Timing

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Working “the floor” at the realty office the other day

I know I’ve talked about timing and the various stages of our lives we find ourselves in. I’ve talked about beginnings and endings and I have shared my thoughts on every step in-between.

And I’ve shared many endings and how I have the ability to be a part of choosing the when’s and how’s of these events. I have had the chance to say a couple more goodbyes for clients and their families recently and while it is never an easy thing to do, I always try to make sure it is absolutely the right thing to do.

I’ve been lucky to share some fun and wonderful and maybe even silly beginnings- like the 3 Bee Gee Fyfe ferrets who brought mayhem and shenanigans back to the Fyfe house just about one year ago. Barry, Maurice and Andy make us laugh on a daily basis and I’m so happy to make you a part of the sunrise of their lives with us!

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The boys… if only there was some way they could tell me where Alistair was…

(Because goofing off with ferrets is absolutely the right thing to do!)

A few friends have had the opportunity to visit and play with this current trio-of-trouble. They were fascinated with baby Paige’s clothing, car seat and other baby acoutrements when we let them out during our celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving. Auntie Merielle’s recent photo shoots with them and their girlfriend, Fallon captured their unique and mischievous personalities one and all. And Barry clearly forgets the No Bite rule when houseguests like Joel and Jeanette stop by.

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Professor Higgins hanging out by the campfire pit with Jockey

It has been great sharing Professor Higgins and his journey onto the Fyfe Farms in ND and eventually here in Montana. He continues to be a delightful, squeaky little friend who leaps into the air for a scritch on his forehead whenever he sees you.

And now we have yet another potential new beginning in the works.

An intact, very friendly black tomcat has been hanging around and it doesn’t look like he has any plans on leaving.

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Out front a couple of evenings ago

We have both been able to pick him up and cuddle with him and last night we allowed him a little bit of living room time with us (we blocked off the rest of the house so he wouldn’t terrorize Sport, Bebe or the ferrets.)

He is extremely affectionate with his purrs and kneading of his paws and seems to really appreciate the cat food we provide for him.

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Lava on the coffee table last night

We’ve named him Lava and so far he is getting along with Jockey and Higgins. We aren’t sure if Lava has made it to the open barn during the day but we haven’t locked him up inside at night with the boys yet. I’d like to get him neutered before we do that.

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Lava doesn’t have any trouble cuddling with us

Its funny to think that we were contemplating a time without any pets a couple of years ago. I’m fairly certain most people who know us shook their heads and rolled their eyes when I suggested a pet-less Fyfe Farm but we had a rough couple of years during Attrition and our hearts were sore.

While I doubt we’ll ever be back up to 5 dogs, 3 ferrets, 2 guinea pigs and 8+ cats again it is fun getting to know the new fur babies as their suns rise on our world bringing brightness and warmth to our lives.

But that’s where the thoughts of Timing come back into play.

Because I fear it is twilight for a couple of our special friends.

Or maybe its even getting close to sunset for one of them.

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Bebe, getting in a few zzz’s right now.

This is where our sweetie, Bebe is right now as I type.

Its not unusual for any Fyfe kitty to be curled up in one of their cat beds on the warm heated floors but she is doing it more in different places.

Like in UB’s old dog kennel in the garage where there are towels and a soft blankie and the concrete floors are heated there, too. It is almost as if she is choosing to be away from the hustle & bustle of our daily routines.

Bebe was never an interactive cat (most of our houseguests of old have never even met her… she had the distinction of being seen scrambling to get away from strangers as they cried out, “there she is!”) but that changed after we lost Boomer a few years ago.

Bebe became a chatty, personable, quirky little companion with a penchant for Greenies who liked cuddling on the couch and sunbeaming whenever she could.

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Babs, Sport and I during Couch Time this fall

But she isn’t as into Couch Time the last few nights and she has lost more weight and both of us think twilight is upon her. She also isn’t as into her canned food that we dutifully provide every night.

