Home Sale Know-How

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Working Floor duty earlier this month

The whole reason I took my real estate agent license a few years ago was because I had never really understood all of the paperwork we signed each time we have bought and sold homes.

Our real estate and title agents have always been great (except that one who blurted out, “I just have to ask you…. how old ARE you?” 20 years ago when she first met me after having already showed Alistair some homes…. for starters, you don’t “have” to ask anyone anything and next, take that horrified look off of your face). They have always explained each page of the stack of papers in front of us but I never completely understood the whole process.

Even the whole confusion around a Home Inspection versus an Appraisal is very real. I didn’t differentiate the two and a lot of my friends and clients are the same. So I thought I would walk you through the deets that go down when you decide you might want to list your house with a realtor!

A listing I took for friends/clients a couple of months ago… we are under contract!

These days, the real estate market is crazy. Depending where you live, inventory is low and buyers are on the hunt. Competitive offers come in on most “move-in-ready” homes for buyers who may not even see the listing in-person for a few days. Most buyers have all been burned at least once or lost out on a home because they moved too slowly or their offer wasn’t competitive enough. Sellers get burned, as well, when they accept an offer and their listing goes off the market until a home inspection digs up something unexpected that scares buyers off.

This is one reason I’m recommending pre-listing home inspections right now. This is the exact same inspection a buyer would purchase when they go under contract for your home. It is a great way to unearth any potential surprises like high radon levels or bathroom vents that don’t vent to the outside in your attic. Many inspection results can frighten buyers, especially if they are from another state and don’t understand radon in western Montana, for example. (Its there, its not a big deal, it can be mitigated, its an odorless, colorless gas, its not a difficult thing to test for.)

Wouldn’t it be great to know your house had elevated levels before you listed, though, so you can mitigate ahead of time? Boom- one less surprise on home inspection!

Shameless promotion of the local gang who are most excellent with radon and a bunch of other things. Bo is friendly, professional, very knowledgeable, and an all around good guy!

Fixing questionable things that come up on inspections before you list eliminates the potential for your home to disappear from the market when its under contract only to keep reappearing when buyers back out for whatever reason. When agents and buyers see this happen more than once we start to question, ‘what is wrong with that house?’

Not all home inspectors offer pre-listing inspections but talk with your real estate agent ahead of time. Most of us have about three inspectors we will recommend. We all have one we try to use the most but they might not always be available so we are happy to give our clients a few names to call on. I have had a lot of success with Ian Cooke of Pillar to Post out of Missoula.

Concrete countertops in my UC listing here in Seeley Lake… I absolutely love these!

When you do get around to actually listing your home, your agent will come over and take a bunch of photos of the inside and outside of your home as well as the surrounding area if you have some fun landscape or waterfront that we want to highlight.

Decluttering ahead of time is definitely something I recommend.

“What do you mean by decluttering?” one of my sellers asked after I mentioned it. That would be the 3 full storage units and 2 trips to goodwill plus over 20 trips to the dump they completed before we got new photos taken and their home under contract within 24 hours of re-listing.

Not everyone has that much furniture and artwork around their home but the main thing is that potential buyers want to walk around your house and imagine their furniture in the rooms and their photos on the walls. Ideally, address any staining or painting issues as well as landscaping hiccups before photos are taken.

Your realtor will have you sign some forms that I call Agency Forms. These establish everyone’s contact information, our duties in how we represent you (as a buyer or a seller or a potential dual agent) and how long we will all commit to working together. The actual Listing Agreement is a multi-page contract establishing your asking price as well as our commissions and what we offer to other agents representing any buyers. In Montana, buyers do not pay commissions to their agent. We agents all disclose on our mls member listings what we are going to pay a buyer’s agent out of our own earned commissions.

Examples of said forms.

Your agent will also have you fill out and sign various disclosures as you list your home. Be honest about any known liens against your place or any knowledge of negative or adverse material facts- most of these things will show up after inspection of the home or your title anyhow and at that point you may risk losing the deal if you didn’t disclose them beforehand.

Once all of these are signed and we list your house, if its in decent shape and move-in-ready then most likely it will have showings within days, at least around Seeley Lake right now!

During showings plan for all humans and pets to be out of the house. It can be a drag to do this over and over so plan in advance where you can take your pets. Cats can often stay because, for the most part, they will likely hide someplace they feel safe but most dogs are too curious or friendly (or protective) to leave home during showings. And not all people love animals so it really is best to have everyone out of the house.

Once offers begin to come in your agent will advise you on what features of the offer make it more or less attractive than others. Buyers who are already pre-approved for the offer amount and ones who are putting a larger down payment down (or ones who are paying cash) are definitely more attractive and than ones who haven’t even begun looking for financing.

Some buyers are even waiving home inspections to be more competitive in this crazy market. I, personally, do not recommend skipping this important step to buyers I am representing.

Hanging out on floor duty at the office a few weeks ago.

Once you accept an offer you get to decide whether to continue showing your home for potential back up offers or if you want your listing to go Pending. Some sellers don’t want to keep packing the kids up and having a bunch of day-to-day things hidden in cupboards in case of potential showings so they go Pending. I sometimes recommend that if an offer is solid and buyers are pre-approved for the amount offered; it gives buyers some confidence that you are satisfied with their offer and won’t continue to show your home in order to get back-up offers.

The home inspection is usually scheduled soon after by the buyers. Inspectors don’t want sellers in the house for the inspection but if your pets aren’t going to attack them then they usually can stay, as long as they aren’t going to be crawling all over the inspector!

A buyer’s agent will submit any things they want fixed/replaced/removed to your agent and everyone can negotiate how they want to address this. Hopefully the buyer’s agent has educated their buyers that a home inspection is not a fix-it-list and that inspectors are hired to point out any and every adverse thing found, including light bulbs that don’t work and a lack of gutters, which may or may not be pertinent to where you live.

Assuming you all come to an agreement, the next most common thing to happen is for the buyer’s bank to schedule an appraisal (if they are financing their purchase.)

Again, this is different from the inspection and I can honestly say I have seen appraisals happen in very different ways. Some have been done completely on the outside of a home, where we were never contacted ahead of time. More commonly, though, the appraiser needs access to your house to complete a thorough appraisal. Appraisers aren’t going to care if you are home but please respect their need to get things done and don’t be chit chatty.

The hubs, helping me put signs out for my super-cool Beaver Creek listing that just closed earlier this month!

During this process the agreed-upon title company will work on getting all aspect’s of your property’s title put together and submitted to both parties in the transaction. Generally speaking, most titles are clean but sometimes an easement through your property or a long-lost cousin Vinny are discovered and may affect the sale moving forward. More negotiations could happen because of this but, again, this is not overly common.

Our office has successfully partnered with First American Title Company although there are others who are great to work with, too. FATCO, as we call them, has offices all over in a variety of states so we can usually handle transactions for buyers who aren’t in our immediate community.

At this point you are pretty much set to coast into your anticipated closing! While I learned right off the bat that “nothing is closed until its closed”, you tend to have a feel for transactions once you’ve got a few behind you.

Buyers can close in a different state and overnight paperwork to wherever you are closing. Your title company will be communicating with your bank and your real estate agent the entire transaction to make sure this all happens. The title company will pro-rate things like taxes, Home Owner Association dues, propane and other things and they will also handle everything you have negotiated regarding the home and title inspections. They will also arrange paying-off any outstanding mortgages or liens on the property you are selling.

A fun showing that turned into The One for awesome buyers I represented a couple of years ago!

When its time to close, bring a photo ID and a blank check or deposit slip for where the funds are to be deposited. Don’t plan on writing a check for a brand new truck after you leave the title company because it can take another day before funds are deposited. In fact, in most cases, the closing isn’t even complete until the title company records the deed that you just signed over.

So that’s listing and selling your home in a nutshell!

No two transactions are alike, however, and what is currently happening in your community may affect how you negotiated various things. For example, it is really challenging finding a builder right now in Seeley Lake so while you might be able to get electrical or plumbing issues sorted out post-inspection, you may have to offer funds back at closing for things a building contractor would fix.

As licensed real estate professionals, it is our job to explain these things to you and try to find the best solution for everyone. We want our sellers to be happy and we also want a buyer and their agent to be happy as well. It makes for warm fuzzies all-around and it also makes us more likely to want to work with another agent down the road if we have shared a good transaction that closed with all parties content.

The view from that closed Beaver Creek transaction. Buyer’s agent and I shared a positive, professional experience on this and I am more than happy to work with him again!

I recommend using a licensed real estate agent when listing your home. Most of us won’t “just do the paperwork” on For Sale By Owner (FSBO) listings- it isn’t worth our license if something hinky goes down. We will generally steer you towards a lawyer who can handle everything for you if you want to list or purchase as a FSBO. Online sale sites do not have actual humans running some of the listings so there can be a lot of variance and not much accountability.

If you have questions about real estate, please ask! The market is hot if you’re a seller right now but make sure you have somewhere to move into ahead of time if you’re going to list a decent home in Seeley Lake!

Not where I wanted to find Jockey just now!
And, yes, this is what I mostly do but I enjoy helping my real estate clients make their dreams come true, too!
This isn’t new news but the twitter post from the Book Excellence Awards happened this week! Just another of the versions of Me!

Its About Time!

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Me, slinging real estate today!

I haven’t written a blog since late May.

There was snow on the ground back then and the Montreal Canadiens were just starting the run that would take them to the Stanley Cup Final. I had also just listed a cute house a couple of blocks up from the office I’m in today.

