Ohana

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Beauty all around the Grand Hyatt on Kauai

I am not bothered by Winter’s approach, even as the Montana skies around me are dark, grey and rainy. There is a chill in the breeze and snow lies on all of the mountains that surround our little ranch. It is November already and still I do not shiver and quake at the memories of non-stop snow plowing, snow paths, shoveling and home insurance claims because we just topped off our Aloha levels on the island of Kauai.

The Garden Isle welcomed us back for my annual veterinary dermatology conference. It was a much happier time at the conference versus last year when Alistair stayed in Montana with sweet UB during his surprising final days.

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Yay, Alistair was back with me! Grand Hyatt resort grounds.

With our trusted house/pet sitter, Jessie on board at the farm for Sport, Bebe, Cleo and Jockey, we got up at 3am on October 25th and just like that we were back on our favorite Hawaiian island!

Kauai feels like home for us. Perhaps because it was the first Hawaiian island we ever visited in 2009. Perhaps its because we actually have family there. It could be that the Poipu Bay Golf Course is like our Hawaiian home course. Or maybe its because we always meet special people there and these special people become our Ohana.

Family.

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Brock, Chris and I at Poipu Bay

Years ago we met Dr.Brock at the veterinary golf tournament and we have played together in almost every tournament ever since. He has visited us in ND and MT, as well. Barb joined our foursome back on Maui and has also been a fun part of the party.

This year Brock brought Christine, his new girlfriend- another new friend on Kauai! They played on another team and Barb, Alistair and I were joined by Cindy for this year’s tournament. One more friend!

Our foursome laughed and giggled as great shots were made (mostly by Alistair, Cindy and Barb but I managed a few nice ones, too) during a torrential downpour the Garden Isle is known for.

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Cindy and Barb trying to stay dry

Its wasn’t cold but it definitely was wet. The last hour was particularly nasty and as I teed it up on our 18th hole, with rain water pouring off my hat, shoulders, and arms, bare-handed so my Driver wouldn’t fly out of my hands, completely aware that I was soaked through and through, I gave it my all and somehow won the women’s long-drive contest.

It wasn’t our team’s only award- at the wet-rat looking luncheon, our team ‘won’ the highest score award. Hey, it was $50 for each of us. It pays to suck!

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Alistair’s Angels with our crisp 50s in hand!

That isn’t our first time as high-scorers. The whole pond hockey fundraiser from 5 years ago earned us our “most honest” awards as well. The high scoring teams usually are laughing their heads off and not taking their game or life too seriously. That’s what got us hooked on golf way back when with Lynn and Micki.

Alistair and I played a total of 6 rounds at Poipu Bay this trip. The clubhouse staff and pro, Chad, welcome us as their Montana Ohana with hugs and handshakes. Workers like Kerry and Danny remembered us (and my golf club head-covers) from our visits there over the last few years and we all laughed about how we play “Fyfe Golf”- driving from hole to hole to find an open spot.

“That’s exactly how we all play,” Kerry told us as he was cleaning up my clubs.

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Jinxie and Mulder club head covers… forgiving us for getting them soaked during the tournament.

He had recognized these 2 and the Loki head on my Driver the first day he came to work after we dropped the clubs off. We also all reminisced about the time we met- when Alistair’s Driver head went flying off during a group lesson from Chad years ago prior to the tournament.

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We’ve been laughing with these guys since 2015!

Other than the one rainy tournament, the weather at Poipu Bay lived up to its sunny reputation and our skin is tanned and our hearts are warmed. We played a couple more times with Barb and a fun fourth named David one day and we also played alone.

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Seriously digging my new hat at Poipu Bay last week!

And we got to connect with flesh & blood Ohana when we had supper with Whitney and Lau and then visited them for a BBQ a few nights later.

We ate at Café Portofino together in Lihue and caught up on everyone’s lives in real time, in person.

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Lau & Whitney, Café Portofino

We got to watch a Princess Cruise line ship squeeze its way out of Nawilili Harbor as evening and darkness descended and our yummy merlot was sipped.

(Alistair and I ate there again before our night flight out on Thursday and our server, Angela, grew up surfing with Lau and his siblings.)

More connections.

More Ohana.

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Our mandatory photo after supper at Café Portofino! (not my photo)

Whitney & Lau let us hang out at their place another afternoon as we caught up even more and got to play with their dogs. Whitney got a sweet new Jeep during our island stay and we got to check it out while trying to not be distracted by their back yard views towards Hanalei.

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New wheels and grand-dog, Kygo!

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The kids’ extremely distracting back yard on Kauai’s north shore.

I saw friends at the veterinary conference who are always there, like Don and Tony. I connected with the Canadian, Trevor, who remembered us and our Montana tales and how I walked away from my brick & mortar practice 5 years ago. Dick and Ann weren’t there this year. Neither was Dave from Washington or Bruce from Kansas. Dick did text me, at least, and hopefully they will be back next fall on Maui.

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More golf and that sweet new hat of mine!

More golf and more fine dining. We had been worried about the expense of eating out thanks to our home insurance woes but I committed over an hour on the phone with Mr.Cooper our first morning on Kauai and somehow I was finally able to speak to someone in “Leadership”. “Michelle” listened and made some sense of our months-long mess and we will hopefully have some of our personal funds back soon.

So we can get going on getting our walls re-built and getting out of the guest room.

Back to Kauai, our dining adventures brought things full circle yet again.

We ate at Dondero’s one night, the Italian restaurant at the Grand Hyatt. Juan was our server and we spent the night sharing pictures and stories about our beloved animals. Juan has rescued German Shepards as well as one of the ginger kittens he found at the resort. The little guy, Pumpkin, had a lot of health woes at the start and we crossed our fingers for his upcoming vet visit.

We saw Juan our second time eating there and although he wasn’t our server we got to spend a lot of time visiting and hearing that little Pumpkin got a clean bill of health! More photos, exchange of names & emails and now Juan and I are friends on Facebook!

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This isn’t Pumpkin- feral kitties are everywhere. This sweetie was at the Garden Plantation restaurant. Another new friend on Kauai!

