Buckle Up!

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Loki, Cleopatra and UB got to go on another adventure with Mummy a couple of weeks ago when they joined me in our 3/4 ton Dodge Ram and headed out east to spend a few days with Daddy!

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Dog is my co-pilot!

Loki, who has always been an excellent traveler got to ride shotgun in the cab with me.

Which means she also got to listen to me sing along to my 80’s and 90’s musical selections I chose for this trip.

(I also had brand new Coldplay, which I highly recommend and am deeply addicted to but most of the musical journey was more nostalgic than that).

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Ahhhh….

There is nothing like belting out ‘Hey, Jealousy’ under clear blue skies on an open road headed straight towards North Dakota.

And I was doing fine with Loki until I got going with Vertical Horizon. For whatever reason, as I was lamenting along with the lead singer about “grey sky mornings”, Loki cocked her head up at me and I swear she sneered.

Which isn’t really very obvious because of her squished-in Boston Terrier face and her accompanying harelip but I’m pretty sure I got a look.

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And yet she was fine with Matchbox 20. Go figure!

Music has been and always will be a huge part of my life. I usually have some sort of soundtrack running through my head and at times I’m choreographing figure skating or dance moves in my mind. (As a note, this can be dangerous when you are on a treadmill and you start to add physical movements imagining you’re on Dancing With the Stars. Maybe you already know that. I’m sure its quite common…)

But I digress.

I’m sure my love of music and movement to it stems from spending so much time in ice rinks doing just that. I loved making up routines to everyone else’s music which may have annoyed my coaches early on but led to requests for my choreographic skills later on.

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Skater Girl! Loved that dress!

I love listening to lyrics and trying to figure out what the singers are trying to tell me. I’m curious if the song has any real meaning or if its just a catchy beat. I like introspective writing with music but I also enjoy songs about loving the mountains, the ocean and nature itself.

John Denver was a master at that. A lot of Canadian singers and bands do a good job of that, too.

I also am enjoying how my perspective has changed the more years I’m on this planet towards particular songs or styles.

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Classics!

I finally got some of Sting’s songs that he wrote after his father died many years ago.Or, I think I got them. What I originally thought were songs penned for unrequited or lost love, I actually now think were for his father.

“Why should I cry for you?”

Great question! I don’t know if he had the greatest relationship with his Pops or the Catholic church but I wonder. The song, All This Time is catchy and perky and radio friendly but the more I listened (and repeated, sorry, Loki) the more I heard about a boy’s father dying and a whole whack of Catholic images.

Music plays a big role in the books I write more for myself than my characters.

None of the characters in Missing Lake are figure skaters and the songs they analyze are given to them by their English Teacher.

The books are another part of the reason I loaded UB and Cleo into crates in the enclosed back of my pickup and traveled east. My second book signing in Watford City finally took place!

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Books & Bling sold at the uber funky Door 204 where I got to see some great friends, Brenda, Marna and Zack!

I combined it with my Chloe & Isabel bling and we had a heck of a good time at a cute new coffee shop in the former teensy town that almost burst its seams in the middle of the oil patch a few years ago.

My friend, Wendy joined me for the 2 1/2 hour drive (dogs stayed in Bismarck this time) and we had a wonderful time seeing so many of our friends from the years in the early 90s when we both lived there.

So much has changed.

I’m not a 21 year-old professional figure skater with a long, curly pony-tail shacked up with the new doc in town who was just a few years older.

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Getting to speak to an auditorium full of students about accomplishments and challenges and plain old writing!

I’m not a one-dog, one-cat and one-ferret young Canadian with only a student visa and no hope in sight of getting a Green Card.

I’m not the step-mom of 2 cute, blonde little Canadian kids sitting at lunch with them and their friends or volunteering for track meets, watching them play softball, baking endless dozens of cookies, helping them do homework and taking them to swimming lessons or hosting Hallowe’en parties, or crafting Happy Parties for them to break through the grey skies and cold winds of a North Dakota winter.

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Our one & only Happy Party out at our farm. It was epic!

Our friends in Watford City have watched me become so many different things and while many changes have been huge our friendships have remained. I felt so lucky and loved the day we were back there and wish it could have been for longer.

Alistair and I also had things to address back on our farm in Bismarck.

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some of the herd in Bismarck

Like the horses.

