What’s Up, Docs?

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Luigi and Phillipa helped me make a fun little bling-video

If you ask me what’s new or going on or how we’re doing these days I might pause for a few seconds before I answer.

I’m just trying to remember where I am.

After Alistair’s surgery to remove hardware from his pelvis on May 6th we returned to Montana to begin his slow recovery.

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Short hikes out back… found some back-up body parts for Alistair!

Somehow I managed to keep his activity to a minimum and the healing process has gone well. The main thing is that the pain from the migrating pins is gone so the surgery was a success! The recovery phase now is the soft tissue healing.

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Cleopatra had other ideas for the spare parts.

But we still had to get back to Bismarck to tend to our horse herd and our garden so we loaded up the 3 dogs and hit the road for the 11 hour drive yet again.

We abandoned the cages and brought the “Magic Blanket” instead and the dogs travelled beautifully, even if Miss Cleo was a little bit dramatic about the whole thing.

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Drama Queen

Highway 200 is a sparsely-populated trek across the plains. We often encounter enormous farm machinery or equipment being hauled on equally ginormous rigs and we don’t see many other travelers.

Which is probably why you can still have a bona-fide cattle drive taking up the road!

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No joke! Cattle Drive!

The moo-ing and occasional “yip” from the cowboys (riding ATVs, not horses) was old school Montana but hey, when you have to move the herd several miles down the road what else are you going to do?

 

We finally got by them (moo!) and made it back to our own herd in sunny North Dakota.

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Our beautiful bunch a couple of summers ago.

Its where we had a nest full of new neighbors and a slightly peeved Mother!

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This year’s nest built right on top of last year’s.

The nest appeared last summer and a new one was built on top this year. Its location is cleverly tucked away from the winds that blow constantly but not so clever in that its immediately outside of our front door.

The adult robin continued to bring worms up and we tried to make an effort to use the side door through the garage when we could.

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Closer view of the new kids on the block.

The babies grew and grew and the day after I took this photo they were out of the nest, flying around on their own. They hovered near the area but we never saw them in the nest again and another cycle of nature has been completed.

Bismarck is also where we got our garden up & running.

Its a large garden that Alistair has tweaked over the years. This was the first year I was there to help get everything in the ground.

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Grow, my pretties, grow.

5 types of potatoes, 8 different tomato plants, 8 each of cauliflower, spinach and broccoli, red and yellow onions, herbsherbsherbs, pumpkin, cucumbers, squash varieties and 3 types of corn.

YUM!

The only thing now is hoping that the North Dakota winds don’t destroy things like they did after the first planting last year.

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Hang in there, Troops!

Our farm is also where we had to take care of a few equine-related things.

Vaccinations. Deworming.

Combing out tangled manes and tails and moving pastures.

And saying goodbye.

We laid Brutus and Raven to rest on the same day and even though we both knew it had to be done it still hit me harder than I thought it would.

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Brutus in March this year.

Brutus, a bay Paint gelding we raised had injured himself years ago at a trainer’s and could never be ridden. His labored mobility had become difficult to watch and with a new worsening respiratory condition this spring we laid him to rest on the farm he was born on.

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Last June, Brutus is in the very center.

And then there was Raven.

A Fyfe Farm staple and Boss Mare for almost as long as I have known Alistair.

We bought her as a yearling in 1995 at a reduced price because of a hoof injury she had sustained that made her an un-rideable well-bred American Paint Horse broodmare.

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Raven and baby Shilo just a day or two old.

She produced some gentle, gorgeous, personality-laden foals over the years and was an exceptional Mama.

Raven never minded us being right in with her and the foals and each one has been fun and relatively easy to work with.

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Shilo goofing around with Alistair with Raven right there.

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Shilo, a little bit older, still enjoying being played with.

While she always had that misshapen rear hoof it never bothered her over the years. She really had a great life for a horse.

Never had a saddle on her.

Always top quality hay and big pastures to run around.

She had the herd’s respect.

And three of her foals stayed on the farm and became part of the herd.

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The ladies & their foals, they were the Magnificent Seven that spring. (Raven in the center with Shilo).

Last September we noticed a forelimb lameness that suddenly appeared. It didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse. During my trips back to Bismarck it became clear that she was struggling to get around and was dropping her weight and not shedding out well. One of the easiest keepers of the herd was starting to look tough.

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Shilo and Raven last June, clearly thriving.

So it was Time.

Raven sedated calmly near the rest of the herd before Alistair slowly led her to the area where we had buried Brutus just a couple of hours beforehand and she let me rub her a little before I gave her an intra-venous boat load of tranquilizers and she got stoned and wobbly and kept eating the rich, thick grass in front of her and then I injected the pink solution and I kissed her one last time.

And I choked up walking away as Alistair climbed up into the tractor again that day.

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Raven and Frankie, who grew to be the tallest horse on the farm.

The herd dynamic definitely changed that day. When we did vaccinations and deworming of the remaining 13, having to separate them in small groups, they all seemed more anxious and worked up to be apart from each other.

They whinnied, they nickered, they kicked up and ran around.

And now 2 are coming back to Montana this week with Alistair and UB because its time to get the pasture here gobbled up and hopefully it will be time for some riding.

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Most of the remaining herd.

And Alistair is healing, having good days and great days and Loki and Cleo are so tight with me its becoming difficult to walk around the house and I think that’s enough driving and uncertainty for awhile and I’m not sad because of what we had to do, I’m just sad because everyone and everything keeps getting older and I’m sad they are gone even though its the circle of life and everything has a cycle and I know that our second year of Attrition hasn’t been any easier than the first but I also know that’s how it goes and I’ll be damned if I bottle it up and develop Compassion Fatigue.

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Mother Nature wants us to have apples this year.

And there are so many wonderful things going on that make me want to smile right now. Happy Hubby. Garden. Loki (sleeping on my foot right now). Rain. Springtime.

While things occur that make me feel sad I’m still very happy, even if I have to pause when you ask how things are going. My head and heart have been kind of full lately.

Its what it is.

Its what’s up.

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UB, Cleo & I at our favorite rest stop along highway 200.

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Our blind little wonder heading out on her own trek at the rest stop.

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Many moons ago with Raven & Shilo (Katie in the background).

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Big Frankie and his mom.

Buckle Up!

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

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Dog is my co-pilot!

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

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

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

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Ahhhh….

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress.

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

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Skater Girl! Loved that dress!

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

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

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

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Classics!

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

“Why should I cry for you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much has changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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some of the herd in Bismarck

Like the horses.

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

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

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

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

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Cassie and Penner. Not on The List!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s for another time.

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

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

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

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

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Snowshoe fun back in Montana!

