Lilacs, Learnings, the Ladies League and Loki

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Odd title, I know. It doesn’t really make sense unless you are inside my house or on the front lawn right now. My entire world is coated in the sweet, delicate, feminine scent of lilacs.

 

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Our front yard

I love these pretty plants and how their scent completely fills up our house from the east side kitchen to our west side bedroom. The driveway smells lovely. The barn cat, Jockey, who lies in these bushes during the afternoon, smells fantastic. And good old Sport, our Siamese, brings in a bit of the pretty smell when he goes on his early evening survey of the grounds (when Jockey is in the barn, of course.)

What’s interesting this year is that the backyard lilacs bloomed a month ago. Normally they burst onto the scene first but not usually a full month ahead of the front yard.

We had a fairly wet and cool spring, though, so perhaps that’s the reason. Whatever it is, I just breathed in the amazing scent through the open window to my right.

 

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One of the cool, damp days this spring leading to a very green yard

The “learnings” the title of this blog are referring to are the cooking class I’m enrolled in, a bit of golf and Bebe’s health.

I finished my final exam last night (49/50) (araaaagh! I got one wrong!!!) and am tasking myself with a challenging but amazing-sounding pasta dish this evening. I’ve made many different pasta recipes over the years but none have required as much planning as this Pasta Boscaiola does. But I’m pumped!

The pasta sauce has prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh thyme so its going to be an interesting, flavorful cream sauce if I don’t screw it up. If I can figure out how to go “live” on some social media platform maybe I will. I’ll probably get my ‘mise on place’ in place and go from there.

 

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My first go at Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (garlic and oil)

I was tasked with making Spaghetti Aglio e Olio the other night and I rocked it. It helped learning how to choose better quality store-bought dry pasta (go for pale, rough-textured pasta) which holds onto sauces better. This particular sauce was basically garlic, red chili flakes, olive oil and fresh basil. And it was yummy!

It boosted my confidence and I feel ready to try this Boscaiolo recipe tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes.

As for me learning about my own golf game, I’ve learned that I can achieve goals I’ve set with a bit of hard work.

 

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Me and SpongeBob-ball on the par 5 9th hole!

I had the goal last summer of making par on the four par 5’s on our local course. I made the 13th hole but that was it.

But this summer something has clicked for both Alistair and me. In his case, probably having that final, annoying, restrictive pin removed from deep within his pelvis likely helped but we both are actually playing golf like, well, golfers.

And with some cool length to my drives (when they work) thanks to my Hideki Matsuyama-inspired swing, I conquered the par 5 18th a couple of weeks ago and the 9th just last week! (Ball-for-the-wall video at the end of this blog for your enjoyment… make sure your volume is on!)

 

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Hiding from the impending storm in the cart barn after making par on the par 5 18th a couple of weeks ago! Pardon the freaky eyes, it was dark in there and I was pumped.

I’m learning each time I’m out there and even though I still make a lot of crappy shots I know I’m capable of big, fun things.

And what about Bebe’s health? I guess I don’t know. Which is what I’m learning, or trying to learn.

Bebe, herself is a bit of a conundrum in that she lived in the shadows of 7 other cats for most of her life until we lost sweet old Boomer over a year ago. Babs got along with everyone and shared the cat beds with Oscar, Boomer, and Cooper but once it became  just her and Sport in the house, she became a brand new cat.

A Domesticated Indoor Cat, as she says.

 

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Fabulous Babulous during Couch Time last night

Bebe now vocalizes regularly, joins me on the Magic Blanket for Couch Time at night, cuddles up with UB from time to time and has a real, present personality within the house.

So it was noticeable 2 days ago when she didn’t demand her 3 or 4 Greenies pieces first thing in the morning. And I could tell she hadn’t eaten any kibble through the night and she didn’t eat her canned food that evening. Yesterday wasn’t much different although I always saw her drinking water and she continued to join me on the couch at night.

 

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On the couch with Mummy last night

She definitely seemed a bit weak these past couple of days and Doctor Mummy wasn’t liking this very much.

I couldn’t find anything on physical exam, which is a challenge with this particular Domesticated Indoor Cat. Despite being a real presence in our world, Bebe has never liked being held. All 4 limbs stiffly jut out the instant you pick her up so handling her for palpation is tricky.

