Fall colors on our local golf course just off the 16th green

Its been a few weeks since I last blogged.

Its cool at night and the mountain world we live in is awash with crimson, gold and brilliant amber.

The smoke is gone and most of us aren’t living with the fear that the next lightning strike could be The One.


Outside of Lincoln, MT on my most-recent road trip.

My silence in the blogosphere wasn’t intended.

I just haven’t had time.

I went to Bismarck twice in September which is a ten or eleven-hour haul one-way.


Cruising through Great Falls, MT!

The first trip back was for a wedding in our old community of Watford City. The bride was radiant, the ceremony was lovely and the reception was fantastic.


Showgirls! The beautiful bride, Kira was in my Tiny Tot skating class back in 1997 and toured with Disney On Ice. I’m so proud she can blame me for this corruption!

A great part about the day was exploring highways, houses, ice rinks and medical clinics in towns we used to live in.

We reminisced together about people we knew and adventures we shared in Hazen, Beulah and Watford City.


Our former home in Hazen, ND


Alistair’s former clinic in Beulah, ND


Our ice rink (brrrrr!) in Hazen where Alistair drove the Zamboni, we co-coached high school hockey and I taught power and figure skating.

We joked during the drive about names and faces we may or may not remember. Who would be at the wedding and what their spouse’s name was. How the town of Watford City, the heartbeat of the oil patch, had changed and what incredible developments had taken place since we left in 1997. How so many license plates were not from North Dakota anymore.


Our former home in Watford City, ND. We couldn’t give it away when we moved!

When we first moved there in 1994, we were as foreign as it got being from Canada.

Now Watford City is a melting pot of cultures, colors and beliefs.

While so much within the town itself has changed, it was wonderful that our relationships with great friends had not.


Alistair & I with Corey, one of our Junior Gold hockey players from the late 90s!


Alistair and Gretchen (the mother of the bride) together again!

It was a beautiful day, a beautiful time, and now a beautiful memory.


The ice rink in Watford City doubling as rodeo grounds during the off-season.

Then it was back to Bismarck where my hair, teeth and garden were tended to and I was again amazed by the jobs that are out there.

I’ve said it before- that you have to be a fool to not be able to find work in Bismarck right now.


Jobs of all types for all skill levels exist on almost every road I drove on. Its a sea of neon signs offering why THIS is the place you should work!


There aren’t enough workers for the jobs so each business is trying to out-entice the other.


I think they actually spelled their name wrong… seriously, if you want to impress people you should know how to spell your company’s name!

Restaurants, delis, hotels, driving companies- you name it, they want YOU!


Most of the jobs are entry-level but that’s why the imbalance. The pay, while quite decent from the looks of things, is entry-level. Rent, sadly, is not.


Its an employee’s market right now. Why stay someplace where your demanding, asshole boss rides you about being online all day when you can work just about anywhere else in the city? Bosses are having to curtail their complaints!


The moral of all of this is that regardless of training, education and maybe even motivation, if you have a place to stay and you want to work and you don’t mind a bit of wind and you don’t care about oceans or mountains but you like pheasants and Labrador retrievers and wearing camo and driving your pick-up with its gun rack and you are totally cool with winter temps, Bismarck might be right for you right now!


(I joke about the camo and pickups… we have just as many in Montana and Bismarck is really a very nice city with universities, golf courses, fun restaurants, a nightlife and bustling airport.)


most of the herd in Bismarck

My most recent trip back was to help Alistair out for a planned surgery to scope his knee.


He came through with grace, his terrific sense of humor, less ratty cartilage in his right knee and a ridiculous need for greasy food.


Post op that afternoon. You have to love him!

I brought the 3 dogs with me on this trip. They did great and seemed to like “helping” their Daddy with his recovery.


UB making sure Daddy rested like the doctor told him to!

And everything was going well as I drove us home across highway 200 until little Loki reminded us all of the year we have been having and that she’s got some issues.

Loki had her first seizure.

In her crate in the back seat of the truck at a rest stop between Jordan and Lewistown.


