Fyfe Characters

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Trying to take pictures with good old Casey a few years ago

I got to thinking about our crazy animal companions the other day and I didn’t get melancholy over the losses that have seemed never ending the past year & a half.

I could have easily slipped into a dark sadness but I started remembering how absolutely goofy some of them were, and some of the silly situations they got themselves into and I started smiling. And laughing. And I thought it would be fun to share some of the stories about pets who are still here and pets who are gone and hopefully you will get a chuckle out of them, too.

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Bonjour. Did you call for me?

Like Jacques. Our black-eyed white ferret.

Ferrets like to hide and they can disappear into tiny spaces and crevices just about anywhere. If they can fit their head into or under something then they can generally get their bodies in. And they can climb, too, the little acrobats.

We would lose Jacques for hours, calling & calling for him. He often would appear from our bedroom but we couldn’t find out where he was hiding.

Until, for some reason, I pulled out a drawer beneath shelves in my closet.

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How Jacques slept amongst the sequins, spandex and fish nets!

He had to climb straight up to get himself into a large bin where the duds of my day as a figure skater/show girl now reside. Fishnet stockings, sequins, bangles, beads, wrap-around skirts and show costumes and there’s little Jacques curled up within it all. Sometimes he was buried and other times he was just chillaxin’. In the spandex.

After that we affectionately called him Jacques Brian Boitano Fyfe.

And where does one begin with Casey’s stories?

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Casey always was up for a snuggle, preferably on your lap.

My vet school friend drove him from Saskatoon down to Bismarck when he had finished his PT after his year of being rebuilt at our vet school. Theresa had kindly fostered him for us and happily came for a visit. Minutes before they reached the US border Casey puked all over her. That was too bad given the fact the border guard apparently was pretty hot and Theresa was single back then.

Good old Casey.

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One of many, many body parts Casey dragged home over the years.

Casey loved Montana. (Who am I kidding? Casey loved EVERYthing!)

Our back yard borders USFS so there are miles and miles of forest. The dogs all treated it as their own little kingdom.

One time, early on, Casey & Harry didn’t come back from a hike they had joined me on. We called and called into the trees and Harry eventually did return. We called all of our new neighbors, the restaurant that used to be here, the pet shelter in town… nothing.

Until a few hours later when a Subaru (go figure) pulls up the driveway with Casey sitting in the back seat.

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Do you want to share, Mummy?????

There is a back road into town that runs through the forest behind our house and this lady and her son were out for a drive when they saw the boys. They said they really had to coax Casey into the car, that he looked kind of scared and that he kept looking back towards the trees… right, that’s because he probably heard us calling him and he’d never been in a car before. Trucks only.

Casey’s big adventures.

(Along those lines, when you see dogs in the middle of nowhere, they are probably closer to their home/farm than you think.)

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Oh, Muldy!

Our ginger ragamuffin Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe sometimes would disappear in Bismarck. We figured he had a poker game and dancing girls going on down the then-dirt road leading to the farm.

One time he came back I let him inside and was instantly overpowered by the smell…

“Hon, I think he’s been right by some fireworks! He’s all smoky!” I thought…

“That’s not smoke, Tan. He’s been skunked!” (Alistair and I have very different senses of smell but he was right and Muldy spent a few days in the garage.) Bathing cats isn’t a lot of fun, either.

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HRH Sport Fyfe

Then there is our stuck-up Siamese, Sport. He’s declawed and hoity toity, therefore he’s never been a hunter. He has tried to learn the ropes, though, often following Mulder around inside and out.

One day Whitney was looking out our kitchen window and asked me what the heck Sport was doing… running around the entire (big) house at least three times with something in his mouth.

He’d caught a mouse!

Only… it was a dead mouse… Mulder had caught it that morning. I watched him toy with it and then leave it beneath the camper where Sport had been investigating. Atta boy, Sporto.

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Harry in his element.

Then there was Harry who may have had some wolf in him. Our loyal, handsome, somewhat-quirky boy used to come to elementary school or daycare talks I would do because he was so unique looking and just plain cool!

But he never really learned normal dog behaviors (which is fine on the Fyfe Farm. Just donate your reproductive organs and get along).

So when the daycare kids left the door open to their soccer fields in downtown Bismarck one summer, Harry decided show and tell was over. Outside is better than inside when you’re a wolf-dog, right?

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Harry and Alistair had a very special bond.

I probably would have been fine on my own but when the kids realized the situation they all decided to “help”.

Imagine about 40 little kids chasing behind me waving their chubby little arms in the air squealing, “HARRRRRRRRRYYYYYY”. Harry glanced back and picked up the pace. Again. And again until finally one of the teachers got the kids to hold back.

2 hours.

I spent 2 hours sitting in a nearby neighborhood waiting for Harry to cross the street from underneath the tree he’d found to hide under.

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Quite the creature.

What brought a lot of this up in my mind was Loki’s latest adventure a couple of mornings ago.

In the space of 3 minutes she disappeared on me. I let the 3 dogs out every morning and then go let the barn kitties out and quickly feed UB and Cleo. 3 minutes. I swear.

No Loki.

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Here I am, Step Gammy!

I looked everywhere. Our front yard is a big, wide open area. I can see all over the place. I started calling and calling… that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach where something is very wrong….

Then  I heard her little bark (it was actually her pissy bark, to be honest so I knew Little Miss Independence needed some help).

