New Beginnings

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A long December and there’s reason to believe

maybe this year will be better than the last.

 

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Dec.31st, 2016.

It was a long December.

It was also filled with great memories, smiles and laughter but there were times when reality overwhelmed me.

Like when Alistair was gone and the snow kept coming down and it was so cold Loki chose to piddle inside and Steve, the Ranger wouldn’t start so I was hauling wood to the house through the snow in a wheelbarrow and I was down an extension cord so the 3/4 ton wouldn’t start and I couldn’t get a round bale in for Zeus so I was carting square bales in that damned wheelbarrow to the 6 foot fence and heaving flakes of hay over at him sending shards of spiky hay all over me and into my hay boots which have holes in them so they’re cold and then UB took off to the forest for a few hours and I knew we would be losing sweet Luigi.

Hell, I didn’t even know about Georgia at that point.

 

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Georgia Woo Fang Fyfe

She had been helping me split wood and would leap into my arms daily when I would lock her and Jockey into the barn every night, sweetening the deal with a can of soft food. She ate ravenously every time but we had been noticing her head tilt was more pronounced and she was more off-balance this fall.

Georgia had a chronic sinus infection that used to clear up with antibiotics over the years but this past year it became resistant to everything we tried.

 

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A few years ago, cuddling on the front porch.

Alistair got home on a Friday, and he commented that she had raspy breathing and wasn’t in her usual place in the barn. I had split wood the day before and she had been cuddly, purring and seemingly normal.

She passed away in her sleep on Saturday, curled up on some blankets in a box.

 

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Georgia loved her brother, Mouse so much and truly mourned his loss a year ago. They are together again.

And poor Alistair had to tell me, his wife who normally kept her shit together but had admitted to being overwhelmed on the phone to him a few days prior.

Doctor Tanya suspects pneumonia but I really don’t know. How brilliant is that, that I didn’t even know she was ill? She looked peaceful and comfy, thankfully, when I went to the barn that morning, where Mummy Tanya had a good cry.

I’m glad I told her and Jockey that I loved them every night when I would close the barn door behind me.

 

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Georgia, Mae Mae and Mouse a few years ago.

And I’m glad Mamma Cat had her furry babies in our barn in Bismarck the summer of 2005 and that we got to love this special litter and their funny ways for so long.

 

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The first sign of spring… Georgia in her tree.

I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving

Oh how the days go by so fast.

So my heart was a little frayed 2 days later when Alistair and I knew it was time for little Luigi to cross the Rainbow Bridge, too. I had carried the weight of knowing he had GI lymphoma for a couple of months and had only shared it with a few friends. Telling people about it only made it more real, which I was trying to avoid. I also don’t like messing with people’s Thanksgiving and Christmas happiness- the ferrets have quite the fan following!

 

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Luigi earlier this year making a move on my merlot!

I wasn’t even sure Luigi was going to be around to see his Papa again but he kept eating and wanting to come out and play and sneak into the sub-woofer and nibble cat kibble in the garage. And Alistair got to play a little more with the silver boy he raised in Bismarck for 2 weeks before bringing him to Montana as a Christmas present 3 years ago.

 

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The best Christmas present, Luigi Fyfe, the Italian Stallion!

Oh, man, he was a cute little thing but he was so tiny back then! Alistair’s brother, Ian visited in Bismarck and got to play with Luigi, who seemed entranced by his uncle.

 

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Our silver kit loving his uncle’s big arms in ND.

Phillipa and Calypso loved their new little brother and we got to enjoy watching them romp and play and snuggle and hide and play the “Chase” game for hours every night.

Their multi-tiered cage, “Quebec” is in the laundry room which is a central part of the house. I walk past it countless times every day, starting with letting the dogs out first thing in the morning and getting cat food to the indoor kitties once the dogs are in bed, the last thing every night.

One or more ferrets would watch me in the kitchen or visit with me as I did laundry for the past 7 or 8 years.

 

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Good times in Quebec in the Pirate Ship!

We went through 3 Pirate Ships because they loved the thing so much and come on, what’s cuter than seeing 3 feisty little pirates peeking through peep holes?

Do I even have to mention the Sing-Song Saddle and the Luigi Song?