Wow, have things have changed since then….

Montreal lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Final (oh, Canada… one day we will bring the Cup home again.)

There is no snow but the summer haze of forest fires has engulfed Seeley Lake once again.

And that cute house is happily under contract!

My summer wardrobe is all about the golf course!

I’m also down to one layer of clothing most days and my wardrobe is suitable to pulling off the highway on my way home to hit a few golf balls.

With a membership I don’t necessarily feel like I have to play 18 or even 9 holes. Sometimes its just 1, 2, 3 and 9 or 10, 11 and 12. The course configuration is set up to allow for me to whack the heck out of a teed-up ball with Driver and even try to make par or birdie on one par 3 hole. Sometimes that’s all I need.

We’ll see how busy the course looks when I cruise past it later today.

Can you believe it????

Another completely different aspect of my life compared to May is that we are finally getting our deck built off of our master bedroom. This is the deck that collapsed during the massive snow load of winter, 2017-2018 (the blog posts and pictures are cray cray.)

A combination of unbelievable events led to this epic reconstruction of our beautiful home.

It has been farcical to say the least but right now we are just happy to think that someday we will be able to sit on the deck and listen to the breeze shift the cottonwood branches above the creek that’s bubbling away.

Its getting there!

I also cruised back to Bismarck for a few days since I last blogged. It was a tune-up for Tanya with a visit to my dentist as well as my stylist, Tiffany #1. (There are two Tiffanies… and, yes, they know about each other. We’re actually at the point where they ask about each other’s lives when I’m in their chairs now.)

The weather was great for my ND journey although the sunny, blue skies and 100-plus degree weather didn’t combine well with our furnace/AC that died. Thankfully Alistair was on top of it and I got to write a check for 5-digits when a crew installed a brand spanking fancy new furnace for us. It will save us coin in the end because Alistair will be able to change settings the day he leaves Montana to get the house heated or cooled for his arrival 11 hours later.

The herd in ND

I got to hang with my pretty ponies on the Bismarck farm and finally attend to the one full-bred Arabian left. It was time to give Jessi the freedom to run in pastures in the sky without pain in her forever-foundered hooves. Jessi was given to us by a veterinary client years ago and never had a person on her back. She lived a charmed life as a Fyfe horse, munching rich prairie grass and hanging with her buddies her whole life.

It was still sad to say goodbye because she really was a loving, gentle spirit who was the first to approach me in the fields.

It must have affected me more than I thought because I’m having to wipe away at some naughty tears I wasn’t expecting, all while hoping a billionaire doesn’t waltz into the office right now.

Frankie and me back in Bismarck a few weeks ago

We played fun golf out at our ND course, Painted Woods, too.

It is a sprawling course that brings challenges in the form of elevation changes, a winding creek that comes into play on a bunch of holes, and the incessant wind. It, like our course in Montana, is also seeing a surge of new members who have discovered the joy of playing a game that allows for natural social distancing. While we’re happy to see both of our courses flourish, admittedly there is a selfish longing we both feel for having our courses almost completely to ourselves again.

Ah, but those are clearly first-world problems, aren’t they?

The Hubs on the tee at Painted Woods last month

There are a lot of other changes in my life compared to back in May.

I’m working a lot of days as a veterinarian in Deer Lodge. I’m still loving it but I have had challenging moments that forced me to do unthinkable things. It can be hard to walk to the door knowing what the path is on the other side but with a solid team around me and the skill set to open the difficult door, it is easier to walk that pathway afterwards.

Its also easier when we choose to add some humor when appropriate and that solid team is always eager to laugh with me.

One of our clinic cats, Tabasco…. he makes the days great, too! (not my photo)

And real estate… wow… I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around the lack of inventory and the insanity of the market in Western Montana. Us agents are all hopping busy right now. I wish we had more homes to offer to the folks who dream of moving to this gorgeous part of the world.

I am happy for my friends who have trusted me to list their properties or find them their new homes. Most of my current buyers and sellers have come to our office through my veterinary world and it makes my heart happy to have them entrust me as their realtor, too.

Showing listings this past week!

And with all of the busy changes in my life these past weeks since May one of the most profound and poignant ones is the fact my busted engagement ring is happily seated back on my ring finger just in time for a special anniversary.

It broke weeks ago and it took awhile for me to get it to a jeweler’s in Missoula. Then it took awhile for them to get a whole new setting for the solitaire marquis-cut diamond and even longer for us to get back to Missoula to pick it up again.

But its here and its happily back on my hand in a thicker, skookum-looking setting ahead of tomorrow, which just happens to be our 25th wedding anniversary.

Its back!!!

July 12th, 1996, Alistair was allowed to take his pager off for a couple of hours after Whitney and I picked up two pretty bouquets, and Gretchen poured me a stiff amaretto and OJ and Gareth put on his 10-gallon cowboy hat and Beth left the rodeo for a few quick minutes to witness for us while Alistair’s nurse, Deb married us in a church that I’m pretty sure is legit on a summer afternoon in then-sleepy Watford City.

We eloped to get the green card process going for me sooner than our planned on-ice wedding in Grand Forks, BC that fall but our lawyer informed us the next business day that they had revamped all of the rules for that sort of thing a few months prior.

Oh, well.

July 12th, 1996!!!

I was 23, Alistair was 37… so long ago with so much in-between and I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday.

We’ve loved, we’ve shared, we’ve moved, we’ve changed countries, we’ve flown, we’ve helicoptered, we’ve whale-watched, we’ve golfed, we’ve emceed, we’ve reunion-ated, we’ve raised kids, we’ve raised horses, we’ve raised pets, we’ve said tearful goodbyes, we’ve gardened, we’ve evacuated, we’ve played hockey together, we’ve poured each other drinks, we’ve shared knowing looks, we’ve cried, we’ve kissed, we’ve eaten many great meals, we’ve golfed, we’ve canoed, we’ve hiked, we’ve explored, we’ve bought a new furnace for 10 grand, we’ve shared music, we’ve done hospitals, we’ve been there “in sickness and in health”, we’ve skied, we’ve boated, we’ve weddinged, we’ve funeralled, we’ve celebrated, we’ve theme parked, we’ve hot tubbed, we’ve won and lost umpteen games of crib, we’ve rolled our eyes and, my goodness, we have laughed together.

A lot.

On our course in Montana a few days ago.

We will be in different states tomorrow but that really doesn’t make the marking of 25 years of marriage any different for us. I’m glad I have my ring back.

So in the time since my last blog so very much has happened. My life is generally very busy but all aspects of my life seemed like they were in high gear for most of June. I think it should be a bit lighter once July starts to wind down but I’m going to make sure to enjoy the sunshine and the golf courses and the rush of veterinary medicine and the craziness of real estate while I can.

Thanks for reading and I hope you can find or make the time to enjoy the big and little things in your world, too.

4th of July Clearwater crew getting ready for the local parade!
Professor Higgins & D’embe inspecting the work on the deck.
Jake & Maggie with me in Montana
Busy but happy!

The Unfortunate Three-Peat (or, How Ike Unbecame A Fyfe)

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Ike, while he was still a Fyfe

There was potential for this to be a tremendously heart-breaking blog.

Instead, its just a sad blog in lots of ways.

Because Ike isn’t a Fyfe anymore and even though Hims is the goodest boy ever he has one of the most terrible vices a dog can have.

Ike ate another large rock and it got stuck again.

Couch cuddles last weekend.

See, back in February when Alistair and I decided to take a chance on this love-bug we told each other that it was a one-chance type of deal. He had eaten a rock that got stuck back in December and his previous owners were still paying that surgery off. Ike is young (2 years now), kind, and nicely trained so we went for the surgery to remove the second stuck rock after hours (thank-you, again, Dr.Sami and Cody) and a few days later Ike came home.

To Fyfe Life.

Ike’s first day on the Montana Fyfe Farm a couple of months ago!

I mean, you have to be smart about these things. A young dog who is a repeat offender for chasing cats or barking at the UPS truck is one thing. Generally you can try to change these behaviors. Retrievers, in particular, are very trainable because they truly want to please you when you are upset about something. (Unlike, say, a Jack Russel Terrier who might clearly recognize that you’re mad but they don’t really give a hoot as to why.)

But rock eating, not unlike fence-jumping if you live on a busy road, tends to have life-threatening consequences. A one-time situation isn’t a deal breaker in my head (unless you honestly can’t afford the surgery and, hey, this is a no-judgement zone on that one.)

And the two-time situation back in February was questionable for sure.

Ike’s previous owners knew there was a chance for a three-peat and elected euthanasia unless we could re-home him with someone willing to pay for the second surgery.

Tuesday morning walkies with Mummy.

We just wanted to give the cute little fella another chance.

And boy, did we have fun!

Hims got to travel to the ND Fyfe Farm and bond with Alistair and even our neighbors for 3 weeks and they travelled back here where he got to bond with his new canine bestie, Jazz Champion for 3 weeks.

They ran, they leapt, they smashed into each other, they played, they found body parts in the forest, they got treats, they cuddled on the couch, they rolled in the snow and they cuddled with Richmond & Paige Champion when they spent the night before taking Jazzie back home to her world in Stevensville.

Champion family portrait!

That was Saturday night.

I already had worries in my head at that point because I saw a rock in Ike’s poops the day before (yes, I know whose poop is whose… Jazzie’s poops are dinosaur-sized!)

