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.

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

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