Ohana

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Beauty all around the Grand Hyatt on Kauai

I am not bothered by Winter’s approach, even as the Montana skies around me are dark, grey and rainy. There is a chill in the breeze and snow lies on all of the mountains that surround our little ranch. It is November already and still I do not shiver and quake at the memories of non-stop snow plowing, snow paths, shoveling and home insurance claims because we just topped off our Aloha levels on the island of Kauai.

The Garden Isle welcomed us back for my annual veterinary dermatology conference. It was a much happier time at the conference versus last year when Alistair stayed in Montana with sweet UB during his surprising final days.

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Yay, Alistair was back with me! Grand Hyatt resort grounds.

With our trusted house/pet sitter, Jessie on board at the farm for Sport, Bebe, Cleo and Jockey, we got up at 3am on October 25th and just like that we were back on our favorite Hawaiian island!

Kauai feels like home for us. Perhaps because it was the first Hawaiian island we ever visited in 2009. Perhaps its because we actually have family there. It could be that the Poipu Bay Golf Course is like our Hawaiian home course. Or maybe its because we always meet special people there and these special people become our Ohana.

Family.

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Brock, Chris and I at Poipu Bay

Years ago we met Dr.Brock at the veterinary golf tournament and we have played together in almost every tournament ever since. He has visited us in ND and MT, as well. Barb joined our foursome back on Maui and has also been a fun part of the party.

This year Brock brought Christine, his new girlfriend- another new friend on Kauai! They played on another team and Barb, Alistair and I were joined by Cindy for this year’s tournament. One more friend!

Our foursome laughed and giggled as great shots were made (mostly by Alistair, Cindy and Barb but I managed a few nice ones, too) during a torrential downpour the Garden Isle is known for.

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Cindy and Barb trying to stay dry

Its wasn’t cold but it definitely was wet. The last hour was particularly nasty and as I teed it up on our 18th hole, with rain water pouring off my hat, shoulders, and arms, bare-handed so my Driver wouldn’t fly out of my hands, completely aware that I was soaked through and through, I gave it my all and somehow won the women’s long-drive contest.

It wasn’t our team’s only award- at the wet-rat looking luncheon, our team ‘won’ the highest score award. Hey, it was $50 for each of us. It pays to suck!

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Alistair’s Angels with our crisp 50s in hand!

That isn’t our first time as high-scorers. The whole pond hockey fundraiser from 5 years ago earned us our “most honest” awards as well. The high scoring teams usually are laughing their heads off and not taking their game or life too seriously. That’s what got us hooked on golf way back when with Lynn and Micki.

Alistair and I played a total of 6 rounds at Poipu Bay this trip. The clubhouse staff and pro, Chad, welcome us as their Montana Ohana with hugs and handshakes. Workers like Kerry and Danny remembered us (and my golf club head-covers) from our visits there over the last few years and we all laughed about how we play “Fyfe Golf”- driving from hole to hole to find an open spot.

“That’s exactly how we all play,” Kerry told us as he was cleaning up my clubs.

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Jinxie and Mulder club head covers… forgiving us for getting them soaked during the tournament.

He had recognized these 2 and the Loki head on my Driver the first day he came to work after we dropped the clubs off. We also all reminisced about the time we met- when Alistair’s Driver head went flying off during a group lesson from Chad years ago prior to the tournament.

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We’ve been laughing with these guys since 2015!

Other than the one rainy tournament, the weather at Poipu Bay lived up to its sunny reputation and our skin is tanned and our hearts are warmed. We played a couple more times with Barb and a fun fourth named David one day and we also played alone.

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Seriously digging my new hat at Poipu Bay last week!

And we got to connect with flesh & blood Ohana when we had supper with Whitney and Lau and then visited them for a BBQ a few nights later.

We ate at Café Portofino together in Lihue and caught up on everyone’s lives in real time, in person.

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Lau & Whitney, Café Portofino

We got to watch a Princess Cruise line ship squeeze its way out of Nawilili Harbor as evening and darkness descended and our yummy merlot was sipped.

(Alistair and I ate there again before our night flight out on Thursday and our server, Angela, grew up surfing with Lau and his siblings.)

More connections.

More Ohana.

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Our mandatory photo after supper at Café Portofino! (not my photo)

Whitney & Lau let us hang out at their place another afternoon as we caught up even more and got to play with their dogs. Whitney got a sweet new Jeep during our island stay and we got to check it out while trying to not be distracted by their back yard views towards Hanalei.

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New wheels and grand-dog, Kygo!

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The kids’ extremely distracting back yard on Kauai’s north shore.

I saw friends at the veterinary conference who are always there, like Don and Tony. I connected with the Canadian, Trevor, who remembered us and our Montana tales and how I walked away from my brick & mortar practice 5 years ago. Dick and Ann weren’t there this year. Neither was Dave from Washington or Bruce from Kansas. Dick did text me, at least, and hopefully they will be back next fall on Maui.

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More golf and that sweet new hat of mine!

More golf and more fine dining. We had been worried about the expense of eating out thanks to our home insurance woes but I committed over an hour on the phone with Mr.Cooper our first morning on Kauai and somehow I was finally able to speak to someone in “Leadership”. “Michelle” listened and made some sense of our months-long mess and we will hopefully have some of our personal funds back soon.

So we can get going on getting our walls re-built and getting out of the guest room.

Back to Kauai, our dining adventures brought things full circle yet again.

We ate at Dondero’s one night, the Italian restaurant at the Grand Hyatt. Juan was our server and we spent the night sharing pictures and stories about our beloved animals. Juan has rescued German Shepards as well as one of the ginger kittens he found at the resort. The little guy, Pumpkin, had a lot of health woes at the start and we crossed our fingers for his upcoming vet visit.

We saw Juan our second time eating there and although he wasn’t our server we got to spend a lot of time visiting and hearing that little Pumpkin got a clean bill of health! More photos, exchange of names & emails and now Juan and I are friends on Facebook!

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This isn’t Pumpkin- feral kitties are everywhere. This sweetie was at the Garden Plantation restaurant. Another new friend on Kauai!

I knew Barb and her husband, Don (who we finally met and had supper with at Merrimen’s one night- more friends,  more Ohana!) were eating at Dondero’s after we were leaving and I told them about Juan and how awesome and caring he was.

