Clee Clee

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Clee Clee

Well.

I knew it was coming. Hell, I told you all it was coming.

And yet, part of me still wasn’t ready for what went down on the Fyfe Farm yesterday morning.

But it wasn’t about me at that point.

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Cleopatra (last year)

I helped our sweet, fuzzy Springer Spaniel, Cleo across the Rainbow Bridge.

It was Time.

And there really was no question about it, even though I would have loved for Alistair to have enjoyed the world with her in it one more time. For that matter, I would have much preferred if he was here with me as I laid in the living room by the wood stove with her.

Sometimes the question of ‘when’ is more challenging and it certainly has been over the years with a couple of the pets but yesterday when Cleo cried out when I helped her to her feet for her morning piddles and then kept crying when I tried to help her walk using a towel under her belly I knew things had changed dramatically.

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In bed a few weeks ago

She had run up to the house when I brought her in the evening before and she pranced around grabbing up the cat food dishes like always. She went outside before bed and everything was as normal as it had been for our aging canine companion.

I mean, normal has changed a lot the last several months if not years.

Cleo was almost 17 years old, as far as we know. That was her first problem.

She was also completely deaf, was beginning to lose her eyesight, had arthritis and back legs that just didn’t do what they were supposed to, and had a heart murmur that almost rivalled Loki’s.

Well, no… you could hear Loki’s murmur from across the bed.

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the Queen of heart murmurs, Loki (2017) with Cleo

I think Cleo’s murmur is what kept her from wanting to go on our long walks, or even the first-length-of-the-driveway walks the past couple of weeks.

My attitude had remained, though, that if she was eating & drinking, peeing & pooping, and wagging her bushy tail at us then who was I to step in? We had her on anti-inflammatories for her old body and we helped her onto the couch or our bed and things seemed to be going along just fine.

Until Friday morning.

She did eventually go out and managed to piddle in the snow but once she came back in she didn’t bother with her kitchen routine or anything she usually did.

She laid/fell down and remained there for what turned out to be the rest of her life.

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“I think I’m done with this body now, Mummy. I’ve used it all up.”

I called her Daddy in North Dakota and we talked and I gave her her Rimadyl and she ate it right up. I laid down next to her and spooned her like we’ve done for so many years together with my left arm draped over her side.

And I got up and cleaned the cat litter and put the cat food dish down and emailed Lynnie and lost my shit completely and got dressed and looked out at the blizzard and got a pillow and laid back down with Cleo again.

She slept a little bit but she never, ever tried to get up again.

She never thumped her tail.

She was basically done with her ancient canine body and definitely gave me a “look” the one time she lifted her head and sort of sat in a semi-sternal position when I was sitting in front of her.

Okee dokee, then.

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Helping stack the wood the last time her Daddy was here.

Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe was as stubborn as she was beautiful and charming. Once her mind was made up, that was it.

I called Alistair one more time to let him know I was going ahead and he heard me blubber a little bit as I signed off. I had already brought my little bag of tricks into the living room and after some more cuddling Doctor Mummy gave Cleo her sedative.

I swear it took less than a minute for her to be completely out. She was ready for a much deserved long rest.

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Cleo’s “square face” look at one of the Dog Days of Summer. Classic.

Cleo had many great adventures in her however many years on the planet as a Fyfe. For starters, she lived most of those years in Montana, which is a dog’s dreamland.

We hiked and roamed the US Forest Service behind our house for miles and miles with her buddies. Casey would usually stick with Harry. Harry would sometimes take off after UB. Cleo generally did her own thing, digging holes, burying things, occasionally finding her own deer shed or two.

She Furry Scurried and entered Agility trials and the Dog Show at the annual Dog Days of Summer and she was a regular guest at the veterinary clinic because she loved her Lynnie and she was a very good dog when she was there.

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Lynnie and Cleo at the clinic

She also got to see Fireman Frank and her favorite delivery man, Matt sometimes when she came to the clinic. She even surprised all of us when she leapt up into the big brown UPS truck when Matt left the door open one time.