There she was standing in the middle of the creek. The snow banks are still 2 feet high, which is why I couldn’t see her. Thank goodness the water level and flow aren’t too high right now!

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Loki needs her beauty sleep… especially after such a harrowing morning!

She was “chibbering” away but we warmed up by the woodstove and all is back to normal.

Which isn’t very normal at all around this place.

I could go on about Cleo and the UPS man or Casey knocking Dad over after knee surgery or Oscar bringing home bats, bunnies, & endangered birds or the ferrets vs the guinea pigs or UB vs the elk, UB vs the grizzly bear, UB vs the mama bear with 3 cubs, UB vs the bobcat and UB vs Georgia Woo Fang (who, thanks to that altercation is now just Georgia Woo) or discovering, as a veterinarian, that Phillipe was Phillipa or Dash not knowing how to pasture breed the 8 mares with their 8 foals or Casey splitting his head open on the snow plow blade or Gampy forgetting Loki when he was getting hay or Boomer getting locked in our closet when we went to Disneyland or Oscar & Cooper trying to have sex or UB piddling all over my clinic or a piddled-upon stove burner (aka Why Cartman Became a Barn Cat) or Jinxie going for a ride with the Schwan’s man, Whitney & Daddy when she accidentally moved to Montana ahead of schedule…. its endless mayhem and silliness.

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“You can’t leave me, Matt! I love you!”

Well, future tales for many have, indeed ended.

I could choose to let that wash over me but I’m choosing instead to have a bit of a laugh yet again. As zany as many of our animal companions have been I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Without question or hesitation I would bring each and every one of them into the house and share our worlds on the prairies or in the mountains.

And we will love on those who remain with the biggest of hearts and all of the great food and meds-when-needed that we can provide.

And we will provide the kindest, most humane goodbyes when its time for that, too.

Thanks for coming along, Friends. This has been fun!

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Alistair and his favorite redhead, Marmalade.

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UB, always with the worried expression, looking slick in his new rain slicker a few years ago!

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Our Trio of Trouble, Phillipa, Calypso & Luigi a couple of months ago

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Alistair with Mouse & Jockey last winter

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Oscar and Mummy many moons ago. He’s the reason I started this blog! xo

The BEST Path Ever!

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Aloha tootsies!

I’ve travelled several paths already this year and it is only just the end of April.

The paths are sometimes real and sometimes metaphorical and yet they are all a means of sauntering along on my journey.

We sauntered our asses over to Hawaii’s Big Island again a couple of weeks ago for a fabulous little journey in the warm sunshine.

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A beautiful view!

The sky was bright blue, the ocean was navy, the clouds were fluffy, and the golf courses were awesome!

Our hotel room was a bit fancy but we didn’t complain.

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Lounging in our yukatas in the living room area…

We somehow landed this one-bedroom, ocean-view, corner suite on “cyber Monday”… a day that is uniquely American and geared to online consumers.

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One of our 3 lanais this last trip… we fell asleep every single night under the stars and waving palms listening to the ocean and the monorail below… talk about loving our Aloha!

Generally, we aren’t much for that type of thing but the rates last fall for the Hilton Waikoloa were 50% off! And then we found a conference for Alistair at a resort ‘down the road’…. I mean, we HAD to book, right?

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Many paths throughout the grounds at the Hilton Waikoloa!

I loved exploring the resort and the area around me when Alistair was off at the Hapuna Prince for his morning conferences.

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Pathways leading me around the resort

Its amazing to think that one week ago we were waking up all excited to play golf at a non-resort, more local golf course over by Kailua-Kona called Makalei.

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Every hole at Makalei was uphill or downhill…. a fun, friendly course we highly recommend!

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Getting ready to wrap up the round with our new friend, David, from AZ taking the picture at Makalei

Its amazing because here I am today, back in Montana, on a dramatically different farm than the one we left.

For starters, the weather is a bit different this morning.

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Our stallion, Dash, not overly thrilled about the weather situation…

It wasn’t all that cold before we left for Hawaii. Our local golf course had re-opened and we had played a couple of times.

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My step-daughter, Whitney and I before we left… we introduced golf and Norman to Whitney… a new journey for her, perhaps. (Note: no snow on the ground and no jackets on our bodies!)

Little Loki is missing her Mummy a lot and was a bit unsettled yesterday.

That could also do with the main reason our farm is so different now- Casey finally succumbed to his laryngeal paralysis while we were gone.

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Casey & Dad a couple of years ago riding in Steve, our Ranger

Casey.

Jumpy, eager, goofy, happy, silly, clumsy, fun-loving Casey.

The dog who was always there is gone and the hole left behind is tremendous.

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On one of many, many hikes on one of many, many paths

We had all hiked together before we left and Casey’s breathing had been labored so we did a much-modified, shortened hike. I had explained to Whitney that his disease was a matter of ‘when’… not ‘if’ and that we had already surpassed expectations by over a year.

Alistair and Whitney were adamant that we keep things as they were- that I wasn’t to step in and end things before we left.

Before he had a few more bumps with UB.

Or cuddles with Cleo.

Or sniffs with Loki.

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UB, Casey & Loki goofing around a couple of months ago

And I was and I am completely fine with that.

Because each day really is a gift and nobody knew that better than Casey.

The physical embodiments of the words, “Oh, BOY!” lived each minute as the BEST one ever, regardless of what came his way.

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Casey & Mummy, probably 12 years ago

As a puppy he never looked back when his former humans shattered his rear limbs with some blunt object. He became a ward of my vet school and joined our family for the rest of his own journey.