Doctor Tanya and Doctor Alistair noticed Luigi losing a bit of weight this fall and then his stools got softer and softer. I whipped out every trick I had and even some new ones I learned from text books and an online Veterinarian network I am a member of.

 

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My boys… Luigi, Alistair & Calypso last year

The smell of hospitals in winter

and the feeling that its all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.

Some meds seemed to help and others were just annoying. Like the pink KaoPectate droplets scattered throughout the tiled floors where Luigi would try to spit it out. I have always tried to keep the memories happy during our companions’ final months, weeks or days so seeing him resist the syringe like that didn’t seem worth it. Luigi lived life as the happiest guy on Earth so why change that? Especially since it didn’t seem to help.

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Phillipa & Luigi in the ball bin this year

But then he stopped eating his kibble, which is usually a sign that Doctor Tanya watches for during palliative care. He still came out daily and played, though, eating lots of chewy treats and cat food.

And he came out one final night but moved much slower than normal. We both watched him in the living room and even the subwoofer didn’t seem to hold its usual appeal.

 

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“I’m a-just playing in the sub-woofer, Mama!”

He did lay on my chest and let me hold him for a long time, at least, and only a couple of tears fell onto him as I kissed his forehead and rubbed his little body that night next to Alistair.

I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,

makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her.

And the next morning there wasn’t any sparkle in his eyes so together we sedated Luigi, the Italian Stallion and I sang him the Luigi song and he fell asleep in my lap. Doctor Tanya and Mummy Tanya became one and tears fell onto him when I administered the final injection and just like that, Luigi was gone.

 

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enjoying some water with Mama just a couple of weeks ago.

And just like that, December was a bit more difficult this time around.

But there were good times, too, many of them shared with the pets and also friends so I was able to sort of coast along busying myself with wood splitting or plowing snow. Having Alistair here during the 2 sad goodbyes helped tremendously. I really felt his absence when he left a few days ago.

When, for the first time in 7 years I didn’t have a ferret or 2 to play with or care for in the evenings. The house is pretty quiet.

 

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Taking pics of these 4 was always hilarious!

Amazing how much of this enormous house those little spirits filled.

Through all of this is Loki’s struggle to handle the cold temps and snow this winter. In all honesty, we didn’t expect her to be enduring another winter but November had incredibly mild weather and she really had the best Autumn of her senior years.

 

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Couch Time with Step-Gammy every night.

She enjoys her food and Couch Time every single night with us and she gets around the house just the same as always but going outside is a nightmare for her. She even began “chibbering” when I would put her little jacket on inside, seemingly in anticipation of the horrible cold snowy weather.

I’ve pleaded with her to keep doing her business outside because Step Gammy might lose her shit if she doesn’t.

Nobody wants to see that.

Because that isn’t me.

I’m always able to find something to laugh or smile about and I always will, even when my heart is sad. Loki is snoozing under my desk as I type and occasionally she toots and that just makes me chuckle.

 

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UB and Cleo helping me split wood yesterday.

I have plenty of things to be happy about and look forward to.

We are a family with 3 cats and 3 dogs. Why, that’s almost normal, right?

And the PGA kicks off 2017 in Kapalua, where Alistair & I spent a week playing golf in November. We totally enjoy watching the pros play the exact same course we were on, remembering how things looked from the tee and how we chose to approach the green (as if my ball ever goes where I’ve chosen it to go!)

And the skating world is in its 2nd half, meaning US Nationals and Canadians and then Worlds are on the horizon.

Will my friend’s 3 students skate well at Canadians? Will Gracie Gold hold her own shit together for the first time this season? Will Tessa & Scott re-claim top spot on the World podium after not competing for 2 years?

 

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Zeus. Yesterday. Handsome fella!

And Zeus has a round bale and Jockey is ever-so loving as my companion when I split wood or work outside and Steve has been firing up and we have a new battery charger and Big Red got new battery connectors and the bling company is launching a capsule this month and I found my pink Carhartts and  we have African cichlids in our kitschy tank and book 3 is coming together and the days are longer and my heart is full from having a house full of spirits and I’m going to be okay.

And its been a long December and there’s reason to believe

maybe this year will be better than the last.

I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself

to hold on to these moments as they pass.

(Thanks to the Counting Crows for the assistance on this one.)

