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.

Aye, Calypso

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One of my all time favorite pictures of Calypso and I… this was the day he arrived in January, 2012.

I was hoping I wouldn’t cry but just putting this picture up got it all going.

Its been 3 weeks since I had one of the most absolute worst days of my life because I had to put our hilarious little Calypso to sleep. And I was alone. And I sobbed after he took his last breaths.

Such sad emotions for one of the happiest little spirits who was well known for the dramatic life he lived.

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Our albino, Cousteau with little Phillipa

Calypso joined the party not long after we lost our big boy, Cousteau.

Ferrets are very emotional creatures. They form incredible bonds with their companions, human and otherwise. Our first ferret, Marshall mourned the loss of our kitty, Malchek for several months. Phillipa was no different. She lost Jacques and then Cousteau in fairly short order.

Within days, Alistair drove here through a snow storm and brought a new bestie for her.

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Phillipa & Calypso in the pirate ship getting along just fine.

He was a mischievous little imp from the get-go, stealing shoes or their insoles, the litter box scoop, hats, anything he possibly could to hide under one of the cars or pieces of furniture.

You just had to laugh at him when we played the “Chase” game, running and hiding from one another throughout the house.

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“I’ve just re-wired the brakes in the RX-7, Mama!”

And his amorous attempts to woo Phillipa were hysterical as he leapt with all 4 feet in the air to pounce on her.

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Calypso learned not to bite, instead choosing to give us ‘kisses’ whenever he could!

He is the one who attacked the guinea pigs on Kentucky Derby day that spring when I had left their bathroom door open. The story of that and, sadly, their eventual demise (which Calypso had nothing to do with) is on the blog, “One Eye Watching You.”

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Showering with Calypso was always a giggle!

We forgave our little Frenchman but Karma is a bitch.

2012 was the year Alistair broke his pelvis, requiring extensive surgery and months of rehab.

Its also the year something went wrong with Calypso’s pelvis. He just couldn’t use his rear legs one day. We watched him drag himself around when we let them out of the cage. Neither of them had any scrapes or missing hair or any indication that something actually happened.

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Twice a day Calypso and I bonded over meds, calorie supplement and treats.

But he never once looked like he wasn’t having fun. If he wasn’t giving up why should I?

So his vet-Mummy got up early each morning to fit in half an hour of physio, massage and meds with him in my lap. My new exotics book came in handy yet again and I added a calorie supplement and treats.

I chronicled his tale on social media, where everyone was following Alistair’s story as well.

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My 2 pelvis patients the fall and winter of 2012.

Calypso bonded to both of us thanks to his limitations, his needs and his wonderful personality.

And we came up with some fun ways to encourage physical therapy when he got a bit stronger.

Everyone fell in love with the Fyfe ferrets, who now have a bit of a fan following. The ferrets and I do holiday videos on the sing-song-saddle and their admirers are plenty.

The fans rejoiced when Alistair brought a little brother, Luigi into the mix 2 years ago. His in-your-face personality was perfect for his older siblings and the 3 of them were inseparable.

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Triple Trouble!

We played, we romped, we had shoes stolen, we showered, we cuddled, we made videos, we laughed, we had many visitors who had never seen or held a ferret before and we loved sharing our ferret ambassadors with the world.

But then something wasn’t quite right with Calypso in November.

Putting it all together with our internal med vet friend we realized he had a tumor on his spleen. A tumor that would grow like Harry’s had and would eventually take his life.

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Mummy and her boys!

Just like before, though, it looked like he was still having a lot of fun. Who were we to be sad and give up on him when, clearly, their lives were great?

Other than the one horrible night the tumor must have ruptured and he went into hemorrhagic shock. He was barely alert and I held him through the night in a blanket on my lap and told him all of the things that needed to be said. I told him that everyone loved him and that he had brought so much joy to so many people. That Phillipa and Luigi adored him and all of our house-sitters like Jessi, Carson, Lynn and Whitney would miss him so much. That if he showed me he was in pain I would try to do something as his vet but that night he hovered between life and death in a peaceful state so I just held him as his Mummy.