I knew Barb and her husband, Don (who we finally met and had supper with at Merrimen’s one night- more friends,  more Ohana!) were eating at Dondero’s after we were leaving and I told them about Juan and how awesome and caring he was.

Saturday morning I got a text from Barb with this photo:

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Barb & Juan at Dondero’s!!!!! (not my photo)

Guess who was their server??? My heart was so happy to see this! My friends are your friends and if you are my friend its because you are happy, inspirational, cool, not cool, funny, unique, special, loving, caring and giving of yourself.

And you probably love animals.

We are all Ohana.

I think our lives are enriched when we surround ourselves with people and experiences that touch us. And perhaps we need to touch others as well.

And so, with our hearts full of Aloha, our pineapple levels topped up once again, and new members of our tribe to connect with and keep in touch and hope to see again soon, we flew through the night sky to land (well, in this case it was just about plummeting to our deaths… seriously… we applauded the pilot on touching down) in Missoula and we are back to reality.

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I am missing this reality.

Sport is purring on my lap, Jessie is back home, my real estate transactions are becoming more and more real with each passing hour and our clocks are set one hour back today.

We loved our Aloha as always and enjoyed so many special relationships- old ones and new ones- and we are a larger Ohana for it.

Mahalo, again, Kauai. Love, your Montana Ohana.

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When Grammy & Grampy come to visit! (not my photo)

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Photo from Keoki’s for Michelle & Missy… some of our Seeley Lake Ohana who joined us here last spring!

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Alistair goofing around on the incredible 16th tee box!

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On our way to becoming drenched during the golf tournament!

 

 

Seasons of Change

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playing golf in North Dakota earlier this month

Its hard to believe, but the snow is actually almost all gone.

There is still a few feet remaining up high in the mountains surrounding us in Montana but the incredible piles that were stacked around our home to make their own makeshift mountain range have melted.

 

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stacked snow in March

We left Montana with 3 feet of snow for a reprieve and time together in Bismarck. Alistair and the 3 cats took off early one morning and I followed with Cleo that afternoon after giving a fun interview with Indie Review (search Tanya Fyfe on YouTube) to promote my book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

I chose to promote last year’s publication instead of writing this past winter because I wanted to learn the process and see what some marketing could do. I’m glad I didn’t try writing because the amount of plowing and snow removal didn’t allow for much creativity and I think my writing would have been frustrating.

 

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This wouldn’t have made for a very relaxing writer’s corner.

With huge fans and dehumidifiers whizzing 24/7 and strangers and their machines traipsing through the house and us living in the guest room since February, I haven’t felt much like creating this spring. So it was a good call to choose to market.

And through the marketing I have learned a lot and I got my book out to a lot of different people and I’m getting close to wrapping up my first Book Blog tour! Blog sites like Rockin’ Book Reviews, Community bookstop, Ashley’s Bookshelf, My Reading Journeys and Bound 2 Escape signed on to “host” a stop on the tour.

Its a lot like a band going on tour, making stops in a variety of cities and performing. Only on this tour the cities are virtual and the bloggers review my book. Some also provided excerpts and its been great fun seeing what people think about my book and my writing style!

 

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Wendy & I in Watford City

While in North Dakota, I spent a day with my good friend, Wendy Ruud and we had a book event in Watford City, where we had first met in 1994. Book sales were decent, especially since I sold to some people who had no idea who either of us were.

And then I got notice that my book actually won an award! My first book award! Secrets Abound won Distinguished Favorite for teen fiction in the Independent Press Awards! It didn’t come with prize money but it did come with stickers for my books, which is the next-best thing.

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North Dakota didn’t have any snow at all when I arrived towards the end of April. Our horses got to enjoy the first bits of grass peeking through and they had mostly shed their winter coats.

As always, they remembered their ‘Mum’ and came right up to greet me whenever I would be out with them. Especially the few who have spent most of the past 10 years in Montana full time with me, like Zeus and Frankie.

 

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Zeus & Frankie! My boys!

The herd dynamics had changed, though, which Alistair had warned me about over the winter. Our oldest Arabian broodmare, Susie (RJA Misty Bey), who had been Boss Mare for over a decade had begun to lose weight along with her position at the top.

Horses are herd animals and they have unique dynamics within each herd. Our group has been together for all of their lives, save for Katie and Jake, and their established rankings never changed.

Until Susie started to lag behind and be “told off” by the younger horses who are allowed to the  best grass or the best hay whenever they choose.

 

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More of the herd: Penner, Fumie and Cassie up front.

I watched Shilo and Zeus both toss their heads at thin Susie and knew she had become the lowest horse on the Fyfe totem pole. When older horses begin to lose weight it can pick up speed like a freight train and that was also happening with our 28 year-old matriarch.

It was, sadly, Time.

And just like that, we are down to 10 horses.

Along with 3 cats.

And 1 dog.

 

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Back in the day. (Susie’s daughter, Cocoa & her foal, Spyder are on the far left!)

Its a far cry from our heyday as Pair O’Docs Paints when this time of year had us up through the night waiting for foals to be born.

Its a far cry from hikes in the forest with 4 rambunctious canine companions and one hilarious blind little train wreck with a hare lip and a heart murmur waiting for us at home.

 

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Our own little dog pack.

And its an unrecognizably far cry from having a pride of cats line up for soft food in the kitchen every night.

 

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Back in Bismarck a long, long time ago. Sport and Cooper aren’t even shown here!

We’ve been so lucky to have met and shared the journey with so many interesting spirits of so many species and its helped shape us even if the changes that occur when these spirits leave us are sad.

But that’s life, right?

While the seasons are changing before our eyes right now it makes me think about the seasons within our own lives. And how they change, whether we’re in charge of it or not.

 

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Hoo boy.

After 3 weeks in North Dakota we returned to a snow-less yard around our Montana home. We could finally see the extent of the damage to the deck out back. Our insurance adjuster and the head guy from the restoration company joined us on a walk-about as we chatted about the roof, the lawn, the deck and the interior walls that need to get rebuilt.

More changes ahead, apparently.

Thankfully our creek behaved itself during the incredible melt but the community of Seeley Lake had some flooding thanks to high, fast-moving waters.

 

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Our creek next to our house a couple of weeks ago.