Fyfe Characters

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Trying to take pictures with good old Casey a few years ago

I got to thinking about our crazy animal companions the other day and I didn’t get melancholy over the losses that have seemed never ending the past year & a half.

I could have easily slipped into a dark sadness but I started remembering how absolutely goofy some of them were, and some of the silly situations they got themselves into and I started smiling. And laughing. And I thought it would be fun to share some of the stories about pets who are still here and pets who are gone and hopefully you will get a chuckle out of them, too.

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Bonjour. Did you call for me?

Like Jacques. Our black-eyed white ferret.

Ferrets like to hide and they can disappear into tiny spaces and crevices just about anywhere. If they can fit their head into or under something then they can generally get their bodies in. And they can climb, too, the little acrobats.

We would lose Jacques for hours, calling & calling for him. He often would appear from our bedroom but we couldn’t find out where he was hiding.

Until, for some reason, I pulled out a drawer beneath shelves in my closet.

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How Jacques slept amongst the sequins, spandex and fish nets!

He had to climb straight up to get himself into a large bin where the duds of my day as a figure skater/show girl now reside. Fishnet stockings, sequins, bangles, beads, wrap-around skirts and show costumes and there’s little Jacques curled up within it all. Sometimes he was buried and other times he was just chillaxin’. In the spandex.

After that we affectionately called him Jacques Brian Boitano Fyfe.

And where does one begin with Casey’s stories?

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Casey always was up for a snuggle, preferably on your lap.

My vet school friend drove him from Saskatoon down to Bismarck when he had finished his PT after his year of being rebuilt at our vet school. Theresa had kindly fostered him for us and happily came for a visit. Minutes before they reached the US border Casey puked all over her. That was too bad given the fact the border guard apparently was pretty hot and Theresa was single back then.

Good old Casey.

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One of many, many body parts Casey dragged home over the years.

Casey loved Montana. (Who am I kidding? Casey loved EVERYthing!)

Our back yard borders USFS so there are miles and miles of forest. The dogs all treated it as their own little kingdom.

One time, early on, Casey & Harry didn’t come back from a hike they had joined me on. We called and called into the trees and Harry eventually did return. We called all of our new neighbors, the restaurant that used to be here, the pet shelter in town… nothing.

Until a few hours later when a Subaru (go figure) pulls up the driveway with Casey sitting in the back seat.

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Do you want to share, Mummy?????

There is a back road into town that runs through the forest behind our house and this lady and her son were out for a drive when they saw the boys. They said they really had to coax Casey into the car, that he looked kind of scared and that he kept looking back towards the trees… right, that’s because he probably heard us calling him and he’d never been in a car before. Trucks only.

Casey’s big adventures.

(Along those lines, when you see dogs in the middle of nowhere, they are probably closer to their home/farm than you think.)

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Oh, Muldy!

Our ginger ragamuffin Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe sometimes would disappear in Bismarck. We figured he had a poker game and dancing girls going on down the then-dirt road leading to the farm.

One time he came back I let him inside and was instantly overpowered by the smell…

“Hon, I think he’s been right by some fireworks! He’s all smoky!” I thought…

“That’s not smoke, Tan. He’s been skunked!” (Alistair and I have very different senses of smell but he was right and Muldy spent a few days in the garage.) Bathing cats isn’t a lot of fun, either.

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HRH Sport Fyfe

Then there is our stuck-up Siamese, Sport. He’s declawed and hoity toity, therefore he’s never been a hunter. He has tried to learn the ropes, though, often following Mulder around inside and out.

One day Whitney was looking out our kitchen window and asked me what the heck Sport was doing… running around the entire (big) house at least three times with something in his mouth.

He’d caught a mouse!

Only… it was a dead mouse… Mulder had caught it that morning. I watched him toy with it and then leave it beneath the camper where Sport had been investigating. Atta boy, Sporto.

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Harry in his element.

Then there was Harry who may have had some wolf in him. Our loyal, handsome, somewhat-quirky boy used to come to elementary school or daycare talks I would do because he was so unique looking and just plain cool!

But he never really learned normal dog behaviors (which is fine on the Fyfe Farm. Just donate your reproductive organs and get along).

So when the daycare kids left the door open to their soccer fields in downtown Bismarck one summer, Harry decided show and tell was over. Outside is better than inside when you’re a wolf-dog, right?

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Harry and Alistair had a very special bond.

I probably would have been fine on my own but when the kids realized the situation they all decided to “help”.

Imagine about 40 little kids chasing behind me waving their chubby little arms in the air squealing, “HARRRRRRRRRYYYYYY”. Harry glanced back and picked up the pace. Again. And again until finally one of the teachers got the kids to hold back.

2 hours.

I spent 2 hours sitting in a nearby neighborhood waiting for Harry to cross the street from underneath the tree he’d found to hide under.

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Quite the creature.

What brought a lot of this up in my mind was Loki’s latest adventure a couple of mornings ago.

In the space of 3 minutes she disappeared on me. I let the 3 dogs out every morning and then go let the barn kitties out and quickly feed UB and Cleo. 3 minutes. I swear.

No Loki.

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Here I am, Step Gammy!

I looked everywhere. Our front yard is a big, wide open area. I can see all over the place. I started calling and calling… that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach where something is very wrong….

Then  I heard her little bark (it was actually her pissy bark, to be honest so I knew Little Miss Independence needed some help).

There she was standing in the middle of the creek. The snow banks are still 2 feet high, which is why I couldn’t see her. Thank goodness the water level and flow aren’t too high right now!

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Loki needs her beauty sleep… especially after such a harrowing morning!

She was “chibbering” away but we warmed up by the woodstove and all is back to normal.

Which isn’t very normal at all around this place.

I could go on about Cleo and the UPS man or Casey knocking Dad over after knee surgery or Oscar bringing home bats, bunnies, & endangered birds or the ferrets vs the guinea pigs or UB vs the elk, UB vs the grizzly bear, UB vs the mama bear with 3 cubs, UB vs the bobcat and UB vs Georgia Woo Fang (who, thanks to that altercation is now just Georgia Woo) or discovering, as a veterinarian, that Phillipe was Phillipa or Dash not knowing how to pasture breed the 8 mares with their 8 foals or Casey splitting his head open on the snow plow blade or Gampy forgetting Loki when he was getting hay or Boomer getting locked in our closet when we went to Disneyland or Oscar & Cooper trying to have sex or UB piddling all over my clinic or a piddled-upon stove burner (aka Why Cartman Became a Barn Cat) or Jinxie going for a ride with the Schwan’s man, Whitney & Daddy when she accidentally moved to Montana ahead of schedule…. its endless mayhem and silliness.

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“You can’t leave me, Matt! I love you!”

Well, future tales for many have, indeed ended.

