And Then There’s That




Loki Fyfe, a few weeks ago


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

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

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


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

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

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


Earlier this year… snoring….

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

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



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



Thankfully we had Gampy along on this trip!

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

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


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

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


Earlier in January

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

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


A couple of years ago… Loki and UB.

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

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



Getting in some good sniffing in November



more sniffing

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



Loki and her navigational tools last fall

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

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


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

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



Another fail.

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

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


Couch Time earlier this year

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

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


Helping me edit book 2 in 2015

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


Just before it all went down…

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

And she snored.

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

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



In December, waiting for me on the bath mat

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

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

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



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

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



Another favorite snooze spot for Loki.



Clothes on the ground made for excellent bedding.



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



Mornings with Loki in January. xo



























A Neighborly View


Making hay

I had the opportunity to revisit what being neighborly is all about again on my most recent trip back to Bismarck.

I’ve had to go back twice within the space of 4 weeks to have 2 crowns created and then placed. One trip was by car. The other was by plane.


the Bismarck herd

My seat-mate on the United flight out of Missoula was an interesting guy. Initially, I didn’t talk with him, preferring to stick my nose in my Sudoku book and read all about Jane Goodall in the in-flight magazine. Also, his travelling companion had THAT child on her lap.

You know the one.

The 2 year old who screams in the gate area. Then screams as they board the plane. Don’t forget the wailing during takeoff and then the incessant screaming during most of the flight.

It seemed best to let ‘Keith’ help his sister with all of that.

But then the screaming turned into mild burbling and the plane began its initial descent.

I started laughing, which Keith noticed.

“I’m laughing because the last time I was on a United flight headed for Denver we hit some massive turbulence and the drunk lady next to me woke up screaming and grabbing at me,” I said.

And so began a very neighborly discussion.

Keith, it turned out, is an intelligent guy. He studies corn and ways to make stronger crops grow in different climates and soils. He lives in Iowa (go figure) and travels all over to study and share what he learns about corn.

Then we talked corn sex.

Which was interesting. Weird, but interesting.

I blushed when I saw our corn rows in Bismarck… knowing about male parts and all…


ND garden corn… the male parts aren’t showing

Part of my timing on that trip back was also to help Alistair with the hay.

We generally purchase large round bales to feed the horses but we also have a small 5 acre field that we put up ourselves.


some of the gang

Haymaking is both science and art.

I knew nothing of this having grown up in an ice rink, living in cities most of my life but I have come to respect the knowledge, patience, timing and work that goes into making good hay.


good hay on the ground, nice and dry

You watch the weather report for days, knowing you need 4 or 5 days in a row without rain.

You check moisture in the mornings and humidity in the afternoon because you only want dry hay heating up in your hay barn and you don’t want mold.

You cut the hay, letting it lay in parallel long rows of pale green with the occasional fleck of purple alfalfa peeking through.

You check for stems, you twist to see when it breaks and you curse at the rodent mounds that bung up your swather.

When the stars align, its time to bale.


Alistair. Baling.

Our new neighbor was eager to get on the baling bandwagon this year. They have just moved in this summer and he fully admits he knows nothing about farming but he’s super keen to learn. We told him how the neighbors on his other side all share the equipment and the labor with us- its what we have all done since 1998 and many hands make for light work.

And laughter.

And shared sweat and a common purpose to get the hay from our lands into our barns to feed our horses.


the ND herd going for a run

New Neighbor’s wife was away but he said he’d be there at 1:30 to help. He said he’s like a machine once he gets going on a task and that he wouldn’t eat or drink until the job was done.

So, 1:30 the next day we got our jeans and sunblock on and Alistair started turning the parallel rows into neat rectangular bundles of dried nutrition. It hadn’t seen a speck of rain. It is good hay.


One of many loads

I started loading up the trailer by myself because, as it turned out, New Neighbor locked himself out of his house and had to drive all the way back into town for his spare keys.

By the time he got back, the other neighbor had spotted us and joined the team.

