The Friendship Season

Standard
AEED0679-4D3E-4B89-9828-78286F082A0E

Waiting in line to cross into Canada at Sweetgrass, MT

I have been lucky to have been able to spend quality time with a bevy of friends this past month. Old friends, new friends, family-who-are-friends, animal friends… it has been wonderful.

It began with a road trip up to Lethbridge, Alberta last month to promote my book series highlighted by my award-winning third novel, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake. Maple Leaf Publications has been working with me for months to get me into the annual Word on the Street book festival and I was eager to go to this one.

Alistair was supposed to join me but his schedule has been nuts with the doctors all covering shifts until they could hire someone new.

D00256D5-7531-45BB-8C5F-68EFFBBF6FC7

Cool old brick barn at the border crossing.

So me and 100 books headed north on a puffy-cloud-dotted blue sky morning and just like that I was in Lethbridge.

After checking into my  hotel I was picked up by the Wright family. Dr.Ken Wright was my co-pilot for almost all of veterinary school and his very cool family has been a fun part of our lives ever since.

I got to watch their eldest (who was born during vet school) play football in his senior year in high school and we had a great supper together minus Zak and Easton. We never skip a beat when we get together and hopefully they will get down to Montana to meet the new Fyfe Ferrets soon.

E79C0079-4089-44CF-82E5-0857C8169ABF

Wanita, me and Lei-Anne

At the hotel that night my long-time friend, Lei-Anne was checking in as I got back from supper. She had made the decision to fly to Lethbridge last minute to support me at the book festival and to support our other dear friend, Wanita in her charge against breast cancer. The 3 of us spent much of the next day at the festival together and the laughs were plenty.

30550AFE-9F5E-4489-8DFE-B08631300F87

Authors, Ramona, Ralph and me!

This was my first book festival and I was pleased with the attendance and the support from Maple Leaf Publications. Granted, they are not Random House or Penguin books but they did get me a seat at the table all day, a hotel room, a comped breakfast and some branded goodies.

I met Ramona & Ralph who  were promoting their books and, as always, it was interesting talking with other authors who are making their way through this biz.

B45A2880-2594-4EDC-A85E-AC5E9733FCC6

Lethbridge’s Word on the Street!

I met a lot of interesting hopeful new fans of the series and I sold and gave away plenty of books. (Wanita and Lei-Anne are excellent managers who told me I need to sell more than give and they are correct….)

We had a video sit-down session that I hope will be available someday for me to share as well and with my plan to finish book #4 in my Missing Lake series this winter, maybe I’ll be ready for next year’s Lethbridge event with fans clamoring to read more!

D873AF63-FDE5-4168-975B-F05F8185D602

The Wrights came out on Saturday, too!

I was so excited to see the Wrights again at the book festival when Natalie, Nate (broken leg and all) and Zak joined me. (Natalie also has the managerial bent that giving books away won’t get me anywhere.)

And then more support arrived in the form of Cousin Kim, who drove 5+ hours to get to Lethbridge. Kim and I haven’t seen each other probably since my brother’s wedding more than 20 years ago and we had been planning this book event/reunion for weeks on social media.

9DEA584C-08CC-4F80-BA7B-AB1F5ACD1650

me and Kim, picking up right where we left off 20-odd years ago! 🙂

Kim fit right in with all of my friends, which also included one of my longest school friends, Candice and her husband, Matt (who I finally got to meet in person!) They also drove a few hours to join me and then Candice, Kim, Lei, Wanita & her hubby, Byron and I all went out for a fun supper in downtown Lethbridge that evening.

F892F5E8-BC48-4D1B-88E6-9375F90FE513

Candice and I after supper in Lethbridge!

It seriously felt like I had my own classy entourage during the book festival and I can’t thank each of them enough for being a part of my adventure.

Lei-Anne had to fly back to BC on Sunday which is when I joined Wanita and Byron to finally play a round of golf together at their home course, Picture Butte. This has been a few years in the making since Alistair and I took up golf and became obsessed with the game. Despite Wanita’s summer of 16 rounds of chemo she was still able to play her weekly ladies league at Picture Butte. It was cool having so many of their own golf crowd wave and visit with them, too.

6CA4929D-AAFE-419C-B81D-6829E9F2DE7E

Wanita & Byron on a sunny day in their awesome golf duds!

Wanita started the round with an eagle and Byron finished with a terrific par and I put a ball or two into the water and we had plenty of laughs. I spent the night with them and their ridiculously cool trio of feline kids and my heart was full from the love and support of so many friends.

Back home for a few days with my best friend, Alistair, we managed to get out onto our own golf course a few times despite some cold weather but before long I was putting him back on another plane to get back to Bismarck. This prolonged alteration to our schedule has been frustrating but hopefully we will be back to 2 weeks here, 2 weeks there soon.

28EC90AB-7841-4F1C-830D-105B1E8470FF

It was a little chilly that particular day…

Thankfully the Friendship Season wasn’t over as my good friend, Merielle once again jumped in her Ford and drove down from Christina Lake, BC to join us in her Montana happy place.

Merielle chronicles all of this through her incredible photography which she  highlights at MMK Photography.

I finally took her to nearby Upsata lake and the charming community of Ovando where we braved the chilly air for a quick photo shoot.

scottybrownbridge

By Scottie Brown Bridge near Ovando, MT

The snow eventually melted during her stay and we enjoyed a girl’s night with one of my real estate colleagues, Carey. A long soak in the Aloha hot tub, my yummy seafood alfredo and a sip of port at Fyfe’s Brew Pub bar capped off a fun Fall evening.

birthday2019b

Carey & Merielle at Fyfe’s Brew Pub bar (thanks for the port, Carey!)