I could choose to let that wash over me but I’m choosing instead to have a bit of a laugh yet again. As zany as many of our animal companions have been I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Without question or hesitation I would bring each and every one of them into the house and share our worlds on the prairies or in the mountains.

And we will love on those who remain with the biggest of hearts and all of the great food and meds-when-needed that we can provide.

And we will provide the kindest, most humane goodbyes when its time for that, too.

Thanks for coming along, Friends. This has been fun!

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Alistair and his favorite redhead, Marmalade.

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UB, always with the worried expression, looking slick in his new rain slicker a few years ago!

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Our Trio of Trouble, Phillipa, Calypso & Luigi a couple of months ago

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Alistair with Mouse & Jockey last winter

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Oscar and Mummy many moons ago. He’s the reason I started this blog! xo

And We’re Off the Meds

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Loki snooooooooze

 

We had an interesting couple of weeks.

More like, Loki had an interesting couple of weeks.

Or, one week specifically, when her veterinarian Step Gammy and her MD Gampy made the decision to put her on phenobarbital for seizure control.

I’ll back up a bit.

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Last night at the dinner bowl checking to see where Calypso the ferret might be. He makes a point of stealing her kibbles one by one right under her nose.

The first seizure we witnessed was in August, in the truck driving to Montana from North Dakota. It lasted about 10 seconds and she piddled.

She had about 1 witnessed seizure a month since then and each one was the same.

Loki seemed to learn when one was coming because she would sit down by us beforehand. She has been more clingy with both of us as well and hasn’t liked being left alone anywhere in the house.

It might sound alarming but one seizure a month for a dog or cat isn’t a huge deal. Seizures themselves aren’t lethal (unless we’re talking about a toxicosis type of event). The danger lies in obstacles like stairs or falling objects or a prolonged event like status epilepticus or in aspiration if the pet vomits.

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Snoozing in Bismarck in CP1a (Cute Position 1a).

In our case there weren’t any stairs and we have removed most threatening objects from the hallways because Loki is completely blind.

So we kept on keeping on and tried to keep her head up for the 10 second seizures because she did bring up a yellow bile-like frothy liquid each time and we would talk her through the events knowing that some humans who have had seizures say that hearing is the first thing to come back and we’d run her a bath afterwards and everything was alright.

I mean, sort of alright.

Older dogs don’t just “get” epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a young pet/person’s disease and Loki is 14.

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“Did you just call me old, Step-Gammy?” (Loki, last winter).

So I have worried about a brain tumor lurking somewhere in her little round, kissable head but she has been otherwise fine.

Until she had 3 seizure events in one week and the last one lasted way too long.

Neither of us witnessed when it began, either but what we did see lasted about 20 seconds and she took about 1/2 an hour to get her balance back afterwards.

As a vet, when you tell me a story like this I will tell you about the amazing old drug, phenobarbital.

That it will likely cause some sedation and wooziness for the first couple of days but it usually passes and that it used to be dirt cheap and hopefully it will keep seizures from happening more than once a month and that humans generally have way fancier anti-seizure meds now but they used to use the very same drug all of the time.

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I just happened to have some…

But it wasn’t an easy decision because Loki is blind.

I had to have a talk with my morals about this because, as her veterinarian, I am her voice.

But I’m also her Step-Gammy and my 2 worlds often collide.

Step-Gammy wants Loki here forever and the seizures to stop. She wants Loki to feel the warmth of springtime again along with grass beneath her paws instead of the snow. She wants to see this bossy little tyke run around our yard avoiding trees and bushes with a confidence ill-suited to her lack of vision. Step-Gammy thinks that last seizure frightened Loki as much as it did her.

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“This is Bull Chit!” (a couple of weeks ago)

But Dr.Tanya Fyfe is concerned that we will dull her senses and her mind on phenobarb. And that Loki relies heavily on her sense of smell and diminishing sense of hearing and she’s concerned about that possible brain tumor and what the drug could do with that.

The vet in me wrestled a bit more but then decided we could at least try it at a very low dose and see.

The first low dose wasn’t low enough.

Talk about stoned.

Poor Loki was completely confused wandering our hallways, turning herself around and around and then figure-eighting and pin-balling her way through the foyer. She sat and licked Gampy’s bare foot for a full 15 minutes with deep, slow, full-tongue intensity.

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“Did you just tell them about the foot thing, Step-Gammy?”

She barked at closed doors. Then at open doors. She stumbled and bumbled and definitely slept a lot more than we were comfortable with.

The second, lowered dose was less intense but she just wasn’t herself.

Alistair and I kept waiting for her body to become accustomed to the medication but even after a week it just didn’t happen.

Then she started going to the bathroom inside, which is definitely not a Loki-thing.

It was always on tile floors, thankfully, but cleaning pee and poop up every single day wasn’t cool for either of us.

Or for Loki.

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snoozing peacefully on the Magic Blanket last night

It was time for Dr.Fyfe to have a word with Step-Gammy.

I always used to counsel my clients when we were discussing senior pets and any changes they noted and how the people actually felt about the changes.

It was significant for me when I would see tears creep into peoples’ eyes or I would hear their voice crack if they chose words like, ‘frustrated’, ‘angry’, ‘wrecking the carpets’ or ‘I know its not their fault but…’

I have always maintained that you don’t want your last weeks or months or time with your beloved animal companions to be filled with frustration and anger. Not only can the pets sense that and realize there has been a change, your memories of that time together will also bring back those feelings.

And that’s not what I want for any human-animal bond.

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A couple of weeks ago, navigating the piddle path we’ve cleared for her.

Its not what I want for Loki.

Loki Fyfe, the sassy-pants, bossy, big-dog-trapped-in-a-little-dog, hairlipped, heart murmured, snoring, prancing, impatient, arm-licking, adorable love bug went off the phenobarbital.

She has always had tons of dignity and spending all day in a drug-induced stupor seemed to diminish that.

She’s in charge once again and is back to normal.

Sleeping on my feet as I type.

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Loki and I in Bismarck this summer.

We haven’t witnessed any seizure activity since stopping the meds but we will.

And maybe her time with us won’t be for as long but it will be good time. Great time. Sassy-pants time. Quality time.

We owe her that much.

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Helping Gampy model his awesome leather wrap this summer.

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Loki loves a good back scratch & wiggle!

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Our stylish grand-dog last winter!

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Cuddles with Gampy, UB and Cleo in Bismarck this summer.

No Slowing Down

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The first real snow of the season

You would think that several inches of good snow would cause me to pause and reflect a little bit.

Particularly after the year we’ve had.

We are all getting used to a world without Mouse but it hasn’t been easy.

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Mouse… just a couple of weeks before he became ill

If there is a light out of the dark, however, it is that his barn-mates, Jockey and Georgia have begun to have an actual relationship.

