The Time and In Between

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I love the time and in between
The calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years of
Reaching out and reaching in
Holding out, holding in….

These are song lyrics by another Canadian, Sarah McLachlan.

I’m not entirely sure why they came to mind as I laid in bed a few mornings ago but it struck me that it was, really, the perfect time of day for me.

In between sleep and in between my day unfolding. I gave it some thought.

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This has absolutely nothing to do with the blog but I like the memory from almost a year ago

With Cleo and Sport curled up in bed with me its the time I don’t think about their ages. I don’t see Cleo’s right hind leg slipping out from beneath her on the tile floor. I don’t watch her miss a stair or two more frequently than ever and I’m not thinking about the fact she is at least 14 years old.

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Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe

I watch her sleep soundly in her completely-deaf world up high on her Daddy’s pillow and her breaths are comfortable, peaceful and even. I don’t have to think about her heart murmur, her arthritis, her cognitive dysfunction…

I am not reminded of the fact my beloved Siamese companion who is likely spooned up next to me with my arm draped around him is aging. He will be 19 years old in a few months but I don’t see his fragile frame because he is tight up against my body and his aging blue eyes are closed.

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HRH Sporto Fyfe

It is the time of day I haven’t been to the kitchen yet, where enormous, loud dehumidifiers hum and suck water from the walls that poured snow melt down their beams a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t walked through the wind tunnel created by equally obnoxious fans whirring away to dry out the walls that are wet from the cracked glass that is part of a one-year-plus insurance claim that continues to haunt us.

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my kitchen right now

I haven’t once again faced living with torn-apart walls and debris on my floors because I am lying in our bedroom on the other end of the house- a bedroom we were out of for almost a full year thanks to this claim.

It is a bedroom without a phone (by design) and its far enough away from the phones that when they do ring, we can’t hear them. So it is at this time of day that I don’t suck in my breath every time I hear it ring knowing Alistair is on his hours-long journey from Bismarck to Montana.

He calls at specific intervals, where he has cellular service, knowing I am worrying that day like I do every day, every 2 weeks, as I have done for the past 12 years.

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This guy!

He travels across the frozen plains and through a mountain pass on snowy, windy, often lonely roads and both of us know the length of time it takes to get from Circle to Jordan… from Great Falls to Lincoln… from phone call to phone call.

In that quiet time of day I have not yet caught of glimpse of myself in any mirror.

I haven’t had to look at the woman who is inching closer to 50 and pulling further and further from 40. I haven’t thought about belly fat or the bum knees that don’t allow me to run anymore. I haven’t washed or combed through my thinning, grey hair or wondered when my upper arms became so unattractive. I haven’t tried to squeeze into jeans that I swear fit fine just last year nor have I had to put on my reading glasses yet.

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Yeah. These.

I haven’t had the chance to look out any windows at that time of day to see just how wrong accuweather was the night before. I am blissfully unaware of the inches of snow that fell, or the ones that are still falling and I haven’t had to think about firing Big Red up for a few passes down the driveway.

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Big Red and I last winter

It is the time of day where I definitely haven’t checked my emails or read the texts alerting me to the fact individuals in Hawaii and in Vancouver have been trying to reach me to let me know my stepdaughter was in the ICU after having had an emergency the night prior that led to her requiring 10 units of blood and that things had been harrowing for the surgical team as they struggled to keep her tiny body alive.

I haven’t yet given any thought to the fact we could have lost Whitney and none of us was with her.

I haven’t yet thought about the emotional nightmare she would be going through along with the healing that would have to occur after the arduous ordeal she had survived.

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Just a few months ago on Kauai

I haven’t spent hours on the phone trying to get flights for her father to join her- flights that would take 2 full days and re-route him, if he wasn’t bumped, through San Francisco and Chicago.

I haven’t yet realized, in the time and in between, that I do have those motherly fears and worries and gut-wrenching anguish despite not having had given birth to my step kids.

And then I get up.

And I help Cleo off the bed and I watch Sport use the ottoman to assist himself.