Saturday morning I got a text from Barb with this photo:

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Barb & Juan at Dondero’s!!!!! (not my photo)

Guess who was their server??? My heart was so happy to see this! My friends are your friends and if you are my friend its because you are happy, inspirational, cool, not cool, funny, unique, special, loving, caring and giving of yourself.

And you probably love animals.

We are all Ohana.

I think our lives are enriched when we surround ourselves with people and experiences that touch us. And perhaps we need to touch others as well.

And so, with our hearts full of Aloha, our pineapple levels topped up once again, and new members of our tribe to connect with and keep in touch and hope to see again soon, we flew through the night sky to land (well, in this case it was just about plummeting to our deaths… seriously… we applauded the pilot on touching down) in Missoula and we are back to reality.

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I am missing this reality.

Sport is purring on my lap, Jessie is back home, my real estate transactions are becoming more and more real with each passing hour and our clocks are set one hour back today.

We loved our Aloha as always and enjoyed so many special relationships- old ones and new ones- and we are a larger Ohana for it.

Mahalo, again, Kauai. Love, your Montana Ohana.

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When Grammy & Grampy come to visit! (not my photo)

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Photo from Keoki’s for Michelle & Missy… some of our Seeley Lake Ohana who joined us here last spring!

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Alistair goofing around on the incredible 16th tee box!

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On our way to becoming drenched during the golf tournament!

 

 

Our Ties to North Dakota

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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

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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)

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

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And now the change is upon us.

 

 

What’s in Store

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The title of this blog is as much a statement as a question in regards to our house insurance claim thanks to the incredible amount of snow & ice we fought against this past winter.

 

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One of many photos of one of many adventures on the driveway with Big Red last winter

For a quick recap, we got buried a couple of times after days and days of heavy snowfall. It rained hard for almost 24 hours each time and then it froze. Our roof eaves took a beating and I chronicled it all with photos, social media posts and this blog.

I sent our insurance agent some pictures in early February, which was when I realized water was leaking down inside our walls and beneath the wood stove in our living room. (For the record, I’m not going to mention people’s or company names. Not yet, anyhow. I’m trying my best to protect them but if they don’t do the right thing I am willing to use my voice & platforms to drag them through the mud. Its not my style but it may end up being all that I can do.)

 

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One of the pics sent in early Feb of the water coming down our living room wall

Our agent is a friend who lives a couple of hours north of us. They didn’t get the amount of snow that we did but he could appreciate our situation, knowing that our community is fairly well-known for high snow volume. He initiated a claim the next day and the adjuster showed up a day or two later.

Since then I’ve shared the sheer joys of having heavy duty fans and enormous dehumidifiers running around the clock in our large house. I’ve shared my excitement at having strangers rumble through our world removing walls, ceilings and privacy. We laughed as we moved part-way into the guest bedroom and I’ve even started an entry in our guest journal.

 

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Some of the mitigation happening on that very same wall.

I wrote to our insurance agent and the adjuster expressing concern that the snow removal that was occurring as I typed was likely destroying some of our professional landscaping and plant life around the house and was told that we’d address it when the snow melted.

That made sense.

Which is why I okayed the offer of a second snow-removal effort with heavy machinery and large, beeping pieces of equipment after another dump of snow.

 

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Cleo inspecting the remains of our front lawn & plant life after the melt. Damage is from heavy equipment used to move snow/ice off of the roof and away from the house.

Since then the drama has evolved over payments and one of our two mortgage companies. Our primary mortgage holder has required form after form after form to be submitted by ourselves, our adjuster, and/or the restoration/construction company our adjuster chose out of Missoula.

The snow removal and mitigation that was done back in February totaled over 21 thousand dollars and the insurance check to cover that is stuck somewhere in limbo thanks to said mortgage holder. The main delay with it all has been the fact the mortgage company has never let us know, after each submission, when something else is required. (If I could bill for my time spent on the phone during all of this I would have the 21 K right now!)

With every call to the mortgage holder I then emailed or called the adjuster as well as the restoration company to let them know I was doing everything I could to get them their money. With all that I went through as a business owner I can certainly appreciate when you aren’t getting paid for work that was done!

 

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The lawn beneath the mountain ranges of snow has actually collapsed!

While leaping into a brand new job with a sparkling new career I’m trying to learn, and with Alistair back in Bismarck, the mortgage holder required even more paperwork and signatures and formal letters on actual insurance company letterhead 3 weeks ago. They also needed paperwork from the county stating why our ‘street’ name changed in 2007.) Each and every step, form or signature takes a minimum of 3 days as I  have to email or call whoever is involved and then they have to find or sign or complete whatever it is that’s been requested and then they send it to me and I figure out which department of the mortgage company to send it to. Throw in a mid-week national holiday to complicate the movement of things.

 

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Me, helping out at Clearwater Montana Property’s 4th of July celebration as our trailer passed by in the local parade!

After 2 weeks of the latest round of craziness our restoration company threatened to slap a lien on our house, which didn’t sit particularly well with me.

Alistair and I dealt with this in our long-distance style and without going into detail we got a personal check sent the next day to the restoration company and the lien will never be mentioned again.

Our funds are still held hostage but I’m really hoping that this week the mortgage company will have everything they could possibly want and they will release our funds.

This is what I mean by the title of this blog being a statement and a question. I’m sharing what’s in store and I’m also wondering about it at the same time.

The money isn’t the main issue right now, though, because I know its there and I know, eventually, they will run out of things to require (if they ask for my first born I’m hooped!) and the money willarrive.

 

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I could seriously use some of this right now!

Last week, my Knight in Shining Armor got home and I greeted him with one of those “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news” statements. After 10+ hours on the road he chose the good news.

I cheerfully shared with him the fact I had learned, 30 minutes prior, that our adjuster had finally approved a full new roof. This is significant for every reason we can all come up with and has been in discussion for months. Every quote came in really high because of the size and scope of the project and our adjuster seemed to struggle with an answer.

They also approved the deck, which wasn’t really in question because, lets face it, the deck is a wreck!

 

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Top part of the deck is lower than the bottom… 

The bad news?