She did, however, jump up on the bed the last 2 mornings to visit and cuddle and she still wants her Greenies. Just not the chicken flavored ones. I’m giving those ones to Lava, Jockey and Higgins right now.

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Exactly how are those Greenies getting down here?

Bebe. Babs. Fabulous Babulous. Lutefisk Babs.

She is going on 17 years and I did find what I thought was a cancerous growth in her mouth a few months ago so none of this is surprising.

Upsetting and sad but not surprising.

And she is not suffering at all. Everyone reading this knows my rules on that. As long as we’re eating, drinking, peeing & pooping and enjoying our lives pain free then we are good to go.

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Cleopatra… also still good to go.

Like Cleo, who is also in the twilight of her life.

Cleopatra is at least 15 years old, which is her first problem.

The spaniel who ran throughout the mountains of Montana for most of her life with her Lab, Husky and Bostonocker Sperrier buddies has rear legs that don’t do what they’re supposed to do some of the time now.

Well, maybe much of the time.

She also has canine cognitive dysfunction which basically means she’s losing her marbles.

It is endearing but there might come a time this winter when life is too confusing for her or those back legs just decide to give out altogether.

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Snoozing in bed a couple of weeks ago

Right now I can get her onto and off of the bed and she generally sleeps all night long (being completely deaf helps with that.) She still loves her kibbles and sliced cheese and the “Rimmies” are gobbled up for their taste as well as their anti-inflammatory benefits. And her tail wags in big circles when she prances down the hallway with her Daddy in the morning.

Our Southern Belle will hopefully be able to get through to her Mummy if Doctor Mummy isn’t able to. I guess I’ve always been able to talk myself to it and through it but I’m not looking forward to any goodbyes at this point.

The tears in my eyes and on my cheeks are what we were trying to avoid when we talked about a pet-less world.

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the Bee Gees, fluffed and buffed post-shower a few weeks ago

But there is less happiness and laughter in a pet-less world, at least on the Fyfe Farm.

(Or, Fyfe Farm for Wayward Pets… as Lava’s presence is reminding us.)

And who am I to prioritize less crying and heartache over cuddling with a purring warm kitty cat on a cold night or spooning with Cleo or Sport in bed or trying to bathe wiggling, seemingly spine-less creatures with pointy noses and sharp canine teeth?

I have shared with many clients over the years the importance of realizing that you will probably outlive your pet when you enter into a new relationship. And that’s okay. Its part of the deal.

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My Nan and Miss Cleo several years ago at my Dog Days of Summer

So hopefully we can provide a prolonged twilight for our girls right now and continue to enjoy the sunrise of Lava (with a little snip-snip in the near future!)

And we’ll continue to make sure to provide everything we can for our furry little buddies.

As good as we can for as long as we can, right?

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Oh, Fabulous Babulous! I love this picture of her!

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“Dude, is this leather or ‘pleather’?”

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Professor Higgins coming in for head butts with Daddy this past spring

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I’m not even going to go here. He’s purring on my lap as I type…. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Cats (and Unwed Mothers)

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Professor Higgins

I have visited this theme before over the past few years of writing this blog.

In our 25 years together, Alistair and I have shared our homes with, cared for, and loved 22 cats.

22. Cats.

I would have fallen over in laughter if you would have told me, as a kid, that I would someday be a Crazy Cat Lady but there you  have it.

I can’t blame being a veterinarian for how we ended up with so many feline Fyfe companions. Oh, sure, our cross-eyed, lilac-point Siamese senior, Mae Mae was a euthanasia-turned-hyperthyroid surrender but the majority of our cat buddies have settled into Fyfe Life through a variety of other means.

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Pretty little Mae Mae

Koshka, our first cat, was placed on my lap by a very young Gareth and Whitney back in 1995 and thus began my new life as a cat lover. Malchek joined her by just showing up at our house in Watford City and suddenly we were a “multiple cat household.”

