The Curious Case of Bebe Fyfe

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Fabulous Babulous…. sunbeaming again.

Most folks who visit the Fyfe Farm haven’t met Bebe, our mysterious feline companion. If she hears that doorbell ring or a voice in the house she disappears like magic and we won’t see her for at least 2 hours.

If the house guests are spending the night I won’t see her until its time for soft food when the guest room door is closed before bed. I don’t know where she re-appears from. Sometimes the garage, sometimes the boat, sometimes from behind the washing machine.

She’s been that way ever since Whitney and her friend brought her and her littermate, Cartman home in Bismarck. I had only told the kids about the litter of kittens down the road so they would slow down with their driving. Not because we needed 2 more cats.

 

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Bebe as a kitten

When Babs and Cartman joined us that brought our indoor collection of cats to 8, which is totally ridiculous and I think it might be partly why she is as shy as she is.

When you’re the youngest sibling in a household of older, well established sibs you probably don’t need to communicate much. Or interact, other than for basic necessities like eating & using the litter box.

Over the years she slowly packed on some weight and she just did her own thing.

She, like every other female Fyfe adored our big boy, Oscar, who was basically the king of the cats.

 

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Cooper, Boomer and Bebe snuggled in with Oscar

It wasn’t unusual to find any combination of the girls with him in one of the cat beds scattered throughout the house.

This went on for years.

Until we lost Oscar.

That was the beginning of the change in feline dynamics around here because Mulder was suddenly in charge. Until we lost him, too.

 

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You can imagine the dynamics when there are this many of you! And you can’t even see Sport and Cooper!

And everything changed as Attrition continued until, as of February, we had a house with 2 indoor cats and Babs is one of them.

Which is when we got to meet the real Bebe Fyfe.

Our quiet, not-so-little fan of sunbeams and soft food has become a Domesticated Indoor Cat.

 

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Shy, young Bebe many years ago

She meows at me to remind me that our morning routine has changed.

On top of letting the dogs out, feeding the dogs, cleaning the litter box, feeding Loki, getting Rimadyl for Loki, changing the water in the water dish, getting water to Luigi, and giving treats to Luigi as I clean his cage, I now have to give 3 Greenies treats to a somewhat demanding grey & white Domesticated Indoor Cat.

I mean, she’s cute about it but when did this all start? I didn’t even know she could meow!

Bebe now comes down to our bedroom on sleep-in mornings if we’re lazily watching Netflix while sipping our Kona coffee and joins us.

On. The. Bed.

 

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“What?”

And she purrs and cuddles and interacts as if she’s been a normal cat all of her life.

She’s also lost some weight, probably due to being more active around the house and outside as well. She’s much smaller than she was in the photo above, which was taken just after we lost Boomer in February.

Boomer and Bebe always cuddled in the cat beds but there must have been something about her that kept our strange little Bebe quiet all those years.

Bebe’s sole pastime for years (aside from sunbeaming) was staring at our freezers in the garage. When I had my clinic that’s where I would sadly bring home patients we’d lost who were going in for cremation. Bebe would make the strangest chirping sounds and tip her head from side to side while staring at the freezer. We just figured she was communicating with the spirits and we’ve been fine with that.

 

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“You don’t want me to exercise, do you?”

I don’t see her staring at the freezer much any more.

Maybe she was communicating with the spirits who were likely a bit confused about their situation. I know that every paw of every pet that I have held while they transitioned with their families by their side was ready to lay down and have a good, long nap. They may not have put that thought together but I have only ever said goodbye when it was necessary.

Never out of convenience.

I used to think that was an endearing quality that Bebe had and really, she did it with such regularity it was almost a bit freakish.

But it doesn’t happen now & that’s not because our freezer is empty. Mouse, Boomer, Calypso & Phillipa sadly are beneath Alistair’s treasured huckleberries right now. I think Bebe just knows that they understand where they are and their spirits are still right at home.

 

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Bebe & Sport waiting for Mummy to open the kitchen door a few days ago.

And her own spirit is blossoming as she grows into the Domesticated Indoor Cat that she is becoming.

And we like her chirping and meowing and visiting us throughout the house. I like seeing her and Loki sleeping closer and closer together on the bed. I love the feel of her clawless paws as she kneads my lap when she explores the land of lap-sitting. I like feeding her bits of bacon on sleep-in mornings although I suspect we won’t ever get to the Kiss Piece stage of domestication.