Where she head-butts him (with her head tilt… another story for some other time…) and he leans in and licks her forehead while they both purr.

This is unprecedented behavior between enormous, part-Siamese Jockey and petite, squeaky-sounding Georgia. They each loved Mouse beyond belief and I’m pretty sure they were jealous of each other. Like a room-mate or bestie of some poor, unsuspecting guy whose girlfriend moves in.

But now all they have is each other.

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Little Georgia, before the head tilt

And they have their Mummy, of course! And Daddy part-time, too.

The day the snow came down I was busy.

Splitting and stacking wood is just part of life in western Montana unless you don’t use wood to heat your home.

Before you start picturing all 5’3″ of me heaving an axe behind my head like Paul Bunyun its not that bad. Alistair bought me an electric woodsplitter our first Christmas here.

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The woodpile a few years ago.

I always have a good, long laugh at myself when I remember a big load of wood that arrived when Alistair was in Bismarck a few years ago.

I was working full time but I had to stack it all that weekend because another load would be coming.

It was a hot weekend, too. I remember the dogs laying in the grass watching me move each piece. One by one. From the pile to the side of the house and back to the pile.

The logs weren’t stacking as easily as I would have liked, with some of them rolling around but with a touch of OCD and a need for an aesthetically pleasing wood pile I got most of the job done.

And I posted pictures on Facebook.

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Anyone see the problem?

And I felt pretty pleased with myself.

Until Alistair saw the picture the next morning and called me from work. There was something in his voice. Trepidation, perhaps?

“Hon…. you’ve got the wood facing the wrong way.”

I looked out the kitchen window. He was right.

My day of finishing off the rest of the stacking turned into unstacking and then re-stacking and the dogs just laid there on the even hotter day watching me take improperly-stacked wood off the pile over to the pile on the driveway just to take it all back and stack it properly.

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Finally I got it right!

My knuckles were dragging on the ground and my pride was bruised but it wasn’t the first time and it surely wasn’t the last time I had to eat some humble pie.

It wasn’t funny coming home to this the next night, though.

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The second load! Oh, boy!

You know what? It actually was pretty funny and I’m chuckling right now remembering all of that.

That’s just how life is on a farm at the end of a long road in the middle of nowhere.

You have to keep up on things when winter hits because there are so many other things you have to do.

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This is Bull-Chit, Step Gammy. I’m not enjoying this!

Like shovel walk- and piddle-paths for our 14-pound grand-dog, Loki, who is not a fan of winter.

I watched her almost high-center herself as she squatted which led to some giggling on my part but she didn’t hear me.

We’re pretty sure Loki and Cleo are both going deaf.

Granted, Cleo has always had selective Springer Spaniel hearing but its definitely worse this year.

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What?

On top of shoveling there is also plowing to be done. It takes two hours to do the two driveways. I like keeping both of them open in case wind blows snow across the one up to the mailboxes.

We’re the last house on the road so if I want a road out its up to me when Alistair isn’t here.

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the main driveway after plowing a couple of years ago (note Casey & Harry running to me)

We like it nice and wide so its 3 runs up and 3 runs down in Big Red.

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Big Red. Last winter.

Big Red is a 1996 model and he has fired up for me every single year. He’s probably one of the most significant relationships I have had in my life. I love that truck!

On top of moving snow from here to there I am also trying to promote my 2nd book, The Dragons of Missing Lake. I have had 2 book events that have gone very well and I’ve got one up in Condon tomorrow!

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First book event in Ovando, signing for my friend, Eloise!

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Marilyn getting her book signed at our second book event!

People are enjoying getting back in touch with my characters and seeing what Luke is getting into. I miss my characters and can’t wait to start the next book but I really need to promote right now.

And I’m still slinging bling because I’m just not busy enough.

Men… did you know that 30% of women practice saying, “Thank-you” in a mirror so that if they open a gift they don’t really like they will still look convincing?

Reason enough right there to head over to http://www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe

So the snow falls and I’m a happy little wood-splitting, snow-plowing, shovel-wielding, Mouse-missing, book promoting, Boom-grooming, gift-wrapping bling-slinger.

It keeps me busy.

It keeps me from thinking about things.

Like how this is the first part of the first winter without 5 dogs and Jockey and Georgia are starting to bond but neither of them sleeps in their beds together and Loki’s eye looks gross and I really want her to enjoy another springtime and Calypso lost a bit of weight thanks to dietary indiscretion but he’s still having a ball and I can always do more Boomer-grooming and, Jeez, she’s 20 years old which makes me miss Oscar this time of year, camped out by the woodstove and there’s no deer legs to complain about because there is no Casey.

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Casey a year ago

Well, wait…

I guess I did make the time to sit down and reflect, didn’t I?

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UB and Cleo goofing around in the snow a couple of days ago

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Our winter wonderland when it snowed this week

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Gary & Dona, my mushing experts at the 2nd book event at the Double Arrow Lodge!

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Mummy & Mouse a couple of winters ago. xo

Happenings

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

Its been a few weeks since I last blogged.

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

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

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

My silence in the blogosphere wasn’t intended.

I just haven’t had time.

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

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Cruising through Great Falls, MT!

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

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

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

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

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Our former home in Hazen, ND

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Alistair’s former clinic in Beulah, ND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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most of the herd in Bismarck

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

Again.

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

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Post op that afternoon. You have to love him!

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

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

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

Loki had her first seizure.

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

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Loki and step-gammy in Bismarck.

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

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

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

“I don’t know,” Mrs.Fyfe replied.

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Snoozing Loki loves being under the covers!

Pretending was fun but it didn’t last long.

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

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

Like maybe in her brain.

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

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

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

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

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Loki’s winter gear.

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

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

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

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Our old property outside of Watford City, ND

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

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My writing “assistant”.

No Place Like Home

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Along hwy 200, just outside of Ovando, Montana

I have been to some places or events where I feel a connection- to the surroundings, the people, perhaps to the occasion or even the time.

I can walk into any ice rink in probably any country and I am immediately at peace. Cold, perhaps, particularly if its Rossland, BC but I understand and appreciate where I am.

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No Zamboni required here

I can spot where the Zamboni comes out and where the dressing rooms are. I usually can tell right away what level of hockey is played there by scoping out the audience benches and by what type of heating system, if any, is in place.

I feel comfortable and at peace.

I feel that way in most veterinary clinics and with most animals. It was something I learned as an adult but I feel completely complete with something furry in my arms.

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When Luigi first came home to Montana!

I am happy and able to connect with cats, dogs, ferrets, rats, guinea pigs, cows, horses and more. I can be a part of their community (which is basically how things run around the Fyfe Farm).

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Mummy and Mouse, part of each other’s family

We all want to be accepted even if it is only by one person, or one dog. Its natural. Human beings are herd animals and even though there are many who seek out private existences in the hinterlands, most of us live within communities.