Merielle planned her visit to include my 47th birthday seeing as how hubby couldn’t be here. She got to meet my real estate family for a pre-supper bevvie on Friday where another good friend, Tessa swung by to say hi (Tessa & Merielle met during one her prior trips to Montana.) A quick catch-up including some laughter ensued and before long we were dining at one of our favorite local places, Lindey’s Steakhouse.

birthday2019

Merielle, Tessa and me

Merielle got to meet our 3 new ferrets (the Fyfe Bee Gees) as well as Fallon, the one female we were ferret-sitting for more friends who are dealing with some medical issues that necessitated them being in Missoula for almost a week. Merielle set up a little ferret photo shoot that I am excited to see once she does her editing back home. Our boys played and cuddled well with Fallon and it was fun for them to have their own new friend to play with.

ferretphotoshoot2

Barry striking a pose for Merielle

After that the Friendship Season evolved even more as we got busy with prep for Canadian Thanksgiving. When I’ve been alone I haven’t always celebrated in October when, apparently, the Pilgrims chose Canadian shores to land on but Alistair and I have done a turkey for this big day from time to time.

We had been planning this even before Merielle came when another real estate colleague and his wife (who is also Canadian) asked if we were doing anything on Oct.12th.

And so it was that a spread that included grilled balsamic & rosemary lamb chops, a 21 lb roasted turkey, artichoke-sourdough stuffing and all the fixings was laid before 3 1/4 Canadian-American women and Kyle. (We signed Kyle up for carving details as we three women discussed the pros and cons of our dual lives.)

thanksgiving6

Lee, Kyle, baby Paige and Merielle!

Lee & Kyle’s adorable 6-month old, Paige got to experience her first Thanksgiving in style. She also got to experience her first ferret encounters and the evening was filled with laughter, “ehs” and then that awesome Canadian classic, Nanaimo Bars.

thanksgiving7

the feast

Merielle and I had tasked ourselves with the dessert classic the day before and we used the Laura Secord recipe book for instruction. The bars are a 3-layer concoction that cannot be compared to anything else. They are also not all that difficult to make and now that we’ve done it I can see it happening again.

thanksgiving

Working on the second layer….

It is fitting that the Friendship Season wraps up (at least, in this blog) with an evening centered on giving thanks.

I know I live a very special life and I am always so thankful for it.

I’m thankful to have a loving, hilarious, supportive cutie of a husband who keeps coming back to Montana despite the travel time every (hopefully) 2 weeks.

CCD466FC-DC14-4592-8667-F46D5759FEE1

thankful for this guy (on a warmer day his last trip here)

I’m thankful to have incredible friends and family who plan time on their calendars to drive to visit me on their turf or mine.

I’m thankful for the animal companions we have shared our lives with for so many years and that Cleo and I are going to go & enjoy a nice stroll out back together after I finish this today.

I’m thankful for my new friends in real estate who have embraced my insanity (well, I think they have…) and who are eager to meet friends of mine from another walk of life.

I’m thankful to be able to call both Canada and the United States my home for so many reasons on both sides of the coins.

And I’m thankful that Wanita has had a successful surgery and that Byron is right by her side every step of the way.

AA0F8D48-0284-4E81-8043-899D3259BEBA

Keep on smiling and swinging the golf clubs, Wanita!

I’m hoping for a few more sunny days to hit up our local golf course and even more hopeful that Alistair will get to join me out there when he gets back. Its possible I’ll still be eating turkey by then (can you freeze it? No, really, I’m asking. Did I mention it was 21 lbs?)

I have so enjoyed the Friendship Season with Lei-Anne, Kim, Candice, Matt, Wanita, Byron, Morrigan, Freya, Odin, Kenny, Nat, Jackson, Nate, Zak, Fallon, Joel, Jeanette, Merielle, Carey, Tessa, Kyle, Lee and baby Paige and I’ve enjoyed sharing it here, too.

I’ll probably enjoy American Thanksgiving next month, too but we’ll see about the size of the turkey. I guess it depends on how many friends sit at the table.

Oh, and by the way, its Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Go ahead and kick its ass, Wanita!

thanksgiving2

the first layer… and a Canadian icon

birthday2019d

Merielle got to visit Sport and other Fyfe friends like Bebe and Cleo

thanksgiving8

Kyle doing the honors with the bird

B036CCEE-8CB5-48F0-AF4F-E5B1BCFD2EC2

A neighborhood friend I’m actually thankful for not getting to meet in person (although they are more than welcome on the Fyfe Farm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Melancholy Moment

Standard
78DA5CA9-F830-4DC6-81AC-857DC18E29C9

Finally on our local golf course last week!

Normally, 99.999% of the time, this is me. Not the wine glass- that’s maybe 25% of the time and as much as I wish golf was 100% that isn’t the case, either. But I’m normally smiling, laughing, joking around and happy.

(As I type that I’m trying desperately to do the math to make sure I don’t sound like a flaming alcoholic… should that be 20%? 15% Will my friends laugh and think I underestimated?)

Driving home along muddy gravel roads with 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom potholes in the rain to a husband-less house on Friday, however, I had a moment of melancholy.

I had a few tears.

It wasn’t a pity party by any stretch. It actually had to do with some sadness.

28B3A8A7-89E0-4622-A9DA-A98F3E3B8B6C

a couple of weeks ago before the golf course opened

I had done a house call that morning where I helped friends say goodbye to their special canine companion. It was necessary, it was an act of kindness and it was done for all the right reasons. It was also beautiful and peaceful if such an event can be.

It was Time.

But after having done this recently with a few other special canines I realized I have been the veterinarian in this community long enough that I have known these animals their entire lives. And now I’m saying sad goodbyes to some of them.

I was the Easy Cheese lady back when we did 3 sets of the distemper combo and handed out puppy kits.

I spayed and neutered them.

They were participants in my puppy parties.

And they came to the Dog Days of Summer every year.

UBLoki2011

UB and Loki at one of the Dog days of Summer

While not all of the recent patients of the Angel of Darkness were puppies when I met them, they were still my patients for several years. It just felt kind of heavy and it all hit me at one specific moment yesterday.

The rainy, dark skies and the cooler temperatures after being teased with sunshine and golf games recently probably didn’t help.

I did allow myself time to think about and process each of the friends I had to help over the Rainbow Bridge and I think veterinarians just simply need to do this from time to time. Sure, I have all sorts of fabulous coping mechanisms- I keep a journal; I share my feelings here and with clients; I play golf; I laugh a LOT; I joke around a LOT; I have ferrets who I talk to in a variety of accents; I don’t take myself seriously; I have a tremendously understanding husband; I write; I have the Aloha hot tub with tiki torches; I drink wine; yadda, yadda….