Its fun watching her explore our house- the living room with the warm wood stove and the snoring Boston Terrier snoozing in front of it; our bedroom with all of its windows and the big TV she likes to stare at; the computer room where I do all of my creating and Loki sleeps on my feet like she is now; and the outdoor world where she has even brought a couple of mice up that big old plank.

And I love sharing Fabulous Babulous with all of you!

 

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Just another day in a cat bed with Cooper & Oscar and Boomer wondering where she was going to fit.

 

Jacques and Bebe 2010

“Pleased to meet you, Jacques. I’m Bebe. Don’t chase me, okay?”

 

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The ultimate Sunbeamer.

 

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Just now, refusing to look at the camera. Oh, Bebe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fyfe Characters

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

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

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

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Bonjour. Did you call for me?

Like Jacques. Our black-eyed white ferret.

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

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

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

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

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

After that we affectionately called him Jacques Brian Boitano Fyfe.

And where does one begin with Casey’s stories?

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

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

Good old Casey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casey’s big adventures.

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

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Oh, Muldy!

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

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

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

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

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HRH Sport Fyfe

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

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

He’d caught a mouse!

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

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Harry in his element.

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

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

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

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Harry and Alistair had a very special bond.

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

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

2 hours.

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

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Quite the creature.

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

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

No Loki.

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Here I am, Step Gammy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, future tales for many have, indeed ended.

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

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

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

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

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Alistair and his favorite redhead, Marmalade.

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

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

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Alistair with Mouse & Jockey last winter

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

Bye, Bye Boomer

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One week ago little Boomer took her last nap next to me before I helped her across the good old Rainbow Bridge.

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Mummy & Boom, just a couple of years ago

She was the subject of one of my very first blogs two years ago when I was having difficulty managing her hyperthyroidism and kidney failure but we found the right mix of meds and she had a good run for most of that time.

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Little Boomer a couple of months ago.

She had lost some weight and was becoming dehydrated (typical with older feline kidneys) so we started adding ice cubes to the water dish to encourage drinking. Most veterinarians will suggest the ice cube thing for older kitties. Cats are curious to the core and if they play with the cubes in the water to watch them  move or to hear them tinkle they usually end up drinking more, if not at least licking off their wet paws. Looking back, we had just lost her brother, Oscar and perhaps depression played a role in her health as well.

The ice cubes became an addiction for Boomer. When we would first get to the kitchen in the mornings we were meowed at for the ice cubes.

When it was close to supper time-ish, more meows.

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Ice cube junkie

The meows got louder and more demanding the more time passed but it was just one of those quirks we put up with because she was Boomer. And she was old and possibly starting to lose her marbles the past couple of months but still, the ice cubes weren’t a big deal.

We made little accommodations for our aging buddy because she had been a great cat for many years and it was easy to do.

Lots of expensive canned food to crush the pills in. More beds to lay around the house in. Watching wherever Loki went in hopes we could prevent her bonking into Boomer and possibly getting her eyes scratched (again). Combing her hair matts out when she reduced her personal grooming (and being watchful of those claws!)

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More ice cubes for Boomer

We did these things and more and Boomer just kept ticking along, prancing into the hallway bathroom where the guinea pigs used to be and leaping up onto our bed for bacon in the mornings.

Until a few things changed…

She started to develop a weakness in her legs. If we would reach down for a good head rub it would almost knock her over. More vocalization, and louder. Incessant sometimes with an almost frustrated-sound to it. Even less grooming and even more sleeping and, a few weeks ago, dragging her back feet at night.

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Our old ladies, Boomer & Cooper last spring

We shared glances at each other when she would just about topple over and we fed her treats on demand and her pills twice a day and she lost a bit more weight and became a lot more scruffy-looking and less tolerant and I had a long, teary chat with Boom-Boom and sometimes I had to check if she was still breathing and we had inner discussions and eventually out-loud conversations.

Which was when we decided it was Time.

Making the decision to end a long, good life is heavy. We agreed to do it last Saturday but we both avoided the topic, instead giving her little bits of chicken I cooked that night and suddenly it was Sunday. And we are health care providers who truly knew it was Time even though she didn’t have a terminal disease. Its not as if she was dying.

