A Happy Surprise

Standard

 

P1070086

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.

 

113

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.

 

Caseyagility

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.

 

288

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.

 

308

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.

 

P1070088

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.

 

311

“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.

 

P1070092

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.

 

IMG_7525

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…

 

cleo11

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?”

 

014

“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.

 

P1070094

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.

 

014

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.

 

Cleo9

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…

 

P1070085

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

 

P1070087

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

 

428250_407934542556765_1596418206_n

“C’mon, Lynnie, one more treat…”

 

cleo12

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

 

 

 

Cleohot tub

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?

Standard

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

 

15003367_10154580176450528_853384459263555849_o

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.

 

P1060953

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.)

 

IMG_7525

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!

 

P1060959

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.

 

P1060958

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.

 

P1060962

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.

 

P1060972

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.

 

_DSC2972.jpg

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.

 

coverconceptsbook3Page1

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.

 

P1060975

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!

 

P1060968

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

 

P1060961

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

 

IMG_7527

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

 

P1060965

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Change

Standard

 

P1060929

Today at the Fyfe Farm- can’t wait for the lilacs!

While the seasons change throughout the year I am always most amazed at the transformations that occur when winter turns to spring.

It is probably more profound for those of us who live where there are four dramatically different seasons. That’s not to say I wouldn’t relish life if someone offered me a home on Kauai but I do think I would miss the changes.

The transition of spring to summer feels sleepy and easy. And the change from summer to fall sometimes sort-of sneaks up on you but it usually has no drama. And then fall turns to winter but by then we’ve probably had a bit of snow and cold and the wood stove has already been running for weeks.

Its not the case this time of year.

 

P1060928

Spring in western Montana

After a long winter that had more than 3 feet of snow on the ground with days and days of plowing the roads and splitting wood and realizing I had to plow snow again, the changing season is a welcome relief.

Its beautiful, really.

There is actual warmth radiating from the giant, glowing yellow orb in the sky which has brought all of the snow off our heavily-burdened roof tops and is taking its toll with the subsequent melt. The creeks are high.

 

P1060931

The creek that runs past our house.

 

Dark, murky water bubbles and churns next to our house, breaching the creek walls and spilling out onto our still-snowy pasture at the far end of the field. I can hear it churning along even when I’m walking the dogs down our gravel driveway that is finally drying up.

The driveway that I plowed endlessly this winter.

 

P1010547

The back driveway this winter. We try to keep this one open, too.

We are the last home on the road so if I want to have access to the world its up to me to keep things open. I don’t mind the plowing at all. I have my trusty old friend, Big Red and his kick-ass blade to shove snow from here to there. The Dodge Ram we designed as our wedding gift to each other in 1996 has served us well over the years and even if he had to be plugged in every night during the winter it was worth it to feel him shimmy and rumble and hear him fire up in the frigid mornings after another 7 or 8 inches of snow had fallen.

 

P1060839

I love you, Big Red!

It isn’t just a visual awakening that occurs when winter takes off her snowy coat and welcomes the spring. The smell of the pine trees when we snowshoe and now hike out back is magnificent! Its profound how sudden the scent seems to appear although the trees have obviously been there all winter.

The dogs seemed fascinated by the scents they were detecting on one of our first treks after a lot of snow had rapidly disappeared. UB, in particular, was almost clingy with us. Had the melt uncovered mountain lion and bear scents? Had the neighborhood wolves left markings that had been hidden all winter only to be revealed on one sunny afternoon?

 

P1060880

Snowshoe trek with UB… (not the day he was so worried)

Not all of the scents are lovely, however. Like the overpowering smell that takes over when we drive up to our mailbox, which is located next to the neighbor who is calving in a small, wet, condensed area.

Or the unmistakable smell of skunk that wafted through the truck as I passed yet another neighbor’s often-targeted house. These are definite scents of spring.

A smell I miss is that of our woodstove. We’ve let the stove go out for the season.

 

P1060934

All done for the winter.

The reliable and steady source of incredible, comforting warmth is cool and quiet now and there are no animals congregating at its hearth. When we first moved here 10 years ago, Oscar, Chorney, Boomer, Sport, Cooper and Mulder could be found alongside Cleo throughout the winter on the carpeted stairs next to the stove.

I’ve laid there myself on cold evenings when I was chilled to the bone and Alistair was in Bismarck, wrapped up in any combination of cats and dogs.

Its the stove Loki laid in front of when I joined her and we spooned one last time before she eventually took her final breaths there.

It will sit silently, unobtrusively for the next several months until it is called to duty once more and I won’t smell the smoke from the burning wood which provides a heat like no other.

 

P1060920

Just last week.

With the changing seasons comes a change in our activities. The snow shoes and snowmobiles both got some love last week when Alistair was here. If you are an outdoors enthusiast, this is the perfect place to live (once you’ve got the wood split and the driveway plowed). We try to make the most of our incredible landscape.

 

P1060909

Our “back yard” forest a couple of weeks ago.

We didn’t make it to the ski hills around us, though, because the transformation into spring was happening even more rapidly in Helena, where the golf courses began to open. Our season has begun!

 

P1060927

Also last week!

With the change in our activities we noticed more changes in our own lives. This was the first spring we could drive the hour and half there and play a full, guilt-free 18 holes and then enjoy a lovely supper out before heading home. The previous 2 years, when Helena’s courses opened before any others nearby, we could only do the driving range. Or a rapid 9 holes with a cart.

Loki’s needs, which were never, ever resented, precluded us from being gone from home for so long. I initially felt sad that I didn’t feel any guilt but then I chose to enjoy both our memories and our new ability to spend the full afternoon there.

And I even made par on the par 3 16th hole. Another ball for the wall!

 

P1060936

New pink ball-for-the-wall!

Another aspect that makes the turning of winter into spring profound for us is how we manage the farm and day-to-day chores or activities. Something so simple as footwear or outer wear becomes completely different and takes up significantly less time.

There’s the long pants and possibly long johns. The turtleneck. The vest. Maybe the CarHartts. The big heavy coat or the double-layered jacket (depends on whether or not I’m splitting wood). The scarf. The toque. The gloves (the choice again depends on the wood thing… or maybe the hay thing).

Then there’s time you need to start the trucks (if they start) and let them run so that they will be warm and the engine will run smoothly. And don’t forget to unplug them before driving off!

 

P1060905

Big Red needed plenty of time to rumble in the driveway before we would get going.

Now, though, as spring has made her entrance into our world, none of the rigs are plugged in and going outside is a matter of slipping some shoes on and maybe a light jacket. If the wind is blowing I’ll grab the toque but only so my hair doesn’t fly around.

Our lives are dramatically different when spring comes around.

And this year, some of the changes are of our own design but they’ve added to the profound feeling that things are really, really different now.

Klaus is gone.

p1010561

Klaus… our Jetta… enjoying his final winter on the Fyfe Farm.