But veterinarians have enough to worry about in this career that we need to be able to let ourselves emote, from time to time, about stuff that’s just plain sad.

fabulous Babulous

Fabulous Babulous

It probably also doesn’t help that I found what I believe to be an oral tumor in sweet Bebe’s mouth the other day. She’s fine, though, eating & drinking & bitching at us for her morning Greenies and everything is normal but Dr.Mummy knows its not right.

And she’s lost some weight.

And her hair coat is a bit poor.

But Mummy-me isn’t going to change a thing until Babs gives us a reason to.

Like my clients’ pets did.

DDOS5

Getting ready for the Furry Scurry a few years ago

The noble Bernese Mountain Dog began limping enough that her parents knew the recently diagnosed bone cancer in her forelimb was taking over.

She walked less and less and started to eat a bit less.

I had done her puppy vaccines and spayed her and fixed her umbilical hernia. She was a puppy party participant and kind of just watched the goofy Labradors and goldens flying around the clinic (although she eventually gave in and played a bit, too.)

She attended Dog Days of Summers and did the Furry Scurry and she hiked in the mountains of Montana and played with her sister and swam in clear rivers and creeks and eventually accepted the newest little sister and she ate like a queen and she lounged outside her house and she loved the heck out of her dad and her new  mom and she was on the greatest adventure ever until it was Time.

DDOS7

Another Furry Scurry getting ready to go!

Then there was the adorable, 16 year old Yorkie who made it pretty clear to his parents that it was Time. I knew him since I moved here and he and his canine siblings lived a lovely life with their parents. I got to see pictures of him in the basket of the 4-wheeler looking like he was the happiest big dog in a little dog’s body ever. His entire small community knew him and he even got to help out at the bar his folks owned a lot of the time.

I know a lot of hearts were broken when I helped him across the bridge with his mom and dad right there, holding him, rubbing him. Like his mom said, “It isn’t about us anymore, its about him.” It was Time.

DDOS3

My Nan and the Princess, Cleopatra at a Dog Days of Summer many moons ago

My friends and I had known Sprocket’s time was coming because he was ancient. Most working sled dogs live a great, active life but they rarely make it to 15 years of age but this noble old athlete did and he did it was grace and style. Maybe not with the greatest hair coat in the world but he aged beautifully until he didn’t.

Sprocket was one of their competitive dogs who loved what he did. A Siberian Husky who I respected as both an athlete and a good dog, he started having trouble with his back legs recently. He would rally and we would stop checking to see if I was going to be in town and a few more weeks would pass.

Until the morning when the dog who had run his heart out and played with his yard mates and really liked his injectable anesthesia when he needed it and was one of the alligator bacteria patients years ago let his folks know they needed to come up to the farm for one final visit with Dr.Fyfe.

DDOS

Good times with good friends at a Dog Days of Summer

And Friday morning we laid the final dog of a litter of pups I was particularly close to to rest.

The beautiful litter of Great Dane puppies was in trouble from the start when their mom died within days of their birth. We knew it was a challenge to get enough groceries into such a rapid-growing breed but several members of the community were up to the task. It was daunting at best because without much immunity from not having their mom’s milk they couldn’t be exposed to many people so it was a small group who fed, cleaned, rested, and fed the puppies again. Most of the folks who were part of the feeding team became owners of these huge puppies and all but one stayed within our community.

My rep with Royal Canin happily consulted her team of nutritionists and those pups thrived on canned Recovery and wow, what a gorgeous group of dogs they turned into.

On April 22nd, 2009, my surgeon friend from Great Falls came by and he helped me spay and gastropexy the three females, which I had never done before. The three giants laid in a blanketed assembly line as they recovered and it was a pretty special day.

Until the curse of being a Great Dane took over and we lost the father and all of the other siblings over the years.

Generally they aren’t a long-lived breed but Bella made it to 10 years. Until Friday morning, when it was Time.

stuff4

Dog Show winners in the “Working Dog” class at one of our later Dog Days

Each and every family I cried with are friends. I’ve had coffees, lunch and supper dates and I’ve supported their buisnesses and I think most of them have read my books.

I counselled them about when to spay, what brand of foods to eat and I dispensed dewormers and did house calls and I sutured them up or took sutures out and I watched relationships grow and flourish even if there was some testing along the way and I shared the beginning, middle and now end of some beautiful lives with special people and their beloved companions and I know how very hard it was to make the decisions they made and I respect all of them for it while knowing how hard their hearts hurt.

Sometimes the making of the decision and acknowledging that it is Time is the hardest part of all. Or maybe its when I ask if my friends are ready… because they will truly never, ever be ready.

I am privileged to get to share the amazing human-animal bond that makes us choose to get another puppy and raise them and love them and care for and guide them through their magical lives as they become perfect middle-aged best friends until they gradually become beloved senior citizens.

My own heart gets wrung out every time we have had to make the decision to send our furry friends on their final adventure.

IMG_0611

Pretty little Bebe Fyfe

I hope I get to have more time to spend with Babs before its Time. Heck, Cleopatra, our Springer is at least 15 and is having her own set of issues. I’m trying not to think about it but I may have to face what Sitka, Danny, Sprocket and Bella’s parents all had to face just recently sooner rather than later.

And I’ll be okay.

Just like all of my friends will.

And every single other pet parent out there who has to face facts when you start making a list of all of the last things you’ll be doing with your buddy.

There are those coping mechanisms.

There is that magnificent hubby and many great friends.

And there is the knowledge that when the sadness is so great it means the love was that great as well.

B84FFD0D-0B41-41EE-A5D1-B2F860D8E58B

Local Coping Mechanism just opened the back 9 last week.

vetpic15

One of the Furry Scurry’s along the highway in town!

76E86B20-B8C4-4618-B325-677F5A9F46A7

3 new Coping Mechanisms screwing around in Papa’s clean jeans.

 

Our Ties to North Dakota

Standard

If you have followed my blog for any stretch of time you may have remembered NN, or, New Neighbor from our home in Bismarck.

Well, we have great news in that they have moved on and we have NNNs. Or, New, New Neighbors!

