Milestones and Memories

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From our whale watching on Maui this past January

We just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary!

Talk about your milestones!

While I never had any doubt about our future together back in 1994 when I met Alistair, I know there were a few doubters.

I can’t blame them. I was 21 and he was divorced with a couple of kids.

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Eloping in Watford City, ND, 1996

As Sinead O’Conner sang, “how could I possibly know what I want when I was only 21?”

I guess I just did.

So we eloped on a day 2 of our best friends couldn’t come but they gave Alistair a couple of hours off from the pager and another friend could watch the kids and his nurse, who was a pastor at a strange church had the time to marry us and that was that.

19 years ago.

Of course we had the infamous skating wedding a couple of months later which included our families and friends and the 2 friends who missed the first one (on the left in the picture!) and a brave bridal party in spandex and on ice skates.

(The gentleman playing the bagpipes and our Justice of the Peace didn’t wear skates.)

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Photo op for the paparazzi

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Happy hubby and wifey, Sept.14th, 1996, Grand Forks arena

Getting married, whether its your first, second or third time is a major milestone in one’s life.

In fact, much of life is a series of milestones. What we make of them at the time, who came along for the ride, and how we look back on them is what frames us today.

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Alistair’s father, Alan, my groom, his ‘little’ brother, Ian and my dad back in 1994

My series of milestones themselves isn’t much different than anyone else’s although my timelines may have been shorter.

First job. First car. First kiss. First boyfriend. First breakup. First crying-on-the-phone-thinking-its-the-end-of-the-world-please-lets-not-break-up. First moment of realizing my own self worth. First apartment. First time juggling 2 jobs and college. First love. First engagement. First ice show. First time breaking someone else’s heart. First skating club of my very own. First boyfriend who shares your world view. First horse wreck and subsequent first broken bone. First time playing house. First step kids. First kitty and ferret. First grand theft auto. First marriage. First degree. First year vet school. First clinic of my own. First time getting 2 tractors and one truck stuck. First Dog Days of Summer. First trip to Hawaii. First time to stand up and make a choice with tremendous consequences for the community and the animals in your care because its the right thing to do. First swing of a golf club. First blog. First book.

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That fateful morning with Alistair & Lynn before the first swing of those borrowed golf clubs!

Every first is accompanied by anticipation, fear, excitement, worry, angst and questioning.

“What if I can’t hit the golf ball?” (I didn’t much of the time).

“What if I can’t care for a pet?” (No problemo).

“What if I can’t find anyone else to love me?” (I did. And its real.)

“What if people are mad at me?” (They might have been but then they were supportive when they saw me smiling brighter, looking healthier and happier than I had in years… and they bought my book.)

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Koshka, my first cat. xoxo

Having Alistair by my side through several of these milestones has certainly been a huge boost.

Its frightening making changes that affect yourself, let alone ones that affect several animals in your care or all of the animals in your community.

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Ah… Seeley Swan Veterinary…

Perhaps part of the reason we still like to wake up in the mornings together after so many years is because of our mutual respect for, and support of one another.

Its not like we instantly think each others’ ideas are wonderful or perfect.

Like when he wanted to get alpacas and llamas for packing in the mountains.

One milestone we didn’t need to get past.

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I actually quite like alpacas. It just don’t think we need any of our own.

Some milestones, like our anniversary, are fantastic, happy occasions that deserve celebration and recognition.

We played 18 holes of golf that afternoon and enjoyed a wonderful supper at beautiful Holland Lake Lodge that night.

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Enjoying a drink on the lawn in front of Holland Lake Lodge, one of our favorite places to hang out.

It was fun to dress up and visit with the owner and allow ourselves some special time together.

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Cleaned up not badly! So excited with my bling (www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe)

And then there are shared milestones you don’t want to even think about. The ones that don’t warrant any mention at all, let alone a fancy supper and a sparkly necklace.

Milestones that shape us no differently than the terrific ones because they still touch us and are still a part of our memories and who we are.

Like the one coming up with dear Cooper.

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Cooper-Cat, a few years ago with one of her many collected Garter snakes in Bismarck.

Cooper has been a Fyfe fixture for 19 years. She found our root cellar in Creston and moved right into our hearts and home.

She was an adult then so she is at least 20 years old.

At least.

I’ve asked her about her age but she’s always been coy about the subject.

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Cooper enjoying a snowy spring morning in Montana

So its no surprise to know we will be saying goodbye to her soon but it still sucks.

And makes those pesky tears well up in my eyes yet again.

2015 has been hard on our animal companions.

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Coopie and I just last year

And while her story is for another time, I must face the fact that our time together is coming to an end.

I will do all of the things I have counseled clients and friends to do- watch how much she is eating; monitor for signs of pain or discomfort; palpate; see if she still wants to do her usual things; watch for signs from the other cats.