When you’re a veterinarian you look at your pet’s poops. When you’re a veterinarian who adopted a rock-eater, you do so with even more scrutiny.

The rock wasn’t hidden or anything, either. It was a decent size and I had it in my head to be on the worry for Ike.

Who didn’t poop on our walk Saturday evening.

Or Sunday morning.

Or Sunday evening.

Bedtime snuggle buddy after Jazz Champion had gone home.

Or Monday morning, for that matter and while we do have a forest behind our home and he often runs around in there while I’m walking the driveway, usually he did his ‘thing’ close to the road. But I had the worry and the concern in my head so it was no real shocker to me when he vomited his mostly undigested kibble Monday afternoon.

And he vomited a couple more times through that night, too.

Alistair was in ND but he was aware of everything every day and we kept reminding ourselves what we had agreed upon back in February.

I’ll add that I spent a great deal of time crying Monday and Tuesday but you probably knew that already.

Ike, Monday evening. A little subdued.

I could have taken care of things on my own at the farm here but, I’ll be honest, after recently doing that with Sport and Bebe the mere thought of it almost made me ill to my stomach. Alistair didn’t want me to do that, either so when Ike was pretty subdued and glued to my side on Tuesday morning’s walkies we decided to go for some confirmation.

I called my Internal Med vet friend in Missoula and asked about taking some x-rays. His technician on the phone was all cheerful and friendly until I explained that if there was a rock the appointment would then be a euthanasia.

I had some more snuggles with our lovely boy and then we loaded up and drove the hour to Missoula together.

Where my Internal Med vet friend and I took x-rays that revealed what I already knew to be true.

*sigh*

Yeah.

That big radio-opaque honker is the rock.

My Internal Med vet friend and I discussed the why’s of canine rock-eaters and neither of us had an answer. He agreed that three lodged rocks in five months’ time was too many and the final decision should be made. I told him I hadn’t brought my own drugs so, barely getting the words out, I half-sobbingly asked him if I could use his supplies to put Ike down.

Which is when he told me that his technician had already said she would want to save the dog after she and I had talked on the phone earlier.

And she called her husband (like I had done in February) and they chose to pursue the surgery to remove the rock and then take Ike home to their house (like we had done in February.)

I mean, that’s great, right?

Fantastic, even!

Ike & Alistair in ND in March

Ike was getting a third chance to prove he knows how to stop eating rocks!

But I worry that we just passed the buck here.

My Internal Med vet friend and I both explained to the technician (who I don’t even know, to be honest- I had never met her before that day) how these types of repeat offenders tend to have a habit of breaking human hearts. I tried to make it very clear that this was NOT a money issue because she seemed a teensy bit judgey and made a comment about “not being able” to pursue the surgery.

I’m not slagging her at all.

She and her family saved Ike.

And the very next day when I was vetting in Deer Lodge I got email confirmation that the rock is out and Hims was recovering nicely. I will connect with them this coming week to get them his microchip information and briefly touch base one more time.

My Deer Lodge vet day was perfectly messed up on Wednesday so it was a terrific distraction. Only Dr.Sami knew the situation because, frankly, I would have lost it if I had shared what went down with our staff who all loved what had transpired back in February.

*sigh*

Last Wednesday we were ridiculously short-staffed but we still had a wonderful team. We all pulled together and helped each other and what could easily have turned into a massive shit-storm turned into a pretty cool day. Our packed parking lot up front was a clear contrast to the almost empty staff parking lot out back and there was every opportunity to feel overwhelmed but we chose to focus on being the best versions of ourselves that we could be.

And all of our clients were very understanding and appreciative.

And the sun was shining all day and it felt good to go out and talk with people about their pets.

And the Universe rewarded me afterwards with puppies.

Because, you know… puppies.

I do think the Universe sometimes gives me these things when I am faced with terrifyingly sad or frightening things that I absolutely have to do.

Like sending Sport and Bebe over the Rainbow Bridge on one day together earlier this month.

HRH Sporto Fyfe

And like bringing Ike in for conformational radiographs and being ready to do the really difficult thing but then choosing to let someone else give him another chance.

Maybe the Universe is saying, “hey, Fyfe, you frigging tried, alright? No more you can do here. In the meantime, here’s some puppies.”

Big, fuzzy, tubby Newfoundland puppies.

16 of them, to be precise.

Yeah, that’s not an exaggeration, either. My technician and each I carried a small bear cub of a puppy into and then out of the clinic where we would then march back to the puppy-strewn Suburban and trade off for 2 more fuzzballs.

8 times we did this.

(I know the folks in the red pickup truck were jealous!)

PUPPIES!

And I was telling a realtor friend of mine about Ike and then the crazy vet day on Friday and sharing how everything went down when out of the blue, in marched a client with his brand new Harlequin Great Dane puppy I had a huge part in arranging for him. He had just picked him up in Deer Lodge and the dog is so stinking cute and my client is so stinking happy.

I turned to my realtor friend and said, “See? Puppies!”

Tuesday after I confirmed that we were going to Missoula.

So all is good, albeit sad without Ike in the house.

I guess we were just meant to be Ike’s foster family.

I’ll hike with the barn kitties (who aren’t complaining, by the way… in their words if they want to choose to climb a tree they’d like to choose that on their own, not with a black dog chasing them up!) down the driveway or we’ll hike without any animal for awhile now.

While we were able to save sweet Ike for ourselves, we couldn’t save him from himself.

Maybe his new folks can.

xo

Clinic cat, Cobalt in Deer Lodge, always up for loves
A favorite memory!
Perfect spot to just sit with my latte & my thoughts Thursday morning during a home inspection for my seller.
One final ride in the truck with Hims. xo

Friends and Strangers and Where I Fit

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Straight-haired Tanya has made a few recent appearances again! (Thanks, Tiffany2!)

My head and my heart have been called to action several times over the past couple of weeks as my careers are once again colliding at a fast pace. I can not complain- the highs are super high right now in my book and real estate worlds and its pretty fun.

Even my veterinary world continues to be fun when I get to play in Deer Lodge with my new gang but there have been a few heavies that were centered around a 5-day period. And the heavies weren’t Fyfe heavies. Not yet, anyhow. Dr. Me and Mummy Me need to have a talk about little Bebe, our dwindling 18 year old kitty and I kind of thought it might be today but she scarfed down the plethora of Greenies she demanded from me this morning and I’m just not up for it. Of course I would if she was suffering but its more that I’m not convinced she is loving life right now.

Alas…

I went back to working the floor at our local real estate office this month and right off the bat I got a listing. Its not out there yet but its going to kick ass when we go live next month.

I’m just saying…

I had listed a cool log home in Seeley Lake when I wrote my last blog 2 weeks ago but then more friends from my veterinary world asked me to list their UBER cool off-grid house and it is being shown this afternoon already.

And its not as off-grid as some places- this one is only 10 minutes from the highway. Sure, you have to maintain about 2 miles of road but if you get yourself a reliable buddy like Big Red its not a big deal. The 14+ acre property borders US forest service on 2 sides (meaning you have the freaking forest to yourself!) and the house has some pretty outstanding views.

Pretty. Outstanding. Views. (From the deck)

It was a gorgeous day and I followed my friends up to this incredible property and I found myself repeating over & over again how I could totally live there. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, jacuzzi tub, pool table, nice bar…. all it needs is a hot tub for Fyfe Life but that’s easy enough to do.

I enjoy working with my clients (especially on days like the listing appointment day!) and taking pictures of the properties. Granted, the land itself shows better without snow on the ground but those snow-capped peaks of the Swan Range… breathtaking!

Front of the house with that incredible Swan range again.

I’m only sad because I don’t envision this particular listing hanging around for very long so I won’t get to show it too often. This is a good thing for my sellers, though and right now we are all excited to have a listing or 2 because the inventory in Western Montana is extremely low.

People call the office wanting 20 to 40 acres, a stream or lake, level building site or a log home already on the place and even IF they have the coin for something like that we just don’t have the listings! I don’t even have anything shitty to sell right now. I mean, usually there are a couple of fixer-uppers at bottom prices but even those don’t exist.

Without homes to sell we are moving more raw land listings than I’ve seen since I started this career 3 years ago. On my floor day yesterday a fun couple came in trying to find listings in town so I was able to give them a map and answer some questions and send them on their way. They were thrilled to see our ‘Open’ sign shining brightly in our window.

Morning supplies for me yesterday- Sparkle Pens, latte and magazines. Note the empty racks on the wall….

They came back and actually sat down and we got visiting about their needs and, lo & behold, we actually have a new subdivision in town that fits the bill. We got more maps and sheets printed off and away they went to check out ‘Alpine Trails’ just on the north end of Seeley Lake.

When they got back they were excited to have me write up an offer for them and I’m happy to say as of this morning we are under contract! (Granted, my boss is the listing agent and he had to counter with the correct address of the lot because my head is full right now and you’ll understand more as you keep reading but boss-man is very kind and it was a quick fix and I’m hoping he was smiling when he saw my goof… ’cause, you know, addresses are sort of important in real estate… ) (Hey, I had the correct legal description so I wasn’t completely off-base…)

Me on the floor yesterday morning. Who knew I’d have another transaction by the end of the day?

So, yeah, the highs are high in my real estate career.

And my book career, too!

I’ve submitted my recent book, The Runaways of Missing Lake, for a couple of awards contests and it won one a month after being published and now it just won a Book Excellence Award for Young Adult Fiction, too!