 

Our 2009 VW Jetta was part of the emissions lawsuit that was settled late last year. After Klaus made the annual Christmas letter 2 years in a row we were more than happy to send our little car back to VW.

It took a bit of time to organize it all but early last week Alistair fired his old friend up one more time and off we went to Missoula.

0320171302

He didn’t seem overly upset about it, either.

And for the last time I followed the little grey hatchback in a different vehicle and although I didn’t feel melancholy I definitely flashed back to several of our treks between Montana and North Dakota over the years. Some changes can definitely make me smile.

351

Following Klaus through the middle of Montana in 2015.

One more change putting a smile on my face most of the time is Jockey’s transition to being an indoors kitty. It wasn’t right keeping him by himself in the barn after we had lost Georgia before Christmas so the slow process of making sure everyone got along began and he’s camped out at my feet right now as I type.

 

P1060916

He found the bed pretty quickly!

 

 

He’s an enormous cat with big sharp claws but he had kept them sheathed until Sport must have pissed him off. I haven’t witnessed any altercations but Sport showed up with what looked like a bad attempt at a pierced ear the other morning.

Oh, Jockey.

P1060935

Sport, today, after several days of antibiotics, doing quite well.

Jockey is making the most out of being a “domesticated indoor cat” and everyone is adapting to the changes.

The changes in the season and the changes in Fyfe Life.

The sun and the ground are warm, the horses are shedding their long winter coats, the color green is peeking out from where the snow has melted and spring is upon us. I’m wearing less layers, the heavy boots aren’t being worn as much, the trucks aren’t plugged in and the wood stove is silent.

P1060933

Outdoor reminders of other seasons.

While its still cool enough to have a chicken noodle soup cooking in my crock pot right now I can finally see the bon fire pit and imagine sitting around a smoky, starry night with a wine glass in my hand and UB and Cleo playing in the creek.

And I think of when we had 4 dogs by the bonfire and 3 barn kitties to lock in at night and 5 dogs at the Dog Days of Summer and so many cats to line up every day for soft food and the ferret cage sits there, empty, and the freezer is ridiculously full and I miss couch time with Loki and I feel bad about not feeling guilty when I visit a good friend in the hospital and another good friend for lunch before finalizing the VW buy-back yesterday.

As much as my life has always changed, this current changing season has brought me to a totally new phase in my life. Where many things are the same but I feel quite different. I don’t know why. More mature? Perhaps. Wiser, in some ways, less knowledgeable in others. More prone to tearing up at a commercial that features animals, that’s for sure.

I welcome spring and all the rebirth and growth and challenges in front of me.

Now, lets get those golf courses open!

P1060914

Clearly not struggling with the transition.

0325171506

Yesterday, finalizing the buy-back of Klaus.

P1060932

I’m envisioning it but its still going to take a few days…

P1060921

Bye-bye, winter! We’re ready for spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There’s That

Standard

 

p1060749

Loki Fyfe, a few weeks ago

 

Three years ago when I started writing this blog I was worried back then about little Loki, our blind grand-dog. At that point she had advanced cataracts and a left eye that had been nailed by cat claws a few too many times. She had her pronounced heart murmur, reverse sneezing, her knobby dew-claw, advancing arthritis, a thinning hair coat and a general dislike for winter.

It was only my fifth blog (As Good As We Can, by Step Gammy) and it was April of 2014 and it was about our deal with the animals who join our family and how I always promise to provide a life as good as we can for as long as we can.

I had to make good on that promise on January 30th.

p1060853

Earlier in January, with Cleo snoozing on Loki and Gampy snoozing nearby.

In my blog three years ago I wrote that I couldn’t imagine life without Loki and in other blogs I’ve shared how important she was in our lives. I’ve included multiple pictures of her exploring her worlds in Montana and North Dakota where she navigated around both homes in her pin-ball fashion, always knowing where she needed to go and somehow always able to find me.

Her need to be with Step-Gammy increased dramatically over the past year & a half and the two of us have been pretty inseparable. To the point where I felt guilty playing more than 9 holes of golf by myself or lingering longer at a lunch date.

p1060854

Earlier this year… snoring….

We couldn’t go on overnight trips without months of planning ahead of time unless the dogs came with us.

Which made for several fun drives across the state with my three companions and several funny glances from other rest-stop-users as I handled a blind dog and two rambunctious dogs who have no clue how to behave on a leash.

 

002

“Let’s get the show on the road, Gammy!”

 

349

Thankfully we had Gampy along on this trip!

Evening time with Loki, whether her Gampy was home or not was a pretty special thing for her, particularly once supper was cleaned up and it became Couch Time.

Couch Time involved snuggling and snoring into some area of my feet or legs. We’d watch golf or CNN or whatever Netflix series her Gampy and I were hooked on and she’d snore and fart and those snuggly evenings leading up to another favorite, Bed Time are a magical rear-view memory.

lokicouchtime

Couch Time with Step-Gammy watching PGA golf from Kapalua, Maui

While UB was always pretty tight with Loki, Cleo had begun making it a very tight threesome over the past year. I’d get them to bed and go off to feed the cats and stoke the woodstove only to return to a snuggle fest when I got back. They would eventually move through the night (UB and Loki under the covers, tight against us) but I loved seeing the three of them as their own little canine gang.

p1060772

Earlier in January

I joked that “we four move as one” for the past year or two because that has truly been the case. UB is fit as a fiddle but Cleo had her own Vestibular Disease and balance issue last April and she is almost completely deaf (more fun at rest stops….) UB liked having both of his sisters close by, as though he felt responsible for them. I love his caring nature and the way he can be so serious about some things.

And I loved seeing him and Loki cuddled up in cat beds or on the carpet together by the woodstove. I didn’t know how I would be able to walk through the house without knowing he would be doing his best to take care of little Loki.

454

A couple of years ago… Loki and UB.

Alistair and I hadn’t planned on putting our little train wreck through another winter but she was doing so well and the weather was so mild that neither of us could fathom ending things.

She met a new friend and enjoyed our house sitters in November when we went to Maui (a trip that was planned a year in advance, of course.) The snow didn’t fall in November so she enjoyed walks & talks with me several times a day around the farm outside. She played in the leaves, listened to the burbling creek and sniffed the air as the season changed.

 

p1010492

Getting in some good sniffing in November

 

p1010495

more sniffing

Her squished-in nose was, by far, her most important navigational tool outdoors and indoors. She was a whiz at figuring her way to the back of the house in Bismarck and a whiz at finding me in the kitchen cooking up the ground beef we added to her diet last September.

 

010

Loki and her navigational tools last fall

The snow came down hard and fast in December, though, and things began to change. She was far more sensitive to the cold temps. She started “chibbering” as we put her jackets on her before we even went outside. She always did go out (unlike UB who usually requires assistance out the door on cold, snowy mornings) and did her business but often she would be three-legged and seemingly frozen in place immediately afterwards.