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Luigi and Calypso, post bath, fluffed & buffed.

And the morning welcomed both of us back!

Calypso lived to see 2016. And February. And March! And we went back to twice-daily calorie supplements and special bonding together. And I made the effort to include the full trio in our Christmas video this year because it was important for me to share him once more.

And he had a couple of minor episodes of weakness but he continued to eat, drink and be merry, stealing Loki’s kibble whenever he could and mucking around in the water bowl with ice cubes for Boomer.

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the boys bellying up to the bar…

And we didn’t tell anyone because he was still pretty vibrant and because we have lost so many of our companions over the last year and half and it became Time for old Boomer and Loki keeps having random seizures and I didn’t want more people feeling sad for us and I really wasn’t sure how I would do anything on my own if I had to and I researched what I could but there isn’t much out there and he kept stealing footwear and wanting to come out to play.

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Hard to get pics of them all holding still… hence the blurry Phillipa!

I had fully planned to take the trio with me to Bismarck this recent trip back. Calypso had been doing fine despite more weight loss and we have our old ferret cage there. What an adventure it would have been but in the end, it didn’t happen.

He had another episode of weakness that he didn’t bounce back from. And he wasn’t engaging with the thing-on-a-string for the first time ever. And the shine went out of his eyes.

For the very first time he wasn’t having fun.

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Noshing on Loki’s kibbles a few weeks ago.

I knew what I needed to do but wasn’t sure how to do it.

How to hold 1.6lbs of ferret and find enough muscle to somehow inject a sedative…by myself. I didn’t want his or my final memories of our time together to be a struggle of pushing and restraining and then a sharp needle in a thin body. Our relationship deserved better than that.

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All of our relationships deserved better.

Somehow I remembered a cough syrup that I had in my med collection and was able to put that with his calorie supplement 3 Sunday mornings ago and he peacefully slipped into a boozy slumber. I was then able to give the first injection peacefully without so much as a hair twitch.

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A couple of years ago, high up in the cat condo (and we wonder how he injured himself?)

I laid him on a blue towel in my lap and watched my tears fall onto his beautiful cinnamon body as I gave him his final injection.

And I sobbed as he took his last breath, a heavier version of what I’m doing now. He took my tears with him across the Rainbow Bridge where so many other Fyfes have gone.

And I’m sorry to write this because you all shared in his dramatic stories and his joy-filled adventures.

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Just a few weeks ago

And you all know how much Phillipa and Luigi miss him but I am just so thankful that they have each other.

And I’m thankful Alistair called that day to help me through and see how I was and I’m thankful Merielle and Theresa were online hand-holders as well.

And so goes the magical tale of Calypso Fyfe. If you know John Denver’s song you know it rings true about this boy, with a slight adaptation to one of the words:

Aye, Calypso, the things that you’ve shown us, the stories you tell. Aye, Calypso, I sing to your spirit, the men who have loved you so long and so well.

RIP, sweet Calypso. There will never be another like you. xo

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Calypso & Mummy this winter.

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More of our trio with Papa

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One of their many fans making sure Calypso looked good in his beret!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Fun With Ferrets

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Alistair and the Trio-of-Trouble, Luigi, Phillipa and Calypso

As many of you know, we adore ferrets.

It wasn’t a species either of us knew anything about or had yearned for as a child. In fact, I didn’t have any pets growing up so I honestly had no pre-conceived notions of what they were like as family members.

When Alistair’s kids moved in with us in Watford City at the ages of 8 and 10, they had just watched a speaker/entertainer at their school with his pet ferret who did tricks and played around on a leash. The kids were mesmerized.

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Gareth with Koshka the cat and Marshall the ferret (and Alistair, after hockey practice, apparently)

Enter Marshall.

She was a cutie who lived a good, long life and made friends with our cats, our Golden, and our neighbors. She moved with us to Canada where she would join Oscar, Boomer & I as I did my farm chores out on our 30 acre farm.

They really are that smart! She knew how to get in and out through the dryer opening and that was that.