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“C’mon, Matt, just let me drive around town for a few blocks, okay?”

Cleo generally roamed the clinic freely during the day- a clinic dog as opposed to a clinic cat. When a client brought her squirming, squeaking, teensy box full of Schipperke puppies and put them on the examining table Cleo stood up on her back legs and had a look of wonderment on her face. Maternal instinct? Perhaps. She did lick our guinea pig, Cadbury until she was soaking wet when she got into their room one time. (The alternate theory is that she was trying to taste her.)

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Earlier this year, our snow spaniel

Cleo travelled well and eagerly jumped into our vehicles when it was time for a road trip. She seemed quite content for the 10 or 11 hours it took us to drive to Bismarck with UB and Loki on board, too.

If I was alone with all 3 of them it was probably hilarious watching me handle them on leashes when we stopped for piddle breaks. Fyfe dogs generally don’t know how to walk on leashes (although Cleo turned it on during the Furry Scurry walkathons. Casey… not so much.) (Don’t ask my dad about that.)

Before long Cleo would be wrapped around UB while UB was wrapped around my legs. It was an effort to keep them from banging into blind Loki during those rest stops but we always survived and off we would go back onto the road again.

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Back in Bismarck in 2017

All of these memories and so many more were in my mind as I spooned her again as she sedated.

I told her all of the things that needed to be said.

I told her that she was loved.

That we were the lucky ones when she showed off all her tricks at my first veterinary clinic right out of vet school in 2005 when she was brought in to be put down by Animal Control after they found her because she was aggressive. (Brilliant, yes. Aggressive? No.)

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“Wanna run around in the leaves with me, Mummy?”

I told her Uncle Gary and Aunty Dona were hoping to see her again and that she would happy to know I got those unsightly matts off of Bebe’s back leg. I told her how happy she made all of our house guests from Uncle Danny’s kids to Aunty Merielle and that she was a most excellent hiking companion.

And a flood of memories of us berry picking or riding with UB in Steve or digging for Easter Bunnies filled my hearts and a flood of tears that came from my very soul gushed out of my eyes and onto the carpet and pillow behind her head.

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Our dog kennel was very full 

And I pictured her gang greeting her again across the Rainbow Bridge with youthful bodies that matched their fabulous spirits.

UB would be first, most likely. He would race up to her and they would leap and jump in their spaniel way and he wouldn’t cough at all because his lungs are clear now and her legs are strong again.

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UB Fyfe (not my picture)

Then Loki would come crashing in but not because she was blind anymore. Cleo would most likely comment on Loki’s nice eyes and the 3 members of my little “black and white gang” who followed me around for 2 full years together would have a moment of their own.

Until Casey would literally crash in because he did everything at 150 mph and his laryngeal folds would be totally fine so there would be no raspy breathing or hacking. Harry, of course, would be spinning Louies in his extreme excitement at seeing the beautiful Princess once again. I wondered if he would pee on her head again but you know, he still is Harry.

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Oh, Harry

These thoughts make me happy despite feeling empty inside. Even though it was the absolute necessary and correct thing to do for miss Cleo. Even though her body was done.

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Ranger Riding in Steve for an Easter picnic several years ago

The routine is different.

I didn’t go and get her after the ferrets had been put back to bed last night. I didn’t make a point to get up and let her out this morning.

And right now, as the daylight is darkening, I’m not thinking, “Gee, I need to get Cleo out for a walk and get her and the barn kitties fed.”

Well, no, actually. I did think that as I was typing a few minutes ago. I keep thinking there is something I have to do.

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Back in Bismarck with Daddy in 2015

No.

I already did what had to be done.

And Cleopatra is at peace. And you know what? So are we.

I’m glad it was on my shift at  home and not Alistair’s by himself or one of our Jessica or Lynn house-sitters.

I’m glad we didn’t have company.

And as glad as I am to have the skill set that I have that allowed me to neuter D’embe last week, I’m glad Cleo could continue to lay where her body told her to.

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“What do you think we should do now, Jockey?”

