Summertime, Montana-style


Beautiful Montana

There is no denying that we live in one of the most beautiful, incredibly scenic parts of the world.

Big sky.

Rocky Mountains.

Crystal blue rushing waters that beckon to fly-fishermen and women everywhere with their plump, shiny trout.


Enjoying some ah-time on Upsata Lake

Or tranquil, peaceful sapphire lakes that lull you into a coma-like state of relaxation while your husband tries, (again) to catch supper.

Montana is elk, bison, antelope and bears.

It is poetry, songs, stories and deep thoughts.

And we are so lucky to have found our tucked-away piece of Paradise in the middle of nowhere.


Close to home, late last summer

But the country that has inspired former Presidents and adventurers doesn’t give up her splendor that easily.

There are certain responsibilities and risks that go along with enjoying summertime in Montana.

Like wildfires.


Not what I wanted to see when walking the dogs Friday evening.

A wicked electrical storm had moved through the area bringing bolts of lightning and gusts of wind.

That’s a bad combination after a dry spring and summer in timber country.


Aerial view of the same fire complex yesterday that is 6 miles from town. (Not my photo.)

We had our first town meeting on these fires and although they look frightening, other than the smoke-filled skies, they shouldn’t pose much of a threat.

They are 3 separate fires burning in the same general area.

A few roads and trails are closed but for now we should be alright.


From our meadow a couple of years ago.

Until the next storm and the next lightning strike.


From a couple of summers ago; fire camp was along our back driveway for this fire.

We all plan ahead and we all fall into a routine of watching every nearby mountain closely for plumes of smoke, especially after a storm.


Storm moving in two nights ago on the farm.

We bring up all of the pet crates from the basement and keep them by the ferrets and in the garage so we can put our hands on them in a moment’s notice.


No joke. Just took this picture.

We call our friends who live across the valley from us because the billowing smoke rising from their neck of the woods wasn’t there a few hours prior.


Fire across the meadow last week just outside of Ovando. All evacuees are back home and things are good. Thank-you, fire crews!

We pay attention to weather reports and we make sure the horse trailer is hooked up to the truck just in case we have to move in a hurry.

And we breathe the smoky air and try not to exercise much in it and we watch the weather reports and we curse the wind and long for rain and make sure the InciWeb site is listed as a Favorite.


Dipping into nearby Clearwater Lakes a couple of years ago.

There are often little reminders to be aware because it isn’t always lightning that creates the problem.


Last summer, along our driveway- brush fire out of control.

When I saw the flashing lights and smoke up the driveway last year it was a humble reminder that it could just have easily been us whose brush fire got out of control.

There is no time to plan when you’re talking about forest fires- the planning has to be done ahead of time.

Because you aren’t going to be able to stop Mother Nature if she wants to hurl another storm your direction. And the fires only take off and get out of control because the beautiful treed forests we love to hike in and explore are on gorgeous Montana steep slopes and peaks, making them a challenge to get to if needed.


Storm rapidly moving in the other night.

Fires aren’t the only hazard we have to respect and watch out for this time of year in this enormous state.

Bordering US Forest Service land brings some fascinating neighbors.

Like Grizzly Bears!

We had the amazing opportunity to help Fish & Wildlife workers track a female Grizzly whose collar had stopped moving.


Bob and Alistair tracking Fen.

We used our trusty Ranger, “Steve” to get into the woods behind our house and then set out on foot with Bob and Mike to find Fen.

Fen is an important sow who FWP have studied for 8 years.

She’s had several cubs in that time and has never been a Nuisance Bear- the information they gather from her is purely for science.

You can imagine how relieved we all were to find out why the collar had stopped moving.


Thankfully, it was just the collar that wasn’t moving anymore.

Bob and Mike used their tracking devices and we hiked through thick brush, over and under fences, through creeks and up and down slopes.

Bob told us about Fen and how he really hoped she had merely slipped the collar as opposed to the alternative.

None of us wanted to find Fen.


The creek where the collar was found, discussing the possibilities. Maybe Fen took a bath and rubbed up against the tree just off to my right.

We are thankful that it doesn’t appear she was shot because the $5000 collar was intact.

So we hope Fen is out there living the life of a Montana Grizzly Bear, doing Grizzly Bear things and maybe leading us to her again in the future so we can re-collar her and learn some more.


Fen’s collar… these things are pretty skookum!

It wasn’t her first slipped collar, Bob told us, but it was her most expensive one.

Summers around this place can be pretty amazing.


Me, Mike and Alistair after a successful tracking expedition!

With ranching in Montana comes yet another summertime responsibility.

When you have livestock and animals who depend on you, even if they are more pets than anything, you have to be prepared to do the right thing.