I have lived in large cities (Vancouver, Tokyo) and smaller ones (Bismarck, Chilliwack) and have always managed to find people or groups to connect and fit in with.

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Looking west from a house in Ovando

And then there are the tiny little rural towns or villages like Ovando, Montana, where you would think the only thing to do is make plans to get somewhere else so you could do something.

Ovando has more cows and dogs than it does human residents.

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Rural Montana cows

It is tucked back a little off of highway 200 so you have to make a point to come through town.

And why would you unless you didn’t plan your mileage out very well and you noted that the town sign said “Gas” on it?

There is no ice rink.

No high school.

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My old high school in small-town Grand Forks, BC

No boutiques or spas or building supply stores. No fast food chains, no brand-name stores, no movie theatres and no mall. No medical clinic, no dentist, no dog grooming facilities. No cops, no realtors, no bank, no lawyers. No ski hill, tennis courts or football fields.

It has what appears to be an abundance of nothing.

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Ovando’s old Western jail last November

And yet, this teensy blip that takes less than 30 seconds to fly past on the highway has something that reaches in and clutches your heart and squeezes in a way that love and community come tumbling out of your eyes when you least expect it.

Like at the school’s 8th grade graduation ceremony the other night.

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Program for Ovando’s 8th grade graduation ceremony

My dear friend, Jessi, who used to be my veterinary assistant, is the mom to one of the graduates. She and Carson are part of a teensy, exclusive club of Fyfe Farm caretakers- they love our animals like their own and it was an honor to be invited to his graduation.

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Proud Mom, Jessi and I at the graduation ceremony

Where the 8th grade class consisted of 2 kids.

Yup.

2 kids.

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8th grade graduating class of Ovando!

Like I said, Ovando is small.

Their 3-room school combines kindergarten through 8th grade. All of the kids, regardless of age, must choose to get along.

And that is a real skill these days that I know a lot of adults haven’t mastered.

So you would think the attendance for these 2 youngsters on the brim of adolescence would be pretty small.

Not so much.

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Part of the crowd.

The floor seats were almost all filled and the bleachers behind them were full.

Not with relatives, either.

These were the townsfolk and neighbors and café owner and servers and parents of other children who came to celebrate Carson’s and Madeline’s journeys.

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Miss Valiton MCing the event. She has 2 really cute young cats and she bought my book!

They were the “summer people” who have just returned from Texas for their lovely season in Montana.

They were classmates of Carson’s parents, Jessi and Jake, who all had gone to school in Ovando years ago (Jessi and her sister each had one 8th grade classmate as well).

They were the new people who raise goats who have just moved to town whose children are all grown.

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The program for the evening

They come together every year to celebrate the kids who have learned how to get along with others, how to make the most of an education that must fit in math and science above and below their own learning, how to listen to the older kids and how to take care of and help along the younger ones.

They all play together on the playground because their community of companions is small.

And its actually a pretty special thing.

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Kids & parents enjoying cake and refreshments

They have traditions at graduation that many in the crowd had participated in themselves.

Parents of the graduates read “prophecies” of what they believed their child will accomplish or do in life.

Jake wasn’t there.

He’s busy protecting our asses over in Iraq right now for his 6th or 7th tour as a US Marine.

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Howard Fly, Carson’s grandpa!

So he wrote a letter that Jessi’s dad read to everyone.

And everyone in Ovando knows Jake because he and Jessi and half the audience went to school there and everyone knows the family’s sacrifices and everyone knows Howie because he also grew up in the area and used to run the one store/gas station/hotel in town and he’s arguably one of the most hilarious people in Ovando.

But not everyone expected to hear what Jake wrote.

How he doesn’t want his son to follow in his footsteps.

How he knows and loves and appreciates his son’s kindness and concern for others.

How he knows his son would never miss his own kid’s 8th grade graduation and that if more people around the world showed a bit of the passion, respect and love that Carson shows to others maybe Jake wouldn’t need to be where he is.

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Respectful crowd

And how he wants his son to go and explore the heck out of the world and meet new people in far-off countries with different beliefs and cultural patterns and meet a girl and fall in love and bring her home to Ovando to raise a family.

So everyone cried and that was fine because everyone there is kind of like family.

We got to watch the power point photo production run by the 7th and 6th graders and then we saw diplomas handed out.

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Carson receiving his diploma from Jim, the guy we buy our hay from. They run cows just outside of Ovando.

And we laughed and ate cake and wished the kids well (Madeline and her family always came to my vet clinic in nearby Seeley Lake and they bought my book so I know them, too).

The kids are venturing off to different high schools in different directions but they will always know about each other.

Its how Ovando works.

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At the local café, the Stray Bullet last fall for my book signing. Howard and his wife Peggy visited and bought a few copies. It was my best-attended book event yet and the support was amazing!

They hold each other up and watch out for everyone’s kids and have community Luaus and they all go to the Helmville rodeo and they collectively cheer the local kids on as they leave the nest and they wait for those adult children to experience the world and then return to raise their own families.

Because they know just how special they have it in their 3-room schoolhouse and that the kids learn more about life and fitting in there than anywhere else.

And I felt very comfortable there and very much at peace.

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Carson and I!

You could definitely tell what level of hockey was played at Fyfe's Backyard Rink... audience seating was pretty limited and heating was nil

You could definitely tell what level of hockey was played at Fyfe’s Backyard Rink… audience seating was pretty limited and heating was nil

Seating wasn't really even 'exit accessible' so help was often required (note Casey all concerned, too!)

Seating wasn’t really even ‘exit accessible’ so help was often required (note Casey all concerned, too!)

 

The BEST Path Ever!

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Aloha tootsies!

I’ve travelled several paths already this year and it is only just the end of April.

The paths are sometimes real and sometimes metaphorical and yet they are all a means of sauntering along on my journey.

We sauntered our asses over to Hawaii’s Big Island again a couple of weeks ago for a fabulous little journey in the warm sunshine.

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A beautiful view!

The sky was bright blue, the ocean was navy, the clouds were fluffy, and the golf courses were awesome!

Our hotel room was a bit fancy but we didn’t complain.

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Lounging in our yukatas in the living room area…

We somehow landed this one-bedroom, ocean-view, corner suite on “cyber Monday”… a day that is uniquely American and geared to online consumers.

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One of our 3 lanais this last trip… we fell asleep every single night under the stars and waving palms listening to the ocean and the monorail below… talk about loving our Aloha!

Generally, we aren’t much for that type of thing but the rates last fall for the Hilton Waikoloa were 50% off! And then we found a conference for Alistair at a resort ‘down the road’…. I mean, we HAD to book, right?