Her lilting southern accent and slight lisp will still talk to us just as much as Spirit of Loki and Spirit of UB do and I’m already able to laugh at some of the goofy stuff she would do.

Like the bloody “mouse” she had in her mouth that turned out to NOT be a mouse or when she, Harry and Casey were getting to know each other (“There will be NO GANG BANGS on the FYFE FARM!”) or the time she kept trying to shove my head under water in the hot tub. Walks with Angie and Kali make me smile and seeing her snuggle up with Alistair when she first came onto our farm or watching her love up on all of the barn kitties are precious memories.

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Before we moved to Montana

Indeed, we were the lucky ones when she chose to stick around and join our motley crew of misfits.

You are in our hearts forever, miss Cleo. Clee Clee. Cleopatra-siz.

RIP, old friend. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

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the hot tub incident a few years ago

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Dog Days of Summer 2012, I think

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Getting ready for our first 4th of July parade!

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Cleo & her Daddy loved Ranger Riding in Steve (2008)

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Family Photo at Dog Days (Harry found these events a tad stressful so he stayed home) (Gary Kyrouac’s photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forever Plus, Mouse

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King of the barn cats, Mouse, lounging around the back deck a couple of summers ago

2015 has been a difficult year to fathom on the Fyfe Farm.

I mean, we aren’t stupid. We’re both medical doctors and we knew that we had a lot of aging animal companions. We also knew that several had already passed their expiration date and some had medical issues so it was no surprise that the Year of Attrition began as soon as the New Year did.

There we were in January losing Harry, who was at least 13.

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Harry Fyfe

 

And then Mulder surprised us in February by having cutaneous lymphoma and leaving us around the age of 17.

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Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe

And while those two deaths tore chunks out of our hearts and they weren’t really expected we were able to rationalize them because both of them were senior citizens.

Attrition took the month of March off but hit us hard again in April when Casey finally succumbed to his laryngeal paralysis.

At least he was older. At least he was on The List.

How screwed up is it that I tell myself these things?

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Dad & Casey’s last hike together

That I try to compartmentalize my grief so that it can maybe fit into nice, neat little boxes. It isn’t to minimize my grief.

Maybe its to allow myself to let it all out.

But Attrition took a break again and we Hawaii-ed, we golfed, we reunioned, we grew gardens, we laughed, I sold bling, I blogged, we made plans, we medicated pets and more of 2015 passed.

We watched Cooper lose weight and move around slower and sleep more.

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Cooper… aging before our eyes earlier this year

Our noble stallion, Dash was having trouble with his breathing and he had started to look a bit rough so in the middle of summer we said goodbye to them both.

But even those losses made a bit of sense because they had both aged before our eyes.

Both of them were over 20 years old and both had lived wonderful lives on the Fyfe Farm, just like Casey, Mulder and Harry had.

So the farewells were tragic and we both cried and our hearts got torn up just a little more but it still made some sort of sense.

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Mouse always followed me around the farm, helping me with whatever chore I was doing or mess I had created for myself.

And while we didn’t forget about the Year of Attrition, we were able to put it on the back burner.

We golfed some more and we helped bale hay and I finished writing and we all edited.

We ate, we drank, I slung more bling, Alistair saw patients, we Hawaii-ed once more and we knew The List was there but Boomer and Loki continued to do well.

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Mornings with Mouse

And I sat almost every single morning when Alistair was in Bismarck for 15 to 20 minutes out front on our wooden bench with the barn cats, Mouse and Jockey.

We have done this for the 8 years we have lived here.

It has been one of the most special moments of my day and for 8 years I have told them that.

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Mouse & his sister, Georgia in the barn

I go down to the barn and Mouse comes leaping out and we go and sit up at the house together whether its sunny, raining, frigid or hot.

I told them every day how much I loved them and how it was important to sort my day’s activities out together.

I’d tell Mouse that I would love him forever and he would me ask me in his squeaky voice, “And then what?”

Then I would laugh to myself (and maybe you’re laughing because you know damned well this actually happens up here) and tell him I’d love him “Forever Plus”.