I’m pretty stoked! This award comes with stickers (of course it does) but also some marketing info and tools that I have yet to take advantage of other than downloading this baby:

(They had banners and social media-specific JPGs and things to download, too. So I did!)

And I shared this to social media and Facebook’s post is still blowing up. Its exciting and its fun and I cherish the support from all of my friends and family around the world who are on this little adventure with me. I mean, its weird announcing these things because I sometimes feel like I’m bragging and I am not a boastful person by nature but like my friend, Tessa wrote, “if you don’t how else are we going to know what amazing accomplishments you’re making.”

Plus I am proud of my books and the work I put into them. When I began writing after first closing my clinic in 2013 I honestly had no clue if I could finish writing a book. Alistair, Lynn, Dona and Gary were the only people who knew and they were sworn to secrecy in case the final project sucked.

So, again, more waves of happiness that carry me high into the air and keep a smile on my face.

From back in February at Clark Fork Veterinary clinic

But Dr. Tanya Fyfe had some emotional lows these past 2 weeks that had nothing to do with being in Deer Lodge. I haven’t worked there since the 16th and I’m not due back until the 31st, which, maybe was all by design so that I could be in the right places at the right times for a few good people.

One neighbor actually reached out when I was in Deer Lodge for assistance… Angel of Darkness type of stuff for their senior rabbit. We set it up for the next day when I would be back in Seeley Lake.

It was a beautiful, warm afternoon, too, so we were able to sedate the little bun (whose hindlimbs had stopped working the day prior) on the tailgate of my pickup and my friend and I shared a bit of a breakdown because she told me, as I had expected, that the little bun was one of the last tangible, real things that belonged to her son.

The son whose gun accidentally went off a few years ago and ended his life.

It was a sunny, poignant Wednesday and eventually we did chuckle a bit because she told me that his “asshole cat is still around.”

Picture of 20 year old Sport who is helping me write (and keep my shit together right now.)

A few days later another neighbor up here called to check scheduling/organizing/planning because it was suddenly Time for their 10 year old Bernese Mountain Dog to transition as well.

As before, the timing couldn’t have worked out better.

So on the Sunday, while the young adult son who was this dog’s Human since they both were just young pups and his fiancé crouched in the snow together as the Angel of Darkness gave her injections and cried alongside every family member there.

I told his mom that if I stopped doing “this” (pointing to the tears streaming down my cheeks), then I would have to stop doing “this” (gesticulating towards the young couple and their dear, special companion who had crossed the Rainbow Bridge.) I have to be able to let the sadness out because it has a danger of building up inside every veterinarian who does these appointments. For friends. And strangers.

Believe me when I tell you I’m not all smiles at the moment.

And then… (yes, there IS a then…) the very next day I was required to assist a senior miniature Dachshund whose dad and I hadn’t met but we had talked on the phone for the 2 weeks prior planning for when it would be Time. Turned out that Monday was Time.

It was another nice day for a drive to his little cabin by the mighty Blackfoot River and he and 2 of his best friends were there and they told me about the adventures, road trips and hikes the little dog had been on. He had lived a life most of us would envy and it was peaceful and lovely even if it was the hardest thing that man probably ever had to do in his life when he let me give my final injection.

One of his friends burst into, ‘Amazing Grace’ and I’m still torn by how hauntingly beautiful it was even though it ripped me up inside even more. Who knew watching 3 complete strangers weep over the loss of 20 pounds of cute dog would make the former sparkly figure skater from Canada who never owned a single pet until she was in her 20s weep alongside these kind souls who all laid together cradling their canine buddy’s body in front of his favorite wood stove?

Angel of Darkness

But those days and those moments are not about me.

They are about having the knowledge, skill set, and the privilege to allow families to pick and choose the time and place where a spirit can have their last moments surrounded by those we choose to have around us. How amazing when we can do it in their own homes or yards!

Amazing Grace.

Indeed.

So while those past moments were not about me, Dr. Me and Mummy Me might have to be chatting soon but I’m not going there by myself today.

Ike in Bismarck. In MY chair.

Ike and Alistair will be back next weekend.

And I have Deer Lodge with my friends and likely a bunch of strangers on Wednesday to look forward to.

And my books are rocking amongst friends and strangers.

And I have real estate happenings happening that are great- especially when I get to help out my friends and also help out strangers!

And I’m happy it was me who was able to assist friends and strangers in giving their beloved, special friends one final act of kindness and compassion.

And whether its a stranger reading my book or buying land or I’m helping strangers with that sad, sad event, in these careers we really all become friends in the end.

Hm.

Maybe there is something more that connects my varied career paths after all.

Game room from behind the bar in my new off-grid listing at 5074 Beaver Creek, Condon!!!!
View from behind the bar!
Ike trying his best to sit still in Bismarck
Most of the Alistair & Ike shots from ND are blurry but they still make me smile
Thanks, Linda N for the picture of her collection that she (my friend) shared with her friends.

Hims is a Very Good Boy

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Ike Fyfe, surveying his new kingdom

Remember that thing we did a week and a half ago?

The whole bringing-a-new-dog-into-the-house-again thing?

Turns out its going well. Ike hasn’t eaten a cat or a ferret (he doesn’t get to play with the ferrets but he sure is curious) and despite two indoor piddles on tiled floor we still love him.

His worst crime is when he stands on either of Alistair’s Covid toes which remain swollen, tender and red and are finally being recognized by the CDC as a ‘long hauler’ symptom. But Ike doesn’t know that (although he does sniff those particular toes from time to time.)

“Hims just wants to say hi to the little creature, Mum!”

Once his new dad took his E-collar off he’s never needed it back on. He hasn’t once tried to lick or scratch at the staples and everyone is just happier without him slamming into things/us or tearing the collar apart.

Learning new routines and trying to placate stressed-out senior cats wasn’t my only occupation last week. I also took a big new listing on a super cool log home here in town and I’m hoping to grab another equally cool one this coming week. All with 2 trips to Deer Lodge to be a veterinarian one day and to start getting vaccinated for Covid19 yesterday!

SUPES excited right after the vaccine!

Our clinic owner asked who wanted to get the vaccine ball rolling and they set it up for yesterday at a grocery store pharmacy. Sure, it meant another 3 hours on the road and a day away from Alistair but we both were totally pumped that veterinarians and their teams are now able to do this.

Because this is science. And this is part of the solution. Wearing my mask and social distancing are also parts of the solution so lets keep on keeping on with those things, too!

I stayed at home a ton last year. For me. For you. For your grandma. For your kid who has asthma. For your dad who is battling cancer. And even though I’m one dose in on the Moderna vaccine schedule I’m still going to stay home when I can and avoid large gatherings if possible while wearing a mask and standing away from you.

CFVC team members getting their dose yesterday! Go, team!!!!!

And I didn’t miss out on one more day with the hubs because we got discussing my upcoming week (Deer Lodge clinic, checking out the potential new listing, celebrating a new real estate office’s opening in Hamilton and a floor day at the office,) and the fact he was going back to ND today to cover this week for a colleague anyhow and we decided that life would be easier on everyone if he took Ike with him to Bismarck a day early.

Our outdoor kennel in Bismarck is all concrete so we don’t have to worry about Ike eating rocks when Alistair is at work and this will also give our aging cats a little break from the monster who (very rarely)barked at them.

(I’m not stupid. I know Ike and Alistair are enjoying their little ‘bromance’ right now, too.)

“Hims is going on an adventure with Dad!”

The boys headed east in Big Silver a couple of hours before I took off in Tabtha for Deer Lodge on a beautiful blue-sky morning yesterday and Alistair kept me updated with pictures texted from various spots along the long road.

And I updated my friends from the vet clinic as we were waiting out our mandatory 15 minutes post-vaccine because they all cared for Ike when he yelped and whined at them for 3 days after his surgery.

This was outside of Sims, Mt. “Hims just went through Sims! Hims is so FUNNY!”

Ike did very well on his leash and didn’t tear apart the truck if Alistair had to use a rest area himself. Ike travelled like a seasoned pro (maybe he drove around with his former folks a lot?) and never whined or barked. Thankfully he didn’t puke, either, because car sickness in pets can be a very real thing.

(If your dog gets car sick, talk to your vet. There is a great drug called Cerenia created just for this!)

Before or after Jordan, MT

Eventually they made it to our ND home and Ike got to explore a little before they came inside to call Mummy to let me know everything was great.

And apparently Ike woke Alistair up at the crack of dawn for piddles and poops this morning.

They cleaned out the dog kennel and Alistair picked up the plethora of golf balls he’d been chipping and pitching into the snow this winter at Fyfe’s Backyard Driving Range because who knows what Ike would do with golf balls!

(“Hims isn’t going to eat golf balls, Mummy!”)

“Nice digs but Hims prefers the inside of the house.”

Alistair even left Ike in the kennel today when he went into town for groceries. When he came home, our New New Neighbor’s wife (they are NOTHING like New Neighbor for those of you who have followed the blog) came over because she thought a dog might be caught somewhere thanks to all of the yelping and crying that was happening at our house.

“What? Hims was worried Dad had left forever!”

We assured her that Ike was fine albeit a tad melodramatic when left alone. NNN’s wife is a very sweet person who offered to come over and walk Ike if he was screaming bloody blue murder again when Alistair has to work. They recently lost their senior canine best friend so maybe there will be some healing involved. You’d think that would be “full circle” enough for this blog, which often touches on how things tend to fall into place the way they should but she also mentioned the white and orange cat they’ve been feeding in their barn.

Whitey!