But there she was this morning asking for and then gobbling up 6 Greenies pieces and she ran towards me when I put fresh kibble into their food dish. She’s using the litter box and appears a bit brighter today so hopefully the antibiotics I started her on 2 days ago are working on whatever needed working on.

 

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Resting in one of her usual afternoon spots just now

Regarding the Ladies League, I’m learning that I actually fit in. The local women, many of whom have been my veterinary clients since 2007, have asked me to come out and play with them since we took golf up a couple of years ago. I’ve always resisted, fearing I would embarrass my competitive self or that I would slow them all down.

Finally, with Alistair in Bismarck last week, I joined the group on Wednesday. I liked it so much I joined again on Friday.

And I am happy to report that I do fit in. To quote one of the women as she introduced me to a lady I hadn’t met, “Tanya can drive the shit out of a golf ball.”

So this has opened up an entirely new chapter to our golf experience and maybe Alistair and I will try Couples League down the road, too.

 

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Random golf photo from last month

Things are a bit different when you’re playing exclusively with women. For starters, we talk about our golf outfits a lot. Generally, the men don’t ask what brand my duds are and I haven’t shared how comfy a certain outfit is or how much give a particular skort has when swinging before.

And Girlfriend Golf is very cheerful and congratulatory, particularly when I manage to hit the shit out of the ball on a drive.

And then we all gather in the clubhouse and visit and talk about upcoming visits to the doc for someone’s hip and how one gal would rather be euthanized than go through rotator-cuff surgery again and how I can actually help with that (not the surgery, the other thing) and that maybe this is why the gals invited me to join them in the first place because I’m 10 to 20 years younger than most of them and I have the tools and the skill set and almost everyone has grandchildren and its so hot where most of these women live during the winter that the planes can’t lift off from the airports and gosh, they all miss me and my clinic but they totally understand the situation and one lady was worried because she hadn’t done her hair that morning and so-and-so has dinner guests and she was making “better than sex” cake and I’m taking a cool online cooking course!

 

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From this a couple of years ago to the Ladies League!

And finally, in reference to Loki in the title of this blog, our little friend is home again only, sadly, its a boxed version of our adorable companion.

I made it to Missoula last week and managed to hold my shit together when Alex handed me the two little boxes that contain her ashes. Whitney wants some of her very special friend so someday when we get back to Kauai or she gets back to the mainland we will share Loki with her once again.

And the other box will remain with us, firmly ensconced in Fyfe Life once more.

It seemed fitting that she go back to the living room to enjoy Couch Time again.

 

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Loki Fyfe

So this is how the summer of 2017 is beginning around the farm and on the golf courses. I’ll keep you posted on how I do during the league and what new recipes I’m trying and how they turn out.

I’m still slinging the bling and if you’re interested I’m doing my annual fundraiser this month for our local pet shelter, Paws Up Safe Home. I’ve done this for 3 years now and I give all of my 40% commissions earned this month to the shelter so every dollar really helps. And every necklace and bracelet is 25% off so its a win-win for everyone (head over to http://www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe if you’d like to treat yourself and feel great about it.)

 

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Awesome arm-party one of the guests did at a fun pop-up yesterday!

And of course I’ll share Bebe’s tale because the blog is an outlet for me to share my thoughts, fears, hopes and feelings and most of you are pet lovers and I know you’ll be thinking about her.

So thanks for letting me share and for coming along on my journey. Now get out there and enjoy some summertime and don’t forget to check out the video below…

 

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My favorite golf partner needs to get home soon!

 

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Cleopatra doing some learning and exploring herself the other day

 

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Baby Bebe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of “Those” Winters

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How to survive winter in western Montana.

I’ve certainly posted pictures of enormous snow drifts and buried hot tubs over the years. And I’ve shared many before & after pictures of our deck in Montana that would be buried overnight and require my little body to shovel as if there were no tomorrow.

I’ve also told winter tales of woe from our ranch in North Dakota, where the winds blow in unimaginably cold temperatures for days and you pray that you don’t get stuck and that your diesel doesn’t gel.