But she wasn’t really living, either.

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Boomer never missed a chance to get into an open cupboard!

I wonder how heavy that decision is for bad people.

For people who make plans to end a person’s life. To separate the body from the soul for all of eternity, leaving a lifeless vessel behind. To stop the incredible machine that is the cardiovascular system from working its tremendous pump that keeps a body’s life force flowing.

I wonder if they struggle with the choice. Do they rationalize their way out of it for a week or two? Or do they plan to do it Saturday and then before long its already Sunday?

I appreciate that bad people who do horrible things like that have their wiring mixed up or they are under some sort of influence that they can’t control.

Or they are immune to the weight because of the volume of times they have made that choice.

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Cooper, Boomer & Oscar a couple of years ago.

In our case, for all the right reasons, we sedated our 20 year old room-mate together and she quickly snuggled in next to me, resting her head on my leg as her last conscious act. Through tears and remarkably leathery skin I found the forearm vein that Alistair helped me hold off and just like that I stopped her heart and she looked at peace.

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Oh, Boomer!

Saying goodbye to Boomer wasn’t necessarily easier than poor Mouse, who was young and healthy until he was suddenly gravely ill. It wasn’t easier than having to rush to Harry’s side by myself when his splenic tumor terminally ruptured. None of these has been easy. It will never be easy.

 

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Boom and Coopie last spring. Not even bothering to pretend like they shouldn’t have been on the kitchen table. At least Boom’s reading material is acceptable.

But I can accept Boomer’s death more readily because she’s been on The List for 2 years and also because Alistair was with me and we made this decision together. For Boom.

And just like that we have 2 indoor cats and 2 barn kitties.

And there will be more changes in the weeks ahead because Calypso was diagnosed with his own cancer in November and each day truly is a gift.

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Bonjour!

He continues to romp and play and eat like a fiend and steal Loki’s kibbles and Alistair’s boot insoles so his story is for another time.

I miss seeing Boomer in any of the beds scattered throughout the house and in a funny way I miss her caterwauling at me to add ice cubes to the water dish. I sometimes reach for her pills, forgetting there is nobody to give them to and I smile.

Her spirit is likely curled up somewhere with Cooper and Oscar and she isn’t dragging her little white feet and her eyes are bright and her haircoat is glorious once again. She’s grooming, prancing and enjoying a good sunbeam and although my heart is sad its kind of happy, too.

RIP, Boom-Boom. A good life deserved a good death.

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Oscar & Boom….together from the womb for 18 years now reunited.

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Just another day for Cooper, Boomer and Oscy

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Love the look on Boomer’s face…”Seriously, you guys?”

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A young Gareth and young Boomer… these 2 were pretty tight.

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The 1-year old kitties with Alistair when we lived in Creston, BC. They had just transitioned to “inside” cats.

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xoxo, Boomer & Oscar Fyfe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe

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Mulder and Mummy

I think its pretty safe to say that I am not suffering from Compassion Fatigue.

No, my emotions are well and truly on display and I often have no control over them.

Like now… when I am choosing to share the fact that we had to help another special member of the Fyfe family over the Rainbow Bridge a few days ago when a rapid type of cancer took over Mulder’s unsuspecting body.

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Mulder, snoozing on the kitchen table last summer

The grief is raw and fresh and the tears are burning my eyes and I am totally okay with that.

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Alistair and Muldy back in ND a few years ago

Compassion fatigue is a term used for medical professionals who deal with emotional work routinely only their emotions don’t show.

It is often a veterinary team member who deals with terminal diagnoses, dropped-off or unwanted pets and euthanasias on a regular basis.

Many of these people bottle their emotions up inside with a “suck it up” attitude and they don’t have an outlet to let them back out.

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The “Muldy Pillow”

No family, friend or colleague to share them with.

No journal or blog to give life to words and feelings.

No sports or hobbies to allow the emotions to ride along on physical or creative release.

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Mulder loved nothing better than a classy box to hang out in

A resident during my 4th year Small Animal Medicine rotation was like that.

I had gone in to see a client and realized I was being asked to perform my first-ever euthanasia.

On a lovely, older, long-haired ginger cat.

The cat’s name was Tanya.

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Mulder Fyfe!