My home town of Grand Forks, BC, where I’ve taken you through this blog in the past, has not fared so well with the melt this year.

Sadly, heart-wrenchingly, the town has flooded like never before and dozens of homes will have to be destroyed. I’ve watched posts and news clips over the past couple of weeks as people wade, thigh-deep, in brown, murky waters to recover items from their homes.

People float along the streets in kayaks and row boats.

People have spent hours filling and distributing sandbags in a very Canadian effort to try to protect homes and businesses from the force of the swollen rivers that converge there.

The Canadian military got there yesterday to help with the disaster.

 

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My old high school in Grand Forks… closed last week because of the community’s disaster.

Things are going to change in Grand Forks, and it will take a long time for things to be considered normal again. My family is high and dry where they live but I have friends who are living in makeshift accommodations and my heart goes out to them.

I’ll share only a couple of photos that aren’t mine… I find they tell the story just as well without words.

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Spring is here, complete with her massive snow melt, her green grass, her hundreds of calves along lonely highway 200, her golf courses opening up and her friend, Winter’s insurance claim on our house.

I’m approaching a new season in my own life as well and, just like every change, it can be frightening. Change does build character (I must have it in droves!) and as nervous as I am I’m also excited. I’m not sure if this will be a full seasonal change for me or not. I’m really not sure how we’ll make this particular change work but I’m eager to try.

I didn’t just plow and shovel snow and market my book this winter. I made a point to do some personal growth and I took a course and learned a lot. I have a job to begin but the details are fuzzy so I’ll leave them blank.

For now.

 

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Along highway 200 2 weeks ago.

I’m not quite like the seasons, though. Winter shed its snowy coat and becomes something new altogether.

I’m not changing that much. I’m still me.

The Alistair-loving, figure skating, veterinarian, author (award winning!), golf-loving, bling-slinging, blogging, wine-drinking, crazy cat lady who is as Canadian as she is American.

Stay tuned, though, to find out just what else I can be!

 

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hubby-loving golfer

 

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I doubt this will change much

 

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Play it as it lies! (ND earlier this month)

 

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Someone got rid of her own winter coat this week and wanted me to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different World

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Pretty skies over central and western Montana last week

I had an extended drive home to Montana from Bismarck, North Dakota last week which provided an opportunity to reflect on these past ten years since we moved to Seeley Lake.

There isn’t much about our worlds that has stayed the same. Other than the fact Alistair spends half his time in Bismarck and I primarily live in Seeley Lake, most aspects of our worlds are completely different now.

While Alistair still runs an urgent care, Walk In clinic in downtown Bismarck, he now works for Sanford Health, not MedCenter One and he’s in a different building than he was in 10 years ago.

As far as careers go, I was working 3 days a week in Missoula and 2 days here in Seeley Lake and I hadn’t leapt into opening my own clinic yet.

 

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Cute little clinic I eventually opened.

Alistair and I spent Christmas apart that very first winter and we hadn’t even taken possession of our beautiful mountain home yet.

I was still skating well and able to land double jumps because I had been coaching regularly while working part time at a veterinary clinic before we came to Montana. I managed to skate in Missoula a few days a week the first year and even guest skated in the club’s year-end ice show.

 

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Missoula skating club program. I loved that dress!

 

While I had a blast returning to the ice in Canada to coach this past summer, there’s no way I’d be able to curve around the ice in a pretty spread eagle and then 3-turn into a double loop like I could in Bismarck 10 years ago.

In fact, I could barely get up after kneeling to line up a putt after the first week of high level choreography, power skating, stroking and general coaching.

Speaking of lining up putts, I would have laughed hysterically if you had told me, 10 years ago, that Alistair and I would be addicted to golf now.

 

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Seeley Swan Veterinary golf team members…. the first round of golf for us together!

 

What began as a whimsical day of laughter and drinks as we swung and missed and broke golf clubs at the local pond hockey fundraiser has turned into an obsession. One that we’re both jonesen’ for now that both of our courses have closed for the season.

We have a course in Washburn, North Dakota we enjoy playing on and one here in Seeley Lake. Both are often pretty quiet so we can play “Fyfe Golf” and shamelessly hunt for balls to keep the cheap Doukhobor and the even cheaper Scotsman happy. And both courses are beautiful, as well, each with its own unique quirks and challenges.

 

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Playing at Painted Woods in ND this summer.

We take our clubs with us everywhere, even on flights and we’ve been able to enjoy rounds in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Regina, a teensy town outside of Regina, Kenmare, Medora, Fernie, Whitefish, Missoula, Helena, and all over Kauai, the Big Island and Maui. We’ve both improved immensely and we can’t wait to get back out there!

We even made time to hit the indoor driving range when I was back in Bismarck last week. We both got the Big Bucket and hit balls until our shoulders sagged and our thighs were sore. And we loved it!

 

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At the indoor driving range last week!

And I’m reminded of another change right now as the house is full of the unmistakable smell of yummy food that’s been simmering away for hours. While I was a good cook 10 years ago its as though my culinary skills are now on steroids since I won a Rouxbe online cooking course earlier this year.

Its a win-win for everyone who visits because of the cool things I’ve learned and the things I’ve tried. Steamed chicken? Who knew? The ridiculously challenging Pasta Boscaiola full of creamy mushrooms and diced prosciutto- Wow!

 

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Steamed lemon-garlic chicken I tried for the first time a few nights ago.

I’m learning the how’s and why’s of things and creating flavors and flavor profiles that I never understood before. I could follow a recipe just fine but now I actually get the order of things and how to maybe make something better. I usually only do the online lessons when Alistair isn’t here and it has been a fun addition to my life. Right now I’m simmering my own chicken stock (I just added the Bouqet Garni) that I’m making using chicken bones & bits I normally would have thrown out from roasted chickens that I never used to make but we just love to eat now!

 

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Simmer away, my pretty! (pre bouquet garni.)

I’ve also re-invented myself in that I took the time when I closed my clinic to live the childhood dream and write a book. Then I learned all about self publishing and since I began I have created a series of 3 upbeat, light-hearted, won’t-make-you-question-life-God-or-the-world, teen fiction books that are loved by people of all ages.