Howard is a lifetime farmer who has helped us with our hay just about every year. Alistair helps him, too and we share equipment and labor and that’s just how it is done.

There is nothing like seeing a truck and trailer pull into your field when you are baling. Even if only one man jumps out, it creates within you the happiest of feelings, knowing one more set of hands is there.


being neighborly

We got into the peaceful routine of lifting, stacking, driving and unloading only to stack again in our hot, dusty barns.

New Neighbor was sort of getting the hang of it.

Sort of.

He whined a bit that Alistair had the easy job of driving the tractor, pulling the baler.

I didn’t tell him that Alistair would have a kink in his neck for 2 days from watching behind him and that he would cough up dust for about a week afterwards.

I didn’t tell him how much our Ford tractor cost, or how fiddly the baler is when he whined some more seeing Howard take a turn.


Random bale by the road

New Neighbor was no machine.

“I don’t know how old you guys are, but I’m really feeling being 30 years old,”  he announced during one of his many sit-down-on-the-bales-and-guzzle-water-that-I-brought-catching-his-breath-breaks.

“I’m 55 and I’m feeling it,” Alistair said.

“I’m 41 and I’m doing okay,” I offered.


waiting to be picked up

I mean, you are and you aren’t okay.

There are moments when you wonder what a heart attack really feels like.

Moments when you think you kind of might want to die, actually.

But you keep going and you hop out of the truck and you lift another bale while Howard takes a moment to organize and stack what is already on the trailer.

Howard didn’t bother telling New Neighbor that he was in his mid-60s.

Granted, the guys usually let me drive the air conditioned trucks because I am a bit of a little girl but I still got out and hauled bales and stacked and sometimes I just had the windows open because I felt bad the guys didn’t have AC.


Pretty girl…

Farming is tough work and its usually done on hot, dry days. But you just suck it up and do it.

Because its your land and they’re your horses and its free feed that you don’t have to buy and it hasn’t been rained on and, damnit, it needs to get done.


Pretty mouths to feed.

We did New Neighbor’s field first and then we started on our field.

Howard’s wife joined the team when she got home from work. She brought lemonade because she’s done this with all of us since 1998 and she is a good woman.

We reminisced about when their daughters and my stepkids and the original neighbors in New Neighbor’s house would all show up with water jugs and bale hooks and goggles and same-old-farm-shirts and gloves and work ethic and we would work each other’s fields for hours and days.

We talked about how the kids are all doing now and how Kathy is looking forward to retirement.


Happy to smile, even when we’re working our butts off

We stacked. Sweat beaded on our bodies. We unloaded.

We didn’t finish our own field that evening but got going on it in the cool of the morning the next day.


Early morning before it gets too hot.

New Neighbor had to go to Fargo so it was just Alistair and I.

Howard desperately wanted to help but it was his one day of the week he watches his 18-month old grand-daughter.

He still came over so we could meet the adorable little girl who looks so much like her mother it made my heart break.

Howard’s daughter died a few weeks after she gave birth to the little one, which was the one thing nobody talked about.

It didn’t seem neighborly.


watching our neighbor

Tears mixed with sweat as I watched this tough farmer and his grand-daughter walk back to his farm in the warm morning sunshine.

There were a lot of unspoken memories shared as we heaved hay bales onto trailers and stacked them high into the barns.

Because that’s how it is on the farm and every year its the same thing.

Even if everything is different.

And we are lucky to have good neighbors, even the keener who struggled to keep up.


the view down Friendship Trail

Our driveway is honestly called Friendship Trail.

We didn’t name it that.

We were the first New Neighbors on the block way back when.

And so, after two long hot days our barn is once again full of sweet smelling hay and we’ve reconnected with our neighbors and Alistair’s arms were dragging on the ground and we feel good but tired after such hard work.


My view of my husband for 2 days

Meaningful work.

To quote the Rankin Family, ‘the hay… the hay is finally in.’


a good exhaustion