The fun surprise is that the New New Neighbor actually owns and operates his own heavy equipment. Lets just say, if he can’t move snow, nobody is going anywhere. And, to top it off, they are friends of Brad, (who has featured in my blogs several times and is one of Alistair’s best friends,) which automatically makes them friends of ours. Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

P1020539

Our apple trees in Bismarck last month!

I mention this because I went back to our North Dakota prairie home twice last month. It was a special month although I really didn’t sleep much at all.

I drove back to ND with Alistair a couple of days before he normally would have (2 weeks here, 2 weeks there, going on 12 years now!) and we got to enjoy our Painted Woods Golf Course together again. That course eats golf balls like no other, which makes for great ball-hunting.

P1020535

Back at Painted Woods Golf Course in early September.

The main purpose for my going back, though, was to attend one of my former figure skating student’s wedding! Another student was the maid of honor and another was the bride’s attendant. And more skaters and parents attended the wedding, too!

5-13-2007-16

My last day coaching these ladies before moving to MT. Andrea (bride), me, Alicia (attendant) and Jenna (maid of honor)

I can’t tell you how happy I am to see these young adults, who were pretty cool young people, reach these tremendous milestones in life. I am honored that they want to share these adventures with their old coach and that it meant a lot to the beautiful bride and her parents that I made the journey to be there.

P1020541

Alicia (skater), me (coach), Berdina (mom), Linda (mom) and Leanna (skater)

The bride was beautiful, the wedding was lovely and the reception was great fun catching up with everyone.

Leanna and me

Me and Leanna catching up at the reception- she and her mom sat with us so it was perfect!

 

While there I also shared a quick coffee date with my friend, Wendy and before you knew it, I was flying back to Missoula, Montana to get back to work the next day. The kitties and Cleo forgave me because they got to snuggle and cuddle with our dear friend, Jessie, who took over pet/house-sitting again.

And then I got to be a real realtor! I listed my very first home and the learning curve ticked upward yet again.

MEMO0050

Going to put my first lock box on my first listing!!!

The house is absolutely fabulous and its unique in that hardly anyone in town knows about it. I am one of the only realtors in town who has seen the place because it has never been listed since it was finished 10 years ago.

The owners created all sorts of outdoor living space to enjoy the scenery and you really don’t feel like you’re as in-town as you are up there. The house is immaculate with three large bedrooms and a main-floor master suite. There are even views of the majestic Mission Mountains!

MEMO0014

My cute-as-a-button first-ever listing!

It was fun coming up with valuation and a suggested listing price. I had to consider location (ok), quality of construction (high!), square footage (1332), lot size (about half an acre), no covenants or HOAs (lots of places have those around here), available and true comps (listen to me!), and what we have in the area for inventory (not much!)

I’ve got an Open House planned for this coming Thursday even though several realtors have said they don’t bother with hosting them- that they don’t bring many folks or they don’t lead to sales.

I’ve got a different perspective, though, because nobody has seen or shown this house before. Even today, a local retired realtor who lives a couple of blocks from this listing called me to ask where it was. She had been driving around trying to find it. When I took here there she couldn’t believe how almost-hidden, and how beautiful it was.

MEMO0018

Outdoor living space. Come see for yourself from 2-6pm on Thursday the 11th!

I also got a vacant lot on the Double Arrow Ranch listed in September! Its a cute 3-acre parcel that has desirable, burbling  Drew creek running along the back of it. Alistair and I hiked around there one sunny afternoon taking pictures, imagining building sites and trying to figure out which plants were actually huckleberries.

The owners of that one were set on their asking price but in doing my own little calculations I think we will need to come down a bit if we really want to sell it. There are a lot of lots on the Ranch for sale right now and while the creek definitely is a bonus there isn’t a well or septic field yet. So many things to consider!

IMG_8342

On my listed property!

On the heels of all this, I flew back to Bismarck for more adventures. And, after a bit of rain, a couple more rounds of golf at Painted Woods. Both days were wide open with hardly anybody there. We could drive balls into the creek, watch them bounce off into thick prairie grasses, laugh our asses off, make excellent shots and look for more golf balls to our hearts’ content.

42653798_10156323867180528_8133130082374909952_o

Our last round of the year at Painted Woods- they have already closed for the season.

After our final round we hit the road to Watford City, where we first moved to in the US back in 1994. The reason? Another wedding!

Full-circle time- this was the son of one of the head hockey coaches we hung out with back then. I wasn’t a veterinarian (or a published author or a realtor) when I was fresh out of the ice shows, eager to teach power skating to the local hockey club. Dave, the father of the groom, was one of the pioneers there who recognized the value of being the first guy to get to the puck and he supported me completely.

Alistair & I eventually coached as well and in a town of less than 2000 (at that time- its different now, thank-you, oil fields) everyone knew everyone. They all knew my Raise the Roof ice show projects that we hosted there and it was pretty amazing for us to be back.

hockey coaches

Coaches, Arden, me, Doug and Dave (father of the groom) with the Samuelson boys in the background.

How great, again, to see young people we coached or knew as they celebrate with one another such a special occasion. Extra bonus was seeing our “other daughter”, Morgan, who was one of the bridesmaids. The look of surprise on her face was priceless when she first saw us. We got to catch up and talk about work (she’s a RN now), her upcoming marriage (she’s engaged to one of my stepson’s former hockey team-mates), and our lives in general.

Morgie and me

Me & Morgie! (not my picture)

While it was a lot of driving and a bit hectic last month (all the while dealing with our house insurance claim nightmare, the moving of tens of thousands of dollars, Mr.Frigging Cooper, and getting a new roof that’s worth over 80 grand), it made perfect sense to go to both weddings and visit with friends.

Most of these friends have supported me in all of my crazy careers and adventures and they have all played important roles in our lives. We have all stayed in touch while we’ve all grown a little older and gained a few more grey hairs.

Social media is terrific for keeping us all informed of each others’ lives but it doesn’t hold a candle to a real-life hug and shared, in-person laughter.

42972032_10156331940380528_7957184410632060928_o

Back on our Double Arrow Golf Course in Montana!

We drove back to Montana where I got back to work and Alistair got 4 cords of wood stacked while watching the roofers finally get to start doing their thing. The brand-new roof is industrial strength and top of the line. It also looks awesome but I won’t go into that right now. I’ve got to get groceries for an Open house I’m planning this week!

new roof

New roof! (and Jockey!)