Lost and Found in Missing Lake, the first book, was a dream come true, even if it was pretty frightening putting myself and my imagination out there. The covers for the 2nd and 3rd books are fabulous works of art done by our friend, Ben Brick who is a graphics artist and this winter I’m focusing on trying to get the books some more attention.

 

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My 3rd book, published this spring! 

I just love writing and creating characters and worlds and I’ve been able to combine my passion for veterinary medicine in this series and its been so well-received that this winter instead of getting going on book 4, I’ve decided to work with a media marketing group and try to grow my distribution.

I want to share more of Luke and Tabitha’s story with my fans but it would be even better if I could have way more fans to share it with.

I do get to write all year with this little blog thing I now do that I certainly didn’t do 10 years ago. Heck, I had no clue about social media 10 years ago and thought blogging was for people with nothing better to do.

 

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Me, writing last week’s blog.

No offense, Bloggers. I didn’t think much of golfers 10 years ago, either!

The blog has been great for my writing and for promoting my book and for connecting with individuals around the world. It has, most importantly for me, though, been an unexpected outlet for me to share my thoughts, fears and worries when I have to face choices and loss with our animal companions.

Sadly, 10 years ago we had 4 dogs and 11 cats (3 of them were barn kitties.) In the 10 years we grew to a family that included another dog, 2 guinea pigs and up to 3 ferrets at our peak.

 

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Cleo, Casey, UB and Harry… not all that long ago, really.

A blessing to closing my clinic was being able to spend such amazing quality time with all of these cool spirits and I’ve been sharing their stories with the blogosphere. It has been wonderful having you all get to know “the kids”

Phillipa, Calypso and Luigi were outstanding ferret ambassadors and I wish I could be singing Christmas carols on the Sing-Song Saddle with them to share with you all right now but, sadly, that’s not the case.

But I was able to write through my feelings and sort of sort them out through my fingers on this screen. 10 years ago I had my journal (which I still maintain) and now I have this platform as well.

 

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Do you know how hard it used to be to get them all facing the camera?

Our horse collection was a lot larger 10 years ago and included our gorgeous stallion, Dash, who we had to say goodbye to a couple of summers ago. The broodmares, Raven and Cocoa are now buried alongside my riding horse, Spyder, along with Flash and Brutus as these 10 years has taken its toll on the herd.

The remaining bunch are wintering again in North Dakota and their fuzzy hair coats are a sign that the cold weather is coming.

 

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Siblings, Fumie & Frankie just last week!

Its pretty mild in North Dakota so far this winter, though. I just got off the phone with Alistair and he was outside on the tractor moving hay from here to there for a large part of the day and never had to come inside or shove his toes into a heater to get warm.

I’ve strained my broth and have it cooling and its almost time to put the noodles into the crock pot. I had a brisk walk up the driveway with our one remaining pup, Cleo, who is 14 and also isn’t the same as she was 10 years ago.

She has a wicked heart murmur (not as loud as Loki’s was, mind you), she’s completely deaf and her back legs don’t do what they’re supposed to all of the time. We keep her on meds for arthritis and she’s inside most of the time and she seems content to just be with us.

 

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Miss Cleopatra last week in Bismarck

And we never used to go to Hawaii but that is a part of our world now and the Grand Prix final of figure skating happened this weekend and a good friend is there with his Canadian champ and I wear glasses to read and Alistair now makes me Caesars and he’s a martini-man instead of a scotch man and our Relaxation Grotto out back is finally coming together where 10 years ago it was a deck and I sleep better and more than I used to, give or take a random insomnia spell, and my hair is shorter than its been in years and I sling bling and I’m working on something else that is all a part of improving my marketability and I really, really want people to read my books!

A lot has happened in 10 years for the Fyfes and some of its been a wild ride and other times we’ve just coasted through the changes like pros, often not even aware changes were occurring.

Thankfully our love of big breakfasts and yummy meals with good coffee or a fine wine together hasn’t changed.

Neither has the ongoing crib match.

 

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Who ARE these people?

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My first book event in Bismarck!

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We love Aloha!

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2005 with a very young Cleopatra in Bismarck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rice Ridge Fire of 2017

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Turning onto our long gravel driveway looking towards the Horseshoe Hills last week

We had a cold, wet May which meant the grass grew tall.

Then we had a hot, dry June which meant we were in for it this summer.

Lightning struck several dry places in the western part of the state on July 24th and ever since then the Rice Ridge fire has burned and taken on a life form of its own outside our community of Seeley Lake.

 

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View from the golf course three weeks ago when things got intense.

Initially it wasn’t a big concern and for the two weeks I was chilling out in a cool Canadian ice rink nobody had much to say about this fire. The night we drove west, though, back from North Dakota, and we saw the plume rising and growing from behind our Horseshoe Hills mountain range, everything changed.

The photo above was taken the first day we were back and whacking at balls on the local golf course.

The front nine provides an excellent view of the entire fire and the mountains it has marched across immediately behind our town. It also gave us an alarming perspective as to how quickly things changed during a simple round of golf.

 

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The next day. When people were evacuating and things got real.

It became clear that the fire was out of control and much of our town was put on pre-evacuation. Several friends who live by the airport (at the far right of the angry smoke seen above) just left. They packed up their kids, pets, important papers, and photo albums and they got out of town.

The golf course closed for a day due to the pre-evacuations as well as the hazardous air quality which was worsened by the fact we had another large, pre-evacuation-causing fire burning almost as quickly to the west of town.

Alistair and I have keys to the cart barn, where we keep Norman, so we still went out to play. We saw a couple of other club members as well and we all watched the sky darken and the smoke plumes change during another simple round of golf.

 

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Yayyyy!

Traffic was a steady stream as people drove south down highway 83 past the golf course that afternoon and while our farm wasn’t immediately threatened we both felt a sadness at the lack of control one has during this type of situation.

And finally, as we stood on the long fairway of the ninth hole, the air support that was so badly needed and likely saved much of our community and our airport arrived over our heads.

Planes to spot, drop water and drop retardant buzzed overhead. Single and twin rotor helicopters whacka-whacka-ed in the skies. The Canadian super-scoopers who dove into Seeley Lake one behind the other in a choreographed routine that was witnessed by hundreds stayed for a few days and flew for hours on end to pour water on this angry beast. And a famous orange converted DC10 flew out of Helena with bright red fire retardant to dump where it could.

