to the blue skies outside, “How can I DO this?” through my tears.

Loki was especially clingy that final morning and I didn’t leave her side. I laid with her in front of the woodstove and said goodbye from¬†the hundreds of people who were lucky enough to meet and¬†love her, like Theresa, Brian & Roxy, like Jessi & Carson, like Melody, Carolyn & Wanita, like Uncle Pete and Auntie Wendy and their resort and home, like all my clinic staff and friends at the Dog Days of summer, like the Bossorts, like all of Whitney’s friends & roomies over the years and like our neighbors in Bismarck and Montana.

I asked her to say hi to our band of merry misfits who would all be waiting for her and somehow I was able to sedate her without her really knowing.

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Just before it all went down…

She felt the tiny needle, though, and she sat up. She didn’t bark or pull away. She just sat and leaned into me. As the cocktail of meds kicked in and as more tears fell from my burning eyes, little Loki slid down my side next to my leg and hit one of her classic Cute Positions.

And she snored.

With trembling hands I managed to hit a vein. I smiled, somehow, at the fact her hair never re-grew after an IV injection site was shaved in one of our attempts to save the bad eye a few years ago.

And I told her one last time, as I listened to her murmury, washing-machine of a heartbeat slow and eventually stop, how lucky I am to be her Step-Gammy.

 

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In December, waiting for me on the bath mat

Loki lived an incredible life (sixteen years of it!) with incredible spirts of all species and she probably wouldn’t have been around for the last three if it weren’t for the fact she was firmly wrapped up in Fyfe Life.

Where everyone lives as good as they can. For as long as they can.

And we’re all slowly adapting and its weird and I miss her every single day and night and UB and Cleo are even closer than before and I had a moment opening up a package of ground beef the other night for the first time since January 30th and I’m okay with that. Her spirit lives on and will likely have as much to say as ever during our golf games.

 

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This was unexpected… but I guess when you’re running out of friends…

RIP little Loki Fyfe. You will never be forgotten. xo

 

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Another favorite snooze spot for Loki.

 

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Clothes on the ground made for excellent bedding.

 

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“Step-Gammy… the girl ferret is in my bed again!”

 

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Mornings with Loki in January. xo