September was exhausting and yet fabulous at the same time. We are truly lucky to have so many wonderful friends in our lives, even if we’re miles and miles apart. And what a privilege to watch fun young people grow up to be physical therapists, nurses, adventurers, skating or hockey coaches, spouses, and parents. What memorable reunions!

ND5

My skaters and their moms supporting me at my first book signing! Leanna, Alicia, Berdina, Andrea and her mom, Elaine in 2015

036

the Watford City Oilers supported and helped out with my 2 Raise the Roof ice shows… there’s Doug’s son and one of those Samuelson boys! (1996, I believe)

42572722_10156323867915528_3368374822542245888_o

Alistair and I got a tour of the incredible Rough Rider center with the 2 ice rinks named after Arden and Dave!

fall in MT

And now the change is upon us.

 

 

Evacuate This

Standard

 

IMG_0648

Bebe’s thoughts on this whole situation

As I watch images of flying palm fronds and streets filling with water on TV while Florida braces for the full brunt of Hurricane Irma and while I read post after post from our friends who are finally allowed back into their mandatorily evacuated homes after almost 2 weeks away from them while a wild fire continues to rage outside our town, I’m actually feeling pretty lucky.

I’m lucky that Alistair made it back to Montana on August 25th.

I’m lucky that Deb answered her texts while having her hair done at a salon in Bismarck.

I’m lucky that Merielle, Brad, Gerry and Jessi all have a great sense of humor and that we were prepared for the worst and that we had a lot of boxes and a big old horse trailer with living quarters and 2 newer reliable, comfortable trucks and that Toni and  Jeff didn’t mind us moving our big equipment to their land on the flats.

I’m lucky we had somewhere to evacuate to.

 

P1070408

View of our house & the raging fire behind it a couple of weeks ago.

The Rice Ridge fire that was sparked by lightning July 24th crested that darned hill behind us and kept wanting to make runs down towards our house.

I watched it grow and change and creep as I would walk the dogs down our driveway. I would see how it tried to envelope our town on the other side of the hill from the excellent vantage point of our lovely golf course.

I talked with Alistair every night and we checked reports on Inciweb and I made a point to move our ski and snowmobile gear and a box or two of photo albums into the trailer.

 

P1070406

Smoke-filled skies at our home in Montana. This was when it was actually pretty good still.

I breathed the smoky air along with the 1 or 2 other golfers on the golf course and as I watched the helicopters fly into and out of our meadow, taking water or flame retardant to the hills right behind me.

During Alistair’s long trek from Bismarck to Seeley Lake we talked on the phone and we both realized it was ridiculous to stay in such a perilous predicament when we had a perfectly good home and ranch in a non-burning state.

So we mobilized the troops and we held our first Evacuation Party.

 

The party began with a parade. My good friend I’ve known since high school just happened to be spending a couple of nights with us and she and I got to be the parade marshalls!

 

P1070413

Merielle… very capable Parade Marshall!

We led Gerry & our boat, Alistair and the flatbed followed by Brad and Big Red in a tidy formation to the Hatten’s land where they can watch the plumes of smoke as they billow above the mountains and be safe from any flames. They are also well out of the way if any fire or structure crews need to use our driveways.

 

P1070412

Getting ready for the parade!

 

P1070414

Parade trucks devoid of streamers and candies but full of Ram Toughness!

 

We all saw trees torching behind our house that day as we drove back and talked about how smart it was to leave. Brad and Gerry, who had driven 11 hours through the night settled down for a nap, Merielle and I packed up my bling and Alistair went to the dump after spending an hour and a half reminding Zeus how to load into a trailer (it had been 10 years.)

At the dump Alistair learned that the fire was making a run for Cottonwood Lakes road behind our place and mandatory evacuation was likely.

“Okay, Everyone. Change of plans,” he announced as soon as he got home and the party picked up its pace.

 

P1070421

Evacuation party viewing that day.

Sandwiches were made, leftovers were re-heated in 2 shifts, Zeus broke the back door of our horse trailer, Brad and Alistair rigged up a solution, Zeus stopped bleeding and thankfully re-loaded, Maggie and Jake loaded into Deb’s borrowed trailer from ND, hugs were given and our horses and friends drove through falling ash to whisk our horses off to our safe farm 11 hours away.

Merielle, Alistair and I had one more night to spend before we planned to leave. As I cooked supper, we watched from our kitchen sunroom as the fire changed drastically and really seem to make a move towards the house.

The 3 of us ate our supper through a chorus of “oh my God”, “Crap, that’s getting lower,” “Did you see that one?”, “whoa!” and “holy shit.”

 

P1070398

Rice Ridge Fire a couple of days before the Evacuation Party.

We were able to keep our senses of humor intact while packing a few more things that night and while we watched my summer friend, Pepe come out at twilight like he’d been doing (sometimes with a friend) all month.

 

Pepe

Pepe, sometime mid-August.

And then, as we had planned to do when it got dark enough, us 3 happy souls who had a plan took our walk down the driveway to have one more good look at the fire to get an idea of what was happening.

We chuckled and made jokes about the situation because that’s how we roll.

“Oh, yeah, they’ve got a handle on that,” said Alistair after a preliminary turn-around halfway down the driveway. Each of us took peeks as we walked but we knew the full effect couldn’t be appreciated until we reached the turn. We all discussed how relieved we were that Zeus did load up and how I hadn’t had to make a choice to leave them if I had needed to evacuate before we had the party. It was a great feeling knowing our horses were headed to safety ahead of time.

And then we turned around.

 

fire1

View of our house in front of the Rice Ridge Fire. This is Merielle’s photo.

Our mood became somber as we stood there, motionless, wordless.

Our beautiful dream home stood in front of an ever-growing line of fire that changed with every second. We saw an outstanding but frightening intense red glow on both sides of the hills behind our home and we actually felt some heat on the gentle breeze that fanned the fire towards us.

After half an hour we made our way back to the house. We did end up with laughter again when we met up with Pepe in the dark. Well, we laughed when we eventually made it inside, un-skunked.