Whitey in Bismarck, 2019 (through the front door)

Alistair has fed Whitey, the stray, for years but over the past couple of months he hasn’t been a daily regular. We had talked about it and both hoped, of course, that he had found a new benefactor but we also worried he’d been injured or worse. Even if neither of us has ever been able to touch the little guy there is a loving familiarity to our relationship and, hey, he did leave a dead rat for Alistair one time on the driveway!

So there’s some happy-squishy-good-feeling-karma-like-yumminess-and-sunshine for your hearts.

And our hearts.

And NNN’s wife’s heart.

“Hims is happy. This is Hims’ chair now.”

And Ike’s heart because that’s where this latest adventure and frolic through Fyfe Life began a week and a half ago and so many of you have told me how Ike’s story and near-euthanasia-experience touched you and made you smile.

Or maybe it made you cry a little.

I still get little tears from time to time.

Like when I was watching Big Silver drive down the slushy driveway yesterday morning even though I don’t tear up as much when Alistair leaves because its been 14 years that we’ve been doing this but sometimes the goodbye is just a bit more difficult for me knowing I’ll be alone up here rambling around our big house with a trio of kitties and a trio of trouble for 3 weeks instead of 2 and even though I’ll be busy driving and vetting and real estate-ing and even though the Players Cup has been more than interesting today and even though the wine bar is full and Stanley Tucci is exploring Italy for me tonight there are times out in the middle of nowhere in the last house on a long road next to the large forest I do admit to feeling a teensy bit sad.

Off they went!

Those moments don’t last long, though.

I can usually find something funny or ironic about any given situation I create for myself and before long I’m laughing at something the ferrets are doing or while watching Jockey seriously try to wipe out our fish tank populations. And soon after that Alistair will text me another Ike picture or someone will text me about a listing or I’ll look outside and see how very, very lucky I am to live where I live.

And to share it with the equine, feline and weasel companions as well as anyone who takes the time to read these blogs.

I hope Alistair and Ike continue enjoying their great adventure in Bismarck and I hope I can make it to my hair appointment on the 24th without taking a jiffy marker to my greys and I hope my friends have great success at their new office in Hamilton!

(Hopefully NN isn’t still reading my blogs like he did many years ago before they moved and left our farm equipment to us…)

“Hims is curious about the giant hot water bath!”
Somewhere by Lewistown, I believe
“Hims is a very good boy!!!!”
SO happy!!!
Remember that log home I just listed? The deck is fabulous!
My boys in ND!

Last One of the Year

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Getting books ready to ship!

This will most likely be the last blog by me for 2020.

I’m okay with that, even though it wasn’t the worst year for us. Which is the main reason why we didn’t do a funny Fyfe Holiday letter this year. It seems insensitive to talk about my exciting new book or the fact we both kept working amidst a global pandemic when so many lost their jobs, not to mention their lives.

We also sort of enjoyed lockdown when it happened because we live in a beautiful house in an incredibly scenic area and the hot tub, tanning bed and sauna are wonderful treats in our Montana home.

Jake & Maggie in Montana

We also have a variety of animal companions who keep us smiling.

They keep us busy, too. We have to get out of bed (eventually) to get hay and grain (and, okay, maybe an apple or two) to the horses and let the barn kitties out. We have litter boxes to clean and food and water bowls to fill. And there’s that ferret cage that requires cleaning and the 3 terrorists within to play with on a daily basis. Our gang reminds us daily that the company of animals is healthy for humans.

Jockey, helping me write right now!

They are healthy for my mental health, for sure, especially when Alistair is working on the front lines in Bismarck. He left me 2 days early last week so that he could get his first dose of the Moderna covid19 vaccine (which we are SO excited about!) He started this 2-week stint on Christmas day and he continued to work all weekend long.

It wasn’t so bad, even though it was Christmas. And it won’t be so bad when he’s gone for New Year’s, too. He does important work and he provides for our incredible life when he’s gone. We also don’t have young children in the house anymore so we can rationalize that Christmas is just another Friday. Same with New Year’s.

We didn’t put a tree up this year so that I wasn’t constantly reminded of the festive holiday, as well. Believe me, its not some, ‘Bah, humbug’ attitude at all! I mean… we did get Christmas-town going again…

Skating rinks and the tavern at the west end of town… newlyweds are a nod to our on-ice wedding 24 years ago!

Alistair even brought some super cute (and necessary) additions for our festive little village, like the bride & groom smooching on the original ice rink, High Meadow Pond.

Its hard to imagine that we got married on the ice rink where I grew up in Grand Forks, BC 24 years ago! I wasn’t even 24 years old back then! While that seems like a boat load of time it also feels like it is just in the rear-view mirror when I think about it. I smile thinking of my brave, spandex-wearing bridesmaids, Jennifer, Wendy, Diana & Merielle. My smile widens remembering Art driving the Zamboni in his tuxedo and the kids getting to join in on the action.

We gave the men, Tim, Brad, Ian and Glenn each a bottle of scotch the night before just to cement the fact that, yes, indeed, we were going to be doing this thing on the ice in front of an audience. I giggle remembering my brother-in-law repeatedly asking Tim & Wendy if they really knew how to skate.

The skating party after the ceremony and the sort-of organized reception are fresh in my mind. The karaoke machine (not my idea) is pushed off to the sidelines of my memory, though.

24 years ago….
Pizzeria and Jewelry stores were added this year!

Next to the tavern is one of the much-needed eateries that Alistair found for us this year! Pizza and beer, right? (According to their sign they also make pastas and subs.) We both found the Jewelry store together and agreed it was a lovely, sparkly tribute to my former days selling Chloe & Isabel bling.

Food truck!

In front of the blingery there is the brand-new food truck Alistair brought for Christmas. I mean, not everyone wants to dine-in and with covid19 right now, this is a great way to get a bite to eat and still maintain social distancing!

Shops for every price point and a new fire hall!

Carrying on through Christmas town, we have options for shopping and a brand new fire house. The fire truck peeks in and out and the Dalmatian standing with the fireman is a cute touch. (I wonder if he poses for those calendars?…) (Do firemen still do those anymore?)

Some of the bigger buildings play music and almost everything lights up in one way, shape or form.

Pet-Palooza!

Alistair commented how the realtor in me really came out this year with the zoning I applied to the community. This area is all about the animals. You can adopt from the shelter on the right, get him or her all spiffed up at the pet salon, then capture the moment with photos at the pet photographer’s and then drop your new buddy off for doggy daycare before you hit up the shops, ice rinks or tavern!

Don’t forget the hot dog or slice of pizza…

The carousel!

One of my favorite pieces of all time is the animal carousel. The detail and imagination is outstanding and it is a real highlight of the village. You can choose to ride on a horse or a tortoise or even a lion! Conveniently located in front of the animal area of town, of course.

Continuing north…

Moving along through town we see more options for ice skating and more shopping. You might notice a more residential feel to the area, too, with the area zoned for both housing and commerce.

You also might recognize the plethora of animals throughout Christmas town. Dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, a cow, a squirrel, birds, deer, and even reindeer… its definitely a Fyfe creation!

Our log cabin is on the right.

Another great addition from Alistair is the new café on the left, next to the older B&B and the log cabin we both agree is where we would choose to live.

Now I can grab a coffee when I begin my daily stroll through town, en route to check on the shelter pets and do some figure skating coaching on the side. All of this is before we grab a pizza at night and hit up the jewelry shop to see what’s new (and secretly compare pieces to my Chloe & Isabel arsenal.)

North end of town

And finally we have the north end of town, which may have to be expanded next year if we continue doing things Fyfe-style. We already have a new addition that isn’t out of its box yet (thanks, Carey!)

I love the clock tower and the windmill that actually turns. The cozy couple on the park bench reading together (probably reading that kick-ass Missing Lake series) and sipping hot chocolate (with a splash of Bailey’s perhaps?) while Buddy loads Christmas trees up into his partner’s horse-drawn carriage in front of the barns makes this all pretty perfect.

My imagination takes care of me when Alistair isn’t here, even when its Christmas and people are supposed to be visiting each other.

But we aren’t supposed to be visiting because of covid19 right now.

I am fearful that our actions at Thanksgiving and Christmas will come back to bite this country in the ass but I’m just going to leave that thought there and encourage you/us all to get the vaccines when we can, wear masks (even after the vaccine!) and keep your distance.

New award!

I am glad Alistair was with me a couple of weeks ago when I got the email announcing that The Runaways of Missing Lake won its first award for Best in Teen Fiction.

I am humbled by this and by all of the wonderful comments and reviews the book has already received. I absolutely love hearing people’s thoughts about the book while they read it and after they’ve finished. I enjoy the questions about why I chose particular songs or if a certain character is based on somebody in my real life.

And I look forward to talking about the marketing and what I’ve learned and what I still feel like I need to learn but that’s for another blog.

In another year.

Until then, I’m fairly certain most of you are ready to put 2020 on the back burner and look towards 2021. A new year. New dreams to create. New adventures and paths to embark upon. New spirits to meet. And more homes to sell and pets to vaccinate and book events to participate in.

And vaccines to be taken and masks to be worn. Be safe. Be smart. Be well.

I didn’t win any prize money but I did win gold stickers!
One of the new spirits I met at Clark Fork Veterinary this year in Deer Lodge- Walter Price! I will be committing to more dates there through June!
Alistair’s staff helped him spiff up his cell phone for Christmas with a photo from the magical night we met in 1994 up in Creston. Me, the guest skater and him in the audience.