I remember going back to the interns and residents with tears in my eyes, thinking of my own long-haired ginger buddy in Bismarck, telling them the owner’s wishes for that morning.

This particular resident looked me in the eye and said, poker-faced, that I had to “get over it.”

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Muldy and I in Bismarck

I still remember how I felt that day before, during and after the appointment and how I didn’t bother holding the tears back as I injected the terminal solution into Tanya’s intra-venous catheter.

The resident didn’t grade me very well after that rotation and I didn’t care.

I have always wanted to be a good vet.

Maybe not the smartest, most intuitive, amazing, intellectual vet. Just a good one whose clients would know I cared about them and their pets.

I never minded sharing many tears over many goodbyes in my clinic.

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Not long after Mulder moved in with us 16 years ago

My feelings were right at the surface when I laid awake our final night in bed with Alistair, Mulder, UB and Loki.

I didn’t sleep a wink listening to Mulder’s sometimes-raspy breathing, knowing his cutaneous lymphoma had likely spread elsewhere.

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Mulder’s glorious winter hair coat in Bismarck a few years ago

 

I got up with him through the night when he got off the bed and helped him to the litter box where his kidneys spoke volumes.

Literally and figuratively.

I cried all night and in the morning when I told him all the things that needed to be said.

And I cried when I knew Alistair was off having his own time with our special friend.

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More “Muldy Pillow”

Mulder was unique for so many reasons and anyone who visited the Fyfe Farm remembered him.

Maybe for his raspy, incessant “MRAWWWWL” that he shouted frequently.

Maybe for the way he sat at (or laid on) the kitchen table even when we were having supper.

Or maybe for his ‘kiss pieces’ of bacon he would happily take from Alistair’s mouth regardless of who was watching.

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My breakfast-in-bed companions, Alistair, Mulder and Boomer (likely just after a kiss piece of bacon)…

He was a character from the moment he moved inside, a torn-up, scarred, sassy ragamuffin who I only fed because I didn’t want this beat-up stray dying with an empty stomach in our barn.

He followed his big brother, Oscar around, he smacked at my stepkids for no apparent reason, he head-butted us with an intensity that knocked us off balance, he tried opening door knobs with his front paws, he hunted voraciously, he tolerated our Siamese, Sport, who followed him everywhere, he groomed our arms as he purred if you rubbed his head and routinely drew blood with his intense, brittle tongue and he knew how to give as much love back as we could give him.

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Muldy-in-a-box

He hid in boxes and was first in line for soft food and he actually had a sense of humor.

When he first moved in with us he would lay at the top of our split level stairs and whack at our dressing gowns as we walked past him, almost sending us down the stairs.

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Purrrrrrrrrrrrr…

We would look down and he would be looking away, forepaws tucked neatly underneath his chest and then slowly look up at us as if to say, “What? You being clumsy again?”

Alistair didn’t believe a cat was capable of such coy plotting until the one time Mulder got his claw stuck in my robe and he was busted.

He never did it ever again and I’m smiling from the memory.

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Boomer, Loki and Mulder helping me study years ago in ND

As he got older we would often find him snuggled in bed next to Loki, our blind Boston Terrier grand-dog who lives with us.

They both claim innocence but we know the affection was real.

We know it because even Loki has been grieving the loss of Mulder the past few days.

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Even the Mulder & Loki golf club covers cuddle in bed!

And Mulder was one of my main muses as I wrote my books, keeping me company on the green couch behind me.

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Helping me write!

 

And the house is quiet and the order of who gets soft food first has changed and I don’t find clumps of orange hair around and nobody is swatting at my hand when I’m on the toilet and UB isn’t sure whose hairy ears to lick and we haven’t had bacon yet because we don’t want to face the no-kiss-piece situation and the freezer is becoming alarmingly full and it wasn’t his time and it isn’t fair and sometimes I just stop and remember and it hurts.

And I miss him.

And I’ve got this emptiness.

And I’m crying again. Because I don’t have compassion fatigue.

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I miss seeing these two cuddled up together.

And so, a few mornings ago, Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe laid in his dad’s lap and tears fell from my eyes as I sedated our magnificent little buddy.

His weight was down to just over 8 pounds, which was perhaps half of what Muldy in his prime had weighed.

His dignified, tough, amazing spirit deserved better and together, we gave it to him.

Like Harry. And Oscar. And Chorney before that.