And I know what she doesn’t have because I’m a good little scientist and I’ve ruled them out.

But I strive to be a good Mummy, too, which is why I’m going to have to talk to that damned vet inside of me very soon.

And make The Decision.

One more milestone.

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Happier things

Until then I will enjoy each day I have with Cooper and all of our aging companions at Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Pets and Unwed Mothers.

Each day is a gift.

And every opportunity to reach another milestone is a gift as well, regardless of how we choose to deal with it.

As with all of my milestones, they have made me the woman I am and I am richer for each and every one of them.

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It was carrot cake and it was yummy and I’m smiling at the memory! xo

Blirl-wind

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There is no other way to describe the past 4 weeks for me.

A whirlwind. A blur.

A blirlwind.

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Enjoying a real Canadian Caesar

In 4 weeks I have spent close to 50 hours on my ass driving or passengering. I’ve gone to British Columbia and back. I’ve gone to Bismarck and back. I’ve done several drives to Missoula and back.

UB and Loki did the big trips with me, charming every soul they met along the way.

Well, maybe not the new neighbor dogs in Bismarck just yet but they seem like nice dogs themselves.

I spent days in 3 time zones, attended 2 days of the Montana veterinary medical conference, played in a fun golf tournament as a last-minute sub and didn’t totally embarrass myself, made a Canada Day video with 2 of our ferrets that is worth friending me on facebook just to see and I even made my first birdie playing with Alistair here in Seeley Lake.

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Little girl last-minute subbing with the boys at a ridiculously fun golf tournament

We hosted friends from Australia on their own blirlwind vacation and did all-things-Montana in one day.

This includes:

Tanya’s Big Breakfast

Horseback Riding

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Ben, Cal on Jake, Alistair, Bax on Spyder and me

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Exploring the back forest in Steve, our Ranger.

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Susan and Bax in Steve!!

Canoeing on and swimming in Salmon Lake.

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Lewis & Clark and friend?

More pool. More wine. More vodka.

Steak supper at the coolest steakhouse around.

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Tabitha and I at Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse!

Maybe a bit more wine.

And a great bonfire with toasted marshmallows to cap off the busiest of days.

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wrapping up the day Montana-style

The very next day was the trek to Bismarck with UB and Loki. As we crossed the state line the smoke from fires up in Canada’s Northwest Territory filled the skies.

The fires in Canada are pretty bad this year, owing to some drought-like conditions in the northern regions.

We are faring a bit better in Montana thanks to the late heavy rains we had in the spring.

Nobody in Montana complains much about late snow and rain.

Or, they might, but they don’t mean it.

We lived through the nation’s worst fire the first summer we moved here.

Where highways had tanks and National Guardsmen letting people in to check their homes and then get back out of the evacuation zone.

Where the smell of smoke permeated our homes, our clothes, our pets, our cars.

Where everything important was packed in bags and cat and dog crates lined every hallway in case we had to leave in an instant… we take fire season and its rules pretty seriously.

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Our Bismarck garden

Back in Bismarck I got to help tend our lovely little garden that my husband diligently plans each year.

The soil is amazing. Its rich and moist and almost black. It is life in a tangible form.

Something to be said about 10-year-old topsoil thanks to our beautiful herd there.

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Shilo, Fumie, their mom, Raven and Katie in Bismarck

We dined at some of our favorite restaurants and once again marveled at the growth and vibrancy of the capital city of one of the busiest states in the nation.

A new supermarket and impressive-looking high school are going up close to our farm in addition to a Bed, Bath & Beyond and rumors of a Costco.

Loki was exhausted after a couple of days of remembering things with her nose and ears. She ran around with a confidence ill-suited to a blind dog but UB, Gampy and I made sure to keep her in check.

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Loki snooze

The first step in my need for dental crowns occurred.

I haven’t had dental work done since I was a kid so it was a bit strange but it went well. My rubber tongue and slippery cheeks went away in time for us to hit the East 40 steakhouse that night.

Its odd to think that I’m at an age now where I might have things in my body that are fake.

Like these 2 temporary crowns.

They are the only fake things about me.

The only things that my DNA didn’t code for- things I didn’t begin my journey with.

Granted, I’m missing my tonsils but its not like they put fake ones in their place.

When did the warranty on my body start running out?

I didn’t have much time to ponder this as we were busy attending a beautiful outdoor wedding on the 12th of July.

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Lovely wedding party with the groom, Ben, waiting for his bride, Rebecca

It was a pretty hip, relaxed ceremony. The pastor told the congregation we all sounded like a “bunch of white people”. He was right so we chimed in with musical quotes he threw at us and all cheered as if we were at a hockey game.

Rebecca was radiant.