She moved back to ND with us to Hazen where we had to live in town for once.

Sadly, the neighbor brought 2 aggressive stray spaniels home who had something to do with our 6 year old girl disappearing in the snow one morning.

And that was the end of Fyfe Ferrets.

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Bonjour!

Until Jacques moved in.

A few years had passed but we never got rid of the ferret crate, (which Alistair and Gareth designed and built)- that was a good thing when the local fire crew here in Seeley Lake, Montana showed up with a homeless ferret and guinea pig. Their owner had become a ward of the state (who had been living under a false identity, no less… you can imagine it was going to be hard to find family members to take them) so the crew brought them to me.

Not everyone is into ferrets. I get it.

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Jacques: “Bonjour, Large Cat! ” Bebe: “Great. Nice to meet you. Don’t eat my food, okay?”

They are kind of weasely-looking, with long, narrow bodies and pointy noses. A lot of people have had bad experiences with their incredibly sharp teeth and, in general, most of the population hasn’t had any interaction with ferrets.

Ferrets are very personable and friendly. They are curious and playful and maybe a bit mischievous and the rest of the time they are eating or sleeping.

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Jacques, our new black-eyed white, on his first day at home!

I had become a veterinarian since we had had Marshall and I knew that “exotic” pets often did better with one of their own.

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Our new little sable ferret! The pet store said it was a male and, to be honest, I never questioned that. I never looked!

Enter Phillipe!

We thought our 2 boys were super cuddly, never once thinking he might be a she. It didn’t seem to matter, though, because they became fast friends and cuddle buddies.

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Just a few years ago, Phillip(a) and Jacques with Papa!

When running about the house for daily Play Time, Jacques would often disappear (typical for ferrets). One day I found his secret hiding place… in my drawer of sequined, sparkly figure skating costumes from yesteryear!

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Mama? Is that you? I was sleeping!

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Its okay to play in here, right? Je suis in LOVE with this drawer!

Jacques was older, though, and even though we medicated him for his adrenal gland issues for a year, he eventually, sadly succumbed to the disease.

Ferrets are one of the most emotional mammals that exist, rivaling humans in their mourning.

With me working and Alistair gone half of the time, and the cats all old enough to not need to romp around kitten-like anymore, something had to be done for Phillip(a).

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Enter Cousteau! A true albino!

Alistair drove around in a snow storm on his way here and found Cousteau, an enormous albino who the pet store said was just young and sold him as such.

He settled in right away with his new friend- I mean REALLY settled in, which was when I decided to lift tails to see what the deal was.

Sure enough, Phillipe was Phillipa.

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Cousteau and Phillipa… you can just barely see her nose under his monstrous body!

Theirs was a short relationship, though, as not long after I noticed the dental tartar and put that together with his rather calm behavior, Cousteau became ill and I wasn’t able to save our big, older boy.

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Better, fun times with Cousteau & Phillipa

We felt awful for little Phillipa so during the long drive back to Montana again, Alistair showed up with a Cinnamon kit he had found at a PetCo in Great Falls.

Balance was restored and the frivolity resumed!

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Welcome home, Calypso Fyfe!

Phillipa and Calypso have been tight since day 1 and they remain snuggle buddies.

Calypso’s time as a Fyfe hasn’t been without its own share of drama.

He is the reason our guinea pig, Cadbury had 1 eye. (Blog from 2014 called One Eye Watching You details the gruesome events of the day). The whole thing was my fault for leaving the bathroom door to the guinea pigs open. The rest is history.

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Mr Innocent is underneath Phillipa in their Pirate Ship

Karma sucks, though, because a few months after the Guinea Pig Incident (which both girls survived) (and my Exotics medical knowledge skyrocketed), Calypso had a gait abnormality.

Basically, he couldn’t walk or stand well on his own.

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Stunts like climbing up the tall cat tree could be what led to the broken pelvis…

I x-rayed him at the clinic and thought I saw the tiniest of fracture lines in the tiniest of pelvises. (Pelvises were high on my mind that fall after Alistair had busted his up a few months prior).