Here’s to a New Year.

 

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Luigi & Phillipa this year.

 

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Georgia out front a few summers ago.

 

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Loki, snoozing on the bath mat last month.

 

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Pink Carhartts make me happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Je t’aime, Phillipa. Je t’aime.

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Papa and Phillipa a couple of weeks ago

Last Monday didn’t go so well for me. I suppose it was worse for Phillipa because suddenly she couldn’t use her back legs very well.

Her rear limbs haven’t been working 100% for months now but even Sunday night she was scampering around, taking chewy treats from my fingers and trotting over to the water dish.

But Monday was a different story.

We were up & buzzing about getting ready for Alistair to hit the road to Bismarck a few days early so he could take care of a challenging fiberglass sliver embedded near a finger joint. While I have lidocaine and needles here the mere thought of blocking his hand with a 22 gauge tip was painful.

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Last month, bellying up to the bar (she liked the ice cubes).

It was a bit of a rushed morning and not really planned until his throbbing finger woke him up early so I wasn’t prepared to see Phillipa unable to go more than 3 steps without toppling over.

She also wouldn’t eat any chewy treats.

Not even the raisin ones. (There was always a “reason for raisin!”)

Nor would she lap the sticky, sweet-tasting calorie supplement off my finger but she did sip some water when I laid her in my lap.

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Back at the bowl earlier this summer.

She and Luigi spent much of the day cuddling in either their hammock or pirate ship but it looked like it was a challenge for her to navigate the tunnels and tubes of Quebec, their cage. She never vocalized at any time so by the time Alistair was in North Dakota I let her out on carpeted flooring to see if that would help.

It didn’t.

And it didn’t look like she was having fun anymore.

Alistair called from outside of Dickenson and he agreed it was Time. And he was so sad and sorry to not be with me to do what needed to be done.

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Phillipa cuddling with Luigi back in June.

He had left that morning knowing he would never see her cute little body wrapped around Luigi again. He would never feel something at his toes before she would tease him with a little chomp. And he would never get to pretend to be so surprised to “find” her in our hallway closet, her private little place she went almost every single time she was out and was obviously done playing with the boys.

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Peeking out from her Phillipa-cave in 2014

It never ceased to amaze us how she got underneath that door. The boys never could. Just Phillipa. She has the odd kibble she has hoarded along with a little fleece bed as well as our box of newspaper for the wood stove that she has torn up to make a little nest for herself. Its her private place where the big boys have never been able to get to. Not Jacques, Cousteau, Calypso or Luigi.

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“Peeking boo! Please keep the boys out, Mama!”

Phillipa lived through the loss of 3 of her boyfriends over her 7 years as a Fyfe and came through it all with dignity despite some signs of depression. Which is why another ferret would be added. She always seemed to thrive in the company of her boys.

Ferrets are incredibly emotional creatures and they truly do mourn the loss of housemates. Like all species, there are differences but most owners who have bonded with their pets can tell from behaviors and facial expressions how their little ones are feeling.

Which is why I knew what I had to do Monday night, not quite one week ago.

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Classic Phillipa.

Why I pre-medicated her and then let her cuddle up with Luigi for awhile as the drugs kicked in.

And then I sedated her but I’m pretty sure she didn’t even notice that. She gave in so quickly I felt as if her body was ready for some peace after such a fast-paced life.

And she laid, curled in my lap, blissfully unaware as my tears fell onto her body when I gave her the final injection.

And I kissed her one last time, which was more like 20 last times because you don’t want that kiss to actually be the last one.

A good life deserves a good death and even though I’m crying again I am honored to have been the one to give that to her.

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Never did figure out how she got on top of the freezer a couple of years ago…

And Luigi is doing very well. He hasn’t stopped eating or wanting to play and I’m giving him a bit more attention when he’s loose in the house. Luigi and Alistair bonded when he was just a kit before he came to Montana and he’s always seemed to be just as or more content with human companionship.

That’s not to say he wasn’t sad when we lost Calypso in March or now with Phillipa. I just think he has Luigi coping mechanisms that allow for a more gentle transition to being an only ferret in the house.

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Luigi, Calypso and Phillipa last year with Papa

He’s the Italian Stallion who has his Luigi song and he’s going to be fine.