Apparently there is an exclusion clause in our insurance that states there will be no coverage for lawns, landscaping, and trees.

The quote our adjuster got for that (20 grand) is included with everything but then its crossed out because, obviously, our adjuster had thought it would all be covered until he found that clause.

I’ve since emailed our adjuster and shared our concerns. I get it that insurance companies have the right to mitigate further damage but they don’t have the right to destroy our landscaping. And I never, ever would have approved the second round of snow removal months ago (because as you all know, I can handle a bit of snow!) if I knew nobody was going to take responsibility for wrecking our lawn and shrubs.

 

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Water dripping through the T&G this winter

Nevermind that nobody seems to know what we’re going to do with the ceiling tongue & groove damage or the beams in the kitchen sunroom.

Now that I’m in the realty world (notice I didn’t write, ‘reality’ because, in all honestly, life has felt pretty surreal for 12 months now), I know that if we ever go to sell this home we will have to disclose this large insurance claim. That makes it harder for a buyer to secure great rates on insurance which effectively lowers our home’s overall value.

Add to that the fact that our lawn and landscaping looks like ass unless we fork out 20 grand to fix the stuff that was destroyed by people we didn’t choose who were hired by a restoration company chosen by our adjuster thanks to a claim we never requested.

 

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What our gorgeous landscaping looked like in June of 2017.

I’m hoping our friend, the insurance agent north of us, can help us make sense of what’s in store. He was out of the office all this past week so hasn’t had a chance to respond to any of this. He would only be finding out about the lawn & landscape issue and our subsequent displeasure now. He’s a heck of a good guy and we talk Labrador retrievers often and I hope he can go to bat for us on this.

And I’m not complaining. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal. I’m just putting some stuff out there and sharing Fyfe Life for the insanity that it is at times. I’m enjoying my new office and colleagues and I’ve got a lot of support from everyone on this real estate adventure.

 

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Practicing for when my new desk would arrive.  It eventually did & I’m typing at it right now.

I’m on “floor” duty today because summer tourists could actually walk in and want to learn about or even see properties and local homes. Tomorrow we will talk with our agent and hopefully move forward into what’s ahead. And hopefully I’ll never have to disclose company names and slag them to my readers and my homeowners who ask for my advice because that just isn’t my style.

An ambulance just went roaring past our office with its sirens blaring.

It reminds me that someone and their family are having a way worse time today than I could even imagine.

The sun is out and summer has arrived. Alistair is already on the golf course and I’m hoping I can meet him there again after work to play a few holes.

And our guest room is really quite nice so with the distractions of a new career, the optimism that our friend will help guide us in a way we can all agree on over the next few days, the beautiful properties I hopefully get to show people, a cuddly dog and 3 cats who provide comfort and peace just by letting us pet them and our shared wacky sense of humor, we are going to be just fine.

 

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One of our agency’s incredible view properties I get to share!

To paraphrase the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, though, we, as Canadians, are very polite. That doesn’t mean we will allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. We will stand up for ourselves when it is appropriate to do so.

So, again, grab the railings and hang on.

You never know what’s in store in Fyfe Life!

 

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“The Look.” Cleo’s thoughts on the whole insurance claim. (Photo by Merielle Kazakoff, one of our evacuation party attendees of last summer when she visited 2 weeks ago!)

 

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How we’ll get through all of this!

 

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Alistair’s favorite ‘float’ during the parade. 

 

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Another stunning, private property I got to preview last week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Ya, 2017

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Outside our front door today. More on Snowmageddon later…

There were times this past year when it seemed that 2018 would never arrive. Moments or days or situations that will forever be associated with 2017 could have weighed so heavily at times but, thankfully, Alistair likes to laugh at life as much as I do.

Not that we laughed all of the time.

The spirit world grew rich this year in January and November when Loki and then UB crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I have cried rivers of tears over both of those losses and our entire way of living changed each time.

 

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UB and Loki a few years ago

March had a lot of snow and I developed a pesky little pneumonia but it forced me to stay home, plow snow and finish my third novel. A silver lining to everything, right?

Of course 2017 will always be the summer of the Rice Ridge Fire that threatened our entire community on both sides of the mountains. It was a day-to-day experience for so many people and families and the business district took a huge hit from the loss of tourism, which is what Seeley Lake relies on to stay alive during our long winters.

 

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The pilots were our tourists this summer!

Bitterness and anger remain for a lot of folks for a fire that just wasn’t managed correctly from the beginning.

We were lucky in that we have a farm and acreage and big trucks and great friends and we were able to take our pets with us to Bismarck for a full month during the fire.

While a lot of things were bad about the fire, I think, perhaps, the worst part was the fact we all put our trust in our hired forest officials to do their job and save our town. Why did such a little fire have to turn into a public health and economic behemoth of a monster that raged over 160,000 acres and lasted over 3 months?

 

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the night we decided to get out… MMK’s photo

Thankfully no homes or businesses burned but that doesn’t mean businesses weren’t lost. I hope beyond hope that each restaurant, salon, and service can stay open this winter and thrive into 2018’s tourist season. Our little Chamber is re-focusing with new members and if everyone sticks together and supports one another we will see hundreds of out-of-state license plates clogging up our highway by Rovero’s and the Ice Cream Place yet again!

 

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Normal summer shenanigans in western Montana

My bling thing continued to provide a sparkly distraction to my world. I actually hit $60,000 in personal sales and I’m just 2 months shy of my 3-year anniversary with the company.

The company is going through some growing pains and major changes right now, though, and I’m not sure where I will fit in the new plan. I still love the jewelry but the company is focused on growing the number of merchandisers and recruiting and that’s just not my thing.

 

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Some of the bling (not my photo)

Doing direct sales for the first time ever has taught me some business skills and things I never learned on the ice or in the vet clinic and I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and make women feel absolutely beautiful when they wear the jewelry. (There are one or two men out there rocking our men’s leather wraps, too… I’m just saying…)

 

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I earned these this month! Super cute, not even on sale yet!

 

2018 will begin the blogger and media outreach we are planning with the Jenkins group we have hired for my 3rd book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

If you’ve read any of my Missing Lake series, you know that the teens are tasked with making sense out of songs that their hippie English teacher assigns them. Its a sub-plot in the book but its a fun one as I explore songs and artists that I like and try to think how my various characters would analyze things.