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Jockey & Mouse, our big boys this summer.

Mouse and Jockey helped me with everything around the farm. Even just last week Mouse was helping me Walk & Talk with Loki. He would head-butt her and she would sniff him and things were normal up here.

Mouse was everyone’s friend. He didn’t care if you were a dog, cat or human. I think he saw us all as spirits he lived with.

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Harry & Mouse in January, just days before we lost our husky

When Harry laid down and I sedated him in the barn it was Mouse who comforted him. He head-butted his big wolf-like buddy and curled in with him throughout the rest of the sad procedure.

Mouse’s head butts could knock you off balance. At 10 1/2 years old he was at the prime of his life.

He and Georgia are 2 of the only Fyfe pets whose ages we actually know because they were born in our barn in Bismarck the summer I graduated from veterinary school.

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The boy kitties, Mouse, Hissy Phitt and Dogget back in Bismarck

Hissy and Mouse were pretty close and they moved to Montana with me at first.

And we walked and we talked and we played with the dogs and they head-butted Dash and they climbed fences and killed vermin and we sat outside on that bench when Daddy was gone and life was good.

Until a resident mountain lion took Hissy and little Jinxie from us.

Mouse mourned the loss of his feline companions with me as I sat and bawled my eyes out.

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Hissy Phitt a few years ago hanging around the stallion pen visiting Dash

But I could compartmentalize that particular tragedy because we chose to live in the mountains with the wildlife that had been here first. We just made adaptations and the barn cats have been in the garage every night ever since.

Mouse was just everywhere as long as we were with him.

Feeding horses. Mowing Lawns. Splitting wood. Stacking wood. Carting it over to the house.

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Mouse helping me outside on the stallion fenceline

He even helped me split wood and haul it to the house just over a week ago, before Alistair got back from Bismarck.

And then he was fine after that, prancing up to the house in the snow, eager for head-butts, seeing what he could do to help and leaping up into our arms if we bent down.

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Mouse telling me what a great golfer I was last summer

So when Alistair said, “Hon, Mouse has something going on. He is limping on a back leg” exactly one week ago I didn’t panic.

He was never on The List.

Sure enough he seemed a bit wobbly but he gobbled up his nightly soft food and there were no obvious swellings or scabs. His pupils were wonky, though which I tucked in my Doctor Mummy mind for later.

Like, Monday morning when he was more lethargic without a fever. One pupil was big and one was small and Georgia was on top of him, knowing he wasn’t quite right.

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Last winter, a bobcat-wanna-be

Our internal medicine veterinarian friend in Missoula heard the confusion in my voice and fit us in that morning.

The ultrasound showed what couldn’t be but what was confirmed with aspirates.

Internal Lymphoma.

Everywhere.

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Enjoying the seasons with Mouse

Mouse lived until we decided he wasn’t really living and we said our last goodbye and kissed our last kisses on Wednesday with Jockey grooming his buddy’s forehead as he sedated.

I’m a bit of a mess over this because he is one of the youngest Fyfes and because he was SO healthy and vibrant and because he wasn’t on The List and because I’m so sick of Attrition.

There is no category for this one to put it into to make sense of it and I just have to suck it up and live in a world without Mouse.

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Mouse & Mummy on the bench together back in 2010

On Thanksgiving I was thankful that we had a diagnosis and that Alistair was home with me.

I was thankful that Georgia and Jockey got a few more days to lay with their bestie in the hay bales as we all wrapped our minds around losing Mouse.

I am thankful that scraggly Mama Cat had her kitties in our barn and that Mouse was my outdoor shadow the 8 years we have lived here and that my heart is more full, despite the gaping hole his loss has torn from it, because he lived his life with gusto and affection and head-butts and style.

Good-bye, sweet Mouse. I’ll love you Forever Plus. xo

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Alistair getting in some good bonding time late this past spring with Mouse & Jockey

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Full-on head-butt action from Mouse in February

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Mouse would convince me I needed to sit down and relax with him over the years

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Oh, Mouse!