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Young Casey Fyfe! Oh, BOY!

He took every opportunity to cuddle and enjoy each companion he could, human or otherwise and there was always such joy in his eyes.

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Young (and bright-eyed) Loki with one of her BFF’s, Casey back in Bismarck about a dozen years ago. xo

His clumsiness seems more endearing to me now as I look through my rear-view mirror back down the paths we traveled.

At the time, though, I’m sure a few naughty words flew when he would slam into me.

Or when he knocked Alistair over post-knee surgery into a puddle on the driveway. I can only imagine what was being said as Alistair struggled to get his crutches while Casey was leaping all over and on top of him.

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Casey & Dad hiking this winter

Casey lived and loved at full throttle.

If you were in his way (as my brother’s boys discovered) you would be slammed into and then licked and loved as you laid on the ground.

His wiggly ass and wagging tail knocked Cleo into the hot tub one time.

That was the BEST dunking of Cleo!

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All 4 of the outside gang this winter

Something changed for Casey when we unexpectedly lost Harry in January.

He was still eager, keen, bright and goofy but he didn’t go for his kibble with the same gusto… and his runs through the pastures seemed more like he was looking for someone.

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This is the BEST time on the couch, Mummy!

I believe he has found Harry again and the 2 of them are on a different journey of their own now.

We laid our big boys to rest with pink roses along with Cousteau, Mae Mae, Oscar, Cadbury, Marmalade and Mulder on a cloudy morning with patches of blue peeking through and a breeze strong enough to keep me from keeping my Memorial candle lit.

Typical.

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Oh, BOY! This is the BEST photo opportunity ever, Dad!

And I miss Casey like I never thought possible and Cleo has moved primarily inside and she’s eager to cuddle and take over the bed and all of the animals are sorting this out and I still look for Mulder and long to hear Harry’s “Woo Woo’s” and I think I hear the guinea pigs whistling at me and I’m crying again but trying to be that strong, independent woman I think I am when clearly I’m not and our hikes out back are SO different now because although its the same path I have hiked for years, its a completely different journey.

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Oh, BOY! My first agility trials with my DAD!!!!

And we will all be okay.

Little things make me smile or laugh- like seeing my golf club head covers at the Mauna Lani resort 2 days after Casey had laid down in the grass with Whitney and Cleo on a sunny afternoon for the last time.

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Who knew Muldie and Casey would join Jinxie in the spirit world when I got these late last summer?

The fact we were an ocean away maybe even helped because of the Aloha surrounding us.

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View from the big lanai

We played golf and raised our glasses to one of the BEST dogs ever to join our rag-tag band of merry misfits.

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I had just made par on the par 3 hole below. People had been watching from this lava and had cheered me on. Seemed like a good time & place to celebrate 🙂

And I continue on my journey and I’m hoping that’s enough loss for awhile and that I can retain some of that Aloha ’cause it really is something special.

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Post hula lesson at the Hilton Waikoloa!

And I am okay with the hurt because it means the love was real.

And I still think I am the luckiest girl in the world to have known some amazing spirits.

Mahalo, Casey. That was the BEST of times! xo

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golf ball hunting in lava fields

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Ocean-side golf!

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Their last hike together. “That was the BEST hike ever, Dad!” April 13, 2015

Maui Magic and Mai Tais

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Hibiscus flowers at our resort

Aloha!

Again!

As unbelievable as it may seem, we just returned from Maui.

This most recent trip to the Hawaiian islands was for continuing medical education for Alistair.

For me it was a much-needed break from my rough start to the new year.

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Enjoying the mandatory relaxation on our lanai a week ago

I was able to leave 4 feet of snow, ice-covered decks and roads, my scarf-glove-toque-jacket-leggings-snow pants-boots outfit, wood piles, wood stoves, a limping barn kitty and a house without Harry behind as I smelled the Hawaiian air and felt the sun on my bare skin.

It didn’t matter that our plane was 2 hours late.

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Somewhere between 1 and 2am finally getting our ‘aloha’ on

It didn’t matter that I lost Alistair at the airport after picking up our rental car because I was watching a feral airport kitty cross the road.

I lost him for over 20 minutes and finally texted him, “Where are you?”

I mean, where can a guy with 2 huge suitcases and 2 full golf club travel cases and a knapsack go at Kahului airport at close to midnight????

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Sights and colors of Maui

(It turned out he was sitting right by where a cute feral cat had just crossed the road…) (Ooooops…)

Apparently I brought some other baggage along on the trip only it wasn’t something I had packed.

It was all neatly tucked away in my over-active subconscious just teasing me with mild distraction, waiting for the opportunity to leap to the forefront of my life.

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Leaping Humpbacks!

Like the leaping Humpback whales we got to see up close and personal on a whale-watching tour with Captain Steve and 20 of our closest new friends.

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Amazing!

The whale tour was magnificent.

Awe inspiring.

Incredible.

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Mama whale and her calf off the shores of Lahaina

We were right on the water in a zodiac watching a mother whale teach her calf how to breach.

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Mama, doing some teaching

The whales return to the warm, shallow waters between Maui and her neighboring islands of Lanai and Molokai every winter to calve and mate before journeying back up to Alaska.

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Whale dive

It is something to behold, particularly when the whales were putting on a show like they did for us.

After Mama and her calf left we had a pod of males chasing a female, hurling their massive bodies out of the water all around us.