He never stopped eating & drinking or having control of his elimination and he had feeling in his extremities so I never stopped trying to fix him. Its a vet thing but its also a Mummy thing.

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Twice-daily anti-inflammatories, vitamin supplement and PT including massage and ‘bicycling’ with Calypso

He didn’t give up so why the Hell should I?

He let us bathe him almost daily because he couldn’t really lift up to urinate and ferrets generally like to be clean.

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Just a little Fluff’n’Buff post bath

When he started to get more strength in his back and hindlimbs Alistair fashioned a John Deere cart for him to run around the house in. A quick video for your chuckles….

After about 6 months he was standing, playing and goofing around again! His legion of Facebook fans rejoiced along with us when I would post pictures of him standing on his own.

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Calypso: “Look at me, Phillipa! I can do this on my own!” Phillipa: “Sit down before you hurt yourself again. I’m not losing another boyfriend!”

And whether it was an act of celebration or a subconscious effort to make sure Phillipa was never without a boyfriend again, Alistair went to the new PetCo in Bismarck… repeatedly to check on a cute silver kit he saw there…

(You know where this is going…)

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Enter Luigi! The Italian Stallion!

Luigi joined in and immediately cuddled up with Phillipa and Calypso. Any given day at any given time I will find at least 2 of them snuggled up, and often its all 3 of them.

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Phillipa, Luigi, Calypso and Papa… a real handful!

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The boys… when you’re a ferret, every part of your body doubles as a pillow for your housemates

They are good with the cats and naughty with blind little Loki, darting in and out at her. I swear I can hear them giggling when she barks at the air in front of her.

They are hoarders who steal shoes from houseguests. They are class clowns who love to play the Chase Game. They are inquisitive to a fault- wherever they can fit their face into the body can follow.

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Petite little Phillipa fits under the hall closet… for when she needs to get away from The Boys. Every girl needs a little Moi-Time.

Ferrets aren’t for everyone and they require your time for playing, cleaning, interacting, and making movies together. You should research them if you are considering one as there is a lot to learn.There are also ferret adoption agencies for surrendered ferrets needing forever homes if you don’t want to buy one at a pet store.

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Luigi being inquisitive. A new bucket must be explored!

I will do my best with my fantastic little companions (who really try to commit to their French or Italian accents!) to be a ferret ambassador. They are the only creatures I’ve known who can always, without fail, make me laugh.

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Well, maybe not as much laughter finding Luigi with the sub-woofer’s insides on the outside…

We will share more from the Sing-Song Saddle another time. For now, much love from the Fyfe Farm Ferrets!

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Bonjour! Hope you have a happy summer!

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We’re innocent! Honest!

An Introduction to the Ferret Fyfes

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Phillipa and Luigi in their new ‘ball room’… a much ballyhooed product I got online that my gang thinks is merely ‘meh’

I will write more about the Fyfe Ferrets in a longer blog tomorrow.

You see, there is a large community of Fyfe Ferret Friends & Fans who was expecting our annual Canada Day video yesterday and it didn’t happen.

Or, wait… the video happened.

Posting it to Facebook didn’t happen.

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The background of our stage for the 2015 Canada Day video

These began a few years ago with a veterinarian friend’s suggestion/request that I sing Oh, Canada atop one of the horses wearing chaps. Possibly sipping wine, I can’t remember the specifics.

I couldn’t provide that but as I looked around the house (always up for a comedic challenge) I spotted our saddle bar stool… and then a ferret ran by.

And so began the Sing-Song Saddle tradition that puts smiles on faces and makes people wonder if I’ve been alone in the middle of nowhere for too long.

Or I have consumed too much wine.

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Calypso, giving Papa some nuzzles!

In truth, I consume nothing prior to the making of the videos. (Once I hit “enter” and post them its a different story…)

So I shall try to attach the video from yesterday’s Canada Day celebration with our French duo, Calypso and Phillipa. Our Italian Stallion, Luigi sat this one out because, come on, I can only do so much. There will be children in Canada disappointed to not hear the Luigi Song.

There will be time for that.