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My books (Photo from Dr.Alison, who got the books for her daughter!)

For the 3rd book I went out on a limb and chose a lesser-known artist with an even lesser-known song to challenge both myself and my characters. The artist is Matisyahu and the song is Hard Way.

The really cool thing about this is that Matisyahu and his peeps are coming to a small theatre in Missoula, which is an hour from here, at the end of February.

He’s coming to Missoula!!!!!!

Tickets are already purchased for the small show (the only one in the state) and I’ve reached out hoping to meet him. Maybe he can sign my book!

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Just about into 2018….

And just when I thought we would skip through the last few days of 2017 without any drama, Mother Nature happened. And she happened, like she often does in the middle of nowhere, Big Time.

We have learned living in both Montana and North Dakota to take warnings about thunder storms and snowfall very, very seriously. The people in charge of those things usually are on top of it, knowing that either situation could mean life or death out here. (Tornado warnings are pretty spot-on in North Dakota, too.)

So when we looked ahead at weather reports, Alistair decided to head back to North Dakota a day early, leaving me to fend for myself during what was supposed to be quite the epic storm.

And it was.

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this was after the 1st day. My walk path the UPS guy must have used the night before!

I’ve never minded being up here alone because Alistair has me well set up with machinery to move snow from here to there, particularly Big Red, our ’96 one ton Dodge Ram. And we stocked up on wine and food in Missoula a day before he left and pet food supplies are full and we had brought 2 tractor buckets full of wood over to the house as well.

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Yesterday  morning… after I had “cleaned off” Big Red…

As predicted, the snow started to fall.

And it kept falling.

And sometimes it picked up in intensity and other times it just fell.

Most of our community has been without power for some length of time. There is a young couple in Seeley Lake who have been without for 3 days now and a friend north of town with an electrical line down on her driveway so not only can she not plow, she can’t leave her house.

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The snow piled up along our kitchen windows. This isn’t the ground floor.

Our power has been on and off but, for the most part, I have been extremely lucky.

There has been 1 avalanche already along the highway that Alistair travels through Lincoln, MT on his way back to ND. Nobody was injured but it closed the highway for half of a day as crews worked in the falling snow to clear it up.

And while this is life in the mountains of Montana, I have never seen such a snow event in my life. I’ve seen it accumulate but not in one 3-day event.

I plowed twice daily with my newest Hawaiian singer, Keali’i Reichel singing and chanting about sunshine, love, and Aloha in the warmth of Big Red’s rumbling cab. I got good and stuck at one point and contemplated melting down but I managed to channel that energy into getting myself unstuck.

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My first run up the driveway yesterday morning

I was able to create a path out to the main road yesterday, at least, which was my main goal despite all the plowing I had done the days prior. We are the last house on a long driveway and if I want to connect with the outside world I have to be on top of things. I don’t like the idea that I can’t get out if there’s an emergency or an ambulance can’t get in.

So I pushed the road open and then it snowed through the night and this morning I cleaned it up as best I could.

Its not my finest plow work but there is a road.

The problem is that I’ve run out of room to put the snow so it feels a bit like a narrow tunnel in places but, hey, its a road.

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Tidying it up as much as I could today.

I’ve also been shoveling to get the other trucks out and that has re-awoken some muscles in my arms and back that I had forgotten about. Either that or I had just kept them in check by playing golf all summer & fall. Regardless, they are talking to me and I’m glad to have Ibuprofen around.

But I’m done shoveling for 2017.

I think I’m done with 2017 in general.

As much laughter and silliness and as many wonderful friends & family we got to see this year, I’m totally cool with moving forward and letting any issues with 2017 disappear along with the calendars.

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Today’s handiwork. Not going to be using “Big Silver” anytime soon….

For now I’m going to bundle up in my warm, purple ski suit and take Cleopatra down the flat driveway for a walk and later I’ll make a yummy shrimp pasta and curl up on the couch with my ancient bestie, Sport purring away in my lap and maybe we’ll make it to see the ball drop and maybe I’ll even try making myself a Caesar before I switch to wine and maybe my family will call or I’ll call them. Alistair will call but he has to work all day tomorrow after working a very long day today, so we won’t talk late.

I shall sip wine and whole-heartedly welcome a new year with new dreams, new goals, new friends, new challenges, and a surprise or two up my sleeve.

Its Fyfe Life.

May you close 2017 with joy and embrace the New Year with a welcoming heart.

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Cleo helping me shovel today

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Sport, 17 1/2 years young… my new Couch Time partner at nights.

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I was fine with the amount of snow we had before this storm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Really Want

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Hubbel and Donohue, last night in Japan (not my photo).

I’d like to tell you all my thoughts on this weekend’s Grand Prix of figure skating event that took place in Japan, the annual NHK Trophy.

I’d love to share my joy at the amazing level of ice dancing right now, and how emotional all the top skaters were in their performances, including the Americans shown above, who placed second.

I could tell you all about Tessa and Scott’s sleek, sexy outfits and how they brought tears to my eyes as I watched their free dance last night and how relieved he must have felt to nail the twizzle section that almost took him down during their short dance.

But there’s a bigger, more important elephant in the room and its the reason I’m already crying right now.

 

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UB Fyfe… last winter

I have to tell you all that UB has died.

Our amazing, cuddly, loving, sometimes-serious, protective, friendly littlest buddy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge all on his own at the very end of October and our hearts and our world haven’t been the same ever since.

 

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Inspecting the newly delivered wood for big mice just a few weeks ago.

This wasn’t something we had been expecting or planning for.

UB Pickles Napolean Jumping Jack Flash Serge Savard Spinorama Fyfe was supposed to be hiking alongside us in the forests out back for years.

He was supposed to eagerly climb into his ‘Steve Austin’ smoking-jacket right now and for the next few months as we would be stretching our legs along our long driveways.

 

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Looking dapper in his smoking jacket earlier this year.

He was supposed to be Cleo’s assistance dog as she prances into old age with deaf ears and rear legs that don’t work as well as they used to. He was supposed to be Bebe’s boyfriend as our strange grey kitty continues to find her voice and place in our world.