Isolation Nation

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Not overly worried about TP but we do have other concerns!

These are trying times.

Unfortunately, things aren’t going to get any better.

Its mind boggling that people in leadership haven’t been paying attention to what was happening around the world and its also mind boggling how many people in the general public are not treating the Coronavirus seriously.

But this blog isn’t about placing blame or looking in the rear view mirror. Its about looking forward and learning how to survive living in Isolation Nation right now!

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Dr.Hubby getting called back to work in ND early last week

You see, the medical community is ramping up in ways most of us have never seen in our lifetimes before. They are individuals who can’t choose to live in Isolation Nation outside of their jobs. Doctors, nurses, rad techs, CNAs, receptionists, janitors… they, along with restaurant workers, truck drivers, the police force and many others have to go to work to keep society running right now.

Retired medical workers have been asked to consider coming out of retirement because we all know the providers working the front lines (like Alistair at his Walk-in clinic in downtown Bismarck) are going to go down at some point.

The province of Alberta sent out emails asking for veterinarians to go onto lists for back-up medical coverage for when/if that happens. Alberta borders Montana to the north and even with the borders closed to non-essential travel its not like the virus knows its a different country.

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the other Dr.Fyfe in Bismarck 2 days ago

This is a front-line physician’s reality right now.

Alistair does not have to wear that mask but its a mask that might save him from catching this thing. The smaller surgical masks are nowhere near as protective as this bad boy!

He also wears it so that when your grandpa with COPD who had hip surgery a couple of months ago comes to see him for a sore shoulder, he doesn’t give it to him on the very high chance he does contract Coronavirus.

Here’s the thing- we need to just stay home.

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This is not staying home (not my picture) (thanks, Amy)

The doctors don’t want you all sitting in waiting rooms spreading disease around because this bug is going to ramp up this coming week like nobody’s business. If we all get sick at the same time we most certainly do not have enough hospital/ICU beds to care for us all. By staying home and avoiding one another we can hopefully prolong the spread of this disease over time and not overwhelm the medical system and drain all of the resources.

Not that everyone gets ill enough to require care in the ICU. I appreciate that and I feel well enough, myself, and I’m under 50 so hopefully I would be fine, if not even asymptomatic. But that’s another reason to stay home- you might have the damned virus and not know it. You could be spreading it to every cashier or nurse you come into contact with!

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Costco last week (not my picture) This is NOT social distancing

Call it self-isolation, call it social distancing, come up with another cute term, whatever you want. Just. Stay. Home.

“But how?” you might ask.

For starters, just do it.

“But how do I survive?” you then inquire.

Okay, well, here’s where I might have some things to suggest. If you have kids you will have your hands full and I get that. I can’t relate but I get it. Home schooling is something most of you are probably doing right now and there are all sorts of on-line things available to help you with that. Online museums and concerts are also out there to enjoy with kids, too. You don’t have to sit at a tablet all day, either. Kids in school don’t sit in one spot all day so allow some movement and breaks.

Maybe introduce some home economics type of learning right now!

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Home Ec class in the Wright home in Alberta! (not my picture) (Thanks, Nat!)

Crafty moms can work on cooking or sewing classes (seriously, these masks!) Handy dads could take the time to teach oil changes or basic carpentry right now. Kids are resourceful and often eager to learn new skills, especially ones that they can utilize as adults later on.

Just keep the family together and don’t do play dates or shared learning right now. Remember- stay home!

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Andy… one of my roommates while in Isolation Nation

Pets also make terrific room-mates and maybe now is a time you can do some more close bonding with them. The Bee Gees got a full cleaning of Quebec after their own baths today and then they stayed out a bit longer than normal because, why not?

I spend more time outside in the mornings when I let the barn kitties out and I take longer to play/visit with them when I put them in at night. On a beautiful day like today I sit outside with them looking at the blue sky and melting snow.

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This afternoon’s front door view

Maybe take some time during this self imposed break from reality to practice meditation or yoga and/or develop a real appreciation for nature. If you live in Seeley Lake like I do then there is plenty of nature to fall in love with again. You can even hike and explore nature with your family and dogs but please, please, please don’t do it in groups!

Its hard to be away from people, especially if you are a true extrovert. I am not sure if I’m an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert but I can honestly say that I love my time at home with the beautiful forest outside our back door.

While all indoor gyms and sports should be halted right now, there is one outdoor activity that is almost geared at avoiding people- golf!

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Socially distancing ourselves on opening day at Canyon River last week!

If you stick with your roommates and drive in the same vehicle and share the same golf cart and practice some basic rules, golf can be an okay activity at this time (and its great to be outdoors!)

New rules, though: 6 feet away from people; wipe down your cart; don’t share clubs or borrow anything from another golfer (tees, balls, ball markers); don’t remove the flag; don’t toss your partners their ball (don’t touch their ball!); give & take gimmies; try not to let your ball drop; don’t sign credit card slips; no clubhouse visiting; wash your hands. And, when you’re done, go home and stay home.

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Scott’s yummy salmon steaming away!

How about doing some learning of your own while you’re in Isolation Nation? My online Rouxbe cooking courses are awesome and I’ve missed doing them. Hopefully I can catch up on a few of them again. (www.rouxbe.com) I never steamed salmon before Rouxbe and last week I got some filets out of the freezer and they were delightful!

There are all sorts of companies online and even on Facebook that offer cooking courses as well as online education where you can learn all sorts of new things. We are never too old to learn something. Remember to take breaks from the screen, too, to refresh your eyes and think about the things you’ve learned.

Learn about wines! Learn about history! Learn about architecture! When everyone eventually gets back to work you won’t have the time and you don’t want to be looking back thinking, “Gee, why didn’t I do something like that?”

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Another roomie snuggling up with me last night

Something everyone in the family can  do while exploring Isolation Nation is to start a journal. I’ve kept a journal since I was 8 and I have recently started to be far more consistent for awhile now. (Some of that has to do with my new pens… good grief, a new addition- check out The Sparkle Trail- Sparkle Pens on Facebook and tell Katherine that Tanya sent you!)

Keeping a journal right now is a great idea for all sorts of reasons. It allows you a safe space to share your absolute true feelings. It lets you get those feelings out of your head which can be quite freeing and therapeutic. It also creates a place to return to when you face challenges in the future- something to remind yourself how badass you had to be when Coronavirus began its crusade around our planet.

It is also a piece of history for when your children and their children hear of COVID-19 and the stock market crash and how so many countries faced frightening times.

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My current journal (from Whitney!) and one of my sparkle pens by Katherine!

Definitely don’t let your self-care go by the wayside right now.

Our physical and mental health are important during these trying, often frightening times. Walk with family (away from people) or take an afternoon drive with your partner. Have a family dance party in the living room. Cuddle all of the pets and give each one individual time- I’m sure most pets are loving having their humans home right now!

Please check on any seniors living nearby or friends who have a bunch of kids at home and even single friends who might be away from family. A phone call, a text or a private message may be the one contact they have on a day and we need to protect each other from the loneliness that can creep in during an unprecedented time like this.

And if you do have to go out… please, please, please stay 6 feet away, don’t shake hands, don’t hug, wear gloves, wear a mask, cough into your elbow and then get home and wash your hands and maybe your clothes and stay home.

Keep the ICU beds available for the young woman who needs a C-section or the folks who were in a car accident. Those things are still going on right now and they have to share the care with Corona-virus victims.

Thank-you, everyone on the front lines and in those jobs where you have to work.

Be well. Be safe.

And stay home.

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I had to get in for a vet appt yesterday but I made sure to try to protect myself and my clients!

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Professor Higgins is loving Isolation Nation!

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I love you, Hon! Be safe and thank you for working on the front lines for us all! xo

 

 

 

 

My Sunday

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Its Winter up in the meadow!

Good grief, its been ages since I’ve blogged!

It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to, its just that I have been so flipping busy with just about every aspect of my life.

Figure Skater Me thoroughly enjoyed the annual National championships in Canada and the US in January. I didn’t get to see much televised broadcast from Canada but I was glued to the big screen a few weeks ago when the Americans vied for their crowns.

Teensy Alysa Liu repeated as a jumping phenom and the Ladies national champ yet again. She has a pretty cool story and a very dedicated father, not to mention her own high level of commitment. She also has a triple axel that makes her one of a handful of little women who can seriously challenge the pre-pubescent Russian ‘ladies’ right now.

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Getting ready to repeat as this year’s national champ! (not my photo)

Alysa seems like a fun person, and I hope she will inspire other young girls to pursue high level figure skating.

Nathan Chen…. just wow. I SO love his long program this season with the nod to Elton John. When he completes all of his jumps and finishes a spin as Benny and the Jets starts up he breaks down into the most fun-looking cool dance moves that only Nathan can pull off. I love that he lets us see a bit of who he is as a person at this point (trust me, not everyone can bust a move like this!) and it shows us he is more than just a quad-jumping master. Its worth a quick look on You Tube, for sure.

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Nathan’s long program (not my photo)

He truly is an amazing young adult what with full time studies at Yale (seriously…. Yale!) while his coach is a few states away. He trains with Raf via video and in person before the big events but even then he still has to get back to school soon afterwards. We didn’t see him at Four Continents but we will see him up in Montreal at World’s in March.

American pairs are the strongest they have been in years and our ice dancers are riding a fun wave. Chock and Bates won US Nationals and I still can’t forgive him for dumping Emily Samuelson a few years ago for Chock and I honestly don’t care for their look but the judges are loving them right now. Personally, I don’t think the judges “got” Hubbell and Donohue’s free dance which is very sexy and emotional.  Canadian ice dancers will challenge the top European dancers in Montreal as well.