Even if she did let us get the jackets on she was never a fan of them. We had a variety of sweaters or cover-ups and each one induced a Pavlovian type of trembling response from within the warm house.

470

A couple of  years ago… this one didn’t work despite the fashion-forward scarf.

So a few days, unless it was so cold it hurt to breathe, we just skipped the jackets and stood over her so we would be right there when she was finished because it was minus whatever and it was frigging cold even for us in our coats and toques.

 

p1060773

Another fail.

But things started to change and we started to talk about them. Normally Alistair and Tanya try to avoid talking about our ailing pets but the Doctors Fyfe intervened.

Despite the ground beef and high-calorie prescription canned food, Loki lost weight. She lost hair and the margins of her ears became tattered. Her GI tract was making unusual sounds and despite the meds I provided her stools got more & more loose. Her appetite, particularly for chicken mozzarella with Gampy, generally stayed strong, though, so we kept on keeping on.

img_0743

Couch Time earlier this year

And every night we would cuddle and I would hold her tight and we’d be up in the morning and out into the cold and she’d get her Rimadyl and ground beef and follow me into the computer room or the bedroom where she would wait for me outside the shower on the bath mat and she would snuggle into clothes left on the floor and follow me to the computer where she would sit on my feet or behind the chair as I told stories of teenagers and dragons and a Boston Terrier named Baxter.

She helped me finish chapter fifteen and even though I told her how the story would end, she won’t be here when this book gets published.

081

Helping me edit book 2 in 2015

Loki won’t be here to enjoy one more springtime and she won’t feel another hot sunbeam on her adorable face.

She wasn’t there to join UB, Cleo and I as we drove across the state to help Gampy with one more surgery earlier this month.

She won’t cuddle on the couch to watch another PGA event and she won’t be spooned into my chest or neck ever again.

She won’t do “Geronimo”, “Boba-Fett” or her impersonation of a T-Rex off the bed in Gampy’s arms one more time.

 

img_7511

One of her last T-Rex impersonations on one of her last mornings with Gampy.

And I won’t cook up her ground beef or give her a post-seizure bath and I won’t have her riding shot-gun in the front seat of the truck and I don’t hear her snore at night in the too-quiet bedroom and I don’t feel her thrust her face into my chest when I pick her up and I don’t have her at my feet, on my lap or by my side anywhere in the house. I don’t see ferrets toying with the blind dog, I’m not carrying anyone outside, I’m not standing her on the freezer to trim her toe nails and I’m not smiling as I watch her lay with UB and Cleo.

Because Loki had two pretty tough nights after Gampy went back to Bismarck in January. The first day after the first night was a day for me to come to grips with what had to be done and for her and I to spend time together. Walks and talks in some winter sunshine. Chapter fifteen. Couch Time and all.

 

p1060862

Immediately behind my chair on the final morning, helping me edit some more

Our last night wasn’t much fun for Loki and she didn’t eat her breakfast. Alistair and I had decided what needed to be done and we talked beforehand. Well, he talked. I sobbed.

And I cried to the blue skies outside, “How can I DO this?” through my tears.

Loki was especially clingy that final morning and I didn’t leave her side. I laid with her in front of the woodstove and said goodbye from the hundreds of people who were lucky enough to meet and love her, like Theresa, Brian & Roxy, like Jessi & Carson, like Melody, Carolyn & Wanita, like Uncle Pete and Auntie Wendy and their resort and home, like all my clinic staff and friends at the Dog Days of summer, like the Bossorts, like all of Whitney’s friends & roomies over the years and like our neighbors in Bismarck and Montana.

I asked her to say hi to our band of merry misfits who would all be waiting for her and somehow I was able to sedate her without her really knowing.

p1060864

Just before it all went down…

She felt the tiny needle, though, and she sat up. She didn’t bark or pull away. She just sat and leaned into me. As the cocktail of meds kicked in and as more tears fell from my burning eyes, little Loki slid down my side next to my leg and hit one of her classic Cute Positions.

And she snored.

With trembling hands I managed to hit a vein. I smiled, somehow, at the fact her hair never re-grew after an IV injection site was shaved in one of our attempts to save the bad eye a few years ago.

And I told her one last time, as I listened to her murmury, washing-machine of a heartbeat slow and eventually stop, how lucky I am to be her Step-Gammy.

 

p1060716

In December, waiting for me on the bath mat

Loki lived an incredible life (sixteen years of it!) with incredible spirts of all species and she probably wouldn’t have been around for the last three if it weren’t for the fact she was firmly wrapped up in Fyfe Life.

Where everyone lives as good as they can. For as long as they can.

And we’re all slowly adapting and its weird and I miss her every single day and night and UB and Cleo are even closer than before and I had a moment opening up a package of ground beef the other night for the first time since January 30th and I’m okay with that. Her spirit lives on and will likely have as much to say as ever during our golf games.

 

p1060886

This was unexpected… but I guess when you’re running out of friends…

RIP little Loki Fyfe. You will never be forgotten. xo

 

002

Another favorite snooze spot for Loki.

 

122

Clothes on the ground made for excellent bedding.

 

159

“Step-Gammy… the girl ferret is in my bed again!”

 

img_7510

Mornings with Loki in January. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Beginnings

Standard

A long December and there’s reason to believe

maybe this year will be better than the last.

 

img_0750

Dec.31st, 2016.

It was a long December.

It was also filled with great memories, smiles and laughter but there were times when reality overwhelmed me.

Like when Alistair was gone and the snow kept coming down and it was so cold Loki chose to piddle inside and Steve, the Ranger wouldn’t start so I was hauling wood to the house through the snow in a wheelbarrow and I was down an extension cord so the 3/4 ton wouldn’t start and I couldn’t get a round bale in for Zeus so I was carting square bales in that damned wheelbarrow to the 6 foot fence and heaving flakes of hay over at him sending shards of spiky hay all over me and into my hay boots which have holes in them so they’re cold and then UB took off to the forest for a few hours and I knew we would be losing sweet Luigi.

Hell, I didn’t even know about Georgia at that point.

 

georgia2015

Georgia Woo Fang Fyfe

She had been helping me split wood and would leap into my arms daily when I would lock her and Jockey into the barn every night, sweetening the deal with a can of soft food. She ate ravenously every time but we had been noticing her head tilt was more pronounced and she was more off-balance this fall.

Georgia had a chronic sinus infection that used to clear up with antibiotics over the years but this past year it became resistant to everything we tried.

 

georgia2012

A few years ago, cuddling on the front porch.

Alistair got home on a Friday, and he commented that she had raspy breathing and wasn’t in her usual place in the barn. I had split wood the day before and she had been cuddly, purring and seemingly normal.

She passed away in her sleep on Saturday, curled up on some blankets in a box.