They, like every other animal on the Fyfe Farm are aging and some decisions are going to have to be made.

It was good for me to see the changes he has told me about all winter and to watch how the herd moved.

To see the older mare who used to run the herd looking weedy and standing off by herself with my own eyes.

She’s not sick, she’s just old. When older horses start losing weight it can turn into a rapid deal.

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Cassie and Penner. Not on The List!

Counseling clients on end-of-life decisions with horses is different than with smaller companion animals in some respects. I often ask what the rest of the herd would do with a particular horse in question.

Would they form a circle around them to protect them like many herds do with young foals? Or would the herd move on, aware that the older or wounded individual was slowing them down, making them all easier targets for prey animals?

I believe, with this particular mare, the herd has moved on.

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Flash, Jessie and Fumie… not on The List and obviously not suffering!

Decisions were made but nothing needed to be done just yet so we got to enjoy our time together with the dogs back in Bismarck. We tried new restaurants and enjoyed old favorites. We sat with the 3 dogs in our 2 recliners sipping wine or martinis at night. Alistair chipped golf balls and we hot tubbed under a gorgeous blanket of stars each night.

We went to his clinic’s Christmas party and even though I must have missed the ‘casual attire’ memo we both looked and felt great.

And then it was time to load up 2 vehicles with boxes of books, bling, golf clubs, fancy shoes and fancy dresses, jackets and dogs.

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Rest area along hwy 200 with an enclosed dog area! Brilliant!

The trip back was much easier handling the 3 dogs with Alistair there to help.

I am sure I was a spectacle on my own trying to manage blind Loki and the other 2 wrapped around my legs or each other at the rest stops. Cleo and UB used to have leash manners but living in the middle of nowhere with an entire forest or 40 acres of prairie for a back yard we’ve let that training lapse.

Loki didn’t seem to mind my singing as she nestled into her magic blanket in the front seat for the 11 hour journey back to Montana.

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Following the Jetta through sleepy towns like Jordan along hwy 200.

And now we’re back and we had snow for 3 days which Loki wasn’t impressed with.

We have enjoyed it, though, getting out on snowshoes and the snowmobiles.

And throughout all of this our household has changed once again, which is one more reason I needed to go away to Bismarck to be with Alistair for a few days.

I’m not ready to write about this one because it broke my heart even though it wasn’t a surprise and I was alone except for 3 friends on Facebook and Alistair on the phone helping me through a very difficult act and my subsequent grief.

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Heading west, coming back to Montana, which was different yet again.

But that’s for another time.

There were so many reasons for me to load up the truck with so much stuff and 3 special spirits and I am so glad to have had the chance to once again go to our other home. The drive is long but if the companions are fun and the weather is great and the music is just right the journeys can be pretty special.

For the books. The bling. The Christmas party. The horses. The decisions. And the need to be away and the need to come back to another new normal with my support group around me.

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Packing up after a rest stop break between Circle & Jordan, MT.

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“Please don’t play the ABBA cd, Step-Gammy!”

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Snowshoe fun back in Montana!

Bye, Bye Boomer

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One week ago little Boomer took her last nap next to me before I helped her across the good old Rainbow Bridge.

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Mummy & Boom, just a couple of years ago

She was the subject of one of my very first blogs two years ago when I was having difficulty managing her hyperthyroidism and kidney failure but we found the right mix of meds and she had a good run for most of that time.

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Little Boomer a couple of months ago.

She had lost some weight and was becoming dehydrated (typical with older feline kidneys) so we started adding ice cubes to the water dish to encourage drinking. Most veterinarians will suggest the ice cube thing for older kitties. Cats are curious to the core and if they play with the cubes in the water to watch them  move or to hear them tinkle they usually end up drinking more, if not at least licking off their wet paws. Looking back, we had just lost her brother, Oscar and perhaps depression played a role in her health as well.

The ice cubes became an addiction for Boomer. When we would first get to the kitchen in the mornings we were meowed at for the ice cubes.

When it was close to supper time-ish, more meows.

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Ice cube junkie

The meows got louder and more demanding the more time passed but it was just one of those quirks we put up with because she was Boomer. And she was old and possibly starting to lose her marbles the past couple of months but still, the ice cubes weren’t a big deal.

