What I Really Want

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Hubbel and Donohue, last night in Japan (not my photo).

I’d like to tell you all my thoughts on this weekend’s Grand Prix of figure skating event that took place in Japan, the annual NHK Trophy.

I’d love to share my joy at the amazing level of ice dancing right now, and how emotional all the top skaters were in their performances, including the Americans shown above, who placed second.

I could tell you all about Tessa and Scott’s sleek, sexy outfits and how they brought tears to my eyes as I watched their free dance last night and how relieved he must have felt to nail the twizzle section that almost took him down during their short dance.

But there’s a bigger, more important elephant in the room and its the reason I’m already crying right now.

 

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UB Fyfe… last winter

I have to tell you all that UB has died.

Our amazing, cuddly, loving, sometimes-serious, protective, friendly littlest buddy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge all on his own at the very end of October and our hearts and our world haven’t been the same ever since.

 

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Inspecting the newly delivered wood for big mice just a few weeks ago.

This wasn’t something we had been expecting or planning for.

UB Pickles Napolean Jumping Jack Flash Serge Savard Spinorama Fyfe was supposed to be hiking alongside us in the forests out back for years.

He was supposed to eagerly climb into his ‘Steve Austin’ smoking-jacket right now and for the next few months as we would be stretching our legs along our long driveways.

 

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Looking dapper in his smoking jacket earlier this year.

He was supposed to be Cleo’s assistance dog as she prances into old age with deaf ears and rear legs that don’t work as well as they used to. He was supposed to be Bebe’s boyfriend as our strange grey kitty continues to find her voice and place in our world.

We fully expected him to continue to charm the snot out of everyone who visited as he made friends with all of our friends and family who came to the Fyfe Farm. Anybody’s lap was fair game if you sat on the couch and full-body contact was preferred, if not expected.

 

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UB, Cleo & Uncle Pete a couple of years ago.

UB, the king of all laps, was supposed to find a few more over the next few years. With zero concept of personal space, UB should have spent a great more deal of time firmly squared away with someone’s arm wrapped around him.

 

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Last May in Bismarck.

And UB was supposed to pack up into one of the trucks yet again with Cleo & I on our next trip to Bismarck. And the trip after that, too. And maybe another trek to Canada as well. He had a knack for keeping Cleo and Loki calm when we travelled and he made the most out of wherever he landed as long as we were all together.

 

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Travels with Mummy & Loki up to BC in 2014.

 

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Our return trip from our month-long evacuation in Bismarck just weeks ago.

UB was only 9 years old so it didn’t seem to be a big deal when he developed a tiny, dry, little cough a few weeks ago after we returned from Bismarck. It certainly didn’t slow him down and he mostly did it when we first went out for a run (always at full speed) or when he first leapt out from under the comforter each morning.

And, hey, half of Seeley Lake is still coughing and dealing with sinus issues after the months-long Rice Ridge fire brought thick, grey smoke into our world and our lungs for what seemed like an endless summer. Even though we evacuated to North Dakota for a month I still put UB’s cough down to the smoke.

Because he was still UB.

 

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“Helping” Daddy edit my 3rd book this spring.

Playing, eating, jumping, snuggling, awesome UB.

But then maybe he was sleeping a little bit longer in the mornings.

And maybe it was noticeable that he stayed pretty close to us whenever we walked outside.

And perhaps he was actually a bit clingy during evening Couch Time when Daddy was in Bismarck for his two weeks.

 

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Evacuees in Bismarck this fall.

Which was all stored up in my head and my heart as I made arrangements for our fall house-sitter to come for our planned trip to the Big Island of Hawaii on October 26th.

Because that’s what I’d like to be telling you all about right now.

Sunshine, mai tais, old friends and new ones, my golf game, the enormous resort, incredible seafood, the annual veterinary dermatology conference and some much-needed Aloha.

 

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A very different kind of Aloha.

There was Aloha, alright, but it just wasn’t right.

My husband and my heart weren’t there.

Because a couple of days before our trip, UB suddenly stopped eating.

Just like that.

We coaxed some canned food, some bacon, and some of our own breakfast and supper but he mostly just looked at it. He didn’t touch the cat food dish either, and Doctor Me told Mummy Me that its never normal for a dog like UB to repeatedly refuse food. Particularly with nothing else really wrong.

Well, there was that little cough…

 

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In Missoula, this spring. “Pay attention to the road, Mummy!”

So on October 25th, UB and I drove to Missoula while Alistair packed and we visited our internal medicine veterinary friend, Dr.Dave.