 

georgia2013

Georgia loved her brother, Mouse so much and truly mourned his loss a year ago. They are together again.

And poor Alistair had to tell me, his wife who normally kept her shit together but had admitted to being overwhelmed on the phone to him a few days prior.

Doctor Tanya suspects pneumonia but I really don’t know. How brilliant is that, that I didn’t even know she was ill? She looked peaceful and comfy, thankfully, when I went to the barn that morning, where Mummy Tanya had a good cry.

I’m glad I told her and Jockey that I loved them every night when I would close the barn door behind me.

 

georgia3cats2012

Georgia, Mae Mae and Mouse a few years ago.

And I’m glad Mamma Cat had her furry babies in our barn in Bismarck the summer of 2005 and that we got to love this special litter and their funny ways for so long.

 

georgiatree

The first sign of spring… Georgia in her tree.

I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving

Oh how the days go by so fast.

So my heart was a little frayed 2 days later when Alistair and I knew it was time for little Luigi to cross the Rainbow Bridge, too. I had carried the weight of knowing he had GI lymphoma for a couple of months and had only shared it with a few friends. Telling people about it only made it more real, which I was trying to avoid. I also don’t like messing with people’s Thanksgiving and Christmas happiness- the ferrets have quite the fan following!

 

img_0222

Luigi earlier this year making a move on my merlot!

I wasn’t even sure Luigi was going to be around to see his Papa again but he kept eating and wanting to come out and play and sneak into the sub-woofer and nibble cat kibble in the garage. And Alistair got to play a little more with the silver boy he raised in Bismarck for 2 weeks before bringing him to Montana as a Christmas present 3 years ago.

 

158

The best Christmas present, Luigi Fyfe, the Italian Stallion!

Oh, man, he was a cute little thing but he was so tiny back then! Alistair’s brother, Ian visited in Bismarck and got to play with Luigi, who seemed entranced by his uncle.

 

little-luigi

Our silver kit loving his uncle’s big arms in ND.

Phillipa and Calypso loved their new little brother and we got to enjoy watching them romp and play and snuggle and hide and play the “Chase” game for hours every night.

Their multi-tiered cage, “Quebec” is in the laundry room which is a central part of the house. I walk past it countless times every day, starting with letting the dogs out first thing in the morning and getting cat food to the indoor kitties once the dogs are in bed, the last thing every night.

One or more ferrets would watch me in the kitchen or visit with me as I did laundry for the past 7 or 8 years.

 

462

Good times in Quebec in the Pirate Ship!

We went through 3 Pirate Ships because they loved the thing so much and come on, what’s cuter than seeing 3 feisty little pirates peeking through peep holes?

Do I even have to mention the Sing-Song Saddle and the Luigi Song?

Doctor Tanya and Doctor Alistair noticed Luigi losing a bit of weight this fall and then his stools got softer and softer. I whipped out every trick I had and even some new ones I learned from text books and an online Veterinarian network I am a member of.

 

021

My boys… Luigi, Alistair & Calypso last year

The smell of hospitals in winter

and the feeling that its all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.

Some meds seemed to help and others were just annoying. Like the pink KaoPectate droplets scattered throughout the tiled floors where Luigi would try to spit it out. I have always tried to keep the memories happy during our companions’ final months, weeks or days so seeing him resist the syringe like that didn’t seem worth it. Luigi lived life as the happiest guy on Earth so why change that? Especially since it didn’t seem to help.

001

Phillipa & Luigi in the ball bin this year

But then he stopped eating his kibble, which is usually a sign that Doctor Tanya watches for during palliative care. He still came out daily and played, though, eating lots of chewy treats and cat food.

And he came out one final night but moved much slower than normal. We both watched him in the living room and even the subwoofer didn’t seem to hold its usual appeal.

 

006

“I’m a-just playing in the sub-woofer, Mama!”

He did lay on my chest and let me hold him for a long time, at least, and only a couple of tears fell onto him as I kissed his forehead and rubbed his little body that night next to Alistair.

I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,

makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her.

And the next morning there wasn’t any sparkle in his eyes so together we sedated Luigi, the Italian Stallion and I sang him the Luigi song and he fell asleep in my lap. Doctor Tanya and Mummy Tanya became one and tears fell onto him when I administered the final injection and just like that, Luigi was gone.

 

img_0345

enjoying some water with Mama just a couple of weeks ago.

And just like that, December was a bit more difficult this time around.

But there were good times, too, many of them shared with the pets and also friends so I was able to sort of coast along busying myself with wood splitting or plowing snow. Having Alistair here during the 2 sad goodbyes helped tremendously. I really felt his absence when he left a few days ago.

When, for the first time in 7 years I didn’t have a ferret or 2 to play with or care for in the evenings. The house is pretty quiet.

 

002

Taking pics of these 4 was always hilarious!

Amazing how much of this enormous house those little spirits filled.

Through all of this is Loki’s struggle to handle the cold temps and snow this winter. In all honesty, we didn’t expect her to be enduring another winter but November had incredibly mild weather and she really had the best Autumn of her senior years.

 

img_0743

Couch Time with Step-Gammy every night.

She enjoys her food and Couch Time every single night with us and she gets around the house just the same as always but going outside is a nightmare for her. She even began “chibbering” when I would put her little jacket on inside, seemingly in anticipation of the horrible cold snowy weather.

I’ve pleaded with her to keep doing her business outside because Step Gammy might lose her shit if she doesn’t.

Nobody wants to see that.

Because that isn’t me.

I’m always able to find something to laugh or smile about and I always will, even when my heart is sad. Loki is snoozing under my desk as I type and occasionally she toots and that just makes me chuckle.

 

img_0757

UB and Cleo helping me split wood yesterday.

I have plenty of things to be happy about and look forward to.

We are a family with 3 cats and 3 dogs. Why, that’s almost normal, right?

And the PGA kicks off 2017 in Kapalua, where Alistair & I spent a week playing golf in November. We totally enjoy watching the pros play the exact same course we were on, remembering how things looked from the tee and how we chose to approach the green (as if my ball ever goes where I’ve chosen it to go!)

And the skating world is in its 2nd half, meaning US Nationals and Canadians and then Worlds are on the horizon.

Will my friend’s 3 students skate well at Canadians? Will Gracie Gold hold her own shit together for the first time this season? Will Tessa & Scott re-claim top spot on the World podium after not competing for 2 years?

 

img_0773

Zeus. Yesterday. Handsome fella!

And Zeus has a round bale and Jockey is ever-so loving as my companion when I split wood or work outside and Steve has been firing up and we have a new battery charger and Big Red got new battery connectors and the bling company is launching a capsule this month and I found my pink Carhartts and  we have African cichlids in our kitschy tank and book 3 is coming together and the days are longer and my heart is full from having a house full of spirits and I’m going to be okay.

And its been a long December and there’s reason to believe

maybe this year will be better than the last.