But this winter… this is one for the ages.

 

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Our barn in ND before Alistair could really do some work.

Its been particularly harsh in Bismarck because they have had two extended periods of extreme cold weather and a tremendous amount of snowfall. Usually the snow comes down and blows around. The drifts make travel and movement a challenge but the volume doesn’t often stack up.

Its stacking up this year.

Like it did in 1996/97 where everyone in North Dakota remembers trying to beat the swollen Red River with sandbags. They were unsuccessful and downtown Grand Forks, ND flooded.

 

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Image from 1997 Red River flood (not my picture)

 

Everyone in the state watched the largest city get buried in raging, muddy waters that were formed when the snow never seemed to stop that winter. Snow that was shoved to the sides of the road higher than our one-ton pickup, Big Red when we were at a hockey game in Grand Forks months before the flood.

 

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All that snow melted and it had to go somewhere (not my picture).

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, fire broke out downtown but nobody could get to it because of the floodwaters. North Dakotans are remembering this springtime disaster because the snow this year is much like the snow that winter.

 

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haunting aftermath of the flood and fire (not my photo)

Because nobody wants to see this again.

But we know that many precautions have been made and banks were reinforced so we are all hopeful to avoid that kind of nightmare.

Or the nightmare of 2011 when Bismarck flooded after heavy snowfall in Montana had to go somewhere.

It chose the mighty Missouri.

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Flooded roads and residential areas in Bismarck, 2011 (not my picture).

Families were evacuated, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and an army of people and pets moved into our home with Alistair for most of the summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers will hopefully be more on top of things this spring so we won’t see a repeat this year.

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snow load and drifts on our ranch in Bismarck right now.

Because there’s a boat-load of snow and its only the middle of January.

Many Montanans say that the snow used to come down like it has all of the time in the “old days”. That people were shoveling and roof-raking all winter long. It was the price you paid to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I guess we’re paying for it now ourselves.

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My view for much of this winter already.

I have it a lot easier than poor Alistair, though.

For starters, I can plow in the warm comfort of Big Red with Jack Johnson, Iz or Coldplay blaring out of the speakers.

I have the big tractor with the covered cab and more heaters and a radio for company.

I also only have one horse to care for here versus the dozen he must feed and protect in Bismarck.

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from our snow-blown deck in North Dakota last week

Which is a challenge when he’s not there for 2 weeks. Its a challenge when New Neighbor is clueless about our tractor (which does not have a cab, heat or music) and damn near destroys a rim as he tries to clean up the snow. And its a challenge when it feels like 60 degrees below zero and the wind has blown for 3 days while snow kept coming down but he still needs a road to get to the horses and to get to work.

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a challenge to get into the barn where the tractor is kept!

I got to post cute videos of me listening to a warming Hawaiian ukulele with the incredibly beautiful Horseshoe Hills just beyond our Montana dream home while poor Alistair froze himself for hours trying to make sense out of the mess in front of him.

A mess New Neighbor truly hadn’t helped with. A mess our postman refused to enter so we didn’t receive mail for a few days. A mess that was very, very cold.

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You have to have a path, right?

He had to stop 5 times during the massive snow upheaval to shiver and shudder in our heated tack room. He traded socks, toques and gloves and stuck his bare toes directly into the slots on the baseboard heater and hoped beyond hope that when the tractor sounded like it wanted to seize up thanks to gelled diesel that it was just messing with him.

Its not as if he has the splendor of the Rockies to look at while he’s trying to move snow from here to there.

He has the flat, white horizon. Its a treeless, dreary, almost depressing landscape when its like this and you recognize how Seasonal Affected Disorder can creep in.

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My stunning backdrop in Montana.

But this is why we do what we do.

Because he gets to call this place home as well and we can enjoy our time together with our pets, heated tractor and vehicles that hopefully all start.

Today Alistair has been back in the big, warm tractor snowblowing out our driveways that are now too tall for Big Red’s blade to push aside. He has the roads wide enough to land a plane on so I’m ready for the next dump of snow.

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Taking a break on the hay bales yesterday with UB, Cleo & Jockey

And we laughed a lot yesterday splitting wood with our electric wood splitter, playing with our remaining band of merry misfits, hot tubbing with toques on our heads and fires lit in the tiki torches he had to dig out.