 

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Big Orange above the golf course.

Big Orange flies over our farm when he’s called to action so I have been able to watch him from our front yard as well as from the front nine. He lumbers along and takes well over an hour when he has to fly back to refuel and refill but its a thing of beauty to watch.

He flies behind a little guy who puffs out what looks like smoke where Big Orange is supposed to dump. The two planes fly up and down the hillside and into canyons and gullies and the red powder falls when and where its supposed to, all in an effort to block the spread of the monstrous fire.

 

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view from the driving range last week

Despite the hundreds of people who came to work this fire and the amazing work of air support the Rice Ridge fire of 2017 continued to spread. The driving range has become a viewpoint for many in town and it gives a great perspective of how much land has been consumed.

The fire today has burned over 15,000 acres, which is nothing compared to other fires within the state this year or over the course of history but those acres have pretty much been immediately around our town.

The mountaintop on the very right in the above photo has the Morrell Outlook station on top, which is the same mountain and outlook seen from our back yard, on the other side.

 

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Morrell Outlook on the left peak with smoke billowing around from the Seeley Lake side on the left and coming over the top a couple of days ago.

And while its comforting to know that’s a few miles away, and its comforting to see the bright red flame retardant covering the ground up there, all along the ridge top, its still kind of eerie knowing you have a big assed fire that close to home.

Its also somewhat comforting knowing that they are using our meadow to stage helicopter pickups for both water and retardant but even that is a little freaky, too.

Freaky but super cool at the same time, if that’s possible.

 

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The first time the big Chinook buzzed in for water last week!

My neighbors and I have had front row seats to a free air show and I am amazed at how much of an organized production its been.

 

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Right. Over. My. Head.

The Chinook and the single rotor Sykorski fly both water and retardant to the fire. Last Wednesday I got to watch them fly back and forth all morning as they came and went every 10 minutes or so.

 

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View from our front yard 4 days ago.

I waved every single time I watched them (which was several) because I want the pilots to know I appreciate them. Even if they can’t see me I want to be doing any little thing I can to make someone who is working so hard to save a town they don’t live in smile.

 

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And another run.

The fire has been only 10% contained since crews really began to attack it. The terrain is, in places, inaccessible and thanks to the high winds we had the past 2 days even back-burning has been impossible (the old, ‘fight fire with fire’ saying has its origins in truth.)

We have a road behind us in the Clearwater Lakes drainage that connects to Seeley Lake around by the airport. We snowmobile that road in the winter and pause by the lakes and another road that branches off and up to the Morrell Outlook for photos.

 

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Me, on that road by frozen Clearwater Lakes this spring.

That road has apparently been widened drastically by work crews and is a focal point for stopping this beast of a fire. Many fire workers and much equipment is up there right now digging tremendous trenches and removing dead, fallen trees that cover the ground and would act as fuel to push the fire towards our meadow.

I know that because they were all suddenly in our meadow on Friday evening as my friend who just arrived from Canada for the night and I were driving into town for supper and suddenly tankers, trucks, machinery, huge rigs and several dozen men in yellow shirts and green pants were all over the place.

They were there because winds had blown the fire up and they had no idea where it was coming from or going and they figured they only had one chance to get out of the drainage if it was going towards them.

 

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Friday afternoon… as the fire blew up behind us

It had looked frightening from town that morning on the golf course and even worse when I got home that afternoon.

Granted, it was mostly moving East, which is the goal because the Bob Marshall Wilderness is that way and that’s the only thing that way.

No towns.

No people.

 

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Friday afternoon behind our ranch.

When I took the dogs up the driveway for a better view I wasn’t surprised that a few friends had messaged me asking if I needed help getting out or a place for the pets and I to get to.

I knew my friend was visiting and could help evacuate and that most everything that is important is lined up in our foyer in boxes in case I have to make a move.

And The Dragon is hooked up to the Road Warrior and there are irreplaceable items already inside and the cat crates are by the door in the garage and sealed bags of dog and cat food are also loaded inside the rig along with leashes, dishes, my skates and a pink bag of our important documents.

 

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Ready to go if needed!

I doubt it will come to that even though I watched from our kitchen sunroom last night as the outlook became engulfed in smoke and wasn’t visible from this side well until darkness.

It was, as it turned out, a controlled back-burn that would have been nice to know about but folks on the town side of the mountain shared pictures of our beloved outlook still there.

 

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Somewhat alarming view of the Morrell Outlook from our back deck last night surrounded by flames and smoke.

The flames glowed bright as the dogs and I snuggled up under the covers and the outlook is there this morning.

I’m not at all complacent about things. I am more than ready. Its easier this year with 2 portable dogs who travel well and 3 cats I can generally lay my hands on at any time. Sure, Jockey is outside but he sticks close to the house or me if I’m outside and he usually comes when he’s called. He’s also locked in the barn every evening so if we had to move quickly I would be able to make sure he would be with me.

Of course Alistair is in North Dakota right now but he can get here if he has to. Sure, it takes a full day but one of his partners is willing to cover for him if needed.

 

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A couple of days ago in the meadow.

I doubt its going to get to that because the winds aren’t predicted to be as bad as the last few days and because the experts have been working hard to make sure this fire moves itself into the Wilderness complex.

People in town are still on pre-evacuation notice and air quality still sucks but we’re all trying to stay positive. The lake itself has re-opened for recreation so that’s a bonus.

I try to focus on things I can control even though I know nobody is out of the woods. And even though I can’t forget the fact a young firefighter lost his life on this particular fire early on I know these crews know exactly what they are getting into when they sign up for this job. And I appreciate and respect that knowledge and the risks these men and women take while they work hard to save our community.

 

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Local golf course resident.

And I’ll take pictures of the little things that make me smile and give me pleasant pause like the young fawn resting in the cool grass along the creek on the 12th hole at the golf course.

Know that we’re all staying strong, we’ve got each others backs up here and everyone is communicating as much as they can. UB, Cleo, Sport, Bebe, Jockey and I, my passport, our diplomas, marriage license and naturalization certificates will be fine. Our photo albums are boxed.