Friends would have litters and we’d take one or two (or the entire litter) because we always had farmland and with farmland you always have mice. Besides, when you’re feeding 3 or 4 cats, what’s one more?

Back to Canada with Koshka, Malchek, Oscar, Boomer & Garter in 1996, then back to North Dakota with Oscar, Boomer, Chorney & Cooper in 1997.

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Cooper, Boom-Boom and Oscar a few years ago

We always suspected that our farm in Bismarck was/is a great place for drop-off kitties. Scruffy and sassy young Mulder arrived there out of the blue, just like our little Tuxedo cat, Jinxie did.

Mamma Cat showed up complete with a belly full of kitties but she actually hung around for a year and produced a second belly full of kitties. We had kept the first ones but managed to re-home all but one of the second litter.

Sport was actually given to us by one of Alistair’s nurses as her new husband was allergic. HRH Sporto even got to move to Saskatoon with Cooper and me for my four years of vet school!

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Drs Cory, Pat, Nate and Tan with our co-editor, Sport working on an edition of the TOOL newsletter in Saskatoon in 2004

So it was that Oscar, Boomer, Chorney, Cooper, Mulder, Sport, Jinx, Bebe, Hissy Phitt Georgia and Mouse made the move to our house in Montana at the very beginning of 2007. Of those, Sport, at 19, and Bebe, at 16 remain. (2015 and 2016 were two tough years we renamed Attrition… it was hard on the canine, ferret and guinea pig populations on the Fyfe Farm, too. Grab a box of Kleenex and go through some old blogs from back then if you have a hankering for a good cry.)

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Mulder in Bismarck back in the day

While we were moving from one sad departure to another during Attrition, we both had the silly notion that we were going to be animal-less for a few years.

We would be free to travel at a moment’s notice!

Imagine the money we’d save!

No more heartache!

Until Alistair was in the hot tub in Bismarck one night talking with me on the phone when a fairly well-fed tabby cat waltzed up to the tub and proceeded to mew at him. He continued mewing post-hot tub and then sauntered on into the house without much coaxing soon afterwards.

We called veterinary clinics, shelters and neighbors but nobody knew whose friendly cat this was so a couple of weeks later, Professor Higgins joined us here in Montana.

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Professor Higgins and I in the barn this winter.

Higgins stays outside with Jockey for now. Seasoned Crazy Cat Ladies know that its unwise to introduce new cats who have all of their claws to the senior cats who are minus their foreclaws.

And Santa Alistair re-introduced ferrets into Fyfe Life but if you’ve followed along here or on Facebook you already know that.

What got me going on this today is the new stray that has been hanging around our farm in Bismarck this spring and summer.

We’ve caught magical glimpses of him/her that are becoming more and more prolonged as time goes on because we’ve been providing dry and moist cat food for him/her since the spring.

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Last week- lingering longer and longer.

Basically, we don’t see the cat. I say “we” because I was back there this summer and I did see her through the window of our front door but it was fleeting at best. Primarily its Alistair doing the ground work to try to tame this little lion.

So he tries to keep a bowl of Science Diet dry food topped up in the barn where the kitty lives and a smaller bowl up by the front steps here plus he adds a tin of soft food daily which is how he’s trying to coax the stranger up to him.

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Someone really wants this fresh tin of soft food but someone knows Alistair is immediately behind the door….

Weeks ago the cat would never have come up this close knowing full well that the biped who provides the food (and dings the plate every single time hoping beyond hope for the eventual Pavlovian response that all of the Fyfe cats develop thanks to said dinging) is right behind the door.

Sometimes Alistair sits out on the step with the fresh tin of food and kitty (he calls him, Whitey…. I was hoping for Billy, or Billie if its female… you know, The Stranger… anyone? anyone?) is down by the barn watching him. He/she used to just run off at the sight of anyone but he is lingering more and more in hopes the biped will buzz off and let him eat his yummy tinned food alone.