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Just… Wow…

That was our second morning there.

The morning after my subconscious did its thing.

I had slept really well that night, after a day in the sun and on the Bay Course playing a round with Alistair.

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Teeing off on the first hole on the Bay Course in Kapalua, Maui

It had been a bit weird when we found out we were playing with strangers.

More so when ‘Denise’ was kicking all of our asses with her long drives, pars and birdies.

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View towards our Ritz-Carlton Kapalua from just off the 4th green on the Bay Course

After 7 strokes I picked up my ball on the 1st hole.

The 2nd didn’t go much better.

But I breathed and I relaxed and I laughed and we all got lost in our parade of golf carts (following Denise!!!) and I felt some Aloha wash over me and nothing mattered because we were on a sunny island in the middle of the Pacific.

And then I played golf.

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View towards our 3rd floor room from the green on the 3rd hole… where I remembered how to play golf

Denise later fessed up to being the Kansas state ladies golf champ 7 years running after learning to play from her professional golfer father at the age of 3.

I didn’t feel so bad after that.

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Signature hole on the Bay Course, a par 3 that plays along the ocean. A bit distracting but beautiful nonetheless

We played 2 more rounds, including one on the famed Plantation Course where the PGA had just wrapped up the Tournament of Champions.

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All smiles as we were about to get our butts spanked on the Plantation Course!

We played alone on the enormous, undulating, grueling course.

Which was great when we found a ton of golf balls embedded in the ground on the 5th fairway!

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Absolutely stunning views from the Plantation Course

How to make a Scotsman and a Doukhobor happy!

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Happy Scotsman posing after his drive cleared the ravine and landed just off the green

Rejuvenated, relaxed, expecting to play with others and humbled by the Plantation Course a few days prior, we hit the Bay Course in our fancy new duds one more time the day before we left.

We played with ‘Matt’ from Chicago and the 3 of us were very well matched in golf play and colorful language.

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Fancy Schmancy duo on the 17th tee at the Bay Course just before sunset

And all of this was maybe more enjoyable because I had got rid of my mental baggage that 2nd night in our hotel room when I thought I had slept so well.

When we woke up before going on the whale watching tour Alistair asked me, “Do you remember anything from last night?”

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The tee box view from the Bay Course’s signature 5th hole

That’s not a question a sleepwalker wants to hear.

A sleepwalker whose most recent wanderings led to the closing of her clinic and a new approach to her mental, physical and emotional health 2 years ago.

Alistair had woken up around 2am to a steady knocking at the door.

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The Ritz Carlton Kapalua… apparently I needed this!

And I wasn’t in bed.

Or in the bathroom.

He cautiously answered the door to find me blankly staring at him from the resort hallway.

Did I mention I was naked?

At 2am.

In the hallway of the Ritz.

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the power of Maui…

There is such a feeling of loss (of time, memory) and of being cheated (by myself!) after I learn I’ve slept walked.

And of course the wondering… where did I go? Did I meet people? I’m sure they were nice to me because I was naked but seriously, how long was I gone and what did I do?

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Kapalua Coastline in front of our resort…. good thing I didn’t wander far that night!

But that is all a part of who I am and the journey I’m on and how I learn about myself and how I handle things like stress.

So we laughed.

What else can you do?

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Calming tidepools off the shores of Kapalua

One of the reasons we enjoy the Hawaiian islands and the spirit of Aloha so much is because our lives on ranches with animals in 2 different states is challenging at times.

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Saying farewell to the day, Hawaiian-style

 

Hawaii is a real escape where we can play golf in January and watch whales and wear shorts and sandals and have bare skin and eat incredible seafood and hike coastal paths and play with sea urchins and look up at a dormant volcano on a clear day.

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Hawaiian flora and fauna

Its also where I can get a mean mai tai just about anywhere and that also is a key to my affection for Hawaii.

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Maui Mai Tai

Now its back to the snow and Casey’s floppy laryngeal fold and a barn kitty who isn’t limping and blind Loki pin-balling her way around the house and frost in the mornings and a second book to write and frozen mahi mahi to cook.

I love this adventure I’m on.

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Watching 2 feral kittens play in the bushes by the ocean

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Alistair at the Dragon’s Teeth formations of wind- and water-whipped lava

 

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Even managed a book event and a few sales at Sandy Pages in Kihei (with Rod, the owner)

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Our Ritz-Carlton Kapalua pool area in the morning

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Loving the journey I’m on and the guy who chose to go on it with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script… for Harry and hubby

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Alistair and “the kids” enjoying the beauty of Montana last winter

In my self absorbed grief and sadness last week I didn’t put any pictures of Alistair and Harry on my blog.

I had meant to.

I had uploaded several.

It was an oversight rather than a conscious act.

Grief can do that to a person.

In thinking about it I also realized that I didn’t highlight Alistair’s unique relationship with Harry and the other dogs.

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Harry and his Dad

When I used to work full time and Alistair came here for his 2 week stretches, he often would hike, snowshoe or go horseback riding with the dogs.

Harry would silently sneak up on Dad on the trail and follow or herd him (if he wasn’t watching after UB or Casey).

The 2 of them developed this “man” thing that I never could appreciate… for obvious reasons.

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“Its a guy-thing, Mummy”

Alistair would stop for a pee break and Harry would come up right next to him.

He would look up at Alistair and then down at the ground.

Up.

Then down.

Not seconds after Alistair finished, Harry would then ‘mark’ it himself.