He and his assistant enjoyed getting to meet our happy little guy although he did seem a bit more subdued than normal. He was a perfect monkey for his ultrasound and for his chest x-ray and he seemed endearingly more concerned about me when I lost my shit in the truck when we left the clinic.

UB’s heart wasn’t the problem. It may have been a bit on the large size but everyone who has met him already knew that.

His lungs looked like a blizzard thanks to a ton of cancer throughout both sides.

 

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UB’s lungs. ūüė¶

(His head is off to the left, that’s his sternal bones on the bottom and his big heart is surrounded by white patches where the lungs should just be black.)

We don’t know what type of cancer UB had but it sure came out of nowhere and took us all by complete and total surprise.

And so we started prednisone at a high enough dose to get him to eat. And we gave more bacon and canned cat food that night as we continued to hold and kiss our special little friend.

Neither of us slept that night. Thankfully, UB was all up for cuddles under and on top of the covers with both Daddy and I.

 

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October 26th after Alistair got back from the airport.

At 3 in the morning, when our alarm was set to go off, Alistair said he would stay with UB. Even though UB loved our house-sitter and knew her well, it was what needed to be done. (I had already tried cancelling flights and resort bookings but it wasn’t going to happen.)

So I somehow got ready and even as we were ready to leave I ran down the hallway for one more hug and kiss from our loverboy. Which turned out to be the last ones for him and I.

And I flew to Hawaii and I wish I could be telling you about the fun couple I met as well as the really weird guy they put next to me because he was making a scene thanks to his size and window-seat ‘needs’ but he managed to fit into Alistair’s seat and shove his body against mine for 5 1/2 hours (and he didn’t open the window shade once!)

I wish I could tell you all about the resort but, to be honest, I wasn’t really there the first few days.

 

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day 1, post golf game, with the resorts adorable UB statues!

My heart was back home with my family and I lived for every text and update from Alistair.

The wonderful news is that UB had a couple of outstanding days. Alistair tweaked his steroids enough to get him really excited about food again and UB ate like the king he was! He rode in the Ranger with Daddy and they hiked and stacked wood and cuddled together on the couch and watched old Star Treks together in bed.

 

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Sunset from my lanai.

And I cried but I smiled, too, because UB got to truly enjoy his final few days with Cleo and Daddy and the kitties, too, even if I wasn’t there. He heard my voice on the phone the last day after he’d had a huge breakfast and even some snacks before I went off to my conference, where my close friends knew the reason why Alistair wasn’t there.

And so it was, on the early evening of the 28th, with Alistair outside in the hot tub and UB and Cleo running around in the leaves, that UB laid down peacefully by our back deck and, taking control of everything like always, he died.

Just like that.

 

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Couch Time last winter with UB.

And he’s gone and I cried my eyes and heart out alone in my hotel room in Paradise. And I continued to cry whenever it was safe to do so and sometimes even when it wasn’t over the next few days on the island.

And Alistair was suddenly very alone inside our big house in Montana.

I wasn’t alone during the days, though. There’s nothing quite like a conference full of veterinarians to make you feel some sympathy and love. And the outpouring of love and compassion and people telling me they were crying when I posted the news on social media was raw, real and heart-felt and I appreciated every comment and reaction shared.

 

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Getting by with a little help from my friends. Liz, from Vancouver, and her family happened to be vacationing island-style that time, too.

I’d like to be able to tell you all that we’re doing just fine and everything is honky-dorey but that would be a lie.

I’m happily back in Montana and Alistair was able to stay a few extra days with me which helped immensely. I’m not sure how well I could have¬† kept it together otherwise without UB in the house. And now Alistair is working in Bismarck and Cleo and I are getting into our own new routines with the cats.

I’m thankful that UB didn’t suffer. Ever.

Thankful he found us 9 years ago and was such a perfect Fyfe family member and sibling to all the other pets (maybe not the guinea pigs, although we still aren’t sure what went down that day…)

Even more thankful that so many of you got to meet and fall in love with our Boston Terrier, Cocker Spaniel cross who flicked his feet when he trotted, ran that kissing booth with his fetching underbite, sat like a human on any chair he could as long as we were with him and slammed Subarus and their dreadlocked, hippie, ten-and-two-in-my-Subaru, patchouli smelling, bra-burning slow drivers with abandon.

 

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Well played, Uncle Gary & Aunty Dona. Well played….