This one night, though, Whitey decided the food was more important than fear or mistrust so Alistair got the best picture we have of our new friend yet!

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Whitey Fyfe?

As much of a big step as this was, it was nothing compared to what Whitey did only a couple of mornings later. Alistair went outside after a rainy night and found a present from our little red & white friend.

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A present from Whitey

Hey. This means they’re in a relationship, Alistair and Whitey.

I mean it. Cats don’t give presents to just anybody.

Kind of like that line in Dances With Wolves….  “Good. Trade.”

So it is that we remain Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Cats and Unwed Mothers. Hopefully Whitey will try to trust Alistair more and more and hopefully he will keep working on limiting the rodent population that grew ever since all the other Fyfe felines moved to Montana.

It would be great if he is already altered, like Jinx and Professor Higgins were, but maybe he’s a scruffy tough guy like Mulder who hasn’t had much human care.

Regardless, he has a warm, dry barn to hang out in as long as he would like and we’ll keep making sure he has food.

And we’ll keep you all posted on the felines of the Fyfe farms along the way.

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Sporto a couple of nights ago

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Bebe, our resident Sunbeamer

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Jockey enjoying the winter sun… possibly a relative of Whitey’s?

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Babs and Sport on my lap a few nights ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curious Case of Bebe Fyfe

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Fabulous Babulous…. sunbeaming again.

Most folks who visit the Fyfe Farm haven’t met Bebe, our mysterious feline companion. If she hears that doorbell ring or a voice in the house she disappears like magic and we won’t see her for at least 2 hours.

If the house guests are spending the night I won’t see her until its time for soft food when the guest room door is closed before bed. I don’t know where she re-appears from. Sometimes the garage, sometimes the boat, sometimes from behind the washing machine.

She’s been that way ever since Whitney and her friend brought her and her littermate, Cartman home in Bismarck. I had only told the kids about the litter of kittens down the road so they would slow down with their driving. Not because we needed 2 more cats.

 

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Bebe as a kitten

When Babs and Cartman joined us that brought our indoor collection of cats to 8, which is totally ridiculous and I think it might be partly why she is as shy as she is.

When you’re the youngest sibling in a household of older, well established sibs you probably don’t need to communicate much. Or interact, other than for basic necessities like eating & using the litter box.

Over the years she slowly packed on some weight and she just did her own thing.

She, like every other female Fyfe adored our big boy, Oscar, who was basically the king of the cats.

 

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Cooper, Boomer and Bebe snuggled in with Oscar

It wasn’t unusual to find any combination of the girls with him in one of the cat beds scattered throughout the house.

This went on for years.

Until we lost Oscar.

That was the beginning of the change in feline dynamics around here because Mulder was suddenly in charge. Until we lost him, too.

 

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You can imagine the dynamics when there are this many of you! And you can’t even see Sport and Cooper!

And everything changed as Attrition continued until, as of February, we had a house with 2 indoor cats and Babs is one of them.

Which is when we got to meet the real Bebe Fyfe.

Our quiet, not-so-little fan of sunbeams and soft food has become a Domesticated Indoor Cat.

 

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Shy, young Bebe many years ago

She meows at me to remind me that our morning routine has changed.

On top of letting the dogs out, feeding the dogs, cleaning the litter box, feeding Loki, getting Rimadyl for Loki, changing the water in the water dish, getting water to Luigi, and giving treats to Luigi as I clean his cage, I now have to give 3 Greenies treats to a somewhat demanding grey & white Domesticated Indoor Cat.

I mean, she’s cute about it but when did this all start? I didn’t even know she could meow!

Bebe now comes down to our bedroom on sleep-in mornings if we’re lazily watching Netflix while sipping our Kona coffee and joins us.

On. The. Bed.

 

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“What?”

And she purrs and cuddles and interacts as if she’s been a normal cat all of her life.

She’s also lost some weight, probably due to being more active around the house and outside as well. She’s much smaller than she was in the photo above, which was taken just after we lost Boomer in February.