And time for the tales of Marshall, Jacques, Phillipe, Cousteau, Phillipa (oops on that one!), Calypso and Luigi.

For now… enjoy our own special brand of zany:

And So It Goes

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Marmalade Fyfe

Well…

It finally happened.

Not that “it” was ever supposed to happen, but “it” happened once a couple of years ago and I thought we had everything worked-out so that “it” wouldn’t happen again.

But “it” did.

Thankfully, I wasn’t home.

I was in the close-knit, adorable community of Ovando during their annual Christmas-Fest which is held over the Thanksgiving weekend.

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In the Hoosgow of Ovando selling and signing books, enjoying Christmasfest!

 

I was selling and signing Lost and Found in Missing Lake, my debut novel.

In the jail.

Ovando is one of those towns or communities that has a lot of history but not a lot of tourism.

There are less than 200 full time residents (the head count includes dogs) but there is a wealth of uniqueness in this quirky town.

Like the Hoosgow, or jail, where I sold and signed books.

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You can actually bunk in the Hoosgow and local kids often do. Here it is decorated for the holidays!

My good friend, Jessi sold Walking Tacos (brilliant idea, I might add… chili and all the fixin’s tossed into a hand-held bag of nacho or taco chips) in the back and we listened to Christmas carols and laughed about the old days when she worked at my veterinary clinic and people came and people visited and some stood in line to talk with me and her hubby was home before being deployed and my hubby joined me for lunch and it was cold but we had heaters and I sold a few books!

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Cowboy Claus, the big arrival on his horse

And Cowboy Claus arrived on his slightly cantankerous pony who pawed the ground and rubbed half of his holiday gear off when Claus was giving out goodies to the kids in the museum next door.

And there were gun fights all day between a group of locals who got more and more animated the more Bailey’s or whiskey they drank.

In all, it was a fun way to spend a few hours on a Friday.

But that’s when “it” was going down at home.

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wee Cadbury with veggies this past spring

I will state for the record that we had never anticipated being guinea pig caretakers.

Ever.

Cats, horses, dogs, ferrets, maybe sheep and chickens but guinea pigs?

I didn’t know much about them other than a few things I remembered from vet school and Alistair had raised hamsters as a kid but they are a very different little animal.

 

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Alistair and Tres, our 1st guinea pig, in 2010

The local EMS crew had brought a plump, tri-colored guinea pig and a black-eyed, white ferret to my clinic one afternoon in 2010 saying they needed a home.

They had responded to a call for a non-responsive woman and when they lifted her they found the piggy.

Surprise!

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Tres Fyfe, her first day at home as we sorted through housing and bedding

So Tres (the piggy) and Jacques (named after Jacques Cousteau for all of his adventures we were sure our little fella must have had) became Fyfes.

Just like that.

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Jacques Boitano Cousteau Fyfe, 2010

We’d had ferrets before and still had our original cage but we needed to rig something up for Tres.

A veterinary classmate got me up to speed on nutrition and I read that the little creatures should have companions.

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Young Cadbury with her big buddy, Tres

Enter Cadbury.

The 2 piggies bonded and things were great!

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Cadbury and Tres adored each other

We got a sable ferret named Phillipe for Jacques as well.

At the time neither of us realized that Phillipe was a girl… ferret hoo hoo’s are pretty teensy and to be honest, I never looked. The pet store said she was a he and Phillipe lived a quasi-transgender life for her first year.

Nothing wrong with that but the ferret tales are for another time.

A couple of months later, Tres passed away so the obvious thing to do was get another companion guinea pig.

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Alistair and Marmalade

Enter Marmalade.

These 2 were supposed to be sisters but they never once cuddled in all their years together.

Nothing like Tres and Cadbury.

But they got their twice-daily fresh veggies: a bowl full of green leafy lettuce, celery, baby carrots, sliced cucumber, parsley and sometimes a grape.

They got their orange slices because guinea pigs can’t synthesize vitamin C.

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Fresh veggies and Cadbury from this past summer

And despite the eyeball-incident (see One Eye Watching You, my blog from early May 2014), they got a lot of love and attention.