I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself

to hold on to these moments as they pass.

(Thanks to the Counting Crows for the assistance on this one.)

Here’s to a New Year.

 

002

Luigi & Phillipa this year.

 

georgiawo2011

Georgia out front a few summers ago.

 

p1060716

Loki, snoozing on the bath mat last month.

 

img_0755

Pink Carhartts make me happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitsch

Standard
p1060721

Its Holiday Time! Break out the little winter world!

Kitsch.

According to Wikipedia, it denotes “art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art.”

Frasier Crane and his brother, Niles would be repulsed by kitsch.

Kitsch is velvet Elvis but, hey, some people like velvet Elvis. Who am I to say someone’s opinion or taste is better or worse than my own?

Back in the day, brightly colored bold Hawaiian flowers pasted all over men’s shirts were considered kitschy when tacky tourists wore them on the islands. Its a completely different ball game now! Coffee table books have been published on the history of Aloha wear and clothing companies are making waves in the fashion industry with it!

p1060738

some of Alistair’s Aloha wear… I love it!

I love finding new Aloha shirts in colors and patterns that Alistair likes and the clothing itself makes me smile because it transports me to a warm, tropical paradise with trade winds, mai tais and a never-ending golf season.

Maybe that was part of the problem with kitschy things. They make people smile or feel good because they are simple.

Unlike complicated art that begs for comprehension amidst confusing words or designs. Writings that lament the human condition or an individual’s inability to grasp the meaning of life.

Frasier and Niles love art and poetry or writings like that.

But this blog isn’t about Aloha wear.

p1060734

One of the tanks in the Fish Room

Its about waiting over 20 years for a kitschy fish tank.

Alistair had fish and small mammals growing up and he bred and sold fish to pet stores for years. His tanks always were (are) clean, healthy, tasteful and well designed. They contain a normal substrate you would find in nature, like brown or tan rocks and gravel with real wood, pieces of slate and large rocks throughout.

His plants are green or a version of that and some are living and some are plastic. They look like the real plants you would see in a pond, creek or lake and they offer hiding places or they provide discreet areas to deposit eggs.

 

p1060735

Fish Room tank #2. Goldfish is very swirly!

He will add some fun variety like these broken clay pots and his fish communities thrive for years. And they are lovely!

Some of our little ecosystems (well, not so little when you consider the 150 gallon Texas or Convict Cichlid tanks!) have been with us since we moved to Montana from Bismarck in 2007. They had breeding pairs and lots of fry over the years and their DNA lives on.

p1060736

Guest room tank. Very natural-looking environment.

We like to sit and watch the tanks at night, feeding them every couple of days or so. We have a couch facing the tanks in the fish room and you can just feel your heart rate and blood pressure going down when you sit and watch. And listen to the bubbles.

On his last trip here Alistair combined fish from 3 less populated tanks for larger communities as fish had gradually died off from some of them.

This gave us a couple of empty tanks along with substrate and hoods… it was the ultimate time for The Dream Tank….. Kitsch!

For whatever reason I have always wanted a fairy-tale, princess type of tank with vibrant colors, a bubbling clam shell, buried sparkly treasure and pink gravel or rocks. I wanted pink plants and clear, shiny marbles on the ground because, as simple as it was, I knew it would always make me smile.

p1060724

The Kitschy Tank!

And Alistair gave me my little land of fantasy.

We used some items from our consolidated tanks and found some other fabulous, colored things at PetSmart in Missoula. My step-daughter, Whitney had bought me the sunken pirate ship, the oversized pirate and the missing jewels years ago knowing I yearned for my silly tank.

The colors aren’t real- they aren’t what you would find in nature but they are bright and fun and funky and they really do make me smile.

p1060737

Bubbling clam shell!

Alistair even found a bubbling clam shell and dropped marble-like pink glass shells all throughout the tank.

And bubbles are everywhere, providing such a relaxing sound as well as the visual to go along with it.

Now we just need fish!

We are going to go with African Cichlids again but it has been a few years. They are a more challenging fish species to care for because of their pH requirements but they are usually absolutely stunning fish as far as their own color spectrums go.

I will keep you all updated…

p1060726

Decidedly essential and non-kitschy.

For now, though, this is today’s reality.

We have been fortunate enough to have had a snow-free November but Mother Nature is more than making up for it today. We already have a foot of it out there and its still coming down. It started blowing about an hour ago, too, and the temperature is predicted to plummet into the night.

Which means I need to plug all of the rigs in and just get used to dragging my warm, heavy, huge boots through thick snow, and keep a piddle path plowed for Loki and gloves or mittens near every door in the house while not forgetting to stoke the fire and keep tabs on how the wood pile at the house is looking and just get used to wearing a toque and 3 layers of clothes with leggings and ski pants whenever I’m outside.

p1060745

Lovely orange glow! Ahhhhhh….

We weren’t sure last year (or the year before that) if Loki would make it to another winter. November was fabulous for our little grand-dog, though, even if she is becoming more clingy and set in her ways.

Loki needs her couch time at night, particularly when Alistair isn’t here. She was banging on the French doors to the living room repeatedly 2 nights ago, the day Gampy left to go in or come out because I was eating my supper at the kitchen table enjoying my veterinary journals.

She got completely worked up about it and ended up having  a wake-up seizure early yesterday morning.

p1010484

Enjoying the mild weather last month.

It wasn’t a bad or unusual seizure but it was the 2nd one we have witnessed when she had been asleep. I don’t know the pathology behind that or even if its significant. She did piddle, though, and was pretty tired afterwards.

Since then she has been great and even toughed out the snow better than her younger brother, UB this morning. Poor Loki was high-centering on the snow and trying to do her business, grunting and “chibbering” at the same time while UB ran to the barn to climb up onto the hay bales with the barn kitties.

p1060744

Front pathway after some shoveling this afternoon.

She eats with wild abandon (ground beef added to the kibble, morning and night), does her business when she has to (with occasional “I’m-pissed-at-you-Step-Gammy” moist notifications on the tile floor if I’m gone from the house too long), pin-balls her way around the house (particularly if she realizes I am in another room and she comes to find me) and cuddles into my legs or lap during couch time at night (where she snores and sometimes toots and also breaks my heart because she’s so damned adorable and endearing and I know to treasure each night we have together because each day is a gift.)

P1060716.JPG

Conked out on the bathmat by the shower I had just got out of.

Loving and caring for our little old friend is a big part of our lives right now but we aren’t willing to stop unless she indicates that she’s not having any fun anymore. But you all know that.

Which is why the kitschy tank is even more special to me right now. Its a boat load of Happy with glass shells and a silly pirate (“Arrrrrgh!”) and a shiny clam shell that burps out its own bubbles and pink, blue, orange and teal plants.

I didn’t get my pastel pink gravel because the cheapskate in me agreed with my Scotsman husband that we should re-purpose the gravel from the tanks he had shut down.