None of the other dogs ever did this or showed any interest. I think Cleo, like me, was kind of confused by the whole ‘marking’ thing.

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More Montana treks with the gang

That’s not the only type of bonding the 2 of them did.

I often caught Harry sneaking in for some one-on-one time with Alistair when nobody else was around.

And Alistair happily gave Harry every scritch he had time for before Casey would come bounding up to mow them both over.

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The pack, last fall

So its getting easier each day as all of us make sense of Harry not being here.

I’ve received so  many heartfelt comments and thoughts about our big boy.

Many of my veterinary classmates shared memories (usually of Harry spinning) as he was another member of the class way back in 3rd year.

Instead of crying this time I’m smiling as I write this thinking of the wonderful years we had after I brought him home from school.

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Harry and Mouse earlier this winter

And thankful that all of these fascinating spirits got to meet Harry and know him for his Woo Woos and his marking and his spinning and his inability to be house-trained and his little kisses and his trust and his inability to understand what ‘fetch’ was and his flopping over so you could scritch him and his harmonizing with the wolves and his gentle, quiet, big, kind ways.

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Happy Fyfe Dogs last winter

Alistair, in particular.

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2 special boys

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Harry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lies, Truths and Love

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I’ve been lying.

To Facebook Friends, blog readers and anyone who has asked me how I’ve been doing lately.

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Just a few mornings ago

I’ve been lying because it was a whole lot easier to not face the truth.

I’ve been hiding behind a smiley face and snowy pictures and happy-happy joy-joy comments while slowly a large part of my heart was dying on the inside.

I had to lie.

If I told the truth then I would have to actually say the words.

Words that hurt so much and made tears come to my eyes and fall down my cheeks.

If I wrote the words down on a post or a blog then that would make them real.

That Harry was dying.

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Beautiful Harry

I didn’t want to face this ugly truth for so many reasons.

Obvious reasons, like he’s one of the coolest dogs I’ve ever known and we share a special relationship that is just plain different and fabulous and he protects me when we hike or snowshoe and he protects UB and Cleo and even Casey and he plays with the barn kitty, Mouse and he always wants to be with me even if I’m splitting wood or shoveling snow and I just love our Husky fur-ball so much.

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My snowshoe buddy

And less obvious reasons, like the fact I have been preparing myself mentally and emotionally for the loss of our aging animal companions but Harry wasn’t even on that list.

Casey. Boomer. Maybe even Loki.

They are all older (we think) or they have health concerns that could conceivably take them from us at any time.

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Happy Husky!

But not Harry.

When he began to have episodes of weakness and collapse after exercise a few weeks ago I was suspicious.

His gums would get alarmingly pale during these episodes.

But after several minutes of me sitting with him and talking with him he would slowly get to his feet.

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Enjoying his favorite season a few winters ago

There are few diseases that cause this in older dogs.

I feared… no, I knew it was probably hemangiosarcoma- a fairly aggressive, blood-filled cancer that grows on spleens and then spreads via the bloodstream to other organs.

It isn’t necessarily a painful disease so it seems to creep up on animals until one day a tumor ruptures and the animal starts to bleed internally.

That’s when they get weak and pale and often collapse.

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More forest fun with Harry last winter

With time, smaller tumors can clot off and the dogs seem normal again.

Like Harry did.

Until his next episode a couple of weeks later.

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Autumn hikes with “the kids”

And then the worst one just earlier this week when he couldn’t stand and wouldn’t eat his kibble.

I sat with him and cried and told him everything that needed to be said because I wasn’t sure if he would survive the night or if I would have the strength to do what might have needed to be done.

Alistair, who is in Bismarck, asked me to hold off.

He wanted a definitive diagnosis because he’s a human doctor and they like that sort of thing.

He also didn’t want to lose our Harry.

Harry wasn’t suffering or in any distress- he just was too weak to stand or eat.

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Early this winter

I set out blankets for him and cried some more and when I went out first thing the next morning both Cleo and Casey were laying on either side of him, right next to him.

Dogs know when something is up.

Our dog pack is pretty tight.

Those 3 have been together since Cleo joined us almost 10 years ago. She has never known a world without Harry.

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Cleopatra and Harry, great buddies!

But Harry rallied slowly that morning and I was fortunate to have him with me for a few more days.

We didn’t hike or do anything extravagant; Harry really didn’t have all of his energy back.

But he followed Casey around and he followed me around and he laid with Cleo and he ate his kibble with newly-added canned food and he slowly spun or walked his circles to the left and he watched me split wood and shovel snow and he occasionally threw in a “Woo-Woo” and he wanted his chew treats and he ate them like always with Cleo and Casey.

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Eating chew treats a few days ago. Just part of the routine.

And yesterday morning was a very good morning.

He spun his circles, he shouted his “Woo-Woo’s” and he devoured his breakfast.

He had good energy following me when I went to get water for them all and I was looking forward to having them with me when I would be splitting wood in the afternoon.

I had a book event to go to but was only gone a couple of hours.

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Harry’s turn being the spokes-dog and T-shirt model at the 2011 Dog Days of Summer

When I got home, though, my heart sank.

Harry was down.

Really pale.

Really cold in his paws and limbs telling me he had been down awhile.

Really breathing slowly.

I laid with him in our barn and put blankets on him.

Cleo and Casey came in and out but I eventually left them goofing around in the snow outside and shut the barn door.