And I’m going to be fine. Not right away but eventually. Even if I start tearing-up thinking about Phillipa in the bright red Octopus.

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“This thing ate my head!”

Or in Papa’s housecoat.

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They aren’t called ‘pocket pets’ for nothing!

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more housecoat shinanigans

I’m sorry to all of our friends who may feel some sadness, themselves, after having met our little Frenchwoman. The Fyfe Ferrets were terrific ambassadors for their quirky, spitfire of a species and they all have many fans.

But the sadness is great because the love has been great and I’m a richer woman for having had all of these spirits in my world.

And I’ve got my own coping mechanisms which include red wine, hot tubs and crying my eyes out and writing about the pain to let it out so it doesn’t build up inside of me and cuddling up with the dogs who seem a bit more clingy because they know I’m a bit more needy and loving up the kitties and talking with Alistair and scratching the horses. I’ve got my bling and my golf swing, too.

Here’s to losing your shoes when you come to visit us! I am fairly certain Luigi will keep up the tradition.

I can only imagine the hijinx going on across that Rainbow Bridge right now…

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Post shower a couple of years ago.

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An armful of ferrets… one of the only pics where all 4 are looking at the camera!

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Back in the day when we first brought our big albino boy, Cousteau home. 2013, I believe.

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Just a few weeks ago.

(Phillipa’s final bling-video prior to our August launch of La Vie en Rose and Petits Bijoux…. c’est magnifique. xo

The Golden Girls

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Beautiful Montana

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks.

It wasn’t my intention. Its just that its Summer in western Montana and we try to pack as much as we can into our window of warmth.

Spring can be wet and Fall can be cold. And if you’ve followed my blog or you also live here then you know what Winter can be.

But Summer…

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Juicy mountain goodness in a bowl.

Montana huckleberries are famous for their vibrant hues and sweet juiciness. Most folks around here have their own secret stash they like to pick from. Our stash last year never fully ripened, at least not enough to spend the time to go out and pick.

The stash more than made up for it this year.

We never like to overdo it- the thought that I’m taking food from the local bears keeps us grounded in that regard. But we spent a couple of hours in the sun and got enough for our huckleberry pancakes Alistair enjoys so much.

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This year’s bounty, measured in baggies for pancakes this year.

We also made time to get the canoe out, which we didn’t do once last year.

There is a quiet little lake near our home. There isn’t really any beach to speak of and the campsite is very small, not to mention its a ways off the beaten path so there’s usually only a few folks out there which makes for a peaceful, enjoyable paddle.

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Best view for miles around.

We paddled and floated on Lake Upsata and enjoyed the beauty around us.

We listened to the light waves lap and bump up against our Kevlar sides.

We heard the loons call out in between their full-body dives as they searched for the fish that continue to elude us.

And we laughed and reminisced about our last time canoeing with our good friend, Paul on the local canoe trail, where we bottomed out a few times thanks to late season low water and 3 adults on board.

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Peaceful Lake Upsata.

Alistair didn’t end up catching anything as the skies towards us were darkening and clouds formed into threatening shapes and colors. The kinds of shapes you shouldn’t be beneath on a body of water.

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Hmmmm… maybe we should think about heading in?

But Alistair is back to work in North Dakota and I’m back to my routine at home.

I have realized that my relationship with some of my non-human roommates has become something like the old TV show, the Golden Girls. Me, Loki, Cleo and Phillipa.

Loki is Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy. While sometimes grumpy and bossy she is still a lovable, sweet, reliable friend with a gravelly voice and a sense of humor.

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Loki loves making nests out of clothes to snuggle up in.

Cleopatra is Blanche, who was played by Rue McLanahan. They are both stunning mature women with charming southern accents and an uncanny way of flirting with and attracting men.

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Cleopatra Cassiopia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe… charmed, I’m sure.

Phillipa is Sophia, Dorothy’s mother, who was played by Estelle Getty. The littlest member of the gang with a feisty attitude and a penchant for teasing others, she is one of our resident thieves with a passion for footwear.

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Bonjour, mes ami!

Which leaves me as Betty White’s somewhat naïve, honest animal lover, Rose. I’m not from the Midwest but I sometimes ramble on about days gone by and quirky stories from my past.