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Miss Cleo, last spring

And I get Cleo her meds (wrapped in cheese) and I change the water dish (always adding ice cubes) and I get Bebe her Greenies because she is meowing at me to do so and I turn the fans off so I can at least think and I look at the calendar to see all of the obligations, responsibilities, meetings and planned events ahead.

I then I start to see the opportunities.

The adventures.

The next date Alistair will be coming home.

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Me

And I do see myself in the mirror and despite the odd wonky tooth and the increasingly- Eastern European-bloc eyebrows that I need to trim I’m actually okay with hurtling towards my 50s because I’m having fun being me.

I know the teeth aren’t perfect because I chose summer school skating over braces when I was younger.

I know the laugh lines and wrinkles are there from countless hours spent laughing with Alistair and our friends and our animal companions.

I know the grey hairs are earned after working hard at a few different careers and that I’m not going through puberty in spandex anymore so maybe its okay to buy a pair of jeans a size up.

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Working hard at my latest career on a beautiful summer day!

And I am so thankful that both Gareth and Whitney have pursued healthful lifestyles into their own 30s because Whitney’s physical strength helped her survive what easily could have taken her life. With 10 units of other peoples’ blood running through her to keep her alive her healthy organs kept doing what they needed to do to get her through that first night.

And the next night.

And the night after that.

Her mom was able to join her on Kauai (amazingly she was going there and was able to bump her flight up a few days) and her husband and in-laws surrounded her with love and support and we were able to talk via FaceTime and before we all knew it she was sent home from the hospital one week ago.

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Looking forward to this!

And I’m so thankful to have an amazing, talented, good man who loves me enough to keep driving 10 or 11 hours every 2 weeks to spend time with me. The same man who knows exactly how to make me laugh and who brought me 3 ferrets for Christmas, knowing they are the best present I could ever ask for! He shares my world view and he gets the jokes. We crack each other up quoting lines from Frasier or bringing Spirt of Loki into the conversation.

We cherish cocktails in the snow-surrounded hot tub with the tiki torches blazing and Hawaiian music serenading us from inside the house.

He has let me love him for 25 years this month and I don’t know what I would do without him.

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Best Christmas presents ever!!!

And even though the insurance claim woes continue, I still have a stunningly lovely house in an absolutely incredible part of the world with vaulted ceilings, the coolest bar in town and room for me to be me.

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Early winter in Paradise

I will have to face a world without beloved spirits at some point and as Dr. Mummy I may even have to have a talk with myself somewhere down the road.

But that time isn’t here yet.

And Alistair is back with me in Montana. Plowing snow in Big Red right now!

And we are hoping to FaceTime with Whitney later today and talk about our lives and how she is feeling and how she isn’t going to put taking surfing lessons off anymore because she has learned the truest, most pure value of every given day.

Including the time and in between.

How lucky we all are.

PS- donate blood!

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Earning those laugh lines with great friends

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More great friends

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Last winter with Cleo

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Blue-eyed beauty

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This guy!

 

 

 


 

 

 

Quebec is Full of Life Again!

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Post real estate transaction!

I’m back! I’m back!

I’m trying to make all of my worlds fit into one again. Its challenging with such vast worlds but thankfully I have currently been able to ignore the fact we have 2 cute ice rinks nearby for the first time since we moved here.

I’m juggling the real estate world with starting to write book #4, all while continuing to market book #3 and fitting in veterinary appointments if I can. I also just completed our huge Semi-Annual sale campaign for the Chloe & Isabel jewelry I sell and so far I’m having the best sales month I’ve had in awhile. I’ve also enhanced my role as a pet Mummy with the 3 new characters who arrived before Christmas.

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Bebe: “What the…?”

Ferrets are part of Fyfe Life once again and we are enjoying every minute of it.

Well, not the minutes where one of them still thinks they should sink their sharp canine teeth into our hands or ankles but we are thankfully getting further & further away from that.