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A better morning a few days ago… checking to see if I got the 5 feet of snow out of the kennel, perhaps.

I told him that he was brave and that I loved him.

That Whitney, Lynn, Jessi, Loki, UB, Cleo and Casey loved him.

That his daddy loved him and had hoped to see him again but that was okay because he would have memories of his running-around, Woo-Woo-ing, UB-protecting, wolf-howling, lefty-spinning, pee-on-Cleo’s-head or Loki and everything in sight, fastest furry friend in the world.

And that he brought such joy and fun to our family and that everyone thought he was so handsome and amazing and wolf-like and that I always felt so safe when he was hiking behind me.

And I looked at him and we both knew it was time.

Harry wasn’t having any fun anymore.

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Its time to go, Mum

He deserved better, so I gave him better. One final act of kindness and love.

As he sedated peacefully, Mouse, the barn kitty nuzzled against both him and I.

I don’t  know how I found a vein through my tears or how I held my hands still while I sobbed.

But I did.

And Harry is gone.

And my heart is broken.

And Cleo and Casey seem a bit confused.

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Cleo & Harry last week

Even though I’m a veterinarian I’m still just like you.

I don’t want to talk about my pets’ terminal diseases because that just makes it real.

I would rather not have written this (and cried much of the time) but its important to understand that everyone has a different idea of when its “time”.

That even veterinarians struggle with this final act for our own companions and that every pet and every disease is different.

That sometimes people are smiling but you never truly know what personal Hell they might be enduring.

We are lucky to have loved Harry and privileged to have shared so many wonderful years with him. And I am lucky to have had these last few extra days.

Rest in Peace, Harold Fyfe. xo

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I love you, Harry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canine Musings

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Casey Fyfe… wondering just when that cookie is going to end up in his mouth

I’ve been thinking about our dogs a lot lately.

Not for any particular reason.

Other than the fact I haven’t slept well in a few days thanks to a pathetic cold so I’ve been up a lot during the night.

And the fact that Harry seems a bit ‘off’ and Casey almost turned blue on our walk in the cold yesterday.

Dogs with Laryngeal Paralysis usually do much better in the cool temps, and that has been the case with Casey but he was just too hopped up yesterday.

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Casey kiss a few years ago… do not try this at home. These are professionally trained Casey-handlers!

And when he’s excited and goofy and hopped up there is no calming him down.

Because he’s Casey.

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Casey

And also because he’s a Labrador Retriever.

Which got me thinking some more.

Many dog breeds are so unique in their traits its astounding. And many are bred for very specific purposes.

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Fabulous experience riding the sled with Dona driving and Lynn riding up front!

Not that every husky will want to pull a sled, or every German Shorthair will be a marvel with the ducks, or every Jack Russell Terrier will outsmart their owner and take off on them at high speeds, or every Chihuahua will shiver and tremble and quake as they cling to your arms 23 out of 24 hours every day.

Okay, no, wait… every Chihuahua will do that.

So I’ve been thinking about breed traits and where the Fyfe Canines fit into all of this.

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Campfire Casey a couple of summers ago

Like most Retrievers, Casey is kind and loyal. He’s the only dog who wanted to take on a Grizzly bear a few years ago to protect his Dad.

He is energetic, always hungry, easily excited, a great swimmer, an obsessed master at retrieving tennis balls, good with every other dog he’s met, a fantastic shed-hunter and goofy to a fault.

And sometimes he does things that are just bat-shit crazy.

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Yeah… Casey’s hole.

Like the hole he dug 2 summers ago.

And then I think, well, I’ve certainly done crazy things in my life.

Why did I think it was important to steal a stop sign with friends one time?

Why did I drive to Banff in the middle of the night to look for summer work?

Why on Earth did I buy a Fiero?????

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Sometimes I wonder why I do the things I do…

Sometimes there are no answers.

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Alistair and Casey getting psyched up for their first Agility Trials at a Dog Days of Summer

We just want Casey to be happy.

Maybe a little less excited to see us because one time he could get so worked up that his flopping laryngeal fold won’t open and he won’t be able to breathe.

But how do you suppress a Retriever’s happiness to see you?

Or a Springer Spaniel’s competitive intensity coupled with her need to be a princess?

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The Princess a few years ago

I admire Cleo’s competitive nature. She tries harder than anyone to get that damned tennis ball but Casey’s intuitive natural ability usually leads him to it first.

And if Cleo does get it its game over because she usually runs off and lays on top of it.

Like many spaniels, Cleo is friendly with other dogs but she also is independent.

They will all take off with us on hikes together but she is often on her own- digging a hole or playing in the creek.

I get that.

I like visiting with people but I’m totally fine being on my own up at our ranch in the middle of nowhere.

I respect her Spaniel stick-to-it-ness, like when she came to my clinic to be put down years ago.

She maybe started whipping out the fancy tricks because she probably perceived that most of us were sad and/or crying. Many spaniels are very in tune with their humans.

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One of Cleo’s many tricks, standing and sometimes walking on her hind limbs. It saved her bacon many years ago…

And I respect our husky’s wariness.

And his trust.

And his need to follow closely behind me when we hike or snowshoe. An in-bred instinct to herd, or know where the herd is at all times.

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Harry keeping close tabs on his Mummy

He has an intensity about him, like many huskies do, that makes him seem stand-off-ish to some but once you get a moment alone with him and he can sniff you up and down you will see his soft, sweet side come out.

Like many working breeds Harry is very stoic.