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Many paths throughout the grounds at the Hilton Waikoloa!

I loved exploring the resort and the area around me when Alistair was off at the Hapuna Prince for his morning conferences.

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Pathways leading me around the resort

Its amazing to think that one week ago we were waking up all excited to play golf at a non-resort, more local golf course over by Kailua-Kona called Makalei.

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Every hole at Makalei was uphill or downhill…. a fun, friendly course we highly recommend!

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Getting ready to wrap up the round with our new friend, David, from AZ taking the picture at Makalei

Its amazing because here I am today, back in Montana, on a dramatically different farm than the one we left.

For starters, the weather is a bit different this morning.

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Our stallion, Dash, not overly thrilled about the weather situation…

It wasn’t all that cold before we left for Hawaii. Our local golf course had re-opened and we had played a couple of times.

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My step-daughter, Whitney and I before we left… we introduced golf and Norman to Whitney… a new journey for her, perhaps. (Note: no snow on the ground and no jackets on our bodies!)

Little Loki is missing her Mummy a lot and was a bit unsettled yesterday.

That could also do with the main reason our farm is so different now- Casey finally succumbed to his laryngeal paralysis while we were gone.

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Casey & Dad a couple of years ago riding in Steve, our Ranger

Casey.

Jumpy, eager, goofy, happy, silly, clumsy, fun-loving Casey.

The dog who was always there is gone and the hole left behind is tremendous.

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On one of many, many hikes on one of many, many paths

We had all hiked together before we left and Casey’s breathing had been labored so we did a much-modified, shortened hike. I had explained to Whitney that his disease was a matter of ‘when’… not ‘if’ and that we had already surpassed expectations by over a year.

Alistair and Whitney were adamant that we keep things as they were- that I wasn’t to step in and end things before we left.

Before he had a few more bumps with UB.

Or cuddles with Cleo.

Or sniffs with Loki.

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UB, Casey & Loki goofing around a couple of months ago

And I was and I am completely fine with that.

Because each day really is a gift and nobody knew that better than Casey.

The physical embodiments of the words, “Oh, BOY!” lived each minute as the BEST one ever, regardless of what came his way.

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Casey & Mummy, probably 12 years ago

As a puppy he never looked back when his former humans shattered his rear limbs with some blunt object. He became a ward of my vet school and joined our family for the rest of his own journey.

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Young Casey Fyfe! Oh, BOY!

He took every opportunity to cuddle and enjoy each companion he could, human or otherwise and there was always such joy in his eyes.

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Young (and bright-eyed) Loki with one of her BFF’s, Casey back in Bismarck about a dozen years ago. xo

His clumsiness seems more endearing to me now as I look through my rear-view mirror back down the paths we traveled.

At the time, though, I’m sure a few naughty words flew when he would slam into me.

Or when he knocked Alistair over post-knee surgery into a puddle on the driveway. I can only imagine what was being said as Alistair struggled to get his crutches while Casey was leaping all over and on top of him.

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Casey & Dad hiking this winter

Casey lived and loved at full throttle.

If you were in his way (as my brother’s boys discovered) you would be slammed into and then licked and loved as you laid on the ground.

His wiggly ass and wagging tail knocked Cleo into the hot tub one time.

That was the BEST dunking of Cleo!

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All 4 of the outside gang this winter

Something changed for Casey when we unexpectedly lost Harry in January.

He was still eager, keen, bright and goofy but he didn’t go for his kibble with the same gusto… and his runs through the pastures seemed more like he was looking for someone.

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This is the BEST time on the couch, Mummy!

I believe he has found Harry again and the 2 of them are on a different journey of their own now.

We laid our big boys to rest with pink roses along with Cousteau, Mae Mae, Oscar, Cadbury, Marmalade and Mulder on a cloudy morning with patches of blue peeking through and a breeze strong enough to keep me from keeping my Memorial candle lit.

Typical.

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Oh, BOY! This is the BEST photo opportunity ever, Dad!

And I miss Casey like I never thought possible and Cleo has moved primarily inside and she’s eager to cuddle and take over the bed and all of the animals are sorting this out and I still look for Mulder and long to hear Harry’s “Woo Woo’s” and I think I hear the guinea pigs whistling at me and I’m crying again but trying to be that strong, independent woman I think I am when clearly I’m not and our hikes out back are SO different now because although its the same path I have hiked for years, its a completely different journey.

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Oh, BOY! My first agility trials with my DAD!!!!

And we will all be okay.

Little things make me smile or laugh- like seeing my golf club head covers at the Mauna Lani resort 2 days after Casey had laid down in the grass with Whitney and Cleo on a sunny afternoon for the last time.

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Who knew Muldie and Casey would join Jinxie in the spirit world when I got these late last summer?

The fact we were an ocean away maybe even helped because of the Aloha surrounding us.

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View from the big lanai

We played golf and raised our glasses to one of the BEST dogs ever to join our rag-tag band of merry misfits.

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I had just made par on the par 3 hole below. People had been watching from this lava and had cheered me on. Seemed like a good time & place to celebrate 🙂

And I continue on my journey and I’m hoping that’s enough loss for awhile and that I can retain some of that Aloha ’cause it really is something special.

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Post hula lesson at the Hilton Waikoloa!

And I am okay with the hurt because it means the love was real.

And I still think I am the luckiest girl in the world to have known some amazing spirits.

Mahalo, Casey. That was the BEST of times! xo

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golf ball hunting in lava fields

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Ocean-side golf!

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Their last hike together. “That was the BEST hike ever, Dad!” April 13, 2015

Highs & Lows

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Headed East

My highs have been pretty high lately.

The entire month of March was one big tidal wave of laughter, adventure, hugs, joy and success and I’m still beaming from the experience.

Alistair and I got to spend 3 whole weeks together where we were both healthy and hospital beds weren’t involved.

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My cool traveling buddies en route to Bismarck!

Loki, UB and I traveled back to Bismarck with him for my North Dakota book signing tour. Loki navigated the house there as if she had full vision- our little blind grand-dog is a trooper!

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My view, #2

Once you leave the sky-high mountains of western Montana the terrain changes.

The road becomes straighter, the sky becomes larger,  the mountains become buttes and the fenceposts get further and further apart.

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My view, #3

And then suddenly you realize you’re driving on the horizon in a straight line through the prairies.

There are few houses and few driveways.

There are miles and miles of fenceline.

There are cows, calves, horses, foals, sheep, lambs and antelope (didn’t see any antelope-lings).

There isn’t much shoulder and there’s nowhere to pull over but that doesn’t really matter because we were practically the only vehicles on the road.

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Cocoa, Fumie, Penner, Shilo and Flash… some of my ND gang

I enjoy going back to our home in Bismarck.