Alistair had been planning on bringing ferrets back into our world for a couple of months. We lost our last big boy, Luigi, the Italian Stallion a couple of years ago and still never took the big yellow cage, “Quebec” out of the laundry room. It was a daily reminder of the hilarity and hijinks that ferrets provide and he knew it would break my heart to remove Quebec.

So instead of removing the empty French province, why not bring in les habitants instead?

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Barry, Andy and Maurice with Papa in Montana!

Alistair worked with them in Bismarck for a week and then drove them to Montana. Quebec is full of life once again!

The brothers are only about 3 months old now. We’ve never had 3 of them at the same age and certainly not all young kits like this but its working. We have worked it out so that I can spend time cleaning Quebec in the morning while they romp around the secured laundry room and then in the evenings they romp throughout the kitchen and hallways as well.

We are able to keep them out of the garage right now which is probably best for Snowball, our 1994 RX-7. Phillipa used to appear under the hood so who knows what she was up to for years under there?

They are into everything! Footwear once again is a ferret favorite and the Octopus play house is great fun for all.

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Barry peeking out from one arm of the Octopus!

They have grown and gained weight and are adapting to life well. I have even successfully bathed all of them (there’s nothing like a fresh, cucumber-melon scented ferret!!!)

They run, they leap, they wrestle, they tumble and its all done at break-neck speed with wild abandon. If you are in the vicinity you are expected to participate in the mayhem as well.

I was initially concerned about little Andy (he has a Scot’s accent if you’ve followed the Fyfe Ferrets before.) He wasn’t treat motivated and he didn’t seem to be gaining the same amount of weight as Barry & Maurice. Granted, Barry is enormous so you honestly can not compare but little Andy was just that… little Andy.

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Barry in his first few days. He’s larger now…

Barry is so large I’m worried he’s going to look like a beaver when he’s full grown.

I finally was able to scruff Andy and get some Ferret-Vite into his mouth. After that, he was hooked. In fact he’s a bit of a junkie already and its only been a week. Finger tips are at risk when offering it to him. (Its a sticky gel). It is good to have something special to entice ferrets anytime and the Ferret-Vite does have extra calories. These guys are calorie burning dynamos, even when they sleep at least 15 hours a day. Barry & Maurice love the chewy treats we have as well as the Ferret-Vite so no worries there.

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Mummy and Andy!

The cats aren’t overly impressed with the situation but there have been no altercations. The ferrets seem mostly curious and they follow the cats around. Sport, our almost-19 year old Siamese expresses his concern in true vocal Siamese fashion and Bebe just whacks at the ferrets. She’s declawed up front so no harm done but she does pack a bit of a wallop into her hook!

All this and book #4 is started. I’m already through chapter one and can’t wait to delve into some situations I have in mind. I never have a full plan written out but I have events that I want to hit. As I go through the events with my characters the details emerge. Their dialogue guides me. Luke’s junior year isn’t going to be a cake-walk! I am hoping to get to their first real sled dog race by the end of the book but we will see how everything develops. We do have a new classmate, which is always great fun in a teensy, tiny, rural school where everyone knows everyone else.

And real estate transaction #3 went down on Friday and I couldn’t be more excited for my buyers. Its a beautiful house and they deserve it!

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Maurice. In footwear. If you visit, hide your shoes!

I had some vet visits this weekend and last weekend so I’ve been all sorts of versions of myself and it has been fun.

But I have missed writing a blog so here it is. Perhaps a bit shorter than normal but lots of silly ferret photos. Andy did his first video the other day on Facebook and it was pretty well-received. (Maurice is French, which is great… Barry is supposedly Australian (Bee Gees, right?) but we are both having a hard time remembering that.) Partly because he looks a lot like our former Frenchman, Calypso but also because neither of us does a particularly good Aussie accent. We will work on it!

So stay tuned for all-things-ferret from all-places-Fyfe. I’m so happy to be a ferret Mummy again… as long as I have my leather slippers on while “the boys” are out!