He made the tiniest of barely-audible whimpers when my neighbors helped release him from a leg-hold trap that had pinned him down a few years ago.

He never complained during his year as a Medical Exercise dog at my vet school-  he was poked, prodded, shaved, injected, palpated, all by inexperienced hands.

And he doesn’t complain now with 2 fairly weak knees and arthritic joints and maybe something else going on.

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Harry the husky, preferring more winter naps than romps these days

I’d like to say I see some of that in myself.

When I leapt off my runaway horse on one of my first riding dates with Alistair and broke a chunk off of my collar bone (not to mention the bleeding nose & cuts to my face), I got my ass back on that horse and rode the 2 hour ride back to the farm.

Yes, it may have been because his ex-wife and her new boyfriend were along on this ride and my terrier-like stubbornness and pride were present but after my initial tears I wasn’t going to let anyone hear me complaining.

Which, in the end, was kind of funny and I like being funny.

Being funny is a large part of what UB, our mixed breed is all about.

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What? Did somebody say, ‘kibbies?’

He’s the only dog we have actually done a DNA test on and he is part Boston Terrier and part Cocker Spaniel.

He has spaniel independence and terrier seriousness.

But he also has a light-hearted, energetic, athletic, happy approach to life.

If the butterfly is there, you should chase it.

If the Mummy’s lap is empty, you should sit in it.

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Campfire UB

If the blind dog needs someone to lay with her, you should do it.

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Loki and UB this summer, cuddle buddies all the way

His approach to everything- elk herding, running, attacking Casey, sleeping, eating, barking at badgers or Grizzly Bears, chasing kitty cats, making fun of Subarus- is done at full tilt. There is nothing half-assed about this boy and sometimes his recklessness gets the best of him.

Like mine has with me over the years.

Climbing the 3rd tallest Ferris Wheel in the world in the middle of the night in Japan was a great idea!

Until we got up there…

And the one dog who is for certain a pure bred has her own characteristics that are true to the Boston Terrier breed.

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Our stubborn, defiant, charming, loving, bossy-pants Boston Terrier, Loki

Blind, with a luxating patella and knobby dew claw, Loki still tries to run the show around here.

She is the one dog who gave Casey a serious run for his money with that tennis ball when she could see.

She is bossy and set in her ways.

She growled at Gampy the other morning because he dared to take her from her warm, comfy slumberland to go outside for piddles in the snow.

She tosses her empty food dish towards us, as if we don’t notice that it is empty.

And yet she always wants to be with us, right next to us, on top of us, under the covers with us.

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Loki “helping” Gampy at crib

I have a bit of a stubborn streak in me so I appreciate her in-charge attitude.

I play nicely with the other kids but I like it to be my game.

Like the whole Dog Days of Summer thing… I only did it because the local hospital board said I couldn’t do a canine walkathon at their annual medical open house.

I, like Loki, am not someone who does well with the words, “you can’t.”

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Dog Days of Summer, the early days

So I created an annual event of my own that turned out to be an enormous success and had amazing attendance each year, which the medical clinic couldn’t even compete with.

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A variety of breeds bred for different things, competing at the Dog Days of Summer Dog Show a couple of years ago.

There are so many different dog breeds out there and they all have some special capabilities and strengths.

And different owners have different expectations and their own talents for training and sharing.

We can learn a lot from our barking, tail-wagging, slobbery, snoring, farting, hoop-jumping, happy, forgiving, ball-chasing, duck-hunting, sled-pulling, keg-wearing, shivering companions.

And different breeds can do different things.

I’m not saying you should train your ShihTsu to pull a sled or that Min Pins will make excellent therapy dogs or that an Akita should run Flyball, but each dog, like each of us, is an individual.

With no expectations and just the request that everyone get along (and donate reproductive organs at the door) the Fyfe misfits will continue to make me smile.

And think.

And giggle.

And reflect.

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Loki, helping with laundry

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The Princess, crippled by the booties and lovely tartan jacket Lynnie put on her… poor thing was paralyzed until she was able to tear the jacket off!

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Ball-chasing with Whitney back in the day, before UB moved in and when Loki still had vision

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UB: “Are you coming, Mummy?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry-a-woo-woo

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Harry goofing around

Harry is our Alaskan Husky. We think.

I mean, its quite obvious he is mostly a husky but there could be something else in there.

Something that makes him wary of people and shy around boisterous children.

Something that causes him to be stand-offish or run back into the dog kennel when there are loud noises or strange situations.

Something that makes him bend his head and move in the most unusual of canine ways.

Something that allows him to harmonize with the wolves who used to freely run the forest behind our house.

Like, maybe he’s got a bit of wolf in him?

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maybe just a little bit of wolf?

Whatever he is, he is part of our family thanks to a telephone call from one of the technicians at vet school at the very end of third year. I had the truck packed, the cats in their crates and was just about to embark on the 8 hour journey back to Bismarck when I answered the phone.

“Tanya…. its Robyn. Harry is scheduled to be euthanized at 11 o’clock this morning…”

I paused for a second.

“Can you change that to a neuter?”

“YES, YES, I’ll do everything I can. Give us until about 1 o’clock and you can come get him!”

All of the technicians and third year students knew Harry and 3 other dogs because they were our Medical Exercise dogs.

Which means we practiced on them.

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Harry and Mummy hiking the mountains of Montana

Not surgeries or painful things but generally every joint site was shaved and they all had circles on bare skin patches where allergy testing was done. 