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Me & my writing assistant

I am excited to announce that Writer Me has been hard at it for book 4 in my Missing Lake series. Luke and his friends are Juniors this time around (with a new classmate!) and I hope I’m catching their vibe appropriately. We have already finished the first song for their Sharing Sessions in English class and it ends on a bang, no question. Chapter 6 where the song discussion culminates was actually very draining to write but I’m very happy with how it turned out.

I’m over half-way done the book and have finished 11 chapters at 56,000 words so far. I need to chat with Ben, my talented artist and talk about what I’m thinking of for the book art this time around. The baby dragons are growing up and the entire dragon world will be facing a shake-down of their own sort as the book goes on….

But that’s all I’m going to say right now! The first 3 books are on Kindle if you haven’t had the opportunity to read them and my Amazon reviews are pretty awesome (thanks, to everyone who has reviewed them!!!)

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I think I had just finished Chapter 10 a couple of weeks ago

Realtor Me is making Writing Me a tad frustrated because I’m actually sort of busy in the world of real estate. I listed a house that I got under contract in under a week and I’m helping out of town folks finalize the purchase of a nice chunk of land for them to come and hang out on for recreational purposes.

I showed homes last weekend to a couple who are looking at retiring here in Seeley Lake and they are crunching numbers on one of them right now. I’m also getting ready to list another house here in town that will be priced to sell… to the extent I’m pretty sure it won’t last long out there.

Realtor Me is panicking about Fyfe Farm Me not being able to get into town tomorrow to get all of the listing documents signed with the seller. Its snowing and blowing like mad again and even with hubby here we aren’t sure we will be able to keep our long driveway open.

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Happening now… not sure you can see the horizontal snow…

Fyfe Farm Me has spent a fair amount of time in Big Red already this winter moving snow from here to there. Keali’i Riechel’s Hawaiian songs never get old as the big blade shoves the snow off to the sides. I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment every time I plow and open the road up because I am a little girl who grew up in sparkles and spandex, whose job as a professional figure skater involved being applauded 4 times a day, 7 days a week, who never envisioned herself being capable of surviving mountain or prairie storms by herself using big machinery to save the day.

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Post-plow a few days ago.

Pet Mummy Me is loving up on the aging indoor kitties, Sport and Bebe. Sport is my #1 writing assistant and full time snuggle bug. He would be thrilled if we laid in bed or on the couch watching figure skating together or if we wrote all afternoon instead of me going to work or even just going out to plow the snow.

The barn trio is great; D’embe and Jockey seem to have come to some sort of truce. Its fun seeing Professor Higgins and D’embe snuggle up in the cat beds on the hay bales in the barn because Higgins always seemed to want to cuddle. The 2 of them are playful little brats with each other. The other day Alistair watched Higgins hide behind a pile of snow and then leap out at and onto the unsuspecting D’embe before the 2 of them ran off towards their barn. Kids!

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Professor Higgins would much rather move to indoor status this time of year.

We can’t forget that Veterinary Me remains busy, too. Almost every week I have been doing house calls for vaccines or I’ve trimmed toe nails for clients. The Angel of Darkness was set to do a sad house call for a special Retriever I had vetted since he was a puppy and I had my clinic but he sadly passed away on his own last week.

The other versions of myself keep the sad parts at bay even though I know enough to let my feelings out. Writing helps, like it did with my blog about losing Cleo.

Maybe that’s a large part about why I took such a long break between blogs.

Maybe I wanted to give Mummy Me and Veterinary Me some space from each other.

Maybe I needed to throw myself into other areas of my life and give it some time.

Maybe the ferret video on New Year’s on the Sing-song saddle was also just what I needed.

We miss Cleopatra every day.

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Some of my handiwork the other day

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Up here in the meadow….

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The sunny days are stunning up here! Right, Professor Higgins?

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Roses from the hubby for Valentine’s! Hope your day was special!

 

Clee Clee

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Clee Clee

Well.

I knew it was coming. Hell, I told you all it was coming.

And yet, part of me still wasn’t ready for what went down on the Fyfe Farm yesterday morning.

But it wasn’t about me at that point.

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Cleopatra (last year)

I helped our sweet, fuzzy Springer Spaniel, Cleo across the Rainbow Bridge.

It was Time.

And there really was no question about it, even though I would have loved for Alistair to have enjoyed the world with her in it one more time. For that matter, I would have much preferred if he was here with me as I laid in the living room by the wood stove with her.

Sometimes the question of ‘when’ is more challenging and it certainly has been over the years with a couple of the pets but yesterday when Cleo cried out when I helped her to her feet for her morning piddles and then kept crying when I tried to help her walk using a towel under her belly I knew things had changed dramatically.

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In bed a few weeks ago

She had run up to the house when I brought her in the evening before and she pranced around grabbing up the cat food dishes like always. She went outside before bed and everything was as normal as it had been for our aging canine companion.

I mean, normal has changed a lot the last several months if not years.

Cleo was almost 17 years old, as far as we know. That was her first problem.

She was also completely deaf, was beginning to lose her eyesight, had arthritis and back legs that just didn’t do what they were supposed to, and had a heart murmur that almost rivalled Loki’s.

Well, no… you could hear Loki’s murmur from across the bed.

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the Queen of heart murmurs, Loki (2017) with Cleo

I think Cleo’s murmur is what kept her from wanting to go on our long walks, or even the first-length-of-the-driveway walks the past couple of weeks.

My attitude had remained, though, that if she was eating & drinking, peeing & pooping, and wagging her bushy tail at us then who was I to step in? We had her on anti-inflammatories for her old body and we helped her onto the couch or our bed and things seemed to be going along just fine.

Until Friday morning.

She did eventually go out and managed to piddle in the snow but once she came back in she didn’t bother with her kitchen routine or anything she usually did.

She laid/fell down and remained there for what turned out to be the rest of her life.

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“I think I’m done with this body now, Mummy. I’ve used it all up.”

I called her Daddy in North Dakota and we talked and I gave her her Rimadyl and she ate it right up. I laid down next to her and spooned her like we’ve done for so many years together with my left arm draped over her side.

And I got up and cleaned the cat litter and put the cat food dish down and emailed Lynnie and lost my shit completely and got dressed and looked out at the blizzard and got a pillow and laid back down with Cleo again.

She slept a little bit but she never, ever tried to get up again.

She never thumped her tail.

She was basically done with her ancient canine body and definitely gave me a “look” the one time she lifted her head and sort of sat in a semi-sternal position when I was sitting in front of her.

Okee dokee, then.

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Helping stack the wood the last time her Daddy was here.

Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe was as stubborn as she was beautiful and charming. Once her mind was made up, that was it.

I called Alistair one more time to let him know I was going ahead and he heard me blubber a little bit as I signed off. I had already brought my little bag of tricks into the living room and after some more cuddling Doctor Mummy gave Cleo her sedative.

I swear it took less than a minute for her to be completely out. She was ready for a much deserved long rest.

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Cleo’s “square face” look at one of the Dog Days of Summer. Classic.

Cleo had many great adventures in her however many years on the planet as a Fyfe. For starters, she lived most of those years in Montana, which is a dog’s dreamland.

We hiked and roamed the US Forest Service behind our house for miles and miles with her buddies. Casey would usually stick with Harry. Harry would sometimes take off after UB. Cleo generally did her own thing, digging holes, burying things, occasionally finding her own deer shed or two.

She Furry Scurried and entered Agility trials and the Dog Show at the annual Dog Days of Summer and she was a regular guest at the veterinary clinic because she loved her Lynnie and she was a very good dog when she was there.

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Lynnie and Cleo at the clinic

She also got to see Fireman Frank and her favorite delivery man, Matt sometimes when she came to the clinic. She even surprised all of us when she leapt up into the big brown UPS truck when Matt left the door open one time.

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“C’mon, Matt, just let me drive around town for a few blocks, okay?”

Cleo generally roamed the clinic freely during the day- a clinic dog as opposed to a clinic cat. When a client brought her squirming, squeaking, teensy box full of Schipperke puppies and put them on the examining table Cleo stood up on her back legs and had a look of wonderment on her face. Maternal instinct? Perhaps. She did lick our guinea pig, Cadbury until she was soaking wet when she got into their room one time. (The alternate theory is that she was trying to taste her.)

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Earlier this year, our snow spaniel

Cleo travelled well and eagerly jumped into our vehicles when it was time for a road trip. She seemed quite content for the 10 or 11 hours it took us to drive to Bismarck with UB and Loki on board, too.

If I was alone with all 3 of them it was probably hilarious watching me handle them on leashes when we stopped for piddle breaks. Fyfe dogs generally don’t know how to walk on leashes (although Cleo turned it on during the Furry Scurry walkathons. Casey… not so much.) (Don’t ask my dad about that.)

Before long Cleo would be wrapped around UB while UB was wrapped around my legs. It was an effort to keep them from banging into blind Loki during those rest stops but we always survived and off we would go back onto the road again.

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Back in Bismarck in 2017

All of these memories and so many more were in my mind as I spooned her again as she sedated.

I told her all of the things that needed to be said.

I told her that she was loved.

That we were the lucky ones when she showed off all her tricks at my first veterinary clinic right out of vet school in 2005 when she was brought in to be put down by Animal Control after they found her because she was aggressive. (Brilliant, yes. Aggressive? No.)