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Our first day out of Quebec with Maurice

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Andy in the ball thingy… Barry is on the other side but you can just barely see him

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Barry and the Octopus. Andy was inside the thing. Its challenging to get a picture with 2 of them, let alone 3 in the same frame!

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Bonjour! Excuse moi, but I might need some assistances!

 

A Different World

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Pretty skies over central and western Montana last week

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

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

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

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

 

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Cute little clinic I eventually opened.

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

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

 

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Missoula skating club program. I loved that dress!

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Playing at Painted Woods in ND this summer.

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

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

 

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At the indoor driving range last week!

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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My 3rd book, published this spring! 

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

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

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

 

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Me, writing last week’s blog.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Siblings, Fumie & Frankie just last week!

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

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

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

 

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Miss Cleopatra last week in Bismarck

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

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

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

Neither has the ongoing crib match.

 

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Who ARE these people?

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My first book event in Bismarck!

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We love Aloha!

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2005 with a very young Cleopatra in Bismarck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There’s That

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Loki Fyfe, a few weeks ago

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Earlier this year… snoring….

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

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

 

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

 

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Thankfully we had Gampy along on this trip!

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

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

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

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

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Earlier in January

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

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

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A couple of years ago… Loki and UB.

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

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

 

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Getting in some good sniffing in November

 

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more sniffing

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

 

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Loki and her navigational tools last fall

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

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

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

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

 

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Another fail.

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

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

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Couch Time earlier this year

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

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

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Helping me edit book 2 in 2015

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Just before it all went down…

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

And she snored.

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

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

 

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In December, waiting for me on the bath mat

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Another favorite snooze spot for Loki.

 

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Clothes on the ground made for excellent bedding.

 

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

 

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Mornings with Loki in January. xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Je t’aime, Phillipa. Je t’aime.

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Papa and Phillipa a couple of weeks ago

Last Monday didn’t go so well for me. I suppose it was worse for Phillipa because suddenly she couldn’t use her back legs very well.

Her rear limbs haven’t been working 100% for months now but even Sunday night she was scampering around, taking chewy treats from my fingers and trotting over to the water dish.

But Monday was a different story.

We were up & buzzing about getting ready for Alistair to hit the road to Bismarck a few days early so he could take care of a challenging fiberglass sliver embedded near a finger joint. While I have lidocaine and needles here the mere thought of blocking his hand with a 22 gauge tip was painful.

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Last month, bellying up to the bar (she liked the ice cubes).

It was a bit of a rushed morning and not really planned until his throbbing finger woke him up early so I wasn’t prepared to see Phillipa unable to go more than 3 steps without toppling over.

She also wouldn’t eat any chewy treats.

Not even the raisin ones. (There was always a “reason for raisin!”)

Nor would she lap the sticky, sweet-tasting calorie supplement off my finger but she did sip some water when I laid her in my lap.

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Back at the bowl earlier this summer.

She and Luigi spent much of the day cuddling in either their hammock or pirate ship but it looked like it was a challenge for her to navigate the tunnels and tubes of Quebec, their cage. She never vocalized at any time so by the time Alistair was in North Dakota I let her out on carpeted flooring to see if that would help.

It didn’t.

And it didn’t look like she was having fun anymore.

Alistair called from outside of Dickenson and he agreed it was Time. And he was so sad and sorry to not be with me to do what needed to be done.

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Phillipa cuddling with Luigi back in June.

He had left that morning knowing he would never see her cute little body wrapped around Luigi again. He would never feel something at his toes before she would tease him with a little chomp. And he would never get to pretend to be so surprised to “find” her in our hallway closet, her private little place she went almost every single time she was out and was obviously done playing with the boys.

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Peeking out from her Phillipa-cave in 2014

It never ceased to amaze us how she got underneath that door. The boys never could. Just Phillipa. She has the odd kibble she has hoarded along with a little fleece bed as well as our box of newspaper for the wood stove that she has torn up to make a little nest for herself. Its her private place where the big boys have never been able to get to. Not Jacques, Cousteau, Calypso or Luigi.