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Me… the Betty White of our group.

I’ve been noticing changes. Subtle changes, in some cases, and more noticeable in others.

Phillipa and Loki are both losing weight.

Its more rapid in Phillipa’s case but then everything is more rapid when you’re a ferret. If you consider the fact that one month is akin to one year for a ferret in terms of how their bodies age and change then things are going to happen faster.

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Phillipa & I post-bath a couple of years ago.

She’s also become quite picky about her chewy treats, only eating the raisin or peanut butter ones while younger Luigi gobbles up the chicken, banana and bacon ones. And she’s eating them slower. Antibiotics didn’t change anything but I am continuing with a daily anti-inflammatory. At the age of 7 I’m certain there is some arthritis in her teensy body.

Loki’s weight loss is happening despite a ravenous appetite. I love seeing her eat or watch her bash the empty food dish around the kitchen to get my attention.

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“Snoooooooore”

Both girls seem to feel great, though, continuing to romp around in Phillipa’s case and enjoying long walk & talk sessions outside when it comes to Loki. They are both getting more grey and they’re both sleeping longer but they are eating, drinking, peeing, pooping and playing normally so I’m content with that.

And Cleo gave us a scare in April.

Our Southern Belle developed a head tilt, body leaning, stumbling, falling-over-when-she-sneezed condition that included a vertical nystagmus for 2 days. That’s where your eyes flicker non-stop left and right. Go figure she was wobbly.

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During her tilt-to-the-left phase en route to Bismarck.

The nystagmus ended but the leaning to the left remained, which was why I brought them all to Bismarck with me. It was right on the heels of losing Calypso and it came out of nowhere so I figured a brain tumor was the only answer.

So Cleo leaned against the walls in Bismarck and toppled over to the left if she tried to stand up and she fell getting off the bed and we got Jessi, Lynn, Cindy and Debbie crying when I told them and I didn’t tell everyone because I honestly wasn’t prepared for it and it was so sad seeing her fall over as she shook herself and I held her and she laid a lot more than normal with me and I told her all of the things I could think of that needed to be said.

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Also during the time of the tilt, in Bismarck

That we loved her. That she was a wonderful big sister and companion. That UPS-Matt and Fireman Frank loved her. That it was a magical day when she came home from the clinic I worked at, having been brought in to be put to sleep for being aggressive back in 2005.

That I wouldn’t let her suffer and if she showed me any indication of that I would do what had to be done.

But I didn’t have to.

Not yet.

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Cleo’s classic “Square Face” look at one of our Dog Days of Summer years ago

After twice daily anti-inflammatories (which she is still on) she recovered completely. Running, jumping, leaping, standing, walking on her back legs, playing, swimming, loving, cuddling- Cleo is back.

And each day is a gift.

So maybe my tears right now are for my feelings back in April and May and they’ve moved from Cleopatra onto Phillipa and Loki.

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Alistair with Loki, UB and Cleo last summer in Bismarck.

I wonder if this is what its like to be a resident in a senior’s home.

Where you make friendships and develop strong bonds to people who are all at a point in life where the number of days ahead are far fewer than those in the rear-view mirror.

Where anything can happen and, really, can it be much of a surprise?

I’m the only Golden Girl who hasn’t met or surpassed her expiration date. Loki is 16. Phillipa is 7. Cleo is at least 12.

The 4 of us have a bunch more grey hair (Cleo has the least) and we’re pretty set in our ways of routines and schedules.

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Luigi, Phillipa and I this spring. Clever hats to disguise the grey!

Maybe Cleo has what we call Old Dog Vestibular Disease. There is no test for that but it can come and go. We’ll enjoy it while its gone.

And we’ll enjoy the seasons as they change and remark on the similarities to our own lives. To every thing, indeed.

We’ll just continue to love and live our routines and enjoy each day with one another. With Phillipa sneaking up on blind Loki to nibble at her feet. With Cleo and Loki and UB snuggling up together in bed at night. With Loki pin-balling her way through the house. With soft food, chicken mozzarella, accents and berets and with cute voices talking to us while we play golf and shoes and insoles that go missing on a nightly basis and with nail trims, Rimadyl and Metacam and Walk & Talks with Step Gammy, Fyfe Life will continue as always.