Loki and step-gammy in Bismarck.

It lasted 20 to 30 seconds (which feels more like 2 to 3 minutes) but it ended and she got a bit of a walk before we felt like we should continue.

And Alistair and I pretended we weren’t medical professionals for a few minutes.

“What do you think caused that?” asked Mr.Fyfe.

“I don’t know,” Mrs.Fyfe replied.


Snoozing Loki loves being under the covers!

Pretending was fun but it didn’t last long.

We both know that epilepsy isn’t a disease for older animals or people. And we know that she is about 14 years old.

And we know she doesn’t leave our eyesight when she’s outside because of her own blindness and that we didn’t change her food and she had no access to toxins or medications and the other dogs were fine and that she has had her share of personality changes that we like to call quirks this year on top of some unusual infections that might mean her immune system is busy elsewhere.

Like maybe in her brain.


The same rest stop on a previous trip back to Bismarck.

But that’s all I want to say about that because she has been absolutely fine (albeit a bit yeasty… one of the new issues) since then.

Eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, playing, kicking up the grass, bonking into Chiddy Pats, snoring, begging for Chicken Mozarella and cuddling into us at night.

She is tolerating the various meds & shampoos I am trying to combat the yeasty smell (think wet tortilla) and we are loving her much as we can.


Loki’s winter gear.

And we’re heading towards her least favorite season but we will make it as special as we can for her.

So seasons change and houses sell and kids grow up and young adults get married and jobs are everywhere and dogs get old and some get tumors and knees get operated on and golf balls get hit and we try to enjoy every moment because sometimes our special old companions might not be with us.

And that, my friends, has been our happenings of late and why I haven’t blogged until now.


Our old property outside of Watford City, ND


One of the bride’s skating classmates, Zane from Tiny Tots all grown up!


My writing “assistant”.

Milestones and Memories


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.


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.)


Photo op for the paparazzi


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Losing Boom


“Hon, where’s Boomer?”


For 18 and a half years, that has been a common phrase on the Fyfe Farm.

Even when she was a teensy, tiny, adorable kitten out on our farm in windy Watford City she would get lost.

In hay bales.

In the tack room.

Up in the rafters.

I would panic when we wouldn’t be able to find her. She was the runt of the litter and one of her siblings was particularly mean to the rest of them. I worried she would run little Boomer off the farm or not let her back in under cover.


I didn’t have to worry for long, though.

Alistair went out one day when the gale-force winds were whipping horizontal snow and ice crystals around in a frigid, deadly blizzard.

The horses were fine.

4 of the kitties were fine. Boomer was right there next to her brother, Oscar. She wasn’t missing for once.

The hairy, big, mean kitten, however, was on the Ritchie water fountain, out in the blizzard.

Apparently she got her paws wet while drinking and ended up stuck, frozen to death, mid-leap off the fountain.

The other 4 kitties thrived after that.

Boomer and Oscar made the long move back to Canada and soon became Inside Cats.


With Outdoor privileges of course.

And Boomer continued to get lost.

Inside closets.

Inside bedrooms.

Behind the wood pile.

She learned her name quickly, probably because I was always calling her. She also had the only “oooh” sound in her name back then which distinguished her from Oscar, Marshal, Shep, Chorney and Alistair.


She actually has a little grey soul patch beneath her adorable puckered-up mouth.

It looks like she is saying “oooooh”.

Boomer and Oscar helped me get through my guilt and grief over the whole antifreeze-doesn’t-mix-well-with-cats thing.

I needed their comfort that year because so many things were happening that I couldn’t control.

Alistair moved back to ND soon after he started working as a Canadian physician so I was often by myself on a large farm with pregnant mares.

I had zero support and even faced some misplaced animosity as a figure skating coach in the little town I lived in.

It was the same town Alistair and his first wife lived in for many years and some of their old friends weren’t necessarily opening their arms to the new, young wife with her spandex and sequins and love of makeup.

Some friends, like Sue, Glenn, Patti, Shirley, Janie, Bill and Julie were wonderful, though.