Until “it” happened that cold Friday when I was in Ovando and Cowboy Claus’ pony was being naughty and Jessi’s dad was playing shoot-em-up in the gunfights and I saw former clients who bought my book and the stars aligned just right but for all the wrong reasons.

Who knew that our little mixed breed dog, UB, could open the ferret cage?

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“I just wanted to eat the ferret kibbies, Mummy. Honest!”

What followed once 2 of the ferrets got out will never be known.

Well, UB, Phillipa and Luigi know what went down but we never will.

The thing is, there were no wounds.

No punctures.

No blood.

Anywhere.

And no signs of life in our tubby, veggie-loving, whistling, scuttling, funny little guinea pigs.

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Luigi up top and Philipa on top of Calypso in the pirate ship

There were also no signs of battle on the ferrets so who knows if the piggies panicked and had massive heart attacks as the terrorists climbed into their pen?

The guinea pigs were 5 years old.

That’s getting up there.

The irony in all of this is that Calypso was still asleep in the pirate ship.

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Bonjour. Did I miss something?

The sole reason Cadbury had one eye had missed out on all of the action and never got to finish what he started.

And I’m fine with that.

To quote Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, “so there it is and there it was.”

“It” happened and there isn’t a damned thing we can do about it.

I’m not mad at UB.

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How could anyone be mad at this tender-hearted little soul?

I’m not mad at the ferrets.

I’m just sad and I miss my little friends who differentiated my walk from anyone else and would chirp, whistle and tweet whenever I came into the house.

Or the kitchen.

Or their bathroom.

So “The Girls” are in the freezer with an assortment of friends we haven’t made the emotional time to say goodbye to.

Mae Mae. Cousteau.

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Oscar. December, 2013

And Oscar.

Who is one of the reasons I wanted to write a blog in the first place when I realized, exactly one year ago, that I couldn’t save them all.

Not even my special furry friends who give as much love as they receive and who have been my companions for many years.

Or maybe just 5 years in the case of “The Girls”.

Not all of our goodbyes are well-planned in advance.

Some are just pure accidents.

Terribly tragic sequences of events that lead to an opened cage and a silent bathroom.

I won’t get over “it”. I don’t plan to.

I just have to move forward with the spirits who remain and the snow that keeps falling because that’s all I can do.

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Winter has hit Montana!

On a lighter note, we are finding plenty of uses for the leftover parsley.

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a work of art once you add parsley, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Addiction Grows

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From the tee on our local 15th hole, looking out towards the incredible fall colors of the trees and Norman!

It has been one year.

One year since we goofed around on a golf course with Lynn and Miki and broke 2 golf clubs and tore something in Alistair’s arm and we laughed and drank some bevvies and won the Most Honest Team award at the local pond hockey golf tournament.

The day our obsession with golf began.

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Alistair, having just made par

In that year we’ve practiced, we’ve learned, we’ve watched professionals and we’ve actually improved!

I’ve played in 3 golf tournaments and didn’t completely embarrass myself in any of them.

My team-mates have been wonderfully supportive and encouraging (addicts always hang around enablers, remember) and in the Missoula tournament I subbed in at the last minute we even used my drive much of the time in a ‘best-ball’ format.

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Little girl with her Glacier Ice Rink golf challenge team-mates and the bar-car drivers. Cheers!

Thanks Mitch, Tom and Brett for a fun day and thanks, Mike for not being able to attend.

And thanks, Tom, again for asking me to join in this year’s pond hockey golf tournament a week ago.

I played with Tom, his dad and his father-in-law… 2 guys in their 70s getting out, hitting balls, laughing and enjoying a great day together. We had some spectacular shots on the Marshmallow Drive hole and my drive at the mandatory Happy Gilmore Drive Hole made the local newspaper.

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Tom, nailing that marshmallow!

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Seeley Swan Pathfinder… glad they captioned this

We have created back-yard practice ranges in both Bismarck and Seeley Lake.

Alistair has large round hay bales stacked up with a tarp covering them. He drives into them or works on pitching over top of them.