APHA Dash With Gusto, our ranch stallion

We plan for forest fires and we also plan for the winter.

If you have aging animals who won’t survive the winter you have to do something about it when you can.

Especially when they are over 1000 lbs.


Dash a couple of winters ago

It sadly fits right in with the year of attrition that’s been going on around these parts.

The good thing, if there is one, is that I’m a veterinarian and can do these things right at home.

The bad thing, is that I’m a veterinarian who is their Mummy and its just a shitty situation, even though it was absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, the right thing to do.


Dash, our noble stallion, a couple of winters ago

One of the kindest, sweetest stallions I have ever known needed us to step in.

We have raised horses and hay for many years and have the tools and equipment and land to handle these things.

The details and specifics were taken care of.

The rocky soil was dug with the backhoe.

The meds were drawn up.

We laid Dash with sweet little Cooper-cat last Sunday.


Handsome Dash, flirting with Maggie 2 summers ago

Its summer in Montana. Life on the farm. Fyfe Life.

Whatever you want to call it you still have to get through it however you can, breathing the smoky air when its there, carrying the bear spray on every hike and maybe with a tear or two in your eye.

My eyes are sore right now from the memory and the smoke outside.

And yet I love it here.


Dash in a late snowstorm last year

I love the distinct seasons and the challenges each one brings.

Everything I do and have done helps me face the next day or the next challenge, whether its a smoke plume or a pink fluid in a couple of large syringes.

Montana is hard work, sweat, humility and fear.

It is strength. Courage. Determination.Compassion.

And love.

If you have never been to Montana you should come visit.

Maybe call ahead first, though.

We might be out tracking Grizzly Bears.


Bear trackers!


A few winters ago, Dash peeking through the fence.


Sticking close by when I went to dig a hole in his frozen creek.


A sunny day behaving as a sofa, goofing around with Alistair. Dash was a sweetheart and we will always remember him with love and a smile.


A piece of our beautiful big boy. xo


Anyone seen UB?


UB Fyfe… surveying the farm

UB Fyfe.

UB Pickles Napolean Jumping Jack Flash Moves Like Jagger Savard-Spinorama Tight Buns Fyfe.

This little guy is a character.

UB joined our family about 5 years ago.

UB New

Just a little fella back then!

The economy had tanked, our town had few jobs and the young couple who owned him just turfed him onto the street when they packed up and moved to Missoula.

He had been born in Seattle and a sister of the “breeder” took him and brought him here.

Then they ditched him.

He found his way to the local animal rescue/shelter that was located in our town back then.

They brought him to my clinic where I thought he was the most peculiar looking little guy! His outstanding underbite is hard to miss but his big dark brown eyes just envelope you and you can’t help but fall in love. The day I neutered him was a slow day and he sat on my lap most of the afternoon. We bonded.

UB ears

Coming in for landing… air traffic control….

I told Alistair about him and we did that “what’s 5 dogs when you have 4” thing but we still weren’t sure. Until a bit of a farm tragedy occurred.


Our beloved Hissy Phitt

2 young mountain lions were wrecking havoc on our neighborhood and in the space of 2 days we lost 2 of our special barn kitties, Hissy Phitt and little Jinxie. We were both pretty devastated but then we remembered that the cute little black dog with the underbite was still at the shelter.


Jinxie in one of her many hiding places in the back of my vet truck

We got him that afternoon.

It didn’t bring my cuddly kitties back but UB went a long way towards filling that gap and now he’s practically taken over both of our hearts.

Granted, the first thing he did inside the house was take an enormous dump in our living room but, for the most part, he has fit in just fine.

That’s not to say he isn’t mischievous or sometimes a bit naughty but its so hard to stay mad at him for very long.


C’mon… just look at those eyes!

There was no other name that suited him besides UB (‘you be’). For his underbite.

And its easy to do his voice- just jut your lower jaw out, get a serious look on your face, sound authoritative and you’ve nailed it!

UB is in charge of the forest behind us which is why we are often saying, “Anyone seen UB?”

This statement is usually followed by the silent realization by both of us that the other 4 dogs are around and UB is nowhere to be seen.


UB loves his ‘smoking jacket’ and riding shotgun in our Ranger, “Steve”

One time we came around the front of the house to look and we were captivated by a large herd of elk running the entire width of our field.

But then we saw that half the herd was held back.

Then they would run to join the others. It was quite the spectacle.

Until we saw the little black dot in the midst of everything… like he was directing traffic.

“YOU, elk… run that way. FAST.”
“YOU, elk, stand back and wait.”
“Ok, now you can go but run FAST….. oh, wait, is that my Mummy calling?”