And the cats were wonderful, too.

Warm, loving, purring, fuzzy bodies to cuddle up with on never-ending lonely nights when my job wasn’t any fun anymore.

But I was able to join Alistair in the states again so we all moved to Hazen. Then to Bismarck. And now to Montana.


Through all of these moves and all of these years, Boomer continued to get lost.

In the little closet the ferrets like to hide in.

In the basement.

In the garage.

As the feline Fyfes have aged they have recently begun to spend most of their days in the kitchen/sun room. Its one of my favorite rooms, too.

Even in the winter the sun shines brightly.


There are 4 cat beds in there and I can generally find a cat, or a combination of cats, or UB or Loki in any of them at any given time.

Boom has been spending more and more time in those beds lately.

It began last fall when I realized she had lost some weight. She is a cat who has always been slim but in September she looked a bit gaunt.

Her thyroid was on overdrive so we started twice-daily pills.


In the mornings I risk life and limb by scruffing her and tossing the tiny white pill down the hatch.

Usually it works. I still have all of my fingers.

At night its canned soft food for everyone, with a pill mashed up in Boomer’s dish.

She’s not our first cat with hyperthyroidism and she won’t be our last.

When we said our tearful goodbyes to Oscar back in January Boomer went into a bit of a slump.

A cat who used to lay in those beds with 1, 2, or 3 others now lays in them alone.


Her companion since the time in their mama’s womb is forever gone and it made an impact on every single Fyfe in this house.

As much as this hurts to admit, I’m losing Boom.

It isn’t the amount of time she sleeps during the day- Hell, I’ll be doing much the same when I’m 90 or 100 years old.

Its the weight loss.

Her decreased grooming.

The way she almost shouts her meows at me when she wants her soft food.

Its seeing her petite, feminine, grey and white self just sitting at the water dish, staring at it.


And the tenderness on her right side.

Where I thought I felt a lump, or maybe it was her liver, or maybe it was both.

Her thyroid is whacked, her kidneys are failing and maybe there’s a lump.

Like the one in my throat right now.


But she eats and drinks without hesitation and keeps everything down.

She doesn’t limp, she isn’t jaundiced and she isn’t dehydrated.

Its tough right now because I’ve also noticed that Casey has a bad limp in the rear leg that still has hardware in it.

Loki seems to be losing her hearing, not realizing I’ve come home despite my boisterous “hey, Gangs” to them all sometimes.

And yet Loki seems quite content, if not a bit more clingy lately. I don’t mind the extra attention and snuggles. Maybe that’s one of the perks for her and I. And for her and UB, too.


And Casey still leaps and jumps and runs and wiggles and plays and licks and bumps into me and knocks things over. All with his floppy larynx that remains one-sided.

And Boomer still enjoys being held, gently, while I dance with her like I have done for 18 years.

And she continues to enjoy her sleep-in-morning special brunch dates with Mulder, Loki, Mummy and Daddy where everyone gets bacon.


I advise clients to think about what is important for them as individuals and families when the question, “When is it Time?” comes up.

Its different for everyone.

For me, I want to be able to recognize and share love with friends and family.

I would like to be free from pain.

I’d like to be able to put my makeup on. Its vain but true.

I’d also like to be able to lift a glass of red wine to my lips and enjoy its taste.

I want these same types of things for my animal companions, albeit without the mascara.

The time may come soon when Boomer won’t let me groom the matts from her delicate hair. Or she won’t prance into the room with the guinea pigs and chat with me. Or she won’t head butt me, or Facetime-Bomb every single person I chat with. Or she won’t want her soft food or some of my chicken.

It would be akin to Casey not wanting to goof around and jump and play.

And Loki not wanting to be with me.


I will find strength from somewhere because I have to and because I love them and because I owe it to them.

They have all given me so much.

And I will give them beautiful, dignified deaths.

Not today. Not tomorrow.

Not next week.

But soon I will lose my Boom.

She won’t be lost, though. She will be in many different places like she has been all of her life.

In her photos.

In my memory.

In my heart.