We watched PGA golf on Oahu and smiled at the vast difference in landscapes while sipping martinis and wine, and we talked about the antibiotics Cleo is on for a dental infection and the meds I started for Sport for a likely overactive thyroid and we shared a sad glance or two at the empty, cleaned-out ferret cage, Quebec and we make each other smile when spirt of Luigi or spirit of Calypso has something to say and we take Loki outside and beg her to do her business out there and we wonder how long we have with her but we can’t get enough of her snuggling into us and onto us during couch time or through the night and the cribbage game continues and we are hopeful that surgery might be soon to remove a pesky pelvic pin for hubby and that eventually, some day, maybe when the snow melts and hopefully doesn’t flood riverbanks onto the prairies, the sun will shine and we will be able to get back to our golf game.

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Another break in the wood splitting yesterday.

We plug the rigs and the tractors in. We only use diesel 1 which southerners don’t know even exists. We keep a steady supply of wine and vodka and frozen food and pet food on hand. We split more wood. And we move more snow.

And Alistair took the keys away from New Neighbor, saying it was time for them to get their own tractor.

Its just one of those winters and we’re doing everything we can to get through it.

Smiling.

With our version of winter Aloha, booze and hot tubs.

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Bismarck hot tub buried after the 2nd blizzard before Alistair dug a path.

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Our Jetta, Klaus in Montana… probably not going anywhere soon.

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Blasting out a “piddle path” for the dogs last month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Girls

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Beautiful Montana

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks.

It wasn’t my intention. Its just that its Summer in western Montana and we try to pack as much as we can into our window of warmth.

Spring can be wet and Fall can be cold. And if you’ve followed my blog or you also live here then you know what Winter can be.

But Summer…

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Juicy mountain goodness in a bowl.

Montana huckleberries are famous for their vibrant hues and sweet juiciness. Most folks around here have their own secret stash they like to pick from. Our stash last year never fully ripened, at least not enough to spend the time to go out and pick.

The stash more than made up for it this year.

We never like to overdo it- the thought that I’m taking food from the local bears keeps us grounded in that regard. But we spent a couple of hours in the sun and got enough for our huckleberry pancakes Alistair enjoys so much.

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This year’s bounty, measured in baggies for pancakes this year.

We also made time to get the canoe out, which we didn’t do once last year.

There is a quiet little lake near our home. There isn’t really any beach to speak of and the campsite is very small, not to mention its a ways off the beaten path so there’s usually only a few folks out there which makes for a peaceful, enjoyable paddle.

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Best view for miles around.

We paddled and floated on Lake Upsata and enjoyed the beauty around us.

We listened to the light waves lap and bump up against our Kevlar sides.

We heard the loons call out in between their full-body dives as they searched for the fish that continue to elude us.

And we laughed and reminisced about our last time canoeing with our good friend, Paul on the local canoe trail, where we bottomed out a few times thanks to late season low water and 3 adults on board.

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Peaceful Lake Upsata.

Alistair didn’t end up catching anything as the skies towards us were darkening and clouds formed into threatening shapes and colors. The kinds of shapes you shouldn’t be beneath on a body of water.

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Hmmmm… maybe we should think about heading in?

But Alistair is back to work in North Dakota and I’m back to my routine at home.

I have realized that my relationship with some of my non-human roommates has become something like the old TV show, the Golden Girls. Me, Loki, Cleo and Phillipa.

Loki is Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy. While sometimes grumpy and bossy she is still a lovable, sweet, reliable friend with a gravelly voice and a sense of humor.

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Loki loves making nests out of clothes to snuggle up in.

Cleopatra is Blanche, who was played by Rue McLanahan. They are both stunning mature women with charming southern accents and an uncanny way of flirting with and attracting men.

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Cleopatra Cassiopia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe… charmed, I’m sure.

Phillipa is Sophia, Dorothy’s mother, who was played by Estelle Getty. The littlest member of the gang with a feisty attitude and a penchant for teasing others, she is one of our resident thieves with a passion for footwear.

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Bonjour, mes ami!