We fully expected him to continue to charm the snot out of everyone who visited as he made friends with all of our friends and family who came to the Fyfe Farm. Anybody’s lap was fair game if you sat on the couch and full-body contact was preferred, if not expected.

 

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UB, Cleo & Uncle Pete a couple of years ago.

UB, the king of all laps, was supposed to find a few more over the next few years. With zero concept of personal space, UB should have spent a great more deal of time firmly squared away with someone’s arm wrapped around him.

 

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Last May in Bismarck.

And UB was supposed to pack up into one of the trucks yet again with Cleo & I on our next trip to Bismarck. And the trip after that, too. And maybe another trek to Canada as well. He had a knack for keeping Cleo and Loki calm when we travelled and he made the most out of wherever he landed as long as we were all together.

 

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Travels with Mummy & Loki up to BC in 2014.

 

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Our return trip from our month-long evacuation in Bismarck just weeks ago.

UB was only 9 years old so it didn’t seem to be a big deal when he developed a tiny, dry, little cough a few weeks ago after we returned from Bismarck. It certainly didn’t slow him down and he mostly did it when we first went out for a run (always at full speed) or when he first leapt out from under the comforter each morning.

And, hey, half of Seeley Lake is still coughing and dealing with sinus issues after the months-long Rice Ridge fire brought thick, grey smoke into our world and our lungs for what seemed like an endless summer. Even though we evacuated to North Dakota for a month I still put UB’s cough down to the smoke.

Because he was still UB.

 

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“Helping” Daddy edit my 3rd book this spring.

Playing, eating, jumping, snuggling, awesome UB.

But then maybe he was sleeping a little bit longer in the mornings.

And maybe it was noticeable that he stayed pretty close to us whenever we walked outside.

And perhaps he was actually a bit clingy during evening Couch Time when Daddy was in Bismarck for his two weeks.

 

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Evacuees in Bismarck this fall.

Which was all stored up in my head and my heart as I made arrangements for our fall house-sitter to come for our planned trip to the Big Island of Hawaii on October 26th.

Because that’s what I’d like to be telling you all about right now.

Sunshine, mai tais, old friends and new ones, my golf game, the enormous resort, incredible seafood, the annual veterinary dermatology conference and some much-needed Aloha.

 

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A very different kind of Aloha.

There was Aloha, alright, but it just wasn’t right.

My husband and my heart weren’t there.

Because a couple of days before our trip, UB suddenly stopped eating.

Just like that.

We coaxed some canned food, some bacon, and some of our own breakfast and supper but he mostly just looked at it. He didn’t touch the cat food dish either, and Doctor Me told Mummy Me that its never normal for a dog like UB to repeatedly refuse food. Particularly with nothing else really wrong.

Well, there was that little cough…

 

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In Missoula, this spring. “Pay attention to the road, Mummy!”

So on October 25th, UB and I drove to Missoula while Alistair packed and we visited our internal medicine veterinary friend, Dr.Dave.

He and his assistant enjoyed getting to meet our happy little guy although he did seem a bit more subdued than normal. He was a perfect monkey for his ultrasound and for his chest x-ray and he seemed endearingly more concerned about me when I lost my shit in the truck when we left the clinic.

UB’s heart wasn’t the problem. It may have been a bit on the large size but everyone who has met him already knew that.

His lungs looked like a blizzard thanks to a ton of cancer throughout both sides.

 

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UB’s lungs. 😦

(His head is off to the left, that’s his sternal bones on the bottom and his big heart is surrounded by white patches where the lungs should just be black.)

We don’t know what type of cancer UB had but it sure came out of nowhere and took us all by complete and total surprise.

And so we started prednisone at a high enough dose to get him to eat. And we gave more bacon and canned cat food that night as we continued to hold and kiss our special little friend.

Neither of us slept that night. Thankfully, UB was all up for cuddles under and on top of the covers with both Daddy and I.

 

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October 26th after Alistair got back from the airport.

At 3 in the morning, when our alarm was set to go off, Alistair said he would stay with UB. Even though UB loved our house-sitter and knew her well, it was what needed to be done. (I had already tried cancelling flights and resort bookings but it wasn’t going to happen.)

So I somehow got ready and even as we were ready to leave I ran down the hallway for one more hug and kiss from our loverboy. Which turned out to be the last ones for him and I.

And I flew to Hawaii and I wish I could be telling you about the fun couple I met as well as the really weird guy they put next to me because he was making a scene thanks to his size and window-seat ‘needs’ but he managed to fit into Alistair’s seat and shove his body against mine for 5 1/2 hours (and he didn’t open the window shade once!)

I wish I could tell you all about the resort but, to be honest, I wasn’t really there the first few days.

 

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day 1, post golf game, with the resorts adorable UB statues!

My heart was back home with my family and I lived for every text and update from Alistair.

The wonderful news is that UB had a couple of outstanding days. Alistair tweaked his steroids enough to get him really excited about food again and UB ate like the king he was! He rode in the Ranger with Daddy and they hiked and stacked wood and cuddled together on the couch and watched old Star Treks together in bed.

 

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Sunset from my lanai.

And I cried but I smiled, too, because UB got to truly enjoy his final few days with Cleo and Daddy and the kitties, too, even if I wasn’t there. He heard my voice on the phone the last day after he’d had a huge breakfast and even some snacks before I went off to my conference, where my close friends knew the reason why Alistair wasn’t there.

And so it was, on the early evening of the 28th, with Alistair outside in the hot tub and UB and Cleo running around in the leaves, that UB laid down peacefully by our back deck and, taking control of everything like always, he died.

Just like that.

 

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Couch Time last winter with UB.

And he’s gone and I cried my eyes and heart out alone in my hotel room in Paradise. And I continued to cry whenever it was safe to do so and sometimes even when it wasn’t over the next few days on the island.

And Alistair was suddenly very alone inside our big house in Montana.

I wasn’t alone during the days, though. There’s nothing quite like a conference full of veterinarians to make you feel some sympathy and love. And the outpouring of love and compassion and people telling me they were crying when I posted the news on social media was raw, real and heart-felt and I appreciated every comment and reaction shared.

 

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Getting by with a little help from my friends. Liz, from Vancouver, and her family happened to be vacationing island-style that time, too.