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Our good friend, Brad and his daughter Rebecca

I’ve known her since she was a little girl.

Her parents were part of the team that introduced Alistair and I back in 1994.

I coached young Rebecca and she was my Tinkerbell one season and we’ve watched her grow up into an outstanding young woman. She seems to have found an equally cool partner in Ben.

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Rebecca and Ben taking a moment to pose with me

It all came full-circle because the 12th of July is the day that Alistair and I eloped 18 years ago in Watford City.

Eighteen. Years.

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18 years ago… Gareth, Alistair and I

He was on call but they let him turn the pager off for 2 hours.

We got a couple of bouquets made for Whitney and I, arranged for our friend, Gretchen to take the kids for a couple of hours afterwards, called a friend in from the rodeo where her husband was the emcee and her daughter was barrel racing and we eloped.

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Whitney, Alistair and I when we eloped 18 years ago

18 years is something.

I can’t quite believe its been that long. Its been a crazy, fun, amazing, hilarious, love-filled journey.

I wasn’t a veterinarian then.

We didn’t play golf back then.

We had 2 cats, 1 dog and 1 ferret, as well as about 10 horses, not to mention 2 young kids.

It was wonderful to share our special, private day with Rebecca and Ben and their families.

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Our old friends, Star and Maggie

Rebecca’s parents now have Star and Maggie and we quickly visited them, too. Star was Alistair’s Arabian stallion when I first met him. Maggie is Star’s Pinto grand-daughter.

Full circle, once again.

I’m not a nostalgic person by nature but having this time right now and the most amazing of house/pet sitters in Lynn and Jessi and Carson, I was able to reconnect with special people.

Connecting in ways that facebook doesn’t allow… like a real hug from a real friend.

Merielle, Anna, Susan, Uncle Pete, Aunty Wendy, Brad, Janet, Rebecca, Dallas, Anne, Luba, Mom, Dad and Nan…. special people who shared their parents, partners and pets with me…. Edna, Mike, Angel, Chelsea, Chelsea’s mom, Porter, Peaches, Michael, Donna, Calypso, Ben, Cal, Bax and Tabitha.

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Susan and I… we spent one week together as teenagers at the Terry Fox Youth Center with Encounters with Canada and have been lifelong friends ever since.

A blirlwind.

But I’m back home and back on the golf course and I’ve watched Alistair leave once more for Bismarck.

By plane this time.

Which is as unnerving as watching him drive down the driveway.

For 7 years I’ve watched him leave, knowing I’ll see him again in 2 weeks.

But you never really know, right?

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Alistair, doing what we do

A passenger plane is shot down over the Ukraine and nobody is talking about it.

You never know.

The fact we appreciate the fleetingness of time, particularly as medical doctors, is maybe why we put so much attention on living in the Now.

We go to Hawaii, we get golf memberships, we buy Steve and Norman to make our adventures that much more fun.

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Making the most of each day. Double Arrow Golf Course

We enjoy big breakfasts and wonderful suppers and wine and scotch in the hot tub in the evening. We play with the animals and laugh and sing and make videos with them.

We get outside to ride, canoe, bonfire, hike or play golf as much as we can because you never really know.

Maybe that’s part of why we’re still able to laugh and love after 20 years together.

My marriage. My adventures. My life. My blirlwind.

 

Derby Day! (Or, One Eye Watching You…)

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Derby Day!

The 140th running of the Kentucky Derby will sweep me & my imagination away to join the crazy-hatted ladies and mint julep drinkers at Churchill Downs.

I tried to accessorize my hat but it just didn’t pan out:

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We aren’t really connected to the horse racing world but its fun to pretend.

I did a rotation in vet school where we spent a week working with the track horses and their very quirky caretakers.

And we have owned several former racehorses- Blaze, Willow, Daisy and Katie. Katie is the only one of the speedy gang left now but when we brought her home, she and Blaze raced each other up and down the fence line for weeks.

Those two loved to run.

But Derby Day is a different sort of anniversary here on the Fyfe Farm.

It has been two years since I experienced horror, shock, fear, grief and shame on this very day.

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Fright I didn’t know I had in me.

Horror… which is saying something for a veterinarian.

Shock, because this sort of thing just doesn’t happen.

Shame. I carry it with me to this day.

I learned, two years ago, on Derby Day, that not all ferrets get along with all guinea pigs.

Some ferrets want to eat them.

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Enter Calypso, who had just moved in with us a few months prior. He’s an adorable cinnamon ferret who came to end Phillipa’s heartbreak at losing her second boyfriend, Cousteau.

(Yes, these two and their predecessors were French, and, yes, they speak with French accents.)

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Phillipa had been with us for two years already and had never made a move on the Guinea Pigs. Mind you, I generally always kept the door to the pigs’ room closed.