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Mulder and his “sister”, Whitney a few years ago

And nothing is bottled up because that just isn’t healthy and I want to feel the pain because I know it means that I felt the love and joy that my relationships with these spirits gave me.

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Hanging around, Muldy style

Rest in peace, Mulder.

You were so loved. And you are so missed.

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Muldy and I a few months ago… xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And So It Goes

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Marmalade Fyfe

Well…

It finally happened.

Not that “it” was ever supposed to happen, but “it” happened once a couple of years ago and I thought we had everything worked-out so that “it” wouldn’t happen again.

But “it” did.

Thankfully, I wasn’t home.

I was in the close-knit, adorable community of Ovando during their annual Christmas-Fest which is held over the Thanksgiving weekend.

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In the Hoosgow of Ovando selling and signing books, enjoying Christmasfest!

 

I was selling and signing Lost and Found in Missing Lake, my debut novel.

In the jail.

Ovando is one of those towns or communities that has a lot of history but not a lot of tourism.

There are less than 200 full time residents (the head count includes dogs) but there is a wealth of uniqueness in this quirky town.

Like the Hoosgow, or jail, where I sold and signed books.

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You can actually bunk in the Hoosgow and local kids often do. Here it is decorated for the holidays!

My good friend, Jessi sold Walking Tacos (brilliant idea, I might add… chili and all the fixin’s tossed into a hand-held bag of nacho or taco chips) in the back and we listened to Christmas carols and laughed about the old days when she worked at my veterinary clinic and people came and people visited and some stood in line to talk with me and her hubby was home before being deployed and my hubby joined me for lunch and it was cold but we had heaters and I sold a few books!

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Cowboy Claus, the big arrival on his horse

And Cowboy Claus arrived on his slightly cantankerous pony who pawed the ground and rubbed half of his holiday gear off when Claus was giving out goodies to the kids in the museum next door.

And there were gun fights all day between a group of locals who got more and more animated the more Bailey’s or whiskey they drank.

In all, it was a fun way to spend a few hours on a Friday.

But that’s when “it” was going down at home.

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wee Cadbury with veggies this past spring

I will state for the record that we had never anticipated being guinea pig caretakers.

Ever.

Cats, horses, dogs, ferrets, maybe sheep and chickens but guinea pigs?

I didn’t know much about them other than a few things I remembered from vet school and Alistair had raised hamsters as a kid but they are a very different little animal.

 

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Alistair and Tres, our 1st guinea pig, in 2010

The local EMS crew had brought a plump, tri-colored guinea pig and a black-eyed, white ferret to my clinic one afternoon in 2010 saying they needed a home.

They had responded to a call for a non-responsive woman and when they lifted her they found the piggy.

Surprise!

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Tres Fyfe, her first day at home as we sorted through housing and bedding

So Tres (the piggy) and Jacques (named after Jacques Cousteau for all of his adventures we were sure our little fella must have had) became Fyfes.

Just like that.

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Jacques Boitano Cousteau Fyfe, 2010

We’d had ferrets before and still had our original cage but we needed to rig something up for Tres.

A veterinary classmate got me up to speed on nutrition and I read that the little creatures should have companions.

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Young Cadbury with her big buddy, Tres

Enter Cadbury.

The 2 piggies bonded and things were great!

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Cadbury and Tres adored each other

We got a sable ferret named Phillipe for Jacques as well.

At the time neither of us realized that Phillipe was a girl… ferret hoo hoo’s are pretty teensy and to be honest, I never looked. The pet store said she was a he and Phillipe lived a quasi-transgender life for her first year.

Nothing wrong with that but the ferret tales are for another time.

A couple of months later, Tres passed away so the obvious thing to do was get another companion guinea pig.

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Alistair and Marmalade

Enter Marmalade.

These 2 were supposed to be sisters but they never once cuddled in all their years together.

Nothing like Tres and Cadbury.

But they got their twice-daily fresh veggies: a bowl full of green leafy lettuce, celery, baby carrots, sliced cucumber, parsley and sometimes a grape.

They got their orange slices because guinea pigs can’t synthesize vitamin C.

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Fresh veggies and Cadbury from this past summer

And despite the eyeball-incident (see One Eye Watching You, my blog from early May 2014), they got a lot of love and attention.