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“Peeking boo! Please keep the boys out, Mama!”

Phillipa lived through the loss of 3 of her boyfriends over her 7 years as a Fyfe and came through it all with dignity despite some signs of depression. Which is why another ferret would be added. She always seemed to thrive in the company of her boys.

Ferrets are incredibly emotional creatures and they truly do mourn the loss of housemates. Like all species, there are differences but most owners who have bonded with their pets can tell from behaviors and facial expressions how their little ones are feeling.

Which is why I knew what I had to do Monday night, not quite one week ago.

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Classic Phillipa.

Why I pre-medicated her and then let her cuddle up with Luigi for awhile as the drugs kicked in.

And then I sedated her but I’m pretty sure she didn’t even notice that. She gave in so quickly I felt as if her body was ready for some peace after such a fast-paced life.

And she laid, curled in my lap, blissfully unaware as my tears fell onto her body when I gave her the final injection.

And I kissed her one last time, which was more like 20 last times because you don’t want that kiss to actually be the last one.

A good life deserves a good death and even though I’m crying again I am honored to have been the one to give that to her.

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Never did figure out how she got on top of the freezer a couple of years ago…

And Luigi is doing very well. He hasn’t stopped eating or wanting to play and I’m giving him a bit more attention when he’s loose in the house. Luigi and Alistair bonded when he was just a kit before he came to Montana and he’s always seemed to be just as or more content with human companionship.

That’s not to say he wasn’t sad when we lost Calypso in March or now with Phillipa. I just think he has Luigi coping mechanisms that allow for a more gentle transition to being an only ferret in the house.

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Luigi, Calypso and Phillipa last year with Papa

He’s the Italian Stallion who has his Luigi song and he’s going to be fine.

And I’m going to be fine. Not right away but eventually. Even if I start tearing-up thinking about Phillipa in the bright red Octopus.

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“This thing ate my head!”

Or in Papa’s housecoat.

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They aren’t called ‘pocket pets’ for nothing!

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more housecoat shinanigans

I’m sorry to all of our friends who may feel some sadness, themselves, after having met our little Frenchwoman. The Fyfe Ferrets were terrific ambassadors for their quirky, spitfire of a species and they all have many fans.

But the sadness is great because the love has been great and I’m a richer woman for having had all of these spirits in my world.

And I’ve got my own coping mechanisms which include red wine, hot tubs and crying my eyes out and writing about the pain to let it out so it doesn’t build up inside of me and cuddling up with the dogs who seem a bit more clingy because they know I’m a bit more needy and loving up the kitties and talking with Alistair and scratching the horses. I’ve got my bling and my golf swing, too.

Here’s to losing your shoes when you come to visit us! I am fairly certain Luigi will keep up the tradition.

I can only imagine the hijinx going on across that Rainbow Bridge right now…

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Post shower a couple of years ago.

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An armful of ferrets… one of the only pics where all 4 are looking at the camera!

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Back in the day when we first brought our big albino boy, Cousteau home. 2013, I believe.

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Just a few weeks ago.

(Phillipa’s final bling-video prior to our August launch of La Vie en Rose and Petits Bijoux…. c’est magnifique. xo

Still Me. Still Canadian.

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Its not Canada Day today nor is it any holiday my home land has deemed important enough to mark on my wall calendars. Its not the anniversary of my US naturalization and I’m not feeling nostalgic for poutine, maple syrup or Canadian Content.

I can get most of the things I identify with being Canadian right here in the United States. Most things.

I can’t get The Hip.

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My Canadian peeps know I’m talking about the Tragically Hip, our uber cool, exclusively Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ontario. Canadians will also know why today is a gut-wrenchingly special day and that people from the Yukon to Newfoundland will be tuning in to the most poignant concert in our country’s history.

Tonight is the very last night of the very last tour of our iconic band.

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The Tragically Hip. Not my photo.

 

The lead singer, Gord Downie announced this year that he had terminal brain cancer.