I’d like to be able to tell you all that we’re doing just fine and everything is honky-dorey but that would be a lie.

I’m happily back in Montana and Alistair was able to stay a few extra days with me which helped immensely. I’m not sure how well I could have  kept it together otherwise without UB in the house. And now Alistair is working in Bismarck and Cleo and I are getting into our own new routines with the cats.

I’m thankful that UB didn’t suffer. Ever.

Thankful he found us 9 years ago and was such a perfect Fyfe family member and sibling to all the other pets (maybe not the guinea pigs, although we still aren’t sure what went down that day…)

Even more thankful that so many of you got to meet and fall in love with our Boston Terrier, Cocker Spaniel cross who flicked his feet when he trotted, ran that kissing booth with his fetching underbite, sat like a human on any chair he could as long as we were with him and slammed Subarus and their dreadlocked, hippie, ten-and-two-in-my-Subaru, patchouli smelling, bra-burning slow drivers with abandon.

 

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Well played, Uncle Gary & Aunty Dona. Well played….

I miss those soul-searching brown eyes as he would just stare at me. I miss hearing him prance around the house to find us. I miss his naughty paw-pulling he did when it was time for nail trims and I miss watching him burrow into the magic blanket.

 

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Handsome dude!

What I really want right now is UB.

I want the last 4 weeks to not have happened.

I want to pick the smoking jacket up off the freezer and watch UB joyfully hold his arms out for me to wrap it on him.

I want to take him and Cleo for walkies and for him to mix up words in a song and for us to make a funny video with him taking to everyone tonight.

But that’s not real.

 

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“Excuse me, Barkeep! Some beverages for my Mummy and me, please!”

What’s real is the hole in my heart and the lump in my throat and the tears streaming down my cheeks. What’s real is Cleo’s need for a walk today and my concern that she’s also really missing her younger brother. The silence is real. The empty dog dish is real. UB’s collar and cute new name tag lying on the counter in the laundry room are real.

What’s real is the pain… which means the love was that real in itself.

And I’m honored to have been able to share UB with you all.

RIP, UB. Oh, how you are loved.

 

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Last fall when we were at the conference UB loved taking his meals with Theresa and Brian in the kitchen! (Theresa’s photo)

 

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UB and Loki, 2 of the most famous and well-loved spirits at the Dog Days of Summer a few years ago.

 

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I believe this was post-op back surgery for Alistair… classic UB. One of my favorites of these two!

 

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UB on Aunty Merielle’s bed during her first visit to MT in 2013. Not my photo. The eyes really are the window to the soul. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Surprise

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Cleopatra running to see why the lawnmower died in a puff of blue smoke yesterday…

Being a veterinarian brings with it certain bonuses when it comes to having your own pets. There’s meds at cost, no need for prescriptions or pharmacies, access to x-rays (when I had my clinic… I have to say, that’s one of the things I miss the most, particularly for our own bodies!), access to information about new products for pets and of course the knowledge about conditions, problems and diseases that creep up from time to time.

Many of you who have followed the blog know that the knowledge I write about has led to “that sinking feeling” from time to time when I have really disliked being right.

How I wish I was completely wrong about Harry’s hemangiosarcoma or Mulder’s cutaneous lymphoma.

 

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Mulder and Mummy a few years ago

I really wish I had been incorrect about Casey’s laryngeal paralysis and how the warmer weather and his exuberant personality were a bad combination his final spring with us.

 

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Prepping for Casey’s first run with Dad through an Agility Course

And how I wanted to be completely off base with the cancers that I suspected as we watched Calypso, then Phillipa and eventually sweet Luigi gradually succumb over the last two years.

 

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Phillipa, Calypso & Luigi when Luigi was new to the family! Man, I miss these 3!

Knowledge is a wonderful thing but it can be a bitch when you know what horrible things can be making your beloved pet behave a certain way or show particular symptoms.

Which is why I’ve had a bit of fear nestled in the back of my mind and heart the past three months regarding our springer spaniel, Cleopatra.

 

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Miss Cleo!

 

As I was finishing writing my book early this spring, Cleo and UB would cuddle either under the desk at my feet or behind me on one of the couches. It became apparent sometime in March that a certain someone had a pretty icky smell coming from her mouth.

Initially I didn’t think it was too bad of a deal. Cleo is at least 13 years old and could be even older. She definitely has some tartar and it was possible she had a bit of an infection. So, being a good veterinary-Mummy, we began a routine course of antibiotics that are great for teeth and the smell cleared up.

Until I stopped the antibiotics.

 

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Cleo & Jockey yesterday watching UB flying towards us after the lawn mower conked out.

Then the smell gradually reappeared and it was very dental-smelling and pretty icky. Around that time she also started lapping up her water in an unusual, aggressive sort of way. Water would fly out in all directions and then she would trail some away from the water bowl afterwards.

Which was when the vet-brain started making clickity-clickity sounds and I started wondering…

Could it be a tooth root infection? One that was causing her discomfort and would require a trip to Missoula with general anesthesia and a lengthy dental cleaning with possible extractions? I would want bloodwork first because Cleo hasn’t had to have any medical procedures in years and, again, she is at least 13.

 

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“I dunno how I got the stinky breath, Mummy…”

Or could it be something even worse than that? Like an oral tumor? Squamous cell cancers like to hide in mouths and there’s that whole being at least 13 years old thing that went through my mind several times a day.

Cleo let me palpate her as much as I was able to, with and without her Daddy helping. Her lymph nodes were never enlarged and she never pawed at her face. Her eating and drinking continued, albeit with the piggy-dog style of lapping at the water.

With us traveling to Vancouver I didn’t want our house-sitter to have to worry about anything so I started a second, longer round of meds using a different antibiotic that is also very good for teeth and bones.

 

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I have a bit of a stash…

Her breath was lovely for the two weeks I kept her on that particular antibiotic but we were right back to square one once we finished.

And then, as we were relaxing on the couch with Cleo and UB one night I saw her reach up and paw at the left side of her  mouth with her back leg. An indication that something, indeed, was there and now it was bothering her.

It was time to do something, even though I dreaded the fact that my one of my suspicions was likely to be correct.

Damnit.