I called our friend who works with Forestry in town and he assured me we would be alright through the night.

But we all left the next morning. Merielle back to Canada and us to North Dakota in our 2 trucks, the dogs with me and the 3 crated cats in the horse trailer with Alistair.

 

P1070428

Evacuation party. Do we know how to party or what?

Which wasn’t without more drama. Through our walkie-talkies I was able to let Alistair know he’d blown the first trailer tire on the Interstate by Butte. The dogs and I sat in our truck with vehicles and rigs hurtling by at 70 mph, shaking our own one-ton ride as Alistair saved the day.

The walkie-talkies were helpful when the second trailer tire blew, necessitating us to limp off the Interstate by Bozeman and onto an off ramp. Never have I been so happy to see a Wal Mart in my entire life!

 

P1070429

Evacuation party temporary HQ at Bozeman’s Wal Mart

 

Despite having a full schedule and it being only a couple of hours before closing, ‘Dave’ took pity on my frazzled-sounding evacuee voice and got us hooked up with 2 new tires. The dogs had a nice walk and the cats were all talked to and the Evacuation Party Caravan pulled up our driveway in Bismarck at 2am.

 

P1070490

Our backyard in Bismarck

Where we have woken to mostly clean air and clear skies ever since.

Where the cats are all making an effort to get along because the barn cat, Jockey, has mostly been inside.

Where the horses are all together after Brad and Gerry brought the Montana trio back.

 

P1070489

Our happy herd today.

Where I’ve washed load after load of smoky laundry and where we’ve washed the smoke off ourselves and where the dogs and cats don’t smell like bon fires anymore.

Its also where we have watched much of our community get put on mandatory evacuation as the fire made run after run towards Seeley Lake. We’ve watched our little meadow be on high alert as plumes of smoke rose high into the sky and the big converted DC-10 flew overhead yet again as fire crews struggle to take control of this beast.

We watch post after post about the horrible air quality and how people are struggling to breathe while struggling to stay positive after close to 50 days of this damned fire.

And we continue to watch as the Liberty fire that threatened other friends once again makes noise and structure protection is in full effect for both fires .

 

 

fire2.jpg

Today’s Inciweb map. Our ranch is in Kozy Korner Zone 8.

I just read that a newer, smaller fire burning to the east has actually joined into the Rice Ridge fire and we are now over 130,000 of burned acres.

Acres where we hike, snowmobile and peace out. Acres we love to look at as our little slice of the “Last, Best Place” in our peaceful, almost hidden world. Acres that tourists and summer people usually flock to but were empty as they burned this year while our local businesses tried to stay open if their employees weren’t all evacuated. Acres our neighboring guest ranch would run a successful outfitting business in but will be devoid of strings of pack horses and guests this year.

At times tears of frustration burn the back of my eyes and threaten to leak out when I think about all the people affected by this terrible, epic fire. I know many people who feel as if the country neglected them or just hasn’t cared or maybe doesn’t care. I want to do more than watch from my air-conditioned house in the smoke-less state of North Dakota but its all I can do because we had to leave on our terms.

We had to take care of the spirits we love and who we’re responsible for. We chose to leave the stuff that’s just stuff and trust that they’ll find some money for the state to keep fighting Rice Ridge and Liberty and that our home will be standing when we choose to go back.

 

P1070432

Cleo & UB relaxing in Bismarck.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of our Evacuation Party and to Jessi for keeping our fish fed. Thanks to our friends in Montana for keeping us up to speed on everything that’s happening, particularly in our little meadow. And thanks to friends & family & bling sisters for checking in to make sure we’re okay.

Heck, we’re better than okay. And I’m so lucky to be able to say that.

 

P1070440

Lutefisk Babs, able to Sunbeam here in ND!

 

P1070492

Jockey… seeming to transition just fine.

 

P1070491

Happening now at our ranch in North Dakota.

 

 

P1070447

Us, better than okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Kids Back in the City

Standard

 

IMG_7606

Lions Gate bridge & downtown Vancouver

It had been 7 years since we had been in Vancouver and, thanks to an appropriate conference, good timing, and easier mobility with fewer pets, Alistair and I flew back to the sprawling city we have both called Home.

Alistair was born there and grew up in West Vancouver. He attended UBC for both his undergrad and medical school training. I was born there and lived in the suburb of Port Coquitlam until my family moved to Grand Forks, a much smaller town. I returned for 6 months of every year after I turned 12, though, for my skating and I spent a lot of time in the city during my Chilliwack-college years in the early 90s.

And while we know our way around and we have many, many friends and family members still there, Vancouver definitely isn’t our Home now.

For one thing, there’s the traffic.

 

P1070020

Downtown Georgia street. Cars perpendicular to one another.

It wasn’t surprising because Vancouver has had 3 million people and 3 bridges to the downtown core for many years but it still takes some adjustment to get used to after a long time away. We drive lonely gravel roads to get to our ranch in Montana and Alistair spends hours on highway 200 that darts across this enormous state where he won’t see another vehicle for 2 or more hours.

We both remembered the frustration of real traffic when it took 30 minutes to travel 5 plugged city blocks. On a Sunday!

 

P1070023

Rear view mirror of the line-up behind us

While the streets are all where we left them 7 years ago, they have been re-routed to allow for an incredible network of bike lanes. And these cyclists are hard core! They share the streets with cars, trucks, buses and taxis with a confidence that would seem to better fit a suit of armor versus just their little helmets. Which is another reason we could never come Home to Vancouver to stay.

 

P1070022

This was after the taxi cab decided he was going to cut through everyone.

I took advantage of a sunny morning while Alistair was learning all about Pediatric emergency updates and opted for a trip down Robson street… on foot. Vancouver is easily explored that way and there is no road rage.

Robson street is a classic for Vancouverites. Its where we used to drive up and down the road, bumper to bumper on Friday and Saturday nights, looking at everyone who was looking back at us. Cruising Robson street.

This time around, though, I was cruising somewhat as a tourist. Or, better yet, a spectator. The street and the city didn’t disappoint.

 

P1070001

Robson st.