Their gift to the only country they’ve ever cared about was a final tour from coast to coast that began in Vancouver this summer. Several of my friends and family have been to the concerts and they all said it was a jubilant, festive celebration despite the gloom and doom of the knowledge we are losing The Hip.

That Gord still wore some crazy assed outfits and still gyrated and moved in a manner that would make Michael Stype of R.E.M. proud and that he could still belt out some massive poetry put to music.

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Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip. Not my photo.

Maybe one reason us Canadians are fiercely protective of Gord and The Hip is because they were ours. They never became mainstream outside of Canada and they never tried to “make it”  globally.

They have a guitar-rich sound with real drums that back up Gord’s distinctive voice. They never changed and despite not becoming huge in Europe or the US they have sold more albums in Canada than any other Canadian band. They sound as good at a backyard BBQ as they do in a small pub, live or through the speakers.

Every Canadian who enjoys The Hip has a favorite song.

I’m all about Ahead by a Century. I like Cordelia, Little Bones and Fiddler’s Green, too, but Ahead by a Century is definitely my favorite. I get it. Like many of their songs you know it within seconds of the first few sounds you hear from the radio or your cd player or now your iPad.

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Classics. Particularly Road Apples.

When we drove up to Saskatchewan last summer for my 10 year veterinary school reunion and turned on CBC radio the first song we heard was by the Tragically Hip. I remember asking Alistair, “How Canadian is that?”

And yet not all Canadians share the love. Alistair would be hard pressed to name a song and he has a wealth of musical knowledge including Canadian artists. Neither of us are huge Leonard Cohen fans, for that matter but we aren’t talking Lenny right now.

So tonight, thanks to CBC radio, even if folks aren’t in Kingston to share the final live performance of the Tragically Hip we can all watch it live, even in the US. (www.cbcmusic.ca)

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Their final tour this summer…

I feel a tad nostalgic writing about an iconic band I saw once years ago.

No, check that.

I feel old.

It has a bit to do with the Golden Girls theme of my last blog and watching my animal companions over the past 2 years age before my eyes.

I look in the mirror and sometimes I’m not sure about the gal looking back at me. Why is there more grey hair than before? Why is there less hair?

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thankful the flash hid a bunch of the grey!

The gal in the mirror has a ton of laugh-lines around her eyes and mouth.

I can attest to having laughed a lot over my 43 years on the planet. Its one thing I enjoy doing, both making others laugh and busting a gut myself.

And while my hair is thinning my ass certainly isn’t. What’s with that? I’m not complaining about my size but it has become a heck of a lot harder to just drop 5 pounds whenever I wanted. (Its the figure skater in me. Puberty in spandex, remember?)

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More laugh lines proudly being made!

And what’s with the tears? This getting older business and perhaps a certain (gasp) maturity that has come along with it also opened up the flood gates. For me to cry watching Olympic athletes perform to the best of their ability and then win a medal for their country is nothing new but dog food commercials? Insurance commercials? Facebook posts that have nothing to do with animals? Who the Hell am I?

I know I’m still me because I can still laugh at myself while the tears are streaming down. And while too much Kona coffee gives me a bit of heartburn (WHAT THE HELL? I used to drink coffee all freaking day and into the night!), I still love my fun meals and red wine.

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Riding around in Norman this year!

And Alistair still seems to love me even after hanging around with me for 22 years.

I am choosing to look at this as a personal evolution rather than me actually changing. I’m shaped by individuals and events that have been a part of my world all these years. I’ve been influenced by news, books, music, sporting events and movies that have all gone through as many eras as the fashion industry has.

But I’m still me.

I’ll continue to listen to music and let it play as the soundtrack to my life in the back of my head while I work on my golf game and my obsession with make-up and bling. I’ll crack jokes and sometimes say them out loud and hopefully it will be an appropriate time to do so.

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2 of the Golden Girls, Phillipa & I a few nights ago.