But I’m happy. And even Alistair admits that its a pretty cool tank.

And Loki is sleeping on my feet right now.

I will leave you all with a fun video we shared from our Aloha hot tub to Facebook-land the other night. Just like the sunny new fish tank in our wintery world, the tiki torches and Aloha music station help make anything dreary bright again. Its kitschy, no doubt, and Frasier and Niles wouldn’t want much to do with it.

Which is fine by us. We’re kind of private people up here anyhow.

 

 

 

p1060731

Not quite the same today.

 

p1060728

The front of the house this afternoon.

 

p1060743

Convict Cichlid tank in the Bling Emporium! (Note the natural-looking gravel, rockery and plant-life)

 

P1010518.JPG

Hiking out back last week before the snow fell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Angie

Standard

 

Angie.jpg

Angie Kimmel this winter. Photo by Juan de Santa Ana

Dear Angie.

Hey.

I’m writing you this letter because I can’t pick up the phone to text you or your mom to see if you guys want company. I can’t bring Cleo along for a fun walk through the neighborhood with you and Kali. And  I can’t randomly swing by, either, and hope to visit you because your bright smile and tired body left us on Oct.27th.

We celebrated your life yesterday at your folks’ resort on the lake and it was lovely. You would have approved.

I absolutely loved seeing all of your artwork throughout the house along with your amazing photographs that deservingly won awards over the years. I always loved seeing your photo entries at the Alpine Artisans auctions and still am in awe of the incredible pictures you took during the Jocko Lakes fire that nearly devastated our little community.

 

angie6

Me, back in the day , 2007

You used to work at Lindey’s Steakhouse back then and you were building your photography business. Your eye for detail and love of nature shows in the photos hung or displayed at your old house.

I’ll never forget you coming into my little clinic with your liver & white Springer Spaniel puppy you had got from your aunt in Spokane 3 days prior. My records say it was November 29th, 2007. We bonded immediately because we had had our hearts taken over by our own Springer, Cleo a couple of years prior.

Kali was almost too smart for me and my Easy Cheese routine (Springers!) but we got her completely vaccinated and then I spayed her in March of 2008. Man, it doesn’t seem that long ago, does it?

 

angie5

My first Furry Scurry walkathon at the inaugural Dog Days of Summer!

I’ll also never forget my very first Dog Days of Summer. I remember telling you about the party and why I created it. I was annoyed that the local medical group wouldn’t let me do microchipping and toe nail trims and a walkathon as part of their annual medical fest for humans so the Dog Days were created. You supported my craziness 100%!

 

angie4

Angie, crazy enough to walk our young girls, Cleo & Kali in the walkathon

I was busy doing microchipping at that first event so you volunteered to take The Girls for their walk wearing their cute bandanas and all. The Furry Scurry raised money for the local pet shelter and turned into a huge part of that annual summer party.

We didn’t have a really large turnout but it was still pretty special. We had the discounted microchipping, a veterinary technician doing toe nail trims, goodie bags, bandanas and a fun BBQ for everyone who came.

And you and I and The Girls made the paper in a full spread that the local Pathfinder covered that summer!

 

angie2

All smiles, enjoying the party with Cleo & Kali

You got your 2 kitties soon after you got Kali and I remember joking with you that you were collecting pets like I had done. You even found a black lab one day and we laughed our heads off when I said you were totally becoming a Fyfe and that I even had a single brother-in-law if you wanted to make it legit.

Your laughter radiated through the phone lines as we worked out who the Labrador belonged to and you remained exclusively a Mum for Kali and the kitties.

Your laugh is one of the most special things we all talked about yesterday. Your wonderful brother, Jeff told us all by the bonfire, through tears, as stunning lanterns were being released on the still lake behind him, how he used to try extra hard to be funny just so he could hear your laughter.

I got that. We all did.

 

p1010485

Up at the ranch today.

 

 

I’m feeling a bit melancholy today, which is unusual for me. One of the many things we had in common was our happiness and joy for life.

Even when you were diagnosed just over 2 years ago with a brain tumor your attitude remained bright, cheerful and strong.

You lit up like a lightbulb when we ran into you one day in Missoula when you & your mom were eating at The Shack. I plopped down on the bench next to you and we talked about how you were cheating a little bit on your well-researched diet. Your mom worked tirelessly to find the best foods for you as you fought back against your diagnosis. She has been your number one Champion throughout all of this.

I had fun walking with you and The Girls last year and sharing lunch and I enjoyed just visiting and hanging out at your place. I loved your garden the past 2 summers and hearing what you had planted and what the plans were.

Cleo never did go in the wading pool you had set up for Kali, did she?

 

angie9

After our Bling for Angie online fundraiser a year ago!

You were so shocked almost exactly a year ago when I came by with our fundraiser check after my trip to Kauai. I love this picture of us because we’re both smiling (as per usual when we’re together) but also because I remember how much you liked your pretty birthstone earrings, my second book and the fact you wanted to go to Kauai.

That online fundraiser brought a lot of folks together all to support you. We sold bling in MT, FL, ID, CA, OR, AK, AZ, WA and even Alberta & British Columbia all because so many folks love you and wanted to help out. I realize now that some of those women who shopped were at the house yesterday and even though I may have met them I didn’t remember the fundraiser. I introduced myself as your vet and your friend. A lot of your family seemed to know who I was and that made my heart so happy.

I was also happy to see Kali and Bentley roaming around. Bentley is so outgoing now! They both found me countless times; what a joy to see Kali doing so well after her dog-attack this summer.

 

p1060648

Cleo (last month) was pretty worried about Kali this summer!

I loved when you, your mom and Kali came by to drop off the dog kennels this summer and you got to see the farm! It was a gorgeous, warm day and you were able to walk around and watch the dogs play in the creek. UB and Cleo showed Kali the creek and we talked about ear meds, Chambers of Commerce, barn cats and how peaceful it is up at the farm.

You and your mom both saw why Alistair and I love this place so much and we all laughed and everything was cool. Kali explored the creek but she mostly wanted to be with you.

 

p1010492

Loki, doing some sniffing this afternoon in front of the creek.

 

Randi and I talked about that dog attack yesterday and how your bond with Kali is so special and unique. Her dog, Lily was at the lake when the lanterns were being released and it feels so wonderful to know how many people and their pets you have touched with your life.

I’ll never forget our last visit, when I brought a bit of Hawaii to you because you never did get to go there. Your rolled the shell lei around in your hands and let me babble on about our upcoming trip to Maui, the golf tournament, my golf addiction, the bling, the state of the Fyfe pets, Loki pin-balling her way around the house, vaccine clinics and house calls, trips to Bismarck, our garden, your garden, your cats and even the upcoming election. I said “hi” from Lynn and from Alistair and even from Cleopatra and we talked about how everyone was doing.