Everything else is just stuff.

 

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Last week on the 9th tee box. 

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Mr. Jockey helping me wave at and take pictures of the helicopters!

 

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Coming in to land in our meadow!

 

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Friday’s view of Mother Nature’s strength. Rice Ridge fire, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Old Dog

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Backyard lilacs a couple of weeks ago

You know the old saying about not being able to teach an old dog a new trick.

And yet, you can.

Or an old dog can choose to learn something new if properly motivated.

With her hearing disappearing over the last year, Cleopatra has learned to watch our hands as we gesticulate at her. (This is usually done after calling repeatedly with raised voices that only the neighbors and horses can hear.) But she now follows the direction of where we point, which is usually towards the house to come inside for cuddles, love and play or bedtime, or towards her outdoor kennel for breakfast or supper.

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“What?”

Which is something new for a dog who is at least 13 years old.

And not that I’m calling myself “old” or anything but I’m certainly not a youngster. As I traipse through middle age I realize there are certain things I do that may make me seem “set in my ways.” Much of those behaviors are more to do with liking being organized and perhaps having a slight over-achiever tendency and Type A personality.

Like my color-coordinated closets and alphabetized CDs and spices.

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Its just easier this way, trust me!

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But I can also learn new tricks…

You see, I won an online cooking course through a local grocery chain’s “Monopoly” contest they ran this spring. I get carried away each year collecting game pieces, and choosing items and brands to purchase based on whether or not they could earn me one more chance to win big.

Each game piece can also be an instant-winner, which is why we have a plethora of table salt right now.

 

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There’s even more on the shelf above…

A little bag of flour, several small tubs of sour cream, bagels, a $5 coupon, photo prints and a canvas bag from Shutterfly… these are all the goodies this cheap Doukhobor and the cheap Scotsman she married coveted even though we didn’t win the million bucks or the dream home.

When I peeled back a game piece and saw that I’d won an online cooking class I honestly had no idea I would learning some new tricks this spring.

I looked the school up (Rouxbe.com) and it seemed reputable and professional enough but I still figured I would be watching a 15-minute segment on scrambling eggs. I had to claim the course before the end of May so last month, when Alistair was in Bismarck, I grabbed a pen and small notepad (you never knew, maybe there was an integral part of egg-scrambling that I had missed my entire life) and chose “The Cook’s Roadmap” to watch before whatever golf I had DVR’d was going to start.

 

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My course…

I’ll just say, we aren’t scrambling eggs.

What we are doing is learning! 10 Units, 173 tasks and 224 videos comprise this particular course and I am absolutely loving it! Its not even like I sucked as a cook- I kind of thought I was pretty decent, actually. Nor was I in a rut as I have always experimented with new recipes when Alistair isn’t here, sharing them with him when I figured I had nailed it or it was something I knew he would enjoy.

I had my classic chicken mozzarella, my alfredo, the onion-olive dish, artichoke chicken, spaghetti, honey mustard chicken, stir fries and big Montana breakfasts and generally all the food got eaten when company was here.

But now I’m learning how to create dishes on my own. I’m learning the why’s, the how’s and the not’s about cooking and I’m learning the basic science behind it all.

 

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Tools of the trade.

I’ve learned to embrace stainless steel and how to cook so that food doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. I’m learning about so many different oils, acids and salts and how to combine things to make my own vinaigrettes in used glass jars that I can use for mixing. I’m learning to use my steamer for a variety of different things and that rice can be so much more than a backdrop for other dishes. I spent last night learning a lot about grains, which I had always avoided because I had no clue what to do with them.

For a whopping $6 I roasted a chicken for Alistair and I the last time he was home that was as ridiculously easy as it was flavorful and simple.

The course focuses on health and balance and they offer non-course video segments on plant-based diets for general information.

More learning!

Its the perfect time for this right now because the weather hasn’t been very friendly for my golf habit.

 

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Happening right now.

Its grey, cool, dark and drizzly and while I enjoy suiting up with Alistair when he’s here and pulling the sides down with the heater on in Norman, it isn’t anywhere near as much fun by myself.

I haven’t minded the new Couch Time in the evenings with Sport and Bebe purring away while the instructor’s voice describes how to sweat the veggies (or, mirepoix) versus sautéing them. Or how to mix up the rice you’re going to Pilaf and which rice to use along with which aromatics to throw in there. And let the stuff rest for Pete’s sake! (Who knew?) I used to have a fear of rice. Just ask Alistair. Rice has always been his domain but now I’m ready to fight for that honor with a bounty of grains and techniques I’ve yet to perfect.

 

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I love learning. I also love island golf…

Which is another fun part of all of this- the practice. Like anything worthwhile I’ve attempted and tried to learn in life, I have had to practice. I couldn’t heat the pan to the right temp the first few tries any more than I could land the first axel I tried. Or the first suture knots I threw. Certainly not the first golf ball I tried to hit!

My vinaigrettes have been too oily, my steamed potatoes took way too long and my garlic got browned and sour the first time or two I’ve tried new methods so far. Even chopping with the Chef’s knife is an art form to be continually worked on.

I’m even loving the fact that I’m humbled by what I am learning. Not unlike the golf game or surgical techniques, there is always much more out there and my brain wants to grasp it and my body wants to master it.

 

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I didn’t learn how to be this overnight!

So I will happily, eagerly let my perfectionist, Type A self work her butt off to become a damned good chef! Just like I worked to be the skater, the veterinarian, the writer and the golfer. I continue to work at these things because I will never be an expert at any of them. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, especially if its something enjoyable. If its fun, then practicing doesn’t seem like work.

I do believe I’ll sign up to be a Rouxbe student after this free course is over. As long as I’m smiling and having fun and as long as I’m not poisoning Alistair, that is.

And who knows… if the LPGA plans don’t pan out in my future maybe one more hat to wear will be a fluffy white chef’s one. Maybe this old dog has a few more tricks up her sleeves!

 

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More things that took work, perseverance, patience and time…

 

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Celebrating my 3rd book this month with good friends in Seeley Lake!

 

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Another of my skill sets… stay tuned for a summer return to the coaching side of things for me!