I miss those soul-searching brown eyes as he would just stare at me. I miss hearing him prance around the house to find us. I miss his naughty paw-pulling he did when it was time for nail trims and I miss watching him burrow into the magic blanket.

 

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Handsome dude!

What I really want right now is UB.

I want the last 4 weeks to not have happened.

I want to pick the smoking jacket up off the freezer and watch UB joyfully hold his arms out for me to wrap it on him.

I want to take him and Cleo for walkies and for him to mix up words in a song and for us to make a funny video with him taking to everyone tonight.

But that’s not real.

 

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“Excuse me, Barkeep! Some beverages for my Mummy and me, please!”

What’s real is the hole in my heart and the lump in my throat and the tears streaming down my cheeks. What’s real is Cleo’s need for a walk today and my concern that she’s also really missing her younger brother. The silence is real. The empty dog dish is real. UB’s collar and cute new name tag lying on the counter in the laundry room are real.

What’s real is the pain… which means the love was that real in itself.

And I’m honored to have been able to share UB with you all.

RIP, UB. Oh, how you are loved.

 

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Last fall when we were at the conference UB loved taking his meals with Theresa and Brian in the kitchen! (Theresa’s photo)

 

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UB and Loki, 2 of the most famous and well-loved spirits at the Dog Days of Summer a few years ago.

 

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I believe this was post-op back surgery for Alistair… classic UB. One of my favorites of these two!

 

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UB on Aunty Merielle’s bed during her first visit to MT in 2013. Not my photo. The eyes really are the window to the soul.¬†

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Golden Girls

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Beautiful Montana

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks.

It wasn’t my intention. Its just that its Summer in western Montana and we try to pack as much as we can into our window of warmth.

Spring can be wet and Fall can be cold. And if you’ve followed my blog or you also live here then you know what Winter can be.

But Summer…

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Juicy mountain goodness in a bowl.

Montana huckleberries are famous for their vibrant hues and sweet juiciness. Most folks around here have their own secret stash they like to pick from. Our stash last year never fully ripened, at least not enough to spend the time to go out and pick.

The stash more than made up for it this year.

We never like to overdo it- the thought that I’m taking food from the local bears keeps us grounded in that regard. But we spent a couple of hours in the sun and got enough for our huckleberry pancakes Alistair enjoys so much.

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This year’s bounty, measured in baggies for pancakes this year.

We also made time to get the canoe out, which we didn’t do once last year.

There is a quiet little lake near our home. There isn’t really any beach to speak of and the campsite is very small, not to mention its a ways off the beaten path so there’s usually only a few folks out there which makes for a peaceful, enjoyable paddle.

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Best view for miles around.

We paddled and floated on Lake Upsata and enjoyed the beauty around us.

We listened to the light waves lap and bump up against our Kevlar sides.

We heard the loons call out in between their full-body dives as they searched for the fish that continue to elude us.

And we laughed and reminisced about our last time canoeing with our good friend, Paul on the local canoe trail, where we bottomed out a few times thanks to late season low water and 3 adults on board.

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Peaceful Lake Upsata.

Alistair didn’t end up catching anything as the skies towards us were darkening and clouds formed into threatening shapes and colors. The kinds of shapes you shouldn’t be beneath on a body of water.

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Hmmmm… maybe we should think about heading in?

But Alistair is back to work in North Dakota and I’m back to my routine at home.

I have realized that my relationship with some of my non-human roommates has become something like the old TV show, the Golden Girls. Me, Loki, Cleo and Phillipa.

Loki is Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy. While sometimes grumpy and bossy she is still¬†a lovable, sweet,¬†reliable friend with a gravelly voice and a sense of humor.

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Loki loves making nests out of clothes to snuggle up in.

Cleopatra is Blanche, who was played by Rue McLanahan. They are both stunning mature women with charming southern accents and an uncanny way of flirting with and attracting men.

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Cleopatra Cassiopia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe… charmed, I’m sure.

Phillipa is Sophia, Dorothy’s mother, who was played by Estelle Getty. The littlest member of the gang with a feisty attitude and a penchant for teasing others, she is one of our resident thieves with a passion for footwear.

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Bonjour, mes ami!

Which leaves me as Betty White’s somewhat na√Įve, honest animal lover, Rose. I’m not from the Midwest but I sometimes ramble on about days gone by and quirky stories from my past.

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Me… the Betty White of our group.

I’ve been noticing changes. Subtle changes, in some cases, and more noticeable in others.

Phillipa and Loki are both losing weight.