I got to share in the festivities associated with Falun Dafa Day! (I had no clue at the time but its a traditional form of Chinese meditation that is persecuted in its homeland). There were drums, a band and dancing, all performed in brilliant colors with smiles on the performers’ faces. This all happened on the front steps of City Hall. How Canadian.

 

P1070003

BC weed on display… with cops right there.

Then there were the open displays of the various types of weed you can buy and what different things they were good for. Right in front of the street police. I overheard the big guy telling British tourists that marijuana wasn’t going to be a criminal prospect in the near future so they weren’t busting anybody anymore. Not for sharing information or selling T-shirts with the beloved plant leaf boldly celebrated.

How even more Canadian.

 

P1070004

Loved this!

I loved seeing the bikes you can rent around town. I mean, why not use those bike lanes, right? Its a Green concept and a healthy concept and its SO Canadian and it made me smile as I continued down Robson street on one of the first sunny days the city had seen in weeks.

 

P1070006

Oh, Robson st., you haven’t changed a bit.

I chuckled to myself when I saw the stores that had been there when we cruised the street close to 30 years ago.

And I smiled when I craned my neck upwards to gawk at skyscrapers on other streets during my little jaunt down memory lane.

 

P1070007

A little higher than the capitol building in Bismarck (tallest building in ND).

The city is full of construction and concrete and the skyline has grown. There appears to be no end to the impressive towers and while it was kind of neat to see it was just as nice to see the older, historic buildings of downtown Vancouver.

 

P1070008

Our hotel

Like the ancient Hotel Georgia, where we stayed up on the 11th floor. The bar there used to be known as somewhat of a dive but the entire place has been revamped and it was as beautiful as it was luxurious. (And pricey but we have that handy exchange rate on our side right now.)

Our hotel was across the street from the famed Hotel Vancouver, which is now a Fairmont. Everyone knew it from its copper peaks and it probably still is a feature to the skyline even if it sits in the shadow of an array of skyscrapers.

 

P1070010

Hotel Vancouver on the left.

With conferences and concrete and sirens and throngs of people downtown at all hours, it was a welcome relief to eventually cross the Lions Gate Bridge and head to West Vancouver. We couldn’t find parking at Lighthouse Park (Alistair’s neighborhood stomping grounds back in the day, where he would hike, swim and fish for hours without seeing a single soul) so we made our way to nearby Eagle Harbor for a walk along the ocean.

 

P1070026

Hello, Ocean!

It was a gorgeous day with hardly any wind and I remembered how it was so easy to fall in love with Vancouver during good weather. You can find peace and serenity if you look hard enough or you know the secret places.

 

IMG_7585

Eagle Harbor yacht club in the background

The briny smell of the ocean was a wonderful sensory memory. It took me back to my parents taking our boat under the old Port Mann bridge in the 70s when we lived there. It transported me to walking in the sand at White Rock and eating the most incredible fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. And it delivered me to Kits Beach where we would meet with other skating friends for pic-nics in the early evenings after a full summer day at the ice rink.

 

P1070031

Eagle Harbor yacht club

It took Alistair on his own journey as we revisited the house he grew up in. Its re-painted and has had a change or two done to it and there are roads and subdivisions with many houses behind it where there used to be train tracks and a forest but its still the house his dad designed many years ago.

 

IMG_7577

Alistair’s childhood home

And what’s a trip for us without the golf clubs?

We were excited enough just to see my dear friend, Liz and meet her hubby and even more pumped when they invited us to a round at their private golf club out towards UBC, Shaunessy.

 

P1070046

Alistair getting ready to play along the Fraser River

Some of the holes had temporary greens but most did not and our merry foursome shared old stories, updates on mutual friends and our families, a drink or two and much laughter.

 

P1070049

Tan and Liz, together again… with bottled Caesars! So Canadian!

The course has a lot of history, which Danny was able to share having grown up playing golf there. He is the best golfer we have had the opportunity to play with in our short golf lives and it was an idyllic, flower-adorned little place to lose yourself within the big city.

 

P1070047

On the 2nd tee along the river at Shaunessy

It was a great way to end a trip that brought our little family back together again. Yes, we finally got to enjoy time with both Gareth and Whitney this trip and it was as laughter-filled as ever.

Whitney’s bestie, Jaclyn joined us, too, which was also fitting as she has been an honorary Fyfe for as long as I’ve known the kids.

 

P1070017

Jaclyn, Alistair, Gareth & Whitney, downtown Vancouver

The 5 of us had a wonderful meal of incredible seafood at Yew restaurant in the Four Seasons right across from our Hotel Georgia.

And we picked up right where we had left off, which filled both Alistair and I with warm fuzzies.

 

P1070019

Blurry. Back at our hotel.

The kids joined us back at our hotel for more stories and for me to get my 3rd book into Whitney’s and Gareth’s hands. Jaclyn has to start from scratch so I gave her the 1st book, Lost and Found in Missing Lake.

Our trip back to our home land was an exciting journey and although we didn’t get across to Vancouver Island where more friends & family live, and we didn’t eat at a White Spot or Keg (so Canadian) and we had to pay a toll to cross the new Port Mann Bridge and it was a few days until I knew who was eliminated on Dancing With the Stars, there was so much that we did do and see.

More friends.

 

P1060997

Lori and I enjoying lunch downtown

More familiar roads.

 

P1070044

Getting ready to cross Lions Gate Bridge

More favorites.

 

P1070024

Alistair hand selected a tray of Purdy’s chocolates (Canadian classic!) for his staff in ND

And more familiar stomping grounds.

 

IMG_7563

Jellyfish of the Vancouver Aquarium.

And now we’re back home, together in Montana for a few more days before Alistair heads back to our ranch in North Dakota. Rainy cool weather has prevented many people from enjoying our Montana golf course but we’ve tried to get out there every day since we’ve been back.

It was fun visiting the big city again. Even if every Vancouverite wears black. How “city chic.” I guess. Like I would know.

I’m happy to have already lived such a diverse life in diverse places and I’m happy with where we are now. Sure, I’d like it better if Alistair and I were together full time but that’s not how it is at the moment.

 

P1070040

Alistair and I hiking in West Vancouver

Its good to be Home with the pets and my upcoming book events. Its good to be together. And while the politics of Canada are a little less frightening and volatile at the moment I’m okay to be where we are. We are both dual citizens, proud of certain aspects of each country that we call Home.