And I’ll probably cry tonight watching the Olympics and the Tragically Hip concert livestream on my iPad while sipping some wine (cabernet or merlot… which is more appropriate?) and playing with the ferrets with little Loki cuddling up on the couch as she always does every single evening.

I’ll still be the honest, happy, dorky, somewhat naïve, tree-hugging, laughing skater-wife-stepmom-petmom-veterinarian-bookworm-writer I’ve always been. Just with more grey hair. And a bit more girth.

Maybe a dose of maturity isn’t so bad after all. As long as I’ve got waterproof mascara I should be okay.

To quote Gord Downie, “Its been a long time coming. Well worth the wait.”

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Aw, Gord. Fight the brave fight, man.

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Getting ready to film one of Luigi’s videos this spring… because ferrets with accents is just what I do.

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’nuff said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Girls

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Beautiful Montana

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks.

It wasn’t my intention. Its just that its Summer in western Montana and we try to pack as much as we can into our window of warmth.

Spring can be wet and Fall can be cold. And if you’ve followed my blog or you also live here then you know what Winter can be.

But Summer…

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Juicy mountain goodness in a bowl.

Montana huckleberries are famous for their vibrant hues and sweet juiciness. Most folks around here have their own secret stash they like to pick from. Our stash last year never fully ripened, at least not enough to spend the time to go out and pick.

The stash more than made up for it this year.

We never like to overdo it- the thought that I’m taking food from the local bears keeps us grounded in that regard. But we spent a couple of hours in the sun and got enough for our huckleberry pancakes Alistair enjoys so much.

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This year’s bounty, measured in baggies for pancakes this year.

We also made time to get the canoe out, which we didn’t do once last year.

There is a quiet little lake near our home. There isn’t really any beach to speak of and the campsite is very small, not to mention its a ways off the beaten path so there’s usually only a few folks out there which makes for a peaceful, enjoyable paddle.

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Best view for miles around.

We paddled and floated on Lake Upsata and enjoyed the beauty around us.

We listened to the light waves lap and bump up against our Kevlar sides.

We heard the loons call out in between their full-body dives as they searched for the fish that continue to elude us.

And we laughed and reminisced about our last time canoeing with our good friend, Paul on the local canoe trail, where we bottomed out a few times thanks to late season low water and 3 adults on board.

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Peaceful Lake Upsata.

Alistair didn’t end up catching anything as the skies towards us were darkening and clouds formed into threatening shapes and colors. The kinds of shapes you shouldn’t be beneath on a body of water.

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Hmmmm… maybe we should think about heading in?

But Alistair is back to work in North Dakota and I’m back to my routine at home.

I have realized that my relationship with some of my non-human roommates has become something like the old TV show, the Golden Girls. Me, Loki, Cleo and Phillipa.

Loki is Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy. While sometimes grumpy and bossy she is still a lovable, sweet, reliable friend with a gravelly voice and a sense of humor.

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Loki loves making nests out of clothes to snuggle up in.

Cleopatra is Blanche, who was played by Rue McLanahan. They are both stunning mature women with charming southern accents and an uncanny way of flirting with and attracting men.

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Cleopatra Cassiopia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe… charmed, I’m sure.

Phillipa is Sophia, Dorothy’s mother, who was played by Estelle Getty. The littlest member of the gang with a feisty attitude and a penchant for teasing others, she is one of our resident thieves with a passion for footwear.

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Bonjour, mes ami!

Which leaves me as Betty White’s somewhat naïve, honest animal lover, Rose. I’m not from the Midwest but I sometimes ramble on about days gone by and quirky stories from my past.

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Me… the Betty White of our group.

I’ve been noticing changes. Subtle changes, in some cases, and more noticeable in others.

Phillipa and Loki are both losing weight.

Its more rapid in Phillipa’s case but then everything is more rapid when you’re a ferret. If you consider the fact that one month is akin to one year for a ferret in terms of how their bodies age and change then things are going to happen faster.

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Phillipa & I post-bath a couple of years ago.