Its more rapid in Phillipa’s case but then everything is more rapid when you’re a ferret. If you consider the fact that one month is akin to one year for a ferret in terms of how their bodies age and change then things are going to happen faster.

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Phillipa & I post-bath a couple of years ago.

She’s also become quite picky about her chewy treats, only eating the raisin or peanut butter ones while younger Luigi gobbles up the chicken, banana and bacon ones. And she’s eating them slower. Antibiotics didn’t change anything but I am continuing with a daily anti-inflammatory. At the age of 7 I’m certain there is some arthritis in her teensy body.

Loki’s weight loss is happening despite a ravenous appetite. I love seeing her eat or watch her bash the empty food dish around the kitchen to get my attention.

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“Snoooooooore”

Both girls seem to feel great, though, continuing to romp around in Phillipa’s case and enjoying long walk & talk sessions outside when it comes to Loki. They are both getting more grey and they’re both sleeping longer but they are eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and playing normally so I’m content with that.

And Cleo gave us a scare in April.

Our Southern Belle developed a head tilt, body leaning, stumbling, falling-over-when-she-sneezed condition that included a vertical nystagmus for 2 days. That’s where your eyes flicker non-stop left and right. Go figure she was wobbly.

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During her tilt-to-the-left phase en route to Bismarck.

The nystagmus ended but the leaning to the left remained, which was why I brought them all to Bismarck with me. It was right on the heels of losing Calypso and it came out of nowhere so I figured a brain tumor was the only answer.

So Cleo leaned against the walls in Bismarck and toppled over to the left if she tried to stand up and she fell getting off the bed and we got Jessi, Lynn, Cindy¬†and Debbie crying when I told them and I didn’t tell everyone because I honestly wasn’t prepared for it and it was so sad seeing her¬†fall over as she shook herself¬†and I held her and she laid a lot more than normal with me and I told her all of the things I could think of that needed to be said.

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Also during the time of the tilt, in Bismarck

That we loved her. That she was a wonderful big sister and companion. That UPS-Matt and Fireman Frank loved her. That it was a magical day when she came home from the clinic I worked at, having been brought in to be put to sleep for being aggressive back in 2005.

That I wouldn’t let her suffer and if she showed me any indication of that I would do what had to be done.

But I didn’t have to.

Not yet.

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Cleo’s classic “Square Face” look at one of our Dog Days of Summer years ago

After twice daily anti-inflammatories (which she is still on) she recovered completely. Running, jumping, leaping, standing, walking on her back legs, playing, swimming, loving, cuddling- Cleo is back.

And each day is a gift.

So maybe my tears right now are for my feelings back in April and May and they’ve moved from Cleopatra onto Phillipa and Loki.

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Alistair with Loki, UB and Cleo last summer in Bismarck.

I wonder if this is what its like to be a resident in a senior’s home.

Where you make friendships and develop strong bonds to people who are all at a point in life where the number of days ahead are far fewer than those in the rear-view mirror.

Where anything can happen and, really, can it be much of a surprise?

I’m the only Golden Girl who hasn’t met or surpassed her expiration date. Loki is 16. Phillipa is 7. Cleo is at least 12.

The 4 of us have a bunch more grey hair (Cleo has the least) and we’re pretty set in our ways of routines and schedules.

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Luigi, Phillipa and I this spring. Clever hats to disguise the grey!

Maybe Cleo has what we call Old Dog Vestibular Disease. There is no test for that but it can come and go. We’ll enjoy it while its gone.

And we’ll enjoy the seasons as they change and remark on the similarities to our own lives. To every thing, indeed.

We’ll just continue to love and live our routines and enjoy each day with one another. With Phillipa sneaking up on blind Loki to nibble at her feet. With Cleo and Loki and UB snuggling up together in bed at night. With Loki pin-balling her way through the house. With soft food, chicken mozzarella, accents and berets and with cute voices talking to us while we play golf and shoes and insoles that go missing on a nightly basis and with nail trims, Rimadyl and Metacam and Walk & Talks with Step Gammy, Fyfe Life will continue as always.

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Alistair, Calypso, Phillipa & Luigi this past winter.

 

It is a good Summer.

As good as we can for as long as we can.

I’ll keep you posted. xo

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Several years ago when Phillipa (mistakenly known as Phillipe back then, oops) joined our family!

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Cleo, the summer she came home, bonded immediately to her Daddy.

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Very young Loki with very young Casey many moons ago.

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3 out of 4 Golden Fyfe Girls with UB this spring.