Boomer and Bebe always cuddled in the cat beds but there must have been something about her that kept our strange little Bebe quiet all those years.

Bebe’s sole pastime for years (aside from sunbeaming) was staring at our freezers in the garage. When I had my clinic that’s where I would sadly bring home patients we’d lost who were going in for cremation. Bebe would make the strangest chirping sounds and tip her head from side to side while staring at the freezer. We just figured she was communicating with the spirits and we’ve been fine with that.

 

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“You don’t want me to exercise, do you?”

I don’t see her staring at the freezer much any more.

Maybe she was communicating with the spirits who were likely a bit confused about their situation. I know that every paw of every pet that I have held while they transitioned with their families by their side was ready to lay down and have a good, long nap. They may not have put that thought together but I have only ever said goodbye when it was necessary.

Never out of convenience.

I used to think that was an endearing quality that Bebe had and really, she did it with such regularity it was almost a bit freakish.

But it doesn’t happen now & that’s not because our freezer is empty. Mouse, Boomer, Calypso & Phillipa sadly are beneath Alistair’s treasured huckleberries right now. I think Bebe just knows that they understand where they are and their spirits are still right at home.

 

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Bebe & Sport waiting for Mummy to open the kitchen door a few days ago.

And her own spirit is blossoming as she grows into the Domesticated Indoor Cat that she is becoming.

And we like her chirping and meowing and visiting us throughout the house. I like seeing her and Loki sleeping closer and closer together on the bed. I love the feel of her clawless paws as she kneads my lap when she explores the land of lap-sitting. I like feeding her bits of bacon on sleep-in mornings although I suspect we won’t ever get to the Kiss Piece stage of domestication.

Its fun watching her explore our house- the living room with the warm wood stove and the snoring Boston Terrier snoozing in front of it; our bedroom with all of its windows and the big TV she likes to stare at; the computer room where I do all of my creating and Loki sleeps on my feet like she is now; and the outdoor world where she has even brought a couple of mice up that big old plank.

And I love sharing Fabulous Babulous with all of you!

 

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Just another day in a cat bed with Cooper & Oscar and Boomer wondering where she was going to fit.

 

Jacques and Bebe 2010

“Pleased to meet you, Jacques. I’m Bebe. Don’t chase me, okay?”

 

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The ultimate Sunbeamer.

 

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Just now, refusing to look at the camera. Oh, Bebe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Je t’aime, Phillipa. Je t’aime.

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Papa and Phillipa a couple of weeks ago

Last Monday didn’t go so well for me. I suppose it was worse for Phillipa because suddenly she couldn’t use her back legs very well.

Her rear limbs haven’t been working 100% for months now but even Sunday night she was scampering around, taking chewy treats from my fingers and trotting over to the water dish.

But Monday was a different story.

We were up & buzzing about getting ready for Alistair to hit the road to Bismarck a few days early so he could take care of a challenging fiberglass sliver embedded near a finger joint. While I have lidocaine and needles here the mere thought of blocking his hand with a 22 gauge tip was painful.

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Last month, bellying up to the bar (she liked the ice cubes).

It was a bit of a rushed morning and not really planned until his throbbing finger woke him up early so I wasn’t prepared to see Phillipa unable to go more than 3 steps without toppling over.

She also wouldn’t eat any chewy treats.

Not even the raisin ones. (There was always a “reason for raisin!”)

Nor would she lap the sticky, sweet-tasting calorie supplement off my finger but she did sip some water when I laid her in my lap.

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Back at the bowl earlier this summer.

She and Luigi spent much of the day cuddling in either their hammock or pirate ship but it looked like it was a challenge for her to navigate the tunnels and tubes of Quebec, their cage. She never vocalized at any time so by the time Alistair was in North Dakota I let her out on carpeted flooring to see if that would help.

It didn’t.

And it didn’t look like she was having fun anymore.