Which leaves me as Betty White’s somewhat naïve, honest animal lover, Rose. I’m not from the Midwest but I sometimes ramble on about days gone by and quirky stories from my past.

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Me… the Betty White of our group.

I’ve been noticing changes. Subtle changes, in some cases, and more noticeable in others.

Phillipa and Loki are both losing weight.

Its more rapid in Phillipa’s case but then everything is more rapid when you’re a ferret. If you consider the fact that one month is akin to one year for a ferret in terms of how their bodies age and change then things are going to happen faster.

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Phillipa & I post-bath a couple of years ago.

She’s also become quite picky about her chewy treats, only eating the raisin or peanut butter ones while younger Luigi gobbles up the chicken, banana and bacon ones. And she’s eating them slower. Antibiotics didn’t change anything but I am continuing with a daily anti-inflammatory. At the age of 7 I’m certain there is some arthritis in her teensy body.

Loki’s weight loss is happening despite a ravenous appetite. I love seeing her eat or watch her bash the empty food dish around the kitchen to get my attention.

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“Snoooooooore”

Both girls seem to feel great, though, continuing to romp around in Phillipa’s case and enjoying long walk & talk sessions outside when it comes to Loki. They are both getting more grey and they’re both sleeping longer but they are eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and playing normally so I’m content with that.

And Cleo gave us a scare in April.

Our Southern Belle developed a head tilt, body leaning, stumbling, falling-over-when-she-sneezed condition that included a vertical nystagmus for 2 days. That’s where your eyes flicker non-stop left and right. Go figure she was wobbly.

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During her tilt-to-the-left phase en route to Bismarck.

The nystagmus ended but the leaning to the left remained, which was why I brought them all to Bismarck with me. It was right on the heels of losing Calypso and it came out of nowhere so I figured a brain tumor was the only answer.

So Cleo leaned against the walls in Bismarck and toppled over to the left if she tried to stand up and she fell getting off the bed and we got Jessi, Lynn, Cindy and Debbie crying when I told them and I didn’t tell everyone because I honestly wasn’t prepared for it and it was so sad seeing her fall over as she shook herself and I held her and she laid a lot more than normal with me and I told her all of the things I could think of that needed to be said.

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Also during the time of the tilt, in Bismarck

That we loved her. That she was a wonderful big sister and companion. That UPS-Matt and Fireman Frank loved her. That it was a magical day when she came home from the clinic I worked at, having been brought in to be put to sleep for being aggressive back in 2005.

That I wouldn’t let her suffer and if she showed me any indication of that I would do what had to be done.

But I didn’t have to.

Not yet.

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Cleo’s classic “Square Face” look at one of our Dog Days of Summer years ago

After twice daily anti-inflammatories (which she is still on) she recovered completely. Running, jumping, leaping, standing, walking on her back legs, playing, swimming, loving, cuddling- Cleo is back.

And each day is a gift.

So maybe my tears right now are for my feelings back in April and May and they’ve moved from Cleopatra onto Phillipa and Loki.

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Alistair with Loki, UB and Cleo last summer in Bismarck.

I wonder if this is what its like to be a resident in a senior’s home.

Where you make friendships and develop strong bonds to people who are all at a point in life where the number of days ahead are far fewer than those in the rear-view mirror.

Where anything can happen and, really, can it be much of a surprise?

I’m the only Golden Girl who hasn’t met or surpassed her expiration date. Loki is 16. Phillipa is 7. Cleo is at least 12.

The 4 of us have a bunch more grey hair (Cleo has the least) and we’re pretty set in our ways of routines and schedules.

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Luigi, Phillipa and I this spring. Clever hats to disguise the grey!

Maybe Cleo has what we call Old Dog Vestibular Disease. There is no test for that but it can come and go. We’ll enjoy it while its gone.

And we’ll enjoy the seasons as they change and remark on the similarities to our own lives. To every thing, indeed.

We’ll just continue to love and live our routines and enjoy each day with one another. With Phillipa sneaking up on blind Loki to nibble at her feet. With Cleo and Loki and UB snuggling up together in bed at night. With Loki pin-balling her way through the house. With soft food, chicken mozzarella, accents and berets and with cute voices talking to us while we play golf and shoes and insoles that go missing on a nightly basis and with nail trims, Rimadyl and Metacam and Walk & Talks with Step Gammy, Fyfe Life will continue as always.