You can certainly have your opinions on live-animal labs and I’m not saying it was ideal. These Med Ex dogs had it a lot better than some of the animals used for study purposes. We could choose to be conscientious observers and not handle particular animals for particular learning purposes. Lets just say the only hands-on lab I skipped was the chicken one where things didn’t end well for the chickens.

The Med Ex dogs did serve us all well, though. It is one thing to read about hitting a pulsating vein on a moving, fuzzy, warm target versus a plastic model.

I wouldn’t want to say to my first few clients, “yeah, I should be able to do this… I read about it a few times.”

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Our beautiful boy

How on Earth could I justify leaving Harry to be put to sleep after he gave us a year of his veins, his joints, his skin, his retinae, his ears, and pretty much every other body part you can imagine?

These Med Ex dogs were generally culled sled dogs… meaning their sled dog breeders didn’t want them. The school was somehow connected with some northern Canadian sled dog peeps and at the beginning of 3rd year, every year, a few students would head to the Greyhound station (how ironic) and wait for whatever and whoever to be unloaded in kennels.

Harry was one of ours that year.

The idea was that, out of 72 students, 4 would fall in love with the dogs and they would all be adopted out and live with their student owners, even by Christmas.

Lightning was lucky. So was Thelma. But Harry?

Not so much.

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Harry in his favorite environment- the Montana winterscape

It certainly wasn’t his looks. Harry is a gorgeous Husky with perky ears, kind eyes and a stunning, full coat.

It was more his… quirks.

His unwillingness to be house-trained.

His incessant “woo woo’s” that can be deafening when he really wants to get your attention.

And his spinning.

Harry most likely was tethered at his sled dog kennel, which isn’t a bad thing. The dogs can get in and out of the dog boxes, on top of the boxes, and can run in full circles in their pen area.

Some huskies, like Harry, can be a bit neurotic about it and they will only spin in one direction.

In Harry’s case, its to the left.

Always.

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Taking a break from circling

It doesn’t matter if he is walking on a leash or squatting to take a poop, the boy has to circle to his left while doing it.

He even runs around the house to the left.

Once. Once he spun one circle to the right when he first moved to Montana. I figured he was trying to unwind but as soon as he did it he stopped and looked so terribly confused that I was relieved when he went back to pulling Louies.

He may not be a very good house dog but he’s an excellent hiking and snow-shoeing companion.

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Snow shoeing with the dogs- Harry loves wintertime!

He will follow little UB off on trails when UB needs some extra protection and he often will hike immediately behind me.

I always feel safe when he’s there. I don’t know if he’s doing it to watch me or herd me or if he just needs to know where I am.

If Casey isn’t around then he’s up for some individual loving.

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Harry getting some 1 on 1 loving from Dad

He will slowly walk up to us and close his eyes at half-mast as he leans in for some scritches and kisses.

These times with our old friend are pretty magical.

In the winter his warm coat is so nice to lean into and he looks at us with such loving, dewey eyes that our hearts just melt.

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Private cuddles with Mummy

Its a special feeling knowing that this maybe-part-wolf has allowed himself to be cuddly and sweet with us.

Its a strange feeling when he is howling with his brethren in the backcountry.

We don’t hear them much anymore but for the first several years I would hear Harry harmonizing with an incredible howl as he faced the forest.

Casey sits there and says ‘woof’ once or twice.

Cleo barks every now and then and then looks at Casey, as if to say, “What the heck are they saying to each other?”

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More cuddles in the mountains with Harry

Adding to the fact he is ‘different’, Harry is the only one who got caught in a leg-hold trap that was set illegally too close to our home a couple of winters ago.

It belonged to a neighbor who seemed to feel pretty bad about it.

I didn’t make a big deal about it because I got my big boy home. Casey, Cleo and UB all told me something was up, barking at me and then running to the trees… then racing back to bark at me some more and running to the trees again…and again… I was splitting wood when I finally realized they were trying to tell me something. And Harry wasn’t there.

Hiking in snow past my knees I called to Harry and he called back. He called me to him.

I found him lying still (thank goodness) with his forelimb caught in a trap.

My stomach fell.

We’re lovers, not fighters and I don’t know the first thing about traps. I don’t, personally think much of trapping and I think hunting would be more fair if you gave the deer a gun but its Montana and I don’t make waves unless I have to.

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Harry, Cleo and Mummy… hiking again

The only neighbors who were home rapidly came to Harry’s rescue (thank-you Sharon and Randy!) and our good boy didn’t struggle or resist at any time. He didn’t break anything and he has no lasting wounds. Luckily the other dogs alerted me and luckily we found him. Or, he told me where to find him.

Harry is getting older like the rest of us on the Fyfe Farm.

His knees aren’t so great but then neither are his Dad’s. Alistair has to have his torn medial meniscus taken care of next week.

I think we are privileged that this wolf-dog with strange mannerisms and a loud, non-stop WOO WOO that begins the minute he sees us and his circles to the left and his shedding and his inability to live indoors and his affection for Casey even though Casey mows him over half the time chooses to stay with us. Even with relatives so close by.

I worry hunters will think he’s a wolf. That’s difficult stuff to talk about in these parts. So Harry wears bright collars and thankfully doesn’t stray.

It was lucky for Harry when Robyn called me that morning before I left Saskatoon.

I think we are even luckier to be able to share his world…. and his Woo Woo’s.

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Harry having a bit of a chuckle with Dad in the sunshine