I am so happy we made the trip outside that afternoon because the sun was making an uncharacteristic appearance that week. We bundled you up and the sunbeams found you and that was a lovely day & its a beautiful, special memory I will cherish forever.

 

p1060669

A couple of weeks ago with Kali and a sunbeam.

Because, as it turned out, that was our last visit.

The last shared giggles and laughter of two Springer Spaniel-loving, cat-cuddling, gardening brunettes who both came to Seeley Lake as outsiders who have a love and respect for the land and beauty that surround us.

My life is richer for having known you, Angie. My heart breaks for your folks, your brother & his family, your friends like Becky and Kathy who cried with us all yesterday and for everyone who has met you and maybe been lucky enough to have heard your incredible laughter.

And I know Kali is mourning you, too, but she has a lot of love surrounding her and she probably knows more than we think because of your amazing bond.

I love you, Angie. Thanks for playing. I miss you.

Love, Tan

 

p1010489

Me. Today. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Girls

Standard
P1060474

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…

P1060455

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.

P1060495

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.

P1060484

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.

P1060471

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.

P1060488

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.

P1060457

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.

108

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.

P1060453

Bonjour, mes ami!

Which leaves me as Betty White’s somewhat naïve, 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.

Tan

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.

008

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.

P1060493

“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.

001

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.

011

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.

Cleo6

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.

013

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.

002

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.

triple trouble!

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

ferrets2

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

007

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

013

Very young Loki with very young Casey many moons ago.

023

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

Music, the World and Myself

Standard
P1060354

Heading east!

Alistair had an extended work period last month and I was missing him.

So were Loki, Cleo and UB so the 4 of us loaded up into the Jetta and we were back on the long, lonely Highway 200 heading East yet again.

I only brought the necessities.

P1060366

Dogs, golf clubs and bling. UB and Cleo were being camera shy.

When I reach pavement and toss a quick wave at Jessi’s house in Ovando, we are really on the road.

Its a pretty time of year for the drive because everything is green and baby animals are all over the place. Its as if the planet is full of hope and renewal.

P1060355

The last of the mountains.

Calves, foals, fawns, and lambs hang out in their herds and mosey towards the creeks and streams that weave their way through vast acreages. Where one dirt driveway pierces a perfect fenceline and I won’t see another for several miles.

There was hay on the ground. Lots of it!

P1060360

Big, round hay bales on the ground already.

Round hay bales dotted the landscape on both sides of the road while other farmers were in the process of cutting or baling.

P1060361

More hay along the road.

The long drive isn’t for everyone, especially with canine companions but I really don’t mind it with the weather being so nice and my buddies being so cute.

Well, at the rest stop when UB and Cleo get tangled up in their leashes, my legs and each other it isn’t so much cute as it is comedic. And silly.

But I can’t blame the dogs for their lack of leash-etiquette. I just laugh out loud and hover over blind little Loki and I giggle as they all sniff the prairie air and I encourage them to drink the water I’ve poured.

P1060362

Getting closer to North Dakota

The trip is enjoyable with satellite radio. What a change from driving in the 80s and 90s! When you had to load up your box of cassette tapes in their rectangular cases and push buttons to buzz through songs you maybe didn’t like, hopefully not going too far into the next song.

When your other option was the radio but good luck getting much more than AM or CBC Radio driving out in the empty prairies.

I lucked out in that there was some good golf happening on the PGA station and the music stations I like had some great playlists going on.

P1060389

The Pulse!

I love the Pulse. I get introduced to new music and sounds from artists I may or may not have heard of and I’m generally impressed.

And I enjoy the Blend because they play some older tunes mixed in with the new music and its usually a good mix.

I let my thoughts run wild, though, listening to the generational stations, 70s on 7, 80s on 8 and 90s on 9. The sounds of those decades were influenced by so many different things facing the world than what’s going on right now.

004

Little Tanya in the 70’s.

I’m a product of the 70s and along with ballet and figure skating I also took Disco dancing lessons (“do the hustle!”) Disco tunes merged somehow with rock & roll which both blended with soul-searching ballads and songs about finding ourselves. Our parents plugged the 8-tracks into the car with a thunk and Boney M or Harry Belafonte sang about trippy night flights to Venus or meeting a little girl in Kingston town.

Those of us non-millennial types somewhere in our 40s now were weaned on Cat Stevens, Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac.

And I think people were happy back then and they took responsibility for their actions and women and different ethnic groups were finding their voices and getting their feet underneath them on firm footing that hadn’t existed before.

And there was no social media or instant news access. We read newspapers and encyclopedias and we wrote letters and had pen pals in different countries and fondue was cool because people could visit while they ate instead of bending over hand-held phones that controlled their lives, offering images of irate and irrational wanna-be leaders next to advertisements for legal groups telling you who you should sue next. I liked the 70s.

014

Skater Girl of the 80s

And I lived through the 80s which produced some of the most unique sounds of any musical generation. The Euro-pop scene exploded, men wore make up and full drag, all while Heavy Metal began its loud, frenzied march through many adolescent’s “ghetto blasters.”

 

I remember my own mom ripping an Iron Maiden or Quiet Riot poster off my brother’s wall but I can’t remember why.

The 80s music scene is chock full of experimentation with synthesizers and lip synching (Girl, you know its true!) and suddenly we had MTV and Much Music and stories behind songs became as important as how it all sounded.

381353_10150454466020528_417079785_n

Closing out the 80s… grad class of ’89

The music reflected the times. HIV and AIDS were real. Hunger existed around the world.

People responded and even though a lot of songs came out of the 80s that make me shake my head it was a reflection of people asking themselves and others what could be done? How far could they push the scene? What kind of world did we want to live in?

Yay for Boy George, the Beastie Boys and Duran Duran. Yay for Bruce Springstein and Cher. And yay for heavy metal, which is a sound and a vehicle for people (and possibly their rage) that has survived to this day.

012

Japanese metal in the early 90s

My life in the 90s was as busy and confusing as the musical scene which was all about asking questions and trying to keep up with the World Wide Web and what that meant. We began 1990 without the Berlin Wall and the 90s saw African Americans beginning the identification of their own culture and what they would (and wouldn’t) stand for.

The 90s is where rap music took off and while Vanilla Ice certainly had his hey dey in there it was looked at as a mostly black style of music. Rap music was another way to interpret and question life, and it provided yet another glimpse into a song’s meaning, just like the videos behind the sounds did.

Globalization began to happen on a larger scale. Home grown nutjobs became terrorists with Oklahoma City. Flannel and plaid became cool. DVDs replaced cassette tapes. Peaceful protests of the 60s and 70s were replaced by riots in LA after the Rodney King verdict. And nobody can forget where they were when they were watching that white Bronco.

1994

One of the things I became in the 90s!

The 90s were just as busy for me.