 

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Last month with UB and Cleo in Bismarck

Because I’m really not ready for any more loss at this time. We’ve made it through 3 months without any tragedy and its kind of nice.

And Cleo is as much my dog as her daddy’s and we both love our furry princess with all of our hearts. She’s affectionate and polite, feminine but tough and she prances like no other when she’s found something special in the forest that she wants us to see but won’t relinquish unless you’re really serious about it.

And lets not even go into what she means to UB…

 

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Cleo & I at the 2012 Dog Days of Summer

So Cleo joined me when I had to take Alistair to the airport in Missoula so he could fly back to Bismarck and we visited our favorite Internal Medicine veterinarian who is a hilarious, no-nonsense guy who always gets to see our train wrecks.

He was stumped. I mean, the odor was there but nothing else.

He listened to her ticker (minor heart murmur noted) and together we knocked her out on gas (she was a perfect angel throughout it all) and we put gloves on and started to muck around in her mouth.

And we were still stumped. Which is when he mentioned the whole Squamous cell thing and my heart rate picked up. Until we rolled her over for one more peek on the other side and he said, “What the heck is that?”

 

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“I stumped you, didn’t I, Mummy?” (Cleo’s look known as Square Face)

NoCleo had a small, half

centimeter diameter stick embedded into her upper palate, wedged tightly between her upper teeth that had been silently festering away for weeks and weeks, targeted by white blood cells and becoming infected, then getting cleaned up with meds, all the while jammed deep into her tender tissues.

 

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The culprit.

No wonder she drank her water like that!

It made a “shlucking” sound as Dave removed it and my poor princess had an indentation across her palate from tooth to tooth. The teeth are fine and the indentation didn’t bleed and Cleo slowly recovered and was a bit groggy for awhile. And a bit smelly still so we did one more week of antibiotics.

Dave was thrilled. His assistant was thrilled. Mummy was thrilled. Our house-sitter, Jessi was thrilled. Lynn, who sleeps with Cleo when she visits was thrilled.

And Daddy, who had made a point to have a private word and a rub with Cleopatra when we dropped him off at the airport, knowing the things we would be looking for and hoping to not find that day, was thrilled.

 

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Cleo & UB goofing around in Bismarck

And UB gets to keep his big sister and run off in the woods together or cuddle on the magic blanket when we drive the long roads to see Daddy in Bismarck and Cleo gets to flop on her side on the lawn so I can scritch her belly and she’ll hold her paws ever-so-daintily when I trim her toe nails and I can gaze into her dark brown eyes when she sits so nicely for one of her “things” and I’ll get to watch her take potato chips from the kindest of Daddies and she can talk to us with her slight lisp in her southern belle voice as she tells us again about relying on the kindness of strangers and both dogs get to go to the groomer’s on Tuesday for a fresh spring tune-up.

And to try to get the lingering smell off of UB from his meeting with this year’s annual skunk.

 

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My shop dog back in the day. Had to have a surgery cap just like Mummy.

And I was wrong!

And I love it!

That doesn’t mean I won’t think about her heart murmur or last year’s Vestibular Disease if she seems off. Just like I remind myself how old our Siamese cat, Sport is when he misses the target on a jump. No different from me wondering about diabetes with Bebe, the cat if I think she’s drinking too much.

But, in general, my mind and heart are so happy that I was wrong.

So here’s to warmer weather, my 3rd book getting some promotion, book events being set up, (June 9th at the Double Arrow Lodge, local peeps), sports cars that blow a lot of smoke when they overheat but are able to be limped home, and our golf games being worked on.

Now, back to that lawnmower…

 

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A puff of blue smoke and then it just stopped. Hmmm….

 

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Personally, I think its a spark plug… (yesterday)

 

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“C’mon, Lynnie, one more treat…”

 

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“See, I know everything about this here lawn mower!” (2010)

 

 

 

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Never was sure why she was trying to shove me deeper into the hot tub… did she want Daddy to herself? Classic Mummy and Cleopatra!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Change

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Today at the Fyfe Farm- can’t wait for the lilacs!

While the seasons change throughout the year I am always most amazed at the transformations that occur when winter turns to spring.

It is probably more profound for those of us who live where there are four dramatically different seasons. That’s not to say I wouldn’t relish life if someone offered me a home on Kauai but I do think I would miss the changes.

The transition of spring to summer feels sleepy and easy. And the change from summer to fall sometimes sort-of sneaks up on you but it usually has no drama. And then fall turns to winter but by then we’ve probably had a bit of snow and cold and the wood stove has already been running for weeks.

Its not the case this time of year.

 

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Spring in western Montana

After a long winter that had more than 3 feet of snow on the ground with days and days of plowing the roads and splitting wood and realizing I had to plow snow again, the changing season is a welcome relief.

Its beautiful, really.

There is actual warmth radiating from the giant, glowing yellow orb in the sky which has brought all of the snow off our heavily-burdened roof tops and is taking its toll with the subsequent melt. The creeks are high.

 

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The creek that runs past our house.

 

Dark, murky water bubbles and churns next to our house, breaching the creek walls and spilling out onto our still-snowy pasture at the far end of the field. I can hear it churning along even when I’m walking the dogs down our gravel driveway that is finally drying up.

The driveway that I plowed endlessly this winter.

 

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The back driveway this winter. We try to keep this one open, too.

We are the last home on the road so if I want to have access to the world its up to me to keep things open. I don’t mind the plowing at all. I have my trusty old friend, Big Red and his kick-ass blade to shove snow from here to there. The Dodge Ram we designed as our wedding gift to each other in 1996 has served us well over the years and even if he had to be plugged in every night during the winter it was worth it to feel him shimmy and rumble and hear him fire up in the frigid mornings after another 7 or 8 inches of snow had fallen.

 

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I love you, Big Red!

It isn’t just a visual awakening that occurs when winter takes off her snowy coat and welcomes the spring. The smell of the pine trees when we snowshoe and now hike out back is magnificent! Its profound how sudden the scent seems to appear although the trees have obviously been there all winter.

The dogs seemed fascinated by the scents they were detecting on one of our first treks after a lot of snow had rapidly disappeared. UB, in particular, was almost clingy with us. Had the melt uncovered mountain lion and bear scents? Had the neighborhood wolves left markings that had been hidden all winter only to be revealed on one sunny afternoon?