She’s also become quite picky about her chewy treats, only eating the raisin or peanut butter ones while younger Luigi gobbles up the chicken, banana and bacon ones. And she’s eating them slower. Antibiotics didn’t change anything but I am continuing with a daily anti-inflammatory. At the age of 7 I’m certain there is some arthritis in her teensy body.

Loki’s weight loss is happening despite a ravenous appetite. I love seeing her eat or watch her bash the empty food dish around the kitchen to get my attention.

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“Snoooooooore”

Both girls seem to feel great, though, continuing to romp around in Phillipa’s case and enjoying long walk & talk sessions outside when it comes to Loki. They are both getting more grey and they’re both sleeping longer but they are eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and playing normally so I’m content with that.

And Cleo gave us a scare in April.

Our Southern Belle developed a head tilt, body leaning, stumbling, falling-over-when-she-sneezed condition that included a vertical nystagmus for 2 days. That’s where your eyes flicker non-stop left and right. Go figure she was wobbly.

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During her tilt-to-the-left phase en route to Bismarck.

The nystagmus ended but the leaning to the left remained, which was why I brought them all to Bismarck with me. It was right on the heels of losing Calypso and it came out of nowhere so I figured a brain tumor was the only answer.

So Cleo leaned against the walls in Bismarck and toppled over to the left if she tried to stand up and she fell getting off the bed and we got Jessi, Lynn, Cindy and Debbie crying when I told them and I didn’t tell everyone because I honestly wasn’t prepared for it and it was so sad seeing her fall over as she shook herself and I held her and she laid a lot more than normal with me and I told her all of the things I could think of that needed to be said.

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Also during the time of the tilt, in Bismarck

That we loved her. That she was a wonderful big sister and companion. That UPS-Matt and Fireman Frank loved her. That it was a magical day when she came home from the clinic I worked at, having been brought in to be put to sleep for being aggressive back in 2005.

That I wouldn’t let her suffer and if she showed me any indication of that I would do what had to be done.

But I didn’t have to.

Not yet.

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Cleo’s classic “Square Face” look at one of our Dog Days of Summer years ago

After twice daily anti-inflammatories (which she is still on) she recovered completely. Running, jumping, leaping, standing, walking on her back legs, playing, swimming, loving, cuddling- Cleo is back.

And each day is a gift.

So maybe my tears right now are for my feelings back in April and May and they’ve moved from Cleopatra onto Phillipa and Loki.

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Alistair with Loki, UB and Cleo last summer in Bismarck.

I wonder if this is what its like to be a resident in a senior’s home.

Where you make friendships and develop strong bonds to people who are all at a point in life where the number of days ahead are far fewer than those in the rear-view mirror.

Where anything can happen and, really, can it be much of a surprise?

I’m the only Golden Girl who hasn’t met or surpassed her expiration date. Loki is 16. Phillipa is 7. Cleo is at least 12.

The 4 of us have a bunch more grey hair (Cleo has the least) and we’re pretty set in our ways of routines and schedules.

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Luigi, Phillipa and I this spring. Clever hats to disguise the grey!

Maybe Cleo has what we call Old Dog Vestibular Disease. There is no test for that but it can come and go. We’ll enjoy it while its gone.

And we’ll enjoy the seasons as they change and remark on the similarities to our own lives. To every thing, indeed.

We’ll just continue to love and live our routines and enjoy each day with one another. With Phillipa sneaking up on blind Loki to nibble at her feet. With Cleo and Loki and UB snuggling up together in bed at night. With Loki pin-balling her way through the house. With soft food, chicken mozzarella, accents and berets and with cute voices talking to us while we play golf and shoes and insoles that go missing on a nightly basis and with nail trims, Rimadyl and Metacam and Walk & Talks with Step Gammy, Fyfe Life will continue as always.

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Alistair, Calypso, Phillipa & Luigi this past winter.

 

It is a good Summer.

As good as we can for as long as we can.

I’ll keep you posted. xo

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

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

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Very young Loki with very young Casey many moons ago.

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