Until “it” happened that cold Friday when I was in Ovando and Cowboy Claus’ pony was being naughty and Jessi’s dad was playing shoot-em-up in the gunfights and I saw former clients who bought my book and the stars aligned just right but for all the wrong reasons.

Who knew that our little mixed breed dog, UB, could open the ferret cage?

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“I just wanted to eat the ferret kibbies, Mummy. Honest!”

What followed once 2 of the ferrets got out will never be known.

Well, UB, Phillipa and Luigi know what went down but we never will.

The thing is, there were no wounds.

No punctures.

No blood.

Anywhere.

And no signs of life in our tubby, veggie-loving, whistling, scuttling, funny little guinea pigs.

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Luigi up top and Philipa on top of Calypso in the pirate ship

There were also no signs of battle on the ferrets so who knows if the piggies panicked and had massive heart attacks as the terrorists climbed into their pen?

The guinea pigs were 5 years old.

That’s getting up there.

The irony in all of this is that Calypso was still asleep in the pirate ship.

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Bonjour. Did I miss something?

The sole reason Cadbury had one eye had missed out on all of the action and never got to finish what he started.

And I’m fine with that.

To quote Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, “so there it is and there it was.”

“It” happened and there isn’t a damned thing we can do about it.

I’m not mad at UB.

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How could anyone be mad at this tender-hearted little soul?

I’m not mad at the ferrets.

I’m just sad and I miss my little friends who differentiated my walk from anyone else and would chirp, whistle and tweet whenever I came into the house.

Or the kitchen.

Or their bathroom.

So “The Girls” are in the freezer with an assortment of friends we haven’t made the emotional time to say goodbye to.

Mae Mae. Cousteau.

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Oscar. December, 2013

And Oscar.

Who is one of the reasons I wanted to write a blog in the first place when I realized, exactly one year ago, that I couldn’t save them all.

Not even my special furry friends who give as much love as they receive and who have been my companions for many years.

Or maybe just 5 years in the case of “The Girls”.

Not all of our goodbyes are well-planned in advance.

Some are just pure accidents.

Terribly tragic sequences of events that lead to an opened cage and a silent bathroom.

I won’t get over “it”. I don’t plan to.

I just have to move forward with the spirits who remain and the snow that keeps falling because that’s all I can do.

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Winter has hit Montana!

On a lighter note, we are finding plenty of uses for the leftover parsley.

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a work of art once you add parsley, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unlikely Crazy Cat Lady

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I’m not sure which is the most unlikely thing about me- the fact I’m a veterinarian or a ‘crazy cat lady’.

We didn’t have any pets growing up and, to be honest, I didn’t like animals.

Dogs smelled ‘doggy’. Cats seemed stuck up. Anything else wiggled or moved funny.

We couldn’t really have pets because we were travelling almost every weekend from fall through spring for figure skating and my brother’s hockey. I understood that and never questioned it. Looking back, it would have been difficult to have given a pet the love and companionship it would have needed.

I never took the time, though, when visiting friends and family, to get to know animals.

Especially cats.

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I didn’t know how they could purr and cuddle and head-butt their way into your heart. I didn’t know anything about how they would know if I was sad or not feeling well, and how they would instinctively sit on my lap or next to me during those times.

I didn’t know how intelligent they were.

Or how great it felt to come home to a bunch of cats seemingly happy to see me.

Or the comfort of sitting on some hay bales with a purring kitty on either side as we all soak up some sunshine.

Or what unconditional love felt like.

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I was, perhaps, a bit of an overly independent kid but I had to be like that,moving away at 12 years of age for months at a time, training for hours on end in an individual sport like figure skating.

So I don’t blame the old Tanya. I get where she was coming from.

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If anything, I feel kind of sorry for her.

But the old Tanya became the new Tanya.

Thankfully, a person can change.

It happened 20 years ago when we lived in sleepy Watford City with our golden retriever, Mitch. We weren’t looking for a kitten.

My step kids brought a white ball of wide-eyed, long-haired, purring kitten-fluff home from the neighbors and placed it on my chest.

I loved her immediately and named her Koshka.

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Koshka taught me so much about cats, even though she was mostly like a little person who lived with us.

Koshka’s little brother, Malchek found us a year later. Although he brought ear mites to everyone (Mitch, Koshka, the ferret…. you can imagine how fun it is to medicate those tiny ferret ears!) we adored him, too.