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Fyfe’s Driving & Pitching Range

We both work on chipping into round black grain buckets and I can work on pitching across the back yard here in Montana.

Its been such a kick seeing little improvements as we play.

Like, not having to take a second drive once in 18 holes.

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BOOM!

Or not swinging-and-missing… I honestly haven’t done that in a couple of weeks now!

And we continue to laugh with each other and talk about the game and listen to Spirit of UB point out Subarus on the highway or hear Spirit of Loki say, in her gravelly voice, “Lets DO this thing!”

Ball finding is a highlight, even if we’re mavericks about it.

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What sign?

We’ve learned that the ultimate in ball-finding is after a tournament. I mean, its a no-brainer when you think about it but this is our first season and our faces light up as we discover these things, whipping the ball grabber out of my bag, almost skipping to the creeks. Even if we play crappy golf its still a win if we end up ahead on the ball count.

We’ve met a lot of new people and wave at each other when we recognize golf carts or golf styles. Or my outfits.

I love my golf wardrobe.

Even more so now that Victoria’s Secret makes a cute golf skort!

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My VS skort… need to get it in black as well…

We’ve enjoyed following the PGA, learning different styles of play and watching players hit their stride, like Rory McIlroy and Billy Horshel. Its so exciting right now with the Ryder Cup being one week away! Its in Scotland this year and the European team is strong.

They have the young Victor Dubuisson from France, who our ferret, Phillipa is in love with. Phillipa and Calypso are French and they constantly debate the play of Dubuisson and the Italian Molinari brothers with Luigi… our Italian ferret.

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Calypso and Luigi… talking Dubuisson vs Molinari

Phillipa loves Dubuisson’s red pants, his goatee and his accent. Personally, I think he’s an excellent player who would do well on the PGA alongside other Euro greats like McIlroy, Rose, Garcia and GMac.

I love loving this game.

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Loving the game, ready to tee off!

I’ve learned it is the perfect outlet for me when my head is full of a million other things. When Alistair is in Bismarck I prefer to play alone rather than with everyone who invites me along. It is, perhaps, the physical version of writing in my journal… a release.

It is coming in quite handy right now as I worry about our little Loki.

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Snoring in my lap as I write this blog

Loki woke up with what we call an Acute Eye a couple of mornings ago.

It wasn’t a typical red-eye or soreness. This was a hugely swollen globe with thickened, red eyelids, some drainage and, for the first time, pain.

She swiped and pawed at it as much as she could if I wasn’t holding her. Thankfully I had some meds for inflammation and eye ointment but I’m not 100% certain we are going to save this eye.

Not that she needs it, being mostly blind, but I do think she perceives light. I’d also just like to avoid surgery altogether in this slightly high-risk senior girl.

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Sleep-chewing on her friend, Porter’s toy this summer

The specialists are on board and I got stronger eye meds yesterday in Missoula. The swelling is gone, as is the discomfort. She and I will hit the road once more this year to Great Falls bright and early tomorrow morning to see about keeping the eye.

Which is why I will go outside soon to our gorgeous local golf course and I will hit balls.

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Managed a par on the par 4 10th hole even!

And maybe I’ll make par and maybe I’ll make birdie or maybe I’ll even swing-and-miss.

I don’t care. I want to clear my mind and make it open for tomorrow so I can be a stronger, better Step-Gammy for Loki.

Alistair is in Bismarck so I’ll play alone and hopefully nobody will invite me to play today.

Hopefully I will swing well.

Hopefully the Ryder Cup is as exciting as the ferrets and we are hoping.

Hopefully Loki will keep her eye.

And hopefully golf will continue to be a fun passion for Alistair and I. A torn medial meniscus couldn’t stop him swinging golf clubs this summer so I foresee a lot of golf in our futures.

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24 hours post-op for medial meniscus repair…

And a lot of practicing.

And learning.

And colorful skorts and gloves.

And laughing.

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Branching out, playing at the Ranch Club in Missoula

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Clearing our minds out at the Ranch Club