 

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Practice, practice, practice back in vet school… 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Surprise

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Cleopatra running to see why the lawnmower died in a puff of blue smoke yesterday…

Being a veterinarian brings with it certain bonuses when it comes to having your own pets. There’s meds at cost, no need for prescriptions or pharmacies, access to x-rays (when I had my clinic… I have to say, that’s one of the things I miss the most, particularly for our own bodies!), access to information about new products for pets and of course the knowledge about conditions, problems and diseases that creep up from time to time.

Many of you who have followed the blog know that the knowledge I write about has led to “that sinking feeling” from time to time when I have really disliked being right.

How I wish I was completely wrong about Harry’s hemangiosarcoma or Mulder’s cutaneous lymphoma.

 

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Mulder and Mummy a few years ago

I really wish I had been incorrect about Casey’s laryngeal paralysis and how the warmer weather and his exuberant personality were a bad combination his final spring with us.

 

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Prepping for Casey’s first run with Dad through an Agility Course

And how I wanted to be completely off base with the cancers that I suspected as we watched Calypso, then Phillipa and eventually sweet Luigi gradually succumb over the last two years.

 

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Phillipa, Calypso & Luigi when Luigi was new to the family! Man, I miss these 3!

Knowledge is a wonderful thing but it can be a bitch when you know what horrible things can be making your beloved pet behave a certain way or show particular symptoms.

Which is why I’ve had a bit of fear nestled in the back of my mind and heart the past three months regarding our springer spaniel, Cleopatra.

 

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Miss Cleo!

 

As I was finishing writing my book early this spring, Cleo and UB would cuddle either under the desk at my feet or behind me on one of the couches. It became apparent sometime in March that a certain someone had a pretty icky smell coming from her mouth.

Initially I didn’t think it was too bad of a deal. Cleo is at least 13 years old and could be even older. She definitely has some tartar and it was possible she had a bit of an infection. So, being a good veterinary-Mummy, we began a routine course of antibiotics that are great for teeth and the smell cleared up.

Until I stopped the antibiotics.

 

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Cleo & Jockey yesterday watching UB flying towards us after the lawn mower conked out.

Then the smell gradually reappeared and it was very dental-smelling and pretty icky. Around that time she also started lapping up her water in an unusual, aggressive sort of way. Water would fly out in all directions and then she would trail some away from the water bowl afterwards.

Which was when the vet-brain started making clickity-clickity sounds and I started wondering…

Could it be a tooth root infection? One that was causing her discomfort and would require a trip to Missoula with general anesthesia and a lengthy dental cleaning with possible extractions? I would want bloodwork first because Cleo hasn’t had to have any medical procedures in years and, again, she is at least 13.

 

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“I dunno how I got the stinky breath, Mummy…”

Or could it be something even worse than that? Like an oral tumor? Squamous cell cancers like to hide in mouths and there’s that whole being at least 13 years old thing that went through my mind several times a day.

Cleo let me palpate her as much as I was able to, with and without her Daddy helping. Her lymph nodes were never enlarged and she never pawed at her face. Her eating and drinking continued, albeit with the piggy-dog style of lapping at the water.

With us traveling to Vancouver I didn’t want our house-sitter to have to worry about anything so I started a second, longer round of meds using a different antibiotic that is also very good for teeth and bones.

 

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I have a bit of a stash…

Her breath was lovely for the two weeks I kept her on that particular antibiotic but we were right back to square one once we finished.

And then, as we were relaxing on the couch with Cleo and UB one night I saw her reach up and paw at the left side of her  mouth with her back leg. An indication that something, indeed, was there and now it was bothering her.

It was time to do something, even though I dreaded the fact that my one of my suspicions was likely to be correct.

Damnit.

 

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Last month with UB and Cleo in Bismarck

Because I’m really not ready for any more loss at this time. We’ve made it through 3 months without any tragedy and its kind of nice.

And Cleo is as much my dog as her daddy’s and we both love our furry princess with all of our hearts. She’s affectionate and polite, feminine but tough and she prances like no other when she’s found something special in the forest that she wants us to see but won’t relinquish unless you’re really serious about it.

And lets not even go into what she means to UB…

 

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Cleo & I at the 2012 Dog Days of Summer

So Cleo joined me when I had to take Alistair to the airport in Missoula so he could fly back to Bismarck and we visited our favorite Internal Medicine veterinarian who is a hilarious, no-nonsense guy who always gets to see our train wrecks.

He was stumped. I mean, the odor was there but nothing else.

He listened to her ticker (minor heart murmur noted) and together we knocked her out on gas (she was a perfect angel throughout it all) and we put gloves on and started to muck around in her mouth.

And we were still stumped. Which is when he mentioned the whole Squamous cell thing and my heart rate picked up. Until we rolled her over for one more peek on the other side and he said, “What the heck is that?”

 

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“I stumped you, didn’t I, Mummy?” (Cleo’s look known as Square Face)

NoCleo had a small, half

centimeter diameter stick embedded into her upper palate, wedged tightly between her upper teeth that had been silently festering away for weeks and weeks, targeted by white blood cells and becoming infected, then getting cleaned up with meds, all the while jammed deep into her tender tissues.

 

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The culprit.

No wonder she drank her water like that!

It made a “shlucking” sound as Dave removed it and my poor princess had an indentation across her palate from tooth to tooth. The teeth are fine and the indentation didn’t bleed and Cleo slowly recovered and was a bit groggy for awhile. And a bit smelly still so we did one more week of antibiotics.

Dave was thrilled. His assistant was thrilled. Mummy was thrilled. Our house-sitter, Jessi was thrilled. Lynn, who sleeps with Cleo when she visits was thrilled.

And Daddy, who had made a point to have a private word and a rub with Cleopatra when we dropped him off at the airport, knowing the things we would be looking for and hoping to not find that day, was thrilled.

 

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Cleo & UB goofing around in Bismarck

And UB gets to keep his big sister and run off in the woods together or cuddle on the magic blanket when we drive the long roads to see Daddy in Bismarck and Cleo gets to flop on her side on the lawn so I can scritch her belly and she’ll hold her paws ever-so-daintily when I trim her toe nails and I can gaze into her dark brown eyes when she sits so nicely for one of her “things” and I’ll get to watch her take potato chips from the kindest of Daddies and she can talk to us with her slight lisp in her southern belle voice as she tells us again about relying on the kindness of strangers and both dogs get to go to the groomer’s on Tuesday for a fresh spring tune-up.