I lived in 3 countries. I graduated both college and university. I was a showgirl, a skating coach, an English Teacher and a waitress. I became engaged then un-engaged. Then I got engaged and married to the right guy. I was a pet parent and a step parent for the first time and I attended a bunch of awesome concerts.

As always, a musical soundtrack has played in my head through every step of every adventure and these 3 generational satellite radio stations brought it home to me during my 11 hours in the car with the dogs.

P1060357

wide open sky for wide open thoughtful reflection

I am glad I had parents who enjoyed music and that, through figure skating, I was surrounded by different sounds much of my life.

I love that Alistair shares a passion for music and that he likes playing his guitar and singing John Denver or Garnet Rogers songs to me. An ABBA record on his shelf was just the beginning for us over 20 years ago.

And I am lucky I can load up my dogs, deaf or blind as they may be, and we can travel the open road between 2 states and 2 homes in vastly different surroundings.

That I am free to listen to my life’s soundtrack and pontificate on the meaning of it all and what the generational sounds will be from 2016. What will I reflect back on listening to Ed Sheerhan, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Maroon 5 and Rixton down the road?

I’d love to hear the sounds of your own soundtracks regardless of where you live or how old you are. Until next time… sing on.

P1060376

Our happy herd in sunny Bismarck

P1060369

UB’s 2nd bath in 2 trips to ND. We aren’t sure what he’s found but it stinks!

P1060367

Round 2 for the robins. Same nest, new babies!

P1060381

Playing on our ND course, Painted Woods!

P1060382

Trying to beat the storm clouds as I drove back to Montana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deconstructing Eden

Standard
017

Fyfe Summer Project has begun!

We thought about it.

We procrastinated.

We made plans.

We got thinking a bit more and weathered one more winter and finally we started.

We are making some big, fun changes. Changes that will, hopefully, open up more outdoor living space and create an engaging, relaxing, serene environment where we will want to spend mornings with coffee or watch the colors of the sky as the sun sets, martinis in-hand.

Changes that will eliminate this.

003

2014. Another winter where I bonded with the shovel.

Every winter I have posted pathetic pictures of my woe-is-me moments where the snow from the roof has landed on the deck. The deck I had likely just shoveled the day/night before (and posted pictures of.)

The snow from the deck would encroach on the hot tub as well as the lower windows of our glass solarium into our kitchen.

007

A couple of hours later.

We removed the railings from the deck a few years ago because it was difficult for little Me to heave the heavy shovel loads overtop. But then I faced the probem where I truly would run out of places to put said snow.

Until hubby would return to Montana to move the snow big-boy style.

winter

Big Boy Snow Removal System

And the cycle would repeat itself.

Over and over again.

And, yes, we have a walking snow-blower, which is great for the lower decks but little Me was never able to get its heavy ass up to this deck on my own.

winter2

2013. Same deal.

And my friends would chuckle and laugh or maybe they would shake their heads wondering just how many times I would post these pictures and lament over the task at hand.

winter3

The “after” pic back then.

We aren’t deconstructing Eden because of the snow load, however. It is more about what the repeated dumpings have done to the deck.

Our friend, who had this home built several years ago swore up & down that the deck was designed for western Montana snowfall when we first mentioned the sagging areas and boards pulling away from the walls.

That the enormous deck was an entertainment living space that highlighted the back of the house and should survive any test of time.

003

UB helping Daddy as we got going a few days ago.

It turns out our friend was misled.

And he likely paid a whole bunch of money to be misled.

006

That doesn’t look right…

Once a few deck planks came up it was revealed why things had sagged.

We found one beam.

One.

Supporting that entire deck, this one, hapless, cracked beam.

And the beam didn’t run the length of this portion of the deck.

027

What happens when a beam breaks.

While a deck this size should have had a dozen cement slabs with support beams, this uncovered area only had 4. And its pretty clear they weren’t being used.

025

The 2 other cement slabs with their support posts clearly not doing their job!

The support stands were just laying there. No Rebar, no brackets, no beams, nothing.

We began finding more and more evidence of incredibly shoddy and dangerous workmanship.

011

No support from below leads to this kind of mess.

Even at the ends of the deck things were mostly supported from above, which makes no sense unless the workers were in an absolute rush. Or they were stupid. Maybe both.

Its the most Mickey Mouse way of doing construction you can imagine.

As if the contractor said, “hey, Crew, lets do the shittiest job we can on this!”

065

The Cement forms.

The 4 cement forms (which weren’t being used) were not thick enough to provide the right amount of support. And 2 of them were mostly rocks, making the actual cement base less than a centimeter in some parts!

070

Rocks throughout.

That particular form fell apart in my hands.

Jockey, UB and Cleo watched and played as Daddy and I worked. Alistair did the lion’s share of manly, heavy, crow-bar type of work and I carted wood or stabilized shaky railings. At one point I lifted an entire beam off the deck it was “attached” to.

004

Jockey. Helping.

And I took the occasional break to see how the rest of Eden was doing while letting Loki out for Walks with Step Gammy.

The flowers are lovely. We have never had a lilac bloom outside of our bedroom bathroom like we are having this year. The entire house smells of lilacs when the windows are open and it is heavenly.

044

ahhhhhhh…. (if you like lilacs)

Our new hanging plants are so pretty (thank-you, Alistair!) and the bushes that have survived my shoving loads of snow on top of them over several years are blooming.

057

Hello, pretty thing!

040

Why haven’t we had these before? They’re lovely!

And then we were back to cracking jokes in UB’s voice about the deck and pulling and pushing and crow-barring and heaving and hauling, shaking our heads and wondering what the contractors were thinking and reverse drilling while doing the Michael Westin thing from Burn Notice at the beginning of every episode but changing it up to suit the moment:

“My name is UB Fyfe. I used to be a Deck Deconstruction expert.” (Jut your lower jaw out and lower your voice and you’ve nailed it.)

And just like that (well, it was several hours and a lot of glasses of water), that side of the deck is gone.

071

Almost all gone at this point. Watch that kitchen door… first step is a doozy!

And most of the wood is gone! A happy local family who used to bring me all of their wonderful pets over the years hauled most of it off this afternoon. I posted it free, to a good home last night and got a ton of hits! Who knew?

074

The decking… all gone!

We will hopefully begin Reconstruction this summer, at least putting in some stairs. We have plans for an outdoor living space but we aren’t sure how far we’ll get this season. We might have to see how easy it is to remove snow with the tractor and snowblower first.

We also have the other side of the deck to tackle but that, too, might take another season.

035

Gee, I wonder what we’ll find underneath that sagging portion?

So if your plans for the summer included a visit to Fyfe Land, you might be put to work. Or you might not. The hot tub and tiki torches may be as far as we get.

006

I won’t  miss this…

005

I have  missed this, however. Good old Casey watching Mummy shovel the decks from behind a snowpile (2014)

047

Loki helping me inspect the flowers yesterday.

001

R.E. Phase I is complete.