UB and Mummy…. post bobcat experience

Another time he disappeared we heard him shriek in the trees and then yelp… while moving very quickly.

It was a strange sound… a moving sound… a frantic sound.

About 30 minutes later he came home, tail between his legs, limping, with a wound the shape of a paw on his side.


Kind of hard to see but the poor guy definitely got swatted!

I’m sure he pissed off some sleeping bobcat probably trying to lick his ear hair like he does to Mouse and Mulder. Oscar used to let him suck on his pointy little ears but now UB has to be creative. And careful!

The worst trouble he got himself (and Daddy) into was when he was still pretty new and was out back barking. Barking and barking. And barking some more.


“I’m pretty dashing, aren’t I?”

Alistair (in flip flops) went out to see if there was a poor squirrel or porcupine trapped by our ferocious hunter.

He froze when he saw the enormous grizzly bear standing 2 feet from our barking boy, just staring at him.

Enter growling, hissing, spitting, frothing, hackles-up, who-the-Hell-are-you-never-seen-this-kind-of-aggression-from-you Casey and that’s when the bear looked up.

At Alistair.

Without bear spray.

In flip flops.

The bear stood up and Alistair thought, “This could be bad.”


“Did I do something wrong?”

Maybe the bear wasn’t up to a confrontation with the rabid-looking Labrador and the annoying little barking thing.

Alistair and the bear both slowly backed away from the scene, which got UB’s attention.

UB, Casey and Harry (who was probably spinning circles a few feet away) were right behind Daddy when he felt it was safe to turn and run.

I’m sure in UB’s head that was just another grand adventure!

Another way to exercise and maintain those tight buns he’s so proud of.


Tight buns enable you to leap higher than a tall building in a single bound!

His voice pops into our heads as Spirit of UB no matter where we are.

If we’re on the treadmill its, “Come on, lets go, those buns aren’t going to tighten themselves!”
“You can do it, Mummy, run faster!”
“Come on, Daddy, my buns are still tighter! Do you want to see? C’mon, you can bounce a quarter off of these things!”


UB helping Mummy at work on Hallowe’en

If we’re outside with all of the other dogs its, “Is Casey really that stupid? He just walked into the tractor blade.”
“I know, I know, I’m not supposed to chase the cats but the rules change if they run away!”
“Can I chase those elk? No?”

On the golf course we hear, “Brilliant. Just brilliant. Do you want me to go get that?”
“That would have been awesome if you had actually hit the ball, Mummy!”


“10 and 2 in my Subaru, you dreadlocked, patchouli smelling, bra burning hippie!”

Or, lately, “Oh, GREAT… a SUBARU just drove by….”

With all of the miles Alistair and UB or Spirit of UB drive every month, they have figured out 2 things:

1. There are a staggering number of Subarus in the Missoula and Seeley Lake area; and,

2. Almost all of them are driving ridiculously slow. Leading a pack of semis and old trucks pulling boats and moving vans. Old Subaru is right out in front.

Once I started to pay attention, I realized there was some truth there.

So UB has started shouting out comments from the passenger seat.

“TREE HUGGER!” (this one is particularly hilarious if you’ve seen the recent Subaru commercial with the little girl…)


Discussing the merits of Subarus with my bar buddy, UB

UB appreciates that there are exceptions, like Aunty Dona.

But then Aunty Dona and Uncle Gary bought him this.


Somebody is SO impressed with his new bandana… thanks, Aunty Dona & Uncle Gary…. can’t wait to pee on your Subaru’s tires next time you’re here…

So that’s the story of our strange little mixed breed stray (DNA blood testing says he is a 50/50 mix of Boston Terrier and Cocker Spaniel. We’ve decided he is a Bostonocker Sperrier.)

Shelter dogs all have their own stories and they often make fabulous companions.

He adores everyone he meets, usually preferring humans to dogs if given the choice.


UB just basically helps himself to anyone’s lap, including Uncle Pete with Cleo right there for cuddles


Visiting Aunty Angel up in Canada this summer

He does take his job as Loki’s seeing eye dog very seriously and has been quite concerned about her injured left eye.

The eye is maybe starting to heal but her new heart murmur is a bit alarming and her probable zero thyroid is also something new.


UB, making sure Loki had someone to cuddle up to under the covers

Our merry band of misfits fits right in on the Fyfe Farm. They love and we love and its kind of like another Happiest Place on Earth.

With tight buns.

And grizzly bears.

And an underbite.

And a bizarre dislike of Subarus.

By the way… has anyone seen UB?


“Why drive a Subaru when you can drive a snowmobile? I’m an excellent driver, right, Daddy?”