 

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Snowshoe trek with UB… (not the day he was so worried)

Not all of the scents are lovely, however. Like the overpowering smell that takes over when we drive up to our mailbox, which is located next to the neighbor who is calving in a small, wet, condensed area.

Or the unmistakable smell of skunk that wafted through the truck as I passed yet another neighbor’s often-targeted house. These are definite scents of spring.

A smell I miss is that of our woodstove. We’ve let the stove go out for the season.

 

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All done for the winter.

The reliable and steady source of incredible, comforting warmth is cool and quiet now and there are no animals congregating at its hearth. When we first moved here 10 years ago, Oscar, Chorney, Boomer, Sport, Cooper and Mulder could be found alongside Cleo throughout the winter on the carpeted stairs next to the stove.

I’ve laid there myself on cold evenings when I was chilled to the bone and Alistair was in Bismarck, wrapped up in any combination of cats and dogs.

Its the stove Loki laid in front of when I joined her and we spooned one last time before she eventually took her final breaths there.

It will sit silently, unobtrusively for the next several months until it is called to duty once more and I won’t smell the smoke from the burning wood which provides a heat like no other.

 

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Just last week.

With the changing seasons comes a change in our activities. The snow shoes and snowmobiles both got some love last week when Alistair was here. If you are an outdoors enthusiast, this is the perfect place to live (once you’ve got the wood split and the driveway plowed). We try to make the most of our incredible landscape.

 

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Our “back yard” forest a couple of weeks ago.

We didn’t make it to the ski hills around us, though, because the transformation into spring was happening even more rapidly in Helena, where the golf courses began to open. Our season has begun!

 

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Also last week!

With the change in our activities we noticed more changes in our own lives. This was the first spring we could drive the hour and half there and play a full, guilt-free 18 holes and then enjoy a lovely supper out before heading home. The previous 2 years, when Helena’s courses opened before any others nearby, we could only do the driving range. Or a rapid 9 holes with a cart.

Loki’s needs, which were never, ever resented, precluded us from being gone from home for so long. I initially felt sad that I didn’t feel any guilt but then I chose to enjoy both our memories and our new ability to spend the full afternoon there.

And I even made par on the par 3 16th hole. Another ball for the wall!

 

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New pink ball-for-the-wall!

Another aspect that makes the turning of winter into spring profound for us is how we manage the farm and day-to-day chores or activities. Something so simple as footwear or outer wear becomes completely different and takes up significantly less time.

There’s the long pants and possibly long johns. The turtleneck. The vest. Maybe the CarHartts. The big heavy coat or the double-layered jacket (depends on whether or not I’m splitting wood). The scarf. The toque. The gloves (the choice again depends on the wood thing… or maybe the hay thing).

Then there’s time you need to start the trucks (if they start) and let them run so that they will be warm and the engine will run smoothly. And don’t forget to unplug them before driving off!

 

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Big Red needed plenty of time to rumble in the driveway before we would get going.

Now, though, as spring has made her entrance into our world, none of the rigs are plugged in and going outside is a matter of slipping some shoes on and maybe a light jacket. If the wind is blowing I’ll grab the toque but only so my hair doesn’t fly around.

Our lives are dramatically different when spring comes around.

And this year, some of the changes are of our own design but they’ve added to the profound feeling that things are really, really different now.

Klaus is gone.

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Klaus… our Jetta… enjoying his final winter on the Fyfe Farm.

 

Our 2009 VW Jetta was part of the emissions lawsuit that was settled late last year. After Klaus made the annual Christmas letter 2 years in a row we were more than happy to send our little car back to VW.

It took a bit of time to organize it all but early last week Alistair fired his old friend up one more time and off we went to Missoula.

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He didn’t seem overly upset about it, either.

And for the last time I followed the little grey hatchback in a different vehicle and although I didn’t feel melancholy I definitely flashed back to several of our treks between Montana and North Dakota over the years. Some changes can definitely make me smile.

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Following Klaus through the middle of Montana in 2015.

One more change putting a smile on my face most of the time is Jockey’s transition to being an indoors kitty. It wasn’t right keeping him by himself in the barn after we had lost Georgia before Christmas so the slow process of making sure everyone got along began and he’s camped out at my feet right now as I type.

 

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He found the bed pretty quickly!

 

 

He’s an enormous cat with big sharp claws but he had kept them sheathed until Sport must have pissed him off. I haven’t witnessed any altercations but Sport showed up with what looked like a bad attempt at a pierced ear the other morning.

Oh, Jockey.

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Sport, today, after several days of antibiotics, doing quite well.

Jockey is making the most out of being a “domesticated indoor cat” and everyone is adapting to the changes.

The changes in the season and the changes in Fyfe Life.

The sun and the ground are warm, the horses are shedding their long winter coats, the color green is peeking out from where the snow has melted and spring is upon us. I’m wearing less layers, the heavy boots aren’t being worn as much, the trucks aren’t plugged in and the wood stove is silent.

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Outdoor reminders of other seasons.

While its still cool enough to have a chicken noodle soup cooking in my crock pot right now I can finally see the bon fire pit and imagine sitting around a smoky, starry night with a wine glass in my hand and UB and Cleo playing in the creek.

And I think of when we had 4 dogs by the bonfire and 3 barn kitties to lock in at night and 5 dogs at the Dog Days of Summer and so many cats to line up every day for soft food and the ferret cage sits there, empty, and the freezer is ridiculously full and I miss couch time with Loki and I feel bad about not feeling guilty when I visit a good friend in the hospital and another good friend for lunch before finalizing the VW buy-back yesterday.

As much as my life has always changed, this current changing season has brought me to a totally new phase in my life. Where many things are the same but I feel quite different. I don’t know why. More mature? Perhaps. Wiser, in some ways, less knowledgeable in others. More prone to tearing up at a commercial that features animals, that’s for sure.

I welcome spring and all the rebirth and growth and challenges in front of me.

Now, lets get those golf courses open!

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Clearly not struggling with the transition.

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Yesterday, finalizing the buy-back of Klaus.

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I’m envisioning it but its still going to take a few days…

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Bye-bye, winter! We’re ready for spring!