Because Home is where you feel connected, even if its not where you started out. As Toad the Wet Sprocket says, and as I’ve quoted before, Home is “not the place where you live, but the place where you belong.”

Here’s to you, Vancouver!

 

P1070051

Fun Shaunessy foursome with Liz and Danny G!

 

P1070036

More ocean time at Eagle Harbor

 

P1070029

Oh, Ocean, it was lovely to see you again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have I Been?

Standard

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

 

15003367_10154580176450528_853384459263555849_o

OMG!

In my defense, I’ve been kind of busy.

The dogs and I loaded up and headed east to Bismarck where we spent almost a full week while Alistair had to work some extra days for a colleague.

It was our second trip back without little Loki riding shotgun and I missed her at the rest stops. I didn’t miss the mayhem that ensued with all 3 dogs, none of whom are very well leash trained anymore but I missed looking over at her little sleeping body curled up on its blankie on the front seat next to me.

 

P1060953

My travel companions en route to ND!

UB and Cleo adapted to their other home just fine, as always, and I got to reconnect with the horses and various friends. The downtown scene was maybe even more vibrant than our last trips there during the winter. When prairie folk get the feeling that their long, hard, frigid winter is coming to a close the energy is palpable.

We enjoyed a few fun suppers out at great new restaurants like J60 and dined with friends to celebrate their retirement at our old classic, 40 Chophouse.

And we cuddled on the recliners at night watching Netflix and begging Daddy for potato chips (I wasn’t a part of that but I did enjoy the cuddles and Netflix.)

 

IMG_7525

Recliner time with the Bismarck version of our “magic blanket”

And, wonder of wonders (not that it was planned or anything, no sirree), our golf course in ND, Painted Woods opened our last day and we were able to play a breezy, fun round!

 

P1060959

Painted Woods golf course in Washburn. Quite a different view from our Montana course!

The course opened on a Sunday and we were happy to see a few carts and golfers losing balls out there with us. (The wind, water hazzards, buttes and valleys here necessitate that you carry at least 30 balls in your bag, at minimum, even if you’re a stellar golfer.)

And ever since Alistair had his final surgery in February he hasn’t felt an ounce of pain when we play, which only adds to the fun and enjoyment when we get out there.

 

P1060958

Our back yard in ND

Alistair had also just opened up Fyfe’s Backyard Pitch & Putt before I got back so we made sure to use our membership regularly.

As you can see by his attire, the weather had warmed considerably and even now, back in Montana, the weather hasn’t been as nice as it was that week.

The equine Fyfes all look pretty good except for 26 year-old Susie, one of the grand dams of the herd. She’s looking a lot more weedy and hasn’t shed out her hair coat as much as the others have. Susie was a great broodmare for many years and she’s earned her keep at our ranch. She is still able to boss everyone else around with kicks and tosses of her head so we aren’t going to rush to any sad actions until she needs us to.

 

P1060962

Our older Arabian mare, Susie

The adventure to Bismarck was one of the reasons I haven’t had or made the time to blog. The other, main reason is that I’ve finished book 3 in my Missing Lake teen fiction series!

No joke!

Its done!

And then I had to wait for my team of editors to get through their edits and get them back to me.

 

P1060972

UB deciding he should “help” Daddy with the editing.

Then I go through each person’s stack of papers with red felt pen, pencil, blue and black ink markings and circles and then I’m ready for my final edit.

Which I’ve been doing today. With my own bright yellow highlighter and pen.

UB and Cleo have been very helpful with this round, as well.

 

_DSC2972.jpg

Ben Brick, illustrator (not my photo)

Our friend, Ben Brick, once again eagerly leapt at the chance to do my cover art for this book. His artwork was part of the success of my 2nd book in the series, The Dragons of Missing Lake and it was loads of fun working with him and his concepts.

Ben and I were able to meet over lunch when I was back in Bismarck this most recent trip and the final product is outstanding.

So now its just a matter of time before I share Luke Houser’s tale, from the middle of nowhere in Montana, with everyone once again.

 

coverconceptsbook3Page1

Social media banner by Ben Brick

This story picks up as Luke’s sophomore school year is winding down in the mountainous town of Missing Lake. I explore more of the relationships he has with his friends and develop some of the other characters more. The sled dogs take a bit of a back seat just because of the timing of the book but there are plenty of animal stories and events that shape this third book. Zagros and Tabitha have 2 eggs to hatch as well so there is no end to the fun!

I’m hoping to hit “enter” and then order copies within the next few days, after my final round of editing is done.

Which is great timing because our local golf course has also opened and it has been calling to me.

 

P1060975

A sunny round of golf this past week at the Double Arrow golf course in Montana!

I managed a sunny 9 holes on the back yesterday because the weather report predicted rain and cold today. I knew I would dedicate the day to the final editing process.

So I’ll leave it at that and get back to the final few chapters and maybe some supper. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be with Secrets  Abound in Missing Lake officially published!

 

P1060968

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

 

P1060961

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

 

IMG_7527

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

 

P1060965

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There’s That

Standard

 

p1060749

Loki Fyfe, a few weeks ago

 

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

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

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

p1060853

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

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

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

p1060854

Earlier this year… snoring….

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

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

 

002

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

 

349

Thankfully we had Gampy along on this trip!

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

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

lokicouchtime

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

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

p1060772

Earlier in January

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

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

454

A couple of years ago… Loki and UB.

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

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

 

p1010492

Getting in some good sniffing in November

 

p1010495

more sniffing

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

 

010

Loki and her navigational tools last fall

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

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

470

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

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

 

p1060773

Another fail.

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

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

img_0743

Couch Time earlier this year

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

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

081

Helping me edit book 2 in 2015

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

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

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

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

 

img_7511

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

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

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

 

p1060862

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

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

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

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

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

p1060864

Just before it all went down…

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

And she snored.

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

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

 

p1060716

In December, waiting for me on the bath mat

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

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

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

 

p1060886

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

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

 

002

Another favorite snooze spot for Loki.

 

122

Clothes on the ground made for excellent bedding.

 

159

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

 

img_7510

Mornings with Loki in January. xo