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Alistair, Calypso, Phillipa & Luigi this past winter.

 

It is a good Summer.

As good as we can for as long as we can.

I’ll keep you posted. xo

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Several years ago when Phillipa (mistakenly known as Phillipe back then, oops) joined our family!

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Cleo, the summer she came home, bonded immediately to her Daddy.

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Very young Loki with very young Casey many moons ago.

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3 out of 4 Golden Fyfe Girls with UB this spring.

What’s Up, Docs?

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Luigi and Phillipa helped me make a fun little bling-video

If you ask me what’s new or going on or how we’re doing these days I might pause for a few seconds before I answer.

I’m just trying to remember where I am.

After Alistair’s surgery to remove hardware from his pelvis on May 6th we returned to Montana to begin his slow recovery.

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Short hikes out back… found some back-up body parts for Alistair!

Somehow I managed to keep his activity to a minimum and the healing process has gone well. The main thing is that the pain from the migrating pins is gone so the surgery was a success! The recovery phase now is the soft tissue healing.

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Cleopatra had other ideas for the spare parts.

But we still had to get back to Bismarck to tend to our horse herd and our garden so we loaded up the 3 dogs and hit the road for the 11 hour drive yet again.

We abandoned the cages and brought the “Magic Blanket” instead and the dogs travelled beautifully, even if Miss Cleo was a little bit dramatic about the whole thing.

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Drama Queen

Highway 200 is a sparsely-populated trek across the plains. We often encounter enormous farm machinery or equipment being hauled on equally ginormous rigs and we don’t see many other travelers.

Which is probably why you can still have a bona-fide cattle drive taking up the road!

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No joke! Cattle Drive!

The moo-ing and occasional “yip” from the cowboys (riding ATVs, not horses) was old school Montana but hey, when you have to move the herd several miles down the road what else are you going to do?

 

We finally got by them (moo!) and made it back to our own herd in sunny North Dakota.

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Our beautiful bunch a couple of summers ago.

Its where we had a nest full of new neighbors and a slightly peeved Mother!

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This year’s nest built right on top of last year’s.

The nest appeared last summer and a new one was built on top this year. Its location is cleverly tucked away from the winds that blow constantly but not so clever in that its immediately outside of our front door.

The adult robin continued to bring worms up and we tried to make an effort to use the side door through the garage when we could.

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Closer view of the new kids on the block.

The babies grew and grew and the day after I took this photo they were out of the nest, flying around on their own. They hovered near the area but we never saw them in the nest again and another cycle of nature has been completed.

Bismarck is also where we got our garden up & running.

Its a large garden that Alistair has tweaked over the years. This was the first year I was there to help get everything in the ground.

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Grow, my pretties, grow.

5 types of potatoes, 8 different tomato plants, 8 each of cauliflower, spinach and broccoli, red and yellow onions, herbsherbsherbs, pumpkin, cucumbers, squash varieties and 3 types of corn.

YUM!

The only thing now is hoping that the North Dakota winds don’t destroy things like they did after the first planting last year.

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Hang in there, Troops!

Our farm is also where we had to take care of a few equine-related things.

Vaccinations. Deworming.

Combing out tangled manes and tails and moving pastures.

And saying goodbye.

We laid Brutus and Raven to rest on the same day and even though we both knew it had to be done it still hit me harder than I thought it would.

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Brutus in March this year.

Brutus, a bay Paint gelding we raised had injured himself years ago at a trainer’s and could never be ridden. His labored mobility had become difficult to watch and with a new worsening respiratory condition this spring we laid him to rest on the farm he was born on.

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Last June, Brutus is in the very center.

And then there was Raven.

A Fyfe Farm staple and Boss Mare for almost as long as I have known Alistair.

We bought her as a yearling in 1995 at a reduced price because of a hoof injury she had sustained that made her an un-rideable well-bred American Paint Horse broodmare.

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Raven and baby Shilo just a day or two old.

