And So It Goes

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Marmalade Fyfe

Well…

It finally happened.

Not that “it” was ever supposed to happen, but “it” happened once a couple of years ago and I thought we had everything worked-out so that “it” wouldn’t happen again.

But “it” did.

Thankfully, I wasn’t home.

I was in the close-knit, adorable community of Ovando during their annual Christmas-Fest which is held over the Thanksgiving weekend.

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In the Hoosgow of Ovando selling and signing books, enjoying Christmasfest!

 

I was selling and signing Lost and Found in Missing Lake, my debut novel.

In the jail.

Ovando is one of those towns or communities that has a lot of history but not a lot of tourism.

There are less than 200 full time residents (the head count includes dogs) but there is a wealth of uniqueness in this quirky town.

Like the Hoosgow, or jail, where I sold and signed books.

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You can actually bunk in the Hoosgow and local kids often do. Here it is decorated for the holidays!

My good friend, Jessi sold Walking Tacos (brilliant idea, I might add… chili and all the fixin’s tossed into a hand-held bag of nacho or taco chips) in the back and we listened to Christmas carols and laughed about the old days when she worked at my veterinary clinic and people came and people visited and some stood in line to talk with me and her hubby was home before being deployed and my hubby joined me for lunch and it was cold but we had heaters and I sold a few books!

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Cowboy Claus, the big arrival on his horse

And Cowboy Claus arrived on his slightly cantankerous pony who pawed the ground and rubbed half of his holiday gear off when Claus was giving out goodies to the kids in the museum next door.

And there were gun fights all day between a group of locals who got more and more animated the more Bailey’s or whiskey they drank.

In all, it was a fun way to spend a few hours on a Friday.

But that’s when “it” was going down at home.

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wee Cadbury with veggies this past spring

I will state for the record that we had never anticipated being guinea pig caretakers.

Ever.

Cats, horses, dogs, ferrets, maybe sheep and chickens but guinea pigs?

I didn’t know much about them other than a few things I remembered from vet school and Alistair had raised hamsters as a kid but they are a very different little animal.

 

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Alistair and Tres, our 1st guinea pig, in 2010

The local EMS crew had brought a plump, tri-colored guinea pig and a black-eyed, white ferret to my clinic one afternoon in 2010 saying they needed a home.

They had responded to a call for a non-responsive woman and when they lifted her they found the piggy.

Surprise!

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Tres Fyfe, her first day at home as we sorted through housing and bedding

So Tres (the piggy) and Jacques (named after Jacques Cousteau for all of his adventures we were sure our little fella must have had) became Fyfes.

Just like that.

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Jacques Boitano Cousteau Fyfe, 2010

We’d had ferrets before and still had our original cage but we needed to rig something up for Tres.

A veterinary classmate got me up to speed on nutrition and I read that the little creatures should have companions.

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Young Cadbury with her big buddy, Tres

Enter Cadbury.

The 2 piggies bonded and things were great!

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Cadbury and Tres adored each other

We got a sable ferret named Phillipe for Jacques as well.

At the time neither of us realized that Phillipe was a girl… ferret hoo hoo’s are pretty teensy and to be honest, I never looked. The pet store said she was a he and Phillipe lived a quasi-transgender life for her first year.

Nothing wrong with that but the ferret tales are for another time.

A couple of months later, Tres passed away so the obvious thing to do was get another companion guinea pig.

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Alistair and Marmalade

Enter Marmalade.

These 2 were supposed to be sisters but they never once cuddled in all their years together.

Nothing like Tres and Cadbury.

But they got their twice-daily fresh veggies: a bowl full of green leafy lettuce, celery, baby carrots, sliced cucumber, parsley and sometimes a grape.

They got their orange slices because guinea pigs can’t synthesize vitamin C.

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Fresh veggies and Cadbury from this past summer

And despite the eyeball-incident (see One Eye Watching You, my blog from early May 2014), they got a lot of love and attention.

Until “it” happened that cold Friday when I was in Ovando and Cowboy Claus’ pony was being naughty and Jessi’s dad was playing shoot-em-up in the gunfights and I saw former clients who bought my book and the stars aligned just right but for all the wrong reasons.

Who knew that our little mixed breed dog, UB, could open the ferret cage?

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“I just wanted to eat the ferret kibbies, Mummy. Honest!”

What followed once 2 of the ferrets got out will never be known.

Well, UB, Phillipa and Luigi know what went down but we never will.

The thing is, there were no wounds.

No punctures.

No blood.

Anywhere.

And no signs of life in our tubby, veggie-loving, whistling, scuttling, funny little guinea pigs.

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Luigi up top and Philipa on top of Calypso in the pirate ship

There were also no signs of battle on the ferrets so who knows if the piggies panicked and had massive heart attacks as the terrorists climbed into their pen?

The guinea pigs were 5 years old.

That’s getting up there.

The irony in all of this is that Calypso was still asleep in the pirate ship.

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Bonjour. Did I miss something?

The sole reason Cadbury had one eye had missed out on all of the action and never got to finish what he started.

And I’m fine with that.

To quote Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, “so there it is and there it was.”

“It” happened and there isn’t a damned thing we can do about it.

I’m not mad at UB.

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How could anyone be mad at this tender-hearted little soul?

I’m not mad at the ferrets.

I’m just sad and I miss my little friends who differentiated my walk from anyone else and would chirp, whistle and tweet whenever I came into the house.

Or the kitchen.

Or their bathroom.

So “The Girls” are in the freezer with an assortment of friends we haven’t made the emotional time to say goodbye to.

Mae Mae. Cousteau.

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Oscar. December, 2013

And Oscar.

Who is one of the reasons I wanted to write a blog in the first place when I realized, exactly one year ago, that I couldn’t save them all.

Not even my special furry friends who give as much love as they receive and who have been my companions for many years.

Or maybe just 5 years in the case of “The Girls”.

Not all of our goodbyes are well-planned in advance.

Some are just pure accidents.

Terribly tragic sequences of events that lead to an opened cage and a silent bathroom.

I won’t get over “it”. I don’t plan to.

I just have to move forward with the spirits who remain and the snow that keeps falling because that’s all I can do.

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Winter has hit Montana!

On a lighter note, we are finding plenty of uses for the leftover parsley.

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a work of art once you add parsley, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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