And to try to get the lingering smell off of UB from his meeting with this year’s annual skunk.

 

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My shop dog back in the day. Had to have a surgery cap just like Mummy.

And I was wrong!

And I love it!

That doesn’t mean I won’t think about her heart murmur or last year’s Vestibular Disease if she seems off. Just like I remind myself how old our Siamese cat, Sport is when he misses the target on a jump. No different from me wondering about diabetes with Bebe, the cat if I think she’s drinking too much.

But, in general, my mind and heart are so happy that I was wrong.

So here’s to warmer weather, my 3rd book getting some promotion, book events being set up, (June 9th at the Double Arrow Lodge, local peeps), sports cars that blow a lot of smoke when they overheat but are able to be limped home, and our golf games being worked on.

Now, back to that lawnmower…

 

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A puff of blue smoke and then it just stopped. Hmmm….

 

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Personally, I think its a spark plug… (yesterday)

 

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“C’mon, Lynnie, one more treat…”

 

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“See, I know everything about this here lawn mower!” (2010)

 

 

 

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Never was sure why she was trying to shove me deeper into the hot tub… did she want Daddy to herself? Classic Mummy and Cleopatra!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have I Been?

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Oh my goodness, I haven’t updated the blogosphere about Fyfe Life in weeks!

 

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OMG!

In my defense, I’ve been kind of busy.

The dogs and I loaded up and headed east to Bismarck where we spent almost a full week while Alistair had to work some extra days for a colleague.

It was our second trip back without little Loki riding shotgun and I missed her at the rest stops. I didn’t miss the mayhem that ensued with all 3 dogs, none of whom are very well leash trained anymore but I missed looking over at her little sleeping body curled up on its blankie on the front seat next to me.

 

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My travel companions en route to ND!

UB and Cleo adapted to their other home just fine, as always, and I got to reconnect with the horses and various friends. The downtown scene was maybe even more vibrant than our last trips there during the winter. When prairie folk get the feeling that their long, hard, frigid winter is coming to a close the energy is palpable.

We enjoyed a few fun suppers out at great new restaurants like J60 and dined with friends to celebrate their retirement at our old classic, 40 Chophouse.

And we cuddled on the recliners at night watching Netflix and begging Daddy for potato chips (I wasn’t a part of that but I did enjoy the cuddles and Netflix.)

 

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Recliner time with the Bismarck version of our “magic blanket”

And, wonder of wonders (not that it was planned or anything, no sirree), our golf course in ND, Painted Woods opened our last day and we were able to play a breezy, fun round!

 

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Painted Woods golf course in Washburn. Quite a different view from our Montana course!

The course opened on a Sunday and we were happy to see a few carts and golfers losing balls out there with us. (The wind, water hazzards, buttes and valleys here necessitate that you carry at least 30 balls in your bag, at minimum, even if you’re a stellar golfer.)

And ever since Alistair had his final surgery in February he hasn’t felt an ounce of pain when we play, which only adds to the fun and enjoyment when we get out there.

 

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Our back yard in ND

Alistair had also just opened up Fyfe’s Backyard Pitch & Putt before I got back so we made sure to use our membership regularly.

As you can see by his attire, the weather had warmed considerably and even now, back in Montana, the weather hasn’t been as nice as it was that week.

The equine Fyfes all look pretty good except for 26 year-old Susie, one of the grand dams of the herd. She’s looking a lot more weedy and hasn’t shed out her hair coat as much as the others have. Susie was a great broodmare for many years and she’s earned her keep at our ranch. She is still able to boss everyone else around with kicks and tosses of her head so we aren’t going to rush to any sad actions until she needs us to.

 

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Our older Arabian mare, Susie

The adventure to Bismarck was one of the reasons I haven’t had or made the time to blog. The other, main reason is that I’ve finished book 3 in my Missing Lake teen fiction series!

No joke!

Its done!

And then I had to wait for my team of editors to get through their edits and get them back to me.

 

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UB deciding he should “help” Daddy with the editing.

Then I go through each person’s stack of papers with red felt pen, pencil, blue and black ink markings and circles and then I’m ready for my final edit.

Which I’ve been doing today. With my own bright yellow highlighter and pen.

UB and Cleo have been very helpful with this round, as well.

 

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Ben Brick, illustrator (not my photo)

Our friend, Ben Brick, once again eagerly leapt at the chance to do my cover art for this book. His artwork was part of the success of my 2nd book in the series, The Dragons of Missing Lake and it was loads of fun working with him and his concepts.

Ben and I were able to meet over lunch when I was back in Bismarck this most recent trip and the final product is outstanding.

So now its just a matter of time before I share Luke Houser’s tale, from the middle of nowhere in Montana, with everyone once again.

 

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Social media banner by Ben Brick

This story picks up as Luke’s sophomore school year is winding down in the mountainous town of Missing Lake. I explore more of the relationships he has with his friends and develop some of the other characters more. The sled dogs take a bit of a back seat just because of the timing of the book but there are plenty of animal stories and events that shape this third book. Zagros and Tabitha have 2 eggs to hatch as well so there is no end to the fun!

I’m hoping to hit “enter” and then order copies within the next few days, after my final round of editing is done.

Which is great timing because our local golf course has also opened and it has been calling to me.

 

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A sunny round of golf this past week at the Double Arrow golf course in Montana!

I managed a sunny 9 holes on the back yesterday because the weather report predicted rain and cold today. I knew I would dedicate the day to the final editing process.

So I’ll leave it at that and get back to the final few chapters and maybe some supper. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be with Secrets  Abound in Missing Lake officially published!

 

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Norman came out of storage and he’s already back at the course! (Jockey is telling Dad he’s an “excellent driver”…)

 

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Pretty Fumie and Jessi in ND at the beginning of the month

 

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Some of the herd watching me as I watch them from our back deck in ND

 

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Shed-hunting in Montana… the first shed we’ve found in a couple of years!