She produced some gentle, gorgeous, personality-laden foals over the years and was an exceptional Mama.

Raven never minded us being right in with her and the foals and each one has been fun and relatively easy to work with.

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Shilo goofing around with Alistair with Raven right there.

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Shilo, a little bit older, still enjoying being played with.

While she always had that misshapen rear hoof it never bothered her over the years. She really had a great life for a horse.

Never had a saddle on her.

Always top quality hay and big pastures to run around.

She had the herd’s respect.

And three of her foals stayed on the farm and became part of the herd.

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The ladies & their foals, they were the Magnificent Seven that spring. (Raven in the center with Shilo).

Last September we noticed a forelimb lameness that suddenly appeared. It didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse. During my trips back to Bismarck it became clear that she was struggling to get around and was dropping her weight and not shedding out well. One of the easiest keepers of the herd was starting to look tough.

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Shilo and Raven last June, clearly thriving.

So it was Time.

Raven sedated calmly near the rest of the herd before Alistair slowly led her to the area where we had buried Brutus just a couple of hours beforehand and she let me rub her a little before I gave her an intra-venous boat load of tranquilizers and she got stoned and wobbly and kept eating the rich, thick grass in front of her and then I injected the pink solution and I kissed her one last time.

And I choked up walking away as Alistair climbed up into the tractor again that day.

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Raven and Frankie, who grew to be the tallest horse on the farm.

The herd dynamic definitely changed that day. When we did vaccinations and deworming of the remaining 13, having to separate them in small groups, they all seemed more anxious and worked up to be apart from each other.

They whinnied, they nickered, they kicked up and ran around.

And now 2 are coming back to Montana this week with Alistair and UB because its time to get the pasture here gobbled up and hopefully it will be time for some riding.

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Most of the remaining herd.

And Alistair is healing, having good days and great days and Loki and Cleo are so tight with me its becoming difficult to walk around the house and I think that’s enough driving and uncertainty for awhile and I’m not sad because of what we had to do, I’m just sad because everyone and everything keeps getting older and I’m sad they are gone even though its the circle of life and everything has a cycle and I know that our second year of Attrition hasn’t been any easier than the first but I also know that’s how it goes and I’ll be damned if I bottle it up and develop Compassion Fatigue.

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Mother Nature wants us to have apples this year.

And there are so many wonderful things going on that make me want to smile right now. Happy Hubby. Garden. Loki (sleeping on my foot right now). Rain. Springtime.

While things occur that make me feel sad I’m still very happy, even if I have to pause when you ask how things are going. My head and heart have been kind of full lately.

Its what it is.

Its what’s up.

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UB, Cleo & I at our favorite rest stop along highway 200.

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Our blind little wonder heading out on her own trek at the rest stop.

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Many moons ago with Raven & Shilo (Katie in the background).

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Big Frankie and his mom.

Bye, Bye Boomer

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One week ago little Boomer took her last nap next to me before I helped her across the good old Rainbow Bridge.

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Mummy & Boom, just a couple of years ago

She was the subject of one of my very first blogs two years ago when I was having difficulty managing her hyperthyroidism and kidney failure but we found the right mix of meds and she had a good run for most of that time.

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Little Boomer a couple of months ago.

She had lost some weight and was becoming dehydrated (typical with older feline kidneys) so we started adding ice cubes to the water dish to encourage drinking. Most veterinarians will suggest the ice cube thing for older kitties. Cats are curious to the core and if they play with the cubes in the water to watch them  move or to hear them tinkle they usually end up drinking more, if not at least licking off their wet paws. Looking back, we had just lost her brother, Oscar and perhaps depression played a role in her health as well.

The ice cubes became an addiction for Boomer. When we would first get to the kitchen in the mornings we were meowed at for the ice cubes.

When it was close to supper time-ish, more meows.

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Ice cube junkie

The meows got louder and more demanding the more time passed but it was just one of those quirks we put up with because she was Boomer. And she was old and possibly starting to lose her marbles the past couple of months but still, the ice cubes weren’t a big deal.

We made little accommodations for our aging buddy because she had been a great cat for many years and it was easy to do.