I love seeing our horses and chipping golf balls at Fyfe’s Backyard Driving Range and watching prairie thunderstorms roll in.

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Fyfe’s Backyard Driving Range. Pants optional.

I love how New Neighbor doesn’t disappoint me when I have to roll my eyes at least once at their trying-to-fit-into-the-hood-ness. This time NN came by to apologize for his dog going into our garage and tossing our garbage all over the place.

“I don’t know if he’s done that before…”

“Yes. Yes, he has, but Alistair never mentioned it.”

“Oh. Say, are you guys getting ready to go somewhere?”

(In my head I wanted to say, ‘no, I always wear sparkly jewelry and have my hair all styled with gobs of makeup on a Saturday on the farm…) Out loud I told him about my book signing.

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We got the BIG table 🙂 at Dunn Bros. coffee in Bismarck, ND! (photo by Rebecca B)

Selling and signing books I climbed that tall wave of happiness as I got to see so many people who have meant the world to me for many years.

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Skating world and book world combined!

My top figure skaters and their moms came down and joined in the fun. We talked skating, book-writing, jewelry, coaching, college, how mothers-always-know, and high school graduation.

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Leanna, me, Alicia & Andrea… 3 of my top figure skaters when I coached in Bismarck

Friends from the hockey world stopped by. Parents of players we had coached in both Watford City and Hazen.

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Hockey friends, Sonny, Wendy and Sherry!

Friends we have known for the 15 or more years hubby has worked at his hospital, like Geneva, who was one of his first nurses.

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Geneva, who had already read the book, sharing with me how she just started taking piano lessons!

And friends whose parents we’ve known who have grown into pretty cool adults now!

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Rebecca and Ben Brick (wedding photos in a blog from last August…)

The very next day I was off to Watford City, where Alistair and I first played house back in 1994.

It was a lovely day for a 3-hour drive on roads I haven’t traveled for awhile.

Roads that have weathered many windy winters through the “Badlands” (aka North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park).

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by The Park

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more of the jagged, craggy landscape that has been created by forces of water and wind and boat loads of time

Although the highway was the same there are things new to the area that are almost unbelievable.

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Sunday morning truck traffic in North Dakota

This is the heart of oil country now and while the jobs and money and people are there, it is a far cry from the Wild West we used to live in. Its progress, alright, but its a bit unsightly.

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The landscape dotted with ‘progress’…

And even though I have read about this growth and people told me about the development I still wasn’t ready to see the “Man Camps”… where people from all over the US have settled in row after row of RVs or box-car-like homes on fields that once housed cattle.

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Man-Camp just outside of Watford City

Once I got to Main Street, things looked more familiar and I made my way to our old house.

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Our first home together, Watford City

The house we moved to after having just met a few months prior.

The house I got my first cat in.

Where we got our first ferret.

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Gareth with Koshka and Marshal & Alistair in Watford City, 1995-ish

The house we got dressed up to go elope in when Alistair got 2 hours away from the pager.

The house where the kids came to live with us… where rugby lessons were given, hockey was played on the driveway, school was skipped for skating sessions, cookies were baked, tennis balls were thrown, dogs were walked, field trips were taken, homework was done, garter snakes and Larry the Lizard were kept and Hallowe’en Parties were held.

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The Rugby Lesson, with Scottie, coach Alistair, Whitney, um… Troy? Sean, Gareth and Mychael (whose folks, Sonny and Wendy came to Bismarck’s book signing!)

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Hallowe’en Party, 1995, Watford City

Its the house where our beloved Golden, Mitch, laid down by the back deck and died peacefully in his sleep one sunny afternoon.

Where I held him and cried my eyes out knowing I had to tell the kids and Alistair that our faithful companion was running free.

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Whitney & Mitch in Watford City

But its just a house, right?

I wiped my eyes and made it to the Civic Center for my book signing combined with a fundraiser.

The local paper had done an article beforehand and I got to see just about everyone from the good old days.

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Kira, who was one of my youngest figure skating students back in “Tiny Tots” in the then-brand-new ice rink… she has since toured with Disney on Ice, graduated college and become engaged!

It was fantastic to see everyone and share my stories with them all. Some didn’t even know I’ve become a veterinarian since living in Watford City.

How everything changes while staying the same.

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Back in shiny jewelry and makeup in Watford City! (Signing Kayla Hansen’s book while mom, Lynette took the picture)

Driving home I made a point to stop at our old farm which, happily, isn’t made into an oil field or a Man-Camp.

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View of our old quarter-section just outside of Watford City… happily undeveloped

I smiled, with tears in my eyes when I saw Mitch’s hill and the pole that marks his final resting place.

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We love you, Mitchie!

And then I smiled some more looking towards the taller hill by the driveway, where I rigged up a Happy Party one drizzly spring for Whitney and her girlfriends, complete with a watermelon-shaped cake and horseback rides on old Sonny.

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The first ever Happy Party more than served its purpose 🙂

The highs of March continued with tremendous online sales of my Chloe + Isabel jewelry, where I made my goals and earned myself some incredible bling.

I’ve been riding that enormous wave of happiness and its been a good ride.

Its been much needed and Alistair has enjoyed sharing it with me.

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Whitney & Gareth playing on one of the old cars on our ND farm back in the day

And I made the trek back to Montana with UB and Loki after they shared a fun week on the prairies, too.

Back to a home where the word, ‘attrition’ has been used too often these past few months… where it may be used again soon.

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Casey (with Cleo) this morning

Casey’s laryngeal paralysis is finally doing what I’ve feared it would do.

How can I be surprised by something I’ve been expecting for close to 2 years?

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Casey this winter

He isn’t able to go for our short walks without turning blue and gasping.

That’s not cool for him.

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My old friend, Casey this winter, “helping” me shovel the decks

If he isn’t worked up he still wags his tail, leaps and devours his food; he isn’t suffering or in pain.

But he isn’t allowed to be Casey, either.

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Casey and Dad a summer or two ago

So, unless I have to step in beforehand, I will wait for Alistair’s return this week and I will do what must be done.

Again.

Until that point you can bet Casey will be loved up the ying-yang, even if he bonks into me.

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Several years ago, air-dancing with Casey!

And I will keep on keeping-on, enjoying my high-level highs and making more adventures possible. I’m setting up an online jewelry party for the Fyfes in Scotland… talk about a high!

Mitch is going to get a kick out of Casey.

I just hope they have tennis balls in Heaven.

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High times in Bismarck with hubby

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View from the deck in ND

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Casey Fyfe, a good old boy, noshing on his kibs this morning

Many Makeovers

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Snowy, icy footprints several mornings ago

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks but only because my journey has taken me on some different paths lately.

Paths through snow, ice, mud, puddles, and grass- over fairways, greens, ski hills, highways and into dog kennels-  with pets, hubby, parents, friends, bling-buyers, and veggie-lovers…

It has been a busy time!