Alistair called from outside of Dickenson and he agreed it was Time. And he was so sad and sorry to not be with me to do what needed to be done.

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Phillipa cuddling with Luigi back in June.

He had left that morning knowing he would never see her cute little body wrapped around Luigi again. He would never feel something at his toes before she would tease him with a little chomp. And he would never get to pretend to be so surprised to “find” her in our hallway closet, her private little place she went almost every single time she was out and was obviously done playing with the boys.

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Peeking out from her Phillipa-cave in 2014

It never ceased to amaze us how she got underneath that door. The boys never could. Just Phillipa. She has the odd kibble she has hoarded along with a little fleece bed as well as our box of newspaper for the wood stove that she has torn up to make a little nest for herself. Its her private place where the big boys have never been able to get to. Not Jacques, Cousteau, Calypso or Luigi.

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“Peeking boo! Please keep the boys out, Mama!”

Phillipa lived through the loss of 3 of her boyfriends over her 7 years as a Fyfe and came through it all with dignity despite some signs of depression. Which is why another ferret would be added. She always seemed to thrive in the company of her boys.

Ferrets are incredibly emotional creatures and they truly do mourn the loss of housemates. Like all species, there are differences but most owners who have bonded with their pets can tell from behaviors and facial expressions how their little ones are feeling.

Which is why I knew what I had to do Monday night, not quite one week ago.

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Classic Phillipa.

Why I pre-medicated her and then let her cuddle up with Luigi for awhile as the drugs kicked in.

And then I sedated her but I’m pretty sure she didn’t even notice that. She gave in so quickly I felt as if her body was ready for some peace after such a fast-paced life.

And she laid, curled in my lap, blissfully unaware as my tears fell onto her body when I gave her the final injection.

And I kissed her one last time, which was more like 20 last times because you don’t want that kiss to actually be the last one.

A good life deserves a good death and even though I’m crying again I am honored to have been the one to give that to her.

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Never did figure out how she got on top of the freezer a couple of years ago…

And Luigi is doing very well. He hasn’t stopped eating or wanting to play and I’m giving him a bit more attention when he’s loose in the house. Luigi and Alistair bonded when he was just a kit before he came to Montana and he’s always seemed to be just as or more content with human companionship.

That’s not to say he wasn’t sad when we lost Calypso in March or now with Phillipa. I just think he has Luigi coping mechanisms that allow for a more gentle transition to being an only ferret in the house.

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Luigi, Calypso and Phillipa last year with Papa

He’s the Italian Stallion who has his Luigi song and he’s going to be fine.

And I’m going to be fine. Not right away but eventually. Even if I start tearing-up thinking about Phillipa in the bright red Octopus.

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“This thing ate my head!”

Or in Papa’s housecoat.

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They aren’t called ‘pocket pets’ for nothing!

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more housecoat shinanigans

I’m sorry to all of our friends who may feel some sadness, themselves, after having met our little Frenchwoman. The Fyfe Ferrets were terrific ambassadors for their quirky, spitfire of a species and they all have many fans.

But the sadness is great because the love has been great and I’m a richer woman for having had all of these spirits in my world.

And I’ve got my own coping mechanisms which include red wine, hot tubs and crying my eyes out and writing about the pain to let it out so it doesn’t build up inside of me and cuddling up with the dogs who seem a bit more clingy because they know I’m a bit more needy and loving up the kitties and talking with Alistair and scratching the horses. I’ve got my bling and my golf swing, too.

Here’s to losing your shoes when you come to visit us! I am fairly certain Luigi will keep up the tradition.

I can only imagine the hijinx going on across that Rainbow Bridge right now…

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Post shower a couple of years ago.

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An armful of ferrets… one of the only pics where all 4 are looking at the camera!

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Back in the day when we first brought our big albino boy, Cousteau home. 2013, I believe.

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Just a few weeks ago.

(Phillipa’s final bling-video prior to our August launch of La Vie en Rose and Petits Bijoux…. c’est magnifique. xo