Lots of expensive canned food to crush the pills in. More beds to lay around the house in. Watching wherever Loki went in hopes we could prevent her bonking into Boomer and possibly getting her eyes scratched (again). Combing her hair matts out when she reduced her personal grooming (and being watchful of those claws!)

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More ice cubes for Boomer

We did these things and more and Boomer just kept ticking along, prancing into the hallway bathroom where the guinea pigs used to be and leaping up onto our bed for bacon in the mornings.

Until a few things changed…

She started to develop a weakness in her legs. If we would reach down for a good head rub it would almost knock her over. More vocalization, and louder. Incessant sometimes with an almost frustrated-sound to it. Even less grooming and even more sleeping and, a few weeks ago, dragging her back feet at night.

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Our old ladies, Boomer & Cooper last spring

We shared glances at each other when she would just about topple over and we fed her treats on demand and her pills twice a day and she lost a bit more weight and became a lot more scruffy-looking and less tolerant and I had a long, teary chat with Boom-Boom and sometimes I had to check if she was still breathing and we had inner discussions and eventually out-loud conversations.

Which was when we decided it was Time.

Making the decision to end a long, good life is heavy. We agreed to do it last Saturday but we both avoided the topic, instead giving her little bits of chicken I cooked that night and suddenly it was Sunday. And we are health care providers who truly knew it was Time even though she didn’t have a terminal disease. Its not as if she was dying.

But she wasn’t really living, either.

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Boomer never missed a chance to get into an open cupboard!

I wonder how heavy that decision is for bad people.

For people who make plans to end a person’s life. To separate the body from the soul for all of eternity, leaving a lifeless vessel behind. To stop the incredible machine that is the cardiovascular system from working its tremendous pump that keeps a body’s life force flowing.

I wonder if they struggle with the choice. Do they rationalize their way out of it for a week or two? Or do they plan to do it Saturday and then before long its already Sunday?

I appreciate that bad people who do horrible things like that have their wiring mixed up or they are under some sort of influence that they can’t control.

Or they are immune to the weight because of the volume of times they have made that choice.

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Cooper, Boomer & Oscar a couple of years ago.

In our case, for all the right reasons, we sedated our 20 year old room-mate together and she quickly snuggled in next to me, resting her head on my leg as her last conscious act. Through tears and remarkably leathery skin I found the forearm vein that Alistair helped me hold off and just like that I stopped her heart and she looked at peace.

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Oh, Boomer!

Saying goodbye to Boomer wasn’t necessarily easier than poor Mouse, who was young and healthy until he was suddenly gravely ill. It wasn’t easier than having to rush to Harry’s side by myself when his splenic tumor terminally ruptured. None of these has been easy. It will never be easy.

 

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Boom and Coopie last spring. Not even bothering to pretend like they shouldn’t have been on the kitchen table. At least Boom’s reading material is acceptable.

But I can accept Boomer’s death more readily because she’s been on The List for 2 years and also because Alistair was with me and we made this decision together. For Boom.

And just like that we have 2 indoor cats and 2 barn kitties.

And there will be more changes in the weeks ahead because Calypso was diagnosed with his own cancer in November and each day truly is a gift.

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Bonjour!

He continues to romp and play and eat like a fiend and steal Loki’s kibbles and Alistair’s boot insoles so his story is for another time.

I miss seeing Boomer in any of the beds scattered throughout the house and in a funny way I miss her caterwauling at me to add ice cubes to the water dish. I sometimes reach for her pills, forgetting there is nobody to give them to and I smile.

Her spirit is likely curled up somewhere with Cooper and Oscar and she isn’t dragging her little white feet and her eyes are bright and her haircoat is glorious once again. She’s grooming, prancing and enjoying a good sunbeam and although my heart is sad its kind of happy, too.

RIP, Boom-Boom. A good life deserved a good death.

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Oscar & Boom….together from the womb for 18 years now reunited.

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Just another day for Cooper, Boomer and Oscy

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Love the look on Boomer’s face…”Seriously, you guys?”

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A young Gareth and young Boomer… these 2 were pretty tight.

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The 1-year old kitties with Alistair when we lived in Creston, BC. They had just transitioned to “inside” cats.

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xoxo, Boomer & Oscar Fyfe