We made little accommodations for our aging buddy because she had been a great cat for many years and it was easy to do.

Lots of expensive canned food to crush the pills in. More beds to lay around the house in. Watching wherever Loki went in hopes we could prevent her bonking into Boomer and possibly getting her eyes scratched (again). Combing her hair matts out when she reduced her personal grooming (and being watchful of those claws!)

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More ice cubes for Boomer

We did these things and more and Boomer just kept ticking along, prancing into the hallway bathroom where the guinea pigs used to be and leaping up onto our bed for bacon in the mornings.

Until a few things changed…

She started to develop a weakness in her legs. If we would reach down for a good head rub it would almost knock her over. More vocalization, and louder. Incessant sometimes with an almost frustrated-sound to it. Even less grooming and even more sleeping and, a few weeks ago, dragging her back feet at night.

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Our old ladies, Boomer & Cooper last spring

We shared glances at each other when she would just about topple over and we fed her treats on demand and her pills twice a day and she lost a bit more weight and became a lot more scruffy-looking and less tolerant and I had a long, teary chat with Boom-Boom and sometimes I had to check if she was still breathing and we had inner discussions and eventually out-loud conversations.

Which was when we decided it was Time.

Making the decision to end a long, good life is heavy. We agreed to do it last Saturday but we both avoided the topic, instead giving her little bits of chicken I cooked that night and suddenly it was Sunday. And we are health care providers who truly knew it was Time even though she didn’t have a terminal disease. Its not as if she was dying.

But she wasn’t really living, either.

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Boomer never missed a chance to get into an open cupboard!

I wonder how heavy that decision is for bad people.

For people who make plans to end a person’s life. To separate the body from the soul for all of eternity, leaving a lifeless vessel behind. To stop the incredible machine that is the cardiovascular system from working its tremendous pump that keeps a body’s life force flowing.

I wonder if they struggle with the choice. Do they rationalize their way out of it for a week or two? Or do they plan to do it Saturday and then before long its already Sunday?

I appreciate that bad people who do horrible things like that have their wiring mixed up or they are under some sort of influence that they can’t control.

Or they are immune to the weight because of the volume of times they have made that choice.

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Cooper, Boomer & Oscar a couple of years ago.

In our case, for all the right reasons, we sedated our 20 year old room-mate together and she quickly snuggled in next to me, resting her head on my leg as her last conscious act. Through tears and remarkably leathery skin I found the forearm vein that Alistair helped me hold off and just like that I stopped her heart and she looked at peace.

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Oh, Boomer!

Saying goodbye to Boomer wasn’t necessarily easier than poor Mouse, who was young and healthy until he was suddenly gravely ill. It wasn’t easier than having to rush to Harry’s side by myself when his splenic tumor terminally ruptured. None of these has been easy. It will never be easy.

 

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Boom and Coopie last spring. Not even bothering to pretend like they shouldn’t have been on the kitchen table. At least Boom’s reading material is acceptable.

But I can accept Boomer’s death more readily because she’s been on The List for 2 years and also because Alistair was with me and we made this decision together. For Boom.

And just like that we have 2 indoor cats and 2 barn kitties.

And there will be more changes in the weeks ahead because Calypso was diagnosed with his own cancer in November and each day truly is a gift.

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Bonjour!

He continues to romp and play and eat like a fiend and steal Loki’s kibbles and Alistair’s boot insoles so his story is for another time.

I miss seeing Boomer in any of the beds scattered throughout the house and in a funny way I miss her caterwauling at me to add ice cubes to the water dish. I sometimes reach for her pills, forgetting there is nobody to give them to and I smile.

Her spirit is likely curled up somewhere with Cooper and Oscar and she isn’t dragging her little white feet and her eyes are bright and her haircoat is glorious once again. She’s grooming, prancing and enjoying a good sunbeam and although my heart is sad its kind of happy, too.

RIP, Boom-Boom. A good life deserved a good death.

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Oscar & Boom….together from the womb for 18 years now reunited.

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Just another day for Cooper, Boomer and Oscy

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Love the look on Boomer’s face…”Seriously, you guys?”

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A young Gareth and young Boomer… these 2 were pretty tight.

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The 1-year old kitties with Alistair when we lived in Creston, BC. They had just transitioned to “inside” cats.

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xoxo, Boomer & Oscar Fyfe