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“Wanna run around in the leaves with me, Mummy?”

I told her Uncle Gary and Aunty Dona were hoping to see her again and that she would happy to know I got those unsightly matts off of Bebe’s back leg. I told her how happy she made all of our house guests from Uncle Danny’s kids to Aunty Merielle and that she was a most excellent hiking companion.

And a flood of memories of us berry picking or riding with UB in Steve or digging for Easter Bunnies filled my hearts and a flood of tears that came from my very soul gushed out of my eyes and onto the carpet and pillow behind her head.

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Our dog kennel was very full 

And I pictured her gang greeting her again across the Rainbow Bridge with youthful bodies that matched their fabulous spirits.

UB would be first, most likely. He would race up to her and they would leap and jump in their spaniel way and he wouldn’t cough at all because his lungs are clear now and her legs are strong again.

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UB Fyfe (not my picture)

Then Loki would come crashing in but not because she was blind anymore. Cleo would most likely comment on Loki’s nice eyes and the 3 members of my little “black and white gang” who followed me around for 2 full years together would have a moment of their own.

Until Casey would literally crash in because he did everything at 150 mph and his laryngeal folds would be totally fine so there would be no raspy breathing or hacking. Harry, of course, would be spinning Louies in his extreme excitement at seeing the beautiful Princess once again. I wondered if he would pee on her head again but you know, he still is Harry.

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Oh, Harry

These thoughts make me happy despite feeling empty inside. Even though it was the absolute necessary and correct thing to do for miss Cleo. Even though her body was done.

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Ranger Riding in Steve for an Easter picnic several years ago

The routine is different.

I didn’t go and get her after the ferrets had been put back to bed last night. I didn’t make a point to get up and let her out this morning.

And right now, as the daylight is darkening, I’m not thinking, “Gee, I need to get Cleo out for a walk and get her and the barn kitties fed.”

Well, no, actually. I did think that as I was typing a few minutes ago. I keep thinking there is something I have to do.

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Back in Bismarck with Daddy in 2015

No.

I already did what had to be done.

And Cleopatra is at peace. And you know what? So are we.

I’m glad it was on my shift at  home and not Alistair’s by himself or one of our Jessica or Lynn house-sitters.

I’m glad we didn’t have company.

And as glad as I am to have the skill set that I have that allowed me to neuter D’embe last week, I’m glad Cleo could continue to lay where her body told her to.

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“What do you think we should do now, Jockey?”

Her lilting southern accent and slight lisp will still talk to us just as much as Spirit of Loki and Spirit of UB do and I’m already able to laugh at some of the goofy stuff she would do.

Like the bloody “mouse” she had in her mouth that turned out to NOT be a mouse or when she, Harry and Casey were getting to know each other (“There will be NO GANG BANGS on the FYFE FARM!”) or the time she kept trying to shove my head under water in the hot tub. Walks with Angie and Kali make me smile and seeing her snuggle up with Alistair when she first came onto our farm or watching her love up on all of the barn kitties are precious memories.

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Before we moved to Montana

Indeed, we were the lucky ones when she chose to stick around and join our motley crew of misfits.

You are in our hearts forever, miss Cleo. Clee Clee. Cleopatra-siz.

RIP, old friend. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

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the hot tub incident a few years ago

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Dog Days of Summer 2012, I think

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Getting ready for our first 4th of July parade!

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Cleo & her Daddy loved Ranger Riding in Steve (2008)

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Family Photo at Dog Days (Harry found these events a tad stressful so he stayed home) (Gary Kyrouac’s photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Cats (and Unwed Mothers)

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Professor Higgins

I have visited this theme before over the past few years of writing this blog.

In our 25 years together, Alistair and I have shared our homes with, cared for, and loved 22 cats.

22. Cats.

I would have fallen over in laughter if you would have told me, as a kid, that I would someday be a Crazy Cat Lady but there you  have it.

I can’t blame being a veterinarian for how we ended up with so many feline Fyfe companions. Oh, sure, our cross-eyed, lilac-point Siamese senior, Mae Mae was a euthanasia-turned-hyperthyroid surrender but the majority of our cat buddies have settled into Fyfe Life through a variety of other means.

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Pretty little Mae Mae

Koshka, our first cat, was placed on my lap by a very young Gareth and Whitney back in 1995 and thus began my new life as a cat lover. Malchek joined her by just showing up at our house in Watford City and suddenly we were a “multiple cat household.”

Friends would have litters and we’d take one or two (or the entire litter) because we always had farmland and with farmland you always have mice. Besides, when you’re feeding 3 or 4 cats, what’s one more?

Back to Canada with Koshka, Malchek, Oscar, Boomer & Garter in 1996, then back to North Dakota with Oscar, Boomer, Chorney & Cooper in 1997.

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Cooper, Boom-Boom and Oscar a few years ago

We always suspected that our farm in Bismarck was/is a great place for drop-off kitties. Scruffy and sassy young Mulder arrived there out of the blue, just like our little Tuxedo cat, Jinxie did.

Mamma Cat showed up complete with a belly full of kitties but she actually hung around for a year and produced a second belly full of kitties. We had kept the first ones but managed to re-home all but one of the second litter.

Sport was actually given to us by one of Alistair’s nurses as her new husband was allergic. HRH Sporto even got to move to Saskatoon with Cooper and me for my four years of vet school!

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Drs Cory, Pat, Nate and Tan with our co-editor, Sport working on an edition of the TOOL newsletter in Saskatoon in 2004

So it was that Oscar, Boomer, Chorney, Cooper, Mulder, Sport, Jinx, Bebe, Hissy Phitt Georgia and Mouse made the move to our house in Montana at the very beginning of 2007. Of those, Sport, at 19, and Bebe, at 16 remain. (2015 and 2016 were two tough years we renamed Attrition… it was hard on the canine, ferret and guinea pig populations on the Fyfe Farm, too. Grab a box of Kleenex and go through some old blogs from back then if you have a hankering for a good cry.)

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Mulder in Bismarck back in the day

While we were moving from one sad departure to another during Attrition, we both had the silly notion that we were going to be animal-less for a few years.

We would be free to travel at a moment’s notice!

Imagine the money we’d save!

No more heartache!

Until Alistair was in the hot tub in Bismarck one night talking with me on the phone when a fairly well-fed tabby cat waltzed up to the tub and proceeded to mew at him. He continued mewing post-hot tub and then sauntered on into the house without much coaxing soon afterwards.

We called veterinary clinics, shelters and neighbors but nobody knew whose friendly cat this was so a couple of weeks later, Professor Higgins joined us here in Montana.

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Professor Higgins and I in the barn this winter.

Higgins stays outside with Jockey for now. Seasoned Crazy Cat Ladies know that its unwise to introduce new cats who have all of their claws to the senior cats who are minus their foreclaws.

And Santa Alistair re-introduced ferrets into Fyfe Life but if you’ve followed along here or on Facebook you already know that.

What got me going on this today is the new stray that has been hanging around our farm in Bismarck this spring and summer.

We’ve caught magical glimpses of him/her that are becoming more and more prolonged as time goes on because we’ve been providing dry and moist cat food for him/her since the spring.

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Last week- lingering longer and longer.

Basically, we don’t see the cat. I say “we” because I was back there this summer and I did see her through the window of our front door but it was fleeting at best. Primarily its Alistair doing the ground work to try to tame this little lion.

So he tries to keep a bowl of Science Diet dry food topped up in the barn where the kitty lives and a smaller bowl up by the front steps here plus he adds a tin of soft food daily which is how he’s trying to coax the stranger up to him.

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Someone really wants this fresh tin of soft food but someone knows Alistair is immediately behind the door….

Weeks ago the cat would never have come up this close knowing full well that the biped who provides the food (and dings the plate every single time hoping beyond hope for the eventual Pavlovian response that all of the Fyfe cats develop thanks to said dinging) is right behind the door.

Sometimes Alistair sits out on the step with the fresh tin of food and kitty (he calls him, Whitey…. I was hoping for Billy, or Billie if its female… you know, The Stranger… anyone? anyone?) is down by the barn watching him. He/she used to just run off at the sight of anyone but he is lingering more and more in hopes the biped will buzz off and let him eat his yummy tinned food alone.

This one night, though, Whitey decided the food was more important than fear or mistrust so Alistair got the best picture we have of our new friend yet!

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Whitey Fyfe?

As much of a big step as this was, it was nothing compared to what Whitey did only a couple of mornings later. Alistair went outside after a rainy night and found a present from our little red & white friend.

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A present from Whitey

Hey. This means they’re in a relationship, Alistair and Whitey.

I mean it. Cats don’t give presents to just anybody.

Kind of like that line in Dances With Wolves….  “Good. Trade.”

So it is that we remain Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Cats and Unwed Mothers. Hopefully Whitey will try to trust Alistair more and more and hopefully he will keep working on limiting the rodent population that grew ever since all the other Fyfe felines moved to Montana.

It would be great if he is already altered, like Jinx and Professor Higgins were, but maybe he’s a scruffy tough guy like Mulder who hasn’t had much human care.

Regardless, he has a warm, dry barn to hang out in as long as he would like and we’ll keep making sure he has food.

And we’ll keep you all posted on the felines of the Fyfe farms along the way.

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Sporto a couple of nights ago

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Bebe, our resident Sunbeamer

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Jockey enjoying the winter sun… possibly a relative of Whitey’s?

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Babs and Sport on my lap a few nights ago.