The neighbors had another batch of kittens (you would think people would figure it out) and Alistair and I took them to our farm. The other alternative, according to the neighbor, was the lake. In a bag.

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I learned all about barn kitties and hunting and dead mice and getting along and watching out for tractor tires. 2 of that batch made the move inside after a tragedy involving antifreeze and the loss of Kosh and Mal.

I learned, for the first time, how my heart could break over such a tremendous loss.

I learned that veterinarians sometimes overlooked what was right for the pets when faced with a sobbing doctor’s wife.

I learned that there are some things I will never forgive myself for.

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Thankfully, I learned how Oscar and Boomer could help me through that grief.

Enter Chorney and Cooper soon afterwards. Beautiful black cats with unique personalities and needs. I learned how a cat like Oscar would take care of a crying kitty (Chorney) through the night.

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I learned that cats can have their own lovers over the years.

Oscar and Cooper disproved the notion that only humans and dolphins will mate for love. They were both ‘fixed’ at young ages but Oscar would still ‘scruff’ Cooper and there you have it.

Cooper mourned Oscar’s loss in January, painstakingly howling for hours during the day.

And all night long.

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She is only now getting through it.

I have chosen to not get ‘over’ my animal companions as we have lost them over the years. Like Cooper, I am getting through the loss of Oscar.

Special Agent Fox Mulder Fyfe wandered onto our farm in Bismarck. I only fed him because I didn’t want the scruffy, beat up, limping, scrappy, orange ragamuffin to die with an empty stomach.

But he kept eating.

And eating.

“What do we do?” I asked Alistair, after he ate 2 cans of soft food in a row.

“Give him another,” he replied.

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His Royal Highness Sport joined our family when one of Alistair’s nurses acquired an allergic-to-cats-husband.

I think she contemplated choosing Sport but in the end we adopted our very first Siamese cat.

Which is a whole different type of cat.

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If you have been around Siamese cats before, you are nodding your head.

Or shaking it.

Or you’re crawled into a fetal position saying ‘no, no, never again’…

Jinxie, a petite, de-clawed, spayed tuxedo lovebug showed up/was dropped off at our farm. She had a habit of getting into open vehicles and driving off with them.

Maybe that’s how she ended up on our farm.

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The Schwan’s guy, Kyle, almost tipped the big yellow truck when she crawled out from under his seat, rubbing her black & white tail against his bare legs one time. She flew out the window as he swerved (likely screaming) and then spent 2 hours getting her from the ditch and bringing her home.

Cartman and Bebe were next, which is when things started to get out of hand.

I had only told my stepkids about the kitties ‘down the road’ because I wanted them to slow down when they were driving there.

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Not bring me more kittens.

Then Mama Cat showed up/was dropped off. It took me 2 litters to catch and spay her but our barn community is full of life thanks to her ‘kids’, Georgia and Mouse.

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They were joined for 3 years by a client’s cross-eyed female Siamese I was supposed to euthanize because they were moving.

Enter Mae Mae.

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Our most recent addition is Jockey- probably a Siamese cross- who moved in with Alistair in North Dakota after he left our neighbors there. Alistair felt bad leaving him when he would come to Montana so he brought Jockey here.

He is, by far, the largest cat on the place.

Clumsy and reckless but endearing and funny, Jockey fits right in.

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Through all of the additions we have had our share of losses: Cartman, Chorney, Mae Mae, Mamma Cat, Jinxie, Hissy Phitt, (Mouse & Georgia’s brother) and, of course, Oscar.

I know a lot of people think we’re insane sharing our world with so many felines but I feel richer for it.

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They helped me get through vet school on cold, lonely, exhausting evenings after learning, palpating, operating, studying and studying some more.

They have been there without judgment or scorn on days when I get the tractor stuck, or I can’t get a vehicle started, or I have no hot water for close to a month, or the snow falls, endlessly, for weeks.

They were always there after sad days at the vet clinic.

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And they’ll continue to be here for me and I will be here for them. Its our little trade-off.

That, and donating their reproductive organs at the door.

And getting along.

And not being Phantom Piddlers.

This is how I grew and eventually changed and said goodbye to the old Tanya. I became an unlikely but very happy Crazy Cat Lady.

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