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Late winter morning on the ranch a couple of weeks ago

This time of year is filled with change as Mother Nature begins a complete makeover of herself.

The beautiful snow-covered fields criss-crossed with snowmobile tracks and dog paw prints are becoming wet and brown and, in places, a bit green.

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The last time the snowmobiles got used this season… for a photo shoot with Mouse, Jockey and Alistair

We saw our first robin the other day from our bubbling hot tub.

We’re starting to have warmer days with sunshine and less frost on the decks and trucks in the morning.

We have driven to Helena and Missoula a couple of times to play golf because our local course is still covered in its winter white blanket.

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Great times playing golf at the end of February in Helena!

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A couple of days ago in Helena

Golf one day, skiing the next.

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We got out skiing at least once this winter!

Adventures during the great outdoor makeover are happening on the heels of our animal companions adjusting to the family-dynamic makeover of where they all fit without Harry and Mulder.

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Good old Casey!

Casey continues to be Casey- a jumping, panting, food-gobbling, dog-with-unilateral-paralyzed-larynx kind of guy.

He’s happy. Very happy. Always happy.

And bouncy. Very bouncy.

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Cleopatra… working those Spaniel eyes of hers!

Cleo stays outside all of the time now to keep Casey company.

We intend to bring them both in but not until we’ve arranged a couple of baths.

Talk about needing a makeover!

Cleo is a digging fool in the springtime and she brings home many ‘discoveries’…

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Trying her best to look innocent…

When the forest is your backyard and you have dogs, you’re going to see some anatomy.

Loki is doing well despite her really bad left eye… Boomer has nailed her so many times it isn’t even funny.

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Loki and her ulcerated, trying-to-heal left eye…. navigating the great outdoors!

I have her on topical antibiotics all of the time as well as twice-daily anti-inflammatories.

Loki seems to be able to navigate better outside with the brighter days, just like she did last spring and the spring before that.

And my smile widens and the skin by my eyes crinkles as I watch all 15 pounds of her snort and bustle and trot down towards the geldings or over towards the barn with a confidence that defies her blindness.

And UB is her seeing eye dog and he’s doing great.

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UB, showing off his exceptionally tight buns!

Especially when he finds limbs or jaw bones or spines just like his big sister, Cleo!

The cats are hanging in there. No makeovers necessary.

I mean, I would love to shave most of Boomer and Cooper because neither of them are grooming much anymore at 19 and 19-plus years of age.

But Boomer still prances to see me, bitching loudly when there are no ice cubes in the water dish or when she deems that it is time for soft food (with her crushed-up methimazole in it).

We’ve discovered that Cooper is deaf.

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Cooper, ten or eleven years ago… her age is a mystery

It doesn’t bother her or anybody else as far as we can tell.

And the ferrets and the rest of the feline Fyfes are as good and bright and mischievous as ever.

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A trio of trouble!

The little shoe-thieves all had showers with me yesterday and the cage had its monthly makeover so they are all sparkly clean and cucumber-melon scented once again.

My folks are having a kitchen makeover done up in Canada right now so they came to visit for a few days.

They brought my 88-years-young Nan along and she loved playing with the animals again.

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Nan back on the farm

And we got a golf club back into Dad’s hands and he joined us for a morning of chipping practice and laughing in our front yard where Mother Nature was in the midst of her snow-melting, grass-awakening, tree-budding, dog-poop-uncovering, sky-warming, horse-shedding makeover.

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Fyfe’s Frontyard Pitch & Putt

And all of this is while I’m leaping into another adventure of my own.

This adventure began a couple of months ago when I innocently bought some pretty bracelets during an online ‘PopUp’ hosted by a friend in South Dakota.

They’re very sparkly and I love them.

And I had a great experience during the online event and I got researching things.

And I talked with Alistair and I laid awake at night and I hiked with the dogs and I researched some more and I wrote in my journal and I wondered and I dreamed and I smiled and Alistair smiled and I was interviewed and accepted and I made it happen.

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Chloe & Isabel bling! Bling-bling-bling-bling-bling! 🙂

And I am now a Merchandiser with Chloe & Isabel- a 4 year-old, progressive, women-centered, supportive, wonderful, direct-sales jewelry company!

I am thoroughly enjoying the learning, friendship and camaraderie (not to mention the fabulous bling!)

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My first PopUp at Jessi’s… our animal theme was perfect as she was my veterinary assistant when I had my clinic

I’ve had 3 PopUps (time-limited, on-site events showcasing the beautiful, well-made jewelry where Hosts can earn free bling and everyone has fun) and my Hosts have earned $100 and $200 in free goodies! (thanks, Jessi, Emily and Cindy!)

The company encourages online PopUps and sales and I’m loving planning my first online event. I have a boutique anyone can order from at any time (www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe) and I am fitting this new adventure into my farm-running, animal-cuddling, hubby-loving, golf-playing, book-marketing, sequel-writing, veterinary-journal-reading, hiking, blogging, treadmilling life.

I did worry, though.

I worried that some might frown upon the fact I spent 8 years to become a doctor and now I’m slinging bling.

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Dr.Fyfe… 8 or 9 years ago with one of the luckiest kitties in the world (cat vs. farm implements usually don’t turn out very well but this one did!)

But anyone can attest to my love of sparkly things and gorgeous jewelry. I used to design dresses for skating and real life when I was younger, doodling in every note book I had.

(I also designed houses but I’m going to hold off on an architecture path just now…)

I don’t consider this adventure a makeover of myself, though.

Its another addition, or facet of Me.

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Another part of me (1992!)

The dorky kid became the skater became the wife became the horse breeder became the veterinarian became the golfer became the business owner became the author became the entrepreneurial jewelry Merchandiser.

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Cleo and her veterinarian Mummy

I have been and continue to be all of these things.

Each facet helps the others and keeps me busy and smiling and sometimes these different worlds collide and that’s even more fun!

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Ah yes… convincing the bridal party that skates weren’t optional 🙂 Love these guys! (1996, Grand Forks, BC)

(Incidentally, my friend, Abby, whose online PopUp I bought the bracelets from is a former figure skating student of mine… colliding worlds, indeed!)

The makeovers that surround me continue as ever and I will continue to grow and change and try to always be a better Me.

A better wife, daughter, friend and pet-Mummy.

And bling-slinger.

Happy. Very happy. Always happy.

If you’re interested in hosting an online or in-person PopUp, even if we’ve never met, let me know. (Yeah, its shameless self promotion but what are you going to do?)

Happy Spring!

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Hubby, Dad and I enjoying some springtime front yard golf

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Yay, Spring!

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The road leads where it leads

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My newest adventure! Check it out!