Until that particular Derby Day, when I was thinking of fast horses, sipping wine, missing Alistair, missing Blaze, having a shower to clean up for the run, and letting the ferrets out for a romp.

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I didn’t remember to shut the door.

Guinea Pigs make six recognizable, distinct sounds. That day, I heard a seventh.

Shrieking like I had never heard. Screaming from the tops of their tiny lungs with absolute, unmistakable, blood-curdling fear.

As the ponies were running for the roses I ran into that bathroom to find cute, pleasant, petite Phillipa holding onto Marmalade, who had puncture wounds on her little orange head.

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I grabbed Phillipa as quickly as I could, figuring she was trying to kill the little piggy and locked her back in the ferret den (aka “Quebec”).

I ran back to the bathroom to check on The Girls. That’s when my heart really sank and I started to freak out.

Our cute, chocolate, caramel and white piggy, Cadbury, was in her little ‘house’… the interior of which was covered in blood.

So was Cadbury. Shivering, quivering, shaking, burbling, bleeding Cadbury.

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And her right eyeball was hanging out.

Yeah, its gross, but there you have it.

I started saying, “No, no, no” over and over. I was shaking, realizing I was unequipped to deal with the situation.

I’m a veterinarian but I am not an exotics specialist who knows how to deal with a Guinea Pig in shock with massive blood loss and a hanging-out-eyeball.

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Guinea Pigs have a ‘venous plexus’ (lots of blood vessels) in their eye socket. I guess that’s where Calypso chomped down. He also chomped her in other areas, leading to a broken nose and many wounds all over her chubby little body.

So I did the only thing I knew how to do.

I held her. For a long time.

I told Cadbury that I loved her and that I would do whatever I needed to do. (Marmalade was moving around and not bleeding anywhere, much less injured than her sister.)

At some point during all of this, Calypso sheepishly sauntered into the bathroom, his chin, chest, abdomen and paws also covered in blood. Not his, of course.

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“Oh, my,” he exclaimed, “I have no clue what happened in here.”

Yeah, right. Asshole.

(I will add now that I absolutely love ferrets and this blog is in no way suggesting that you shouldn’t own one because you should! You just shouldn’t let them out when you forget to shut the door to the piggies.)

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As luck would have it, my new textbook on Exotic Animal medicine had arrived a few days prior. Talk about an upturn in my exotic animal learning curve.

Cadbury wouldn’t let me touch the, er… eyeball, which, to be honest, was fine. It creeped me out.

I cleaned their wounds and whipped into town to my clinic to grab some piggy-appropriate antibiotics (go, Baytril!) and anti-inflammatories (yay, Metacam!)

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I called the emergency vets in Missoula who admitted to having as much knowledge as I had.

So I winged it.

I hand-fed Cadbury, making sure she was eating her veggies- lettuce, parsley, carrots, and cucumbers. Sitting in my lap she would reach for and eagerly take each piece, one by one, which gave me hope.

I drove home at lunch every day for a week, telling nobody other than Alistair and my staff what had happened.

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Morning and night I syringed the medications into both of them (no small feat- those mouths are tiny!)

I hand fed. I told them I loved them.

I could never get a hold of that dangling black, dry, horrific-looking, deflated eyeball but the other wounds all began to heal.

Alistair made it back from ND the following week. He was upset to see our little girls so chewed up. He was amazed they were alive.

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And then, one morning, Cadbury was chirping again. Whistling and scooting around their little pen, much more active than she’d been since the attack.

Her eyeball had fallen off!

And she was excited!

Not something I wanted to post on facebook, you understand, but I, too, was ecstatic!

Now my little one-eyed wonder is back to normal with her red-headed buddy. They whistle, they chirp, they say ‘booda booda’ and ‘voot voot’. They call to me when they hear me open the refrigerator if its around the time of day they get their fresh veggies. They call to me when I walk past their bathroom, differentiating my walk from everyone else’s.

I talk with them all of the time, just like I did this morning, sharing that I would be sharing their story and the significance of the Kentucky Derby.

Guinea Pigs aren’t the most interactive pets but our girls certainly have a relationship with me.

I’ve never blamed the ferrets. The whole thing was my fault.

I live with that better than I might have because Cadbury lived.

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Calypso learned all about karma himself but that’s for another time.

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Where there is life, there is hope.

Like with blind Loki, I wasn’t going to give up on Cadbury.

Even with the dangling eyeball.

For today, I will clean up for the run at Churchill Downs and hope for fast, healthy horses and solid ground.

And maybe tonight, my whistling, tweeting, one- and two-eyed Guinea Pigs will get an extra piece of celery and a few more sprigs of parsley.

And I will tell them I love them.

Which I think they know, but its always nice to hear.

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