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Alistair, Calypso, Phillipa & Luigi this past winter.

 

It is a good Summer.

As good as we can for as long as we can.

I’ll keep you posted. xo

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Several years ago when Phillipa (mistakenly known as Phillipe back then, oops) joined our family!

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Cleo, the summer she came home, bonded immediately to her Daddy.

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Very young Loki with very young Casey many moons ago.

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3 out of 4 Golden Fyfe Girls with UB this spring.

Aye, Calypso

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One of my all time favorite pictures of Calypso and I… this was the day he arrived in January, 2012.

I was hoping I wouldn’t cry but just putting this picture up got it all going.

Its been 3 weeks since I had one of the most absolute worst days of my life because I had to put our hilarious little Calypso to sleep. And I was alone. And I sobbed after he took his last breaths.

Such sad emotions for one of the happiest little spirits who was well known for the dramatic life he lived.

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Our albino, Cousteau with little Phillipa

Calypso joined the party not long after we lost our big boy, Cousteau.

Ferrets are very emotional creatures. They form incredible bonds with their companions, human and otherwise. Our first ferret, Marshall mourned the loss of our kitty, Malchek for several months. Phillipa was no different. She lost Jacques and then Cousteau in fairly short order.

Within days, Alistair drove here through a snow storm and brought a new bestie for her.

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Phillipa & Calypso in the pirate ship getting along just fine.

He was a mischievous little imp from the get-go, stealing shoes or their insoles, the litter box scoop, hats, anything he possibly could to hide under one of the cars or pieces of furniture.

You just had to laugh at him when we played the “Chase” game, running and hiding from one another throughout the house.

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“I’ve just re-wired the brakes in the RX-7, Mama!”

And his amorous attempts to woo Phillipa were hysterical as he leapt with all 4 feet in the air to pounce on her.

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Calypso learned not to bite, instead choosing to give us ‘kisses’ whenever he could!

He is the one who attacked the guinea pigs on Kentucky Derby day that spring when I had left their bathroom door open. The story of that and, sadly, their eventual demise (which Calypso had nothing to do with) is on the blog, “One Eye Watching You.”

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Showering with Calypso was always a giggle!

We forgave our little Frenchman but Karma is a bitch.

2012 was the year Alistair broke his pelvis, requiring extensive surgery and months of rehab.

Its also the year something went wrong with Calypso’s pelvis. He just couldn’t use his rear legs one day. We watched him drag himself around when we let them out of the cage. Neither of them had any scrapes or missing hair or any indication that something actually happened.

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Twice a day Calypso and I bonded over meds, calorie supplement and treats.

But he never once looked like he wasn’t having fun. If he wasn’t giving up why should I?

So his vet-Mummy got up early each morning to fit in half an hour of physio, massage and meds with him in my lap. My new exotics book came in handy yet again and I added a calorie supplement and treats.

I chronicled his tale on social media, where everyone was following Alistair’s story as well.

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My 2 pelvis patients the fall and winter of 2012.

Calypso bonded to both of us thanks to his limitations, his needs and his wonderful personality.

And we came up with some fun ways to encourage physical therapy when he got a bit stronger.

Everyone fell in love with the Fyfe ferrets, who now have a bit of a fan following. The ferrets and I do holiday videos on the sing-song-saddle and their admirers are plenty.

The fans rejoiced when Alistair brought a little brother, Luigi into the mix 2 years ago. His in-your-face personality was perfect for his older siblings and the 3 of them were inseparable.

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Triple Trouble!

We played, we romped, we had shoes stolen, we showered, we cuddled, we made videos, we laughed, we had many visitors who had never seen or held a ferret before and we loved sharing our ferret ambassadors with the world.

But then something wasn’t quite right with Calypso in November.

Putting it all together with our internal med vet friend we realized he had a tumor on his spleen. A tumor that would grow like Harry’s had and would eventually take his life.

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Mummy and her boys!

Just like before, though, it looked like he was still having a lot of fun. Who were we to be sad and give up on him when, clearly, their lives were great?

Other than the one horrible night the tumor must have ruptured and he went into hemorrhagic shock. He was barely alert and I held him through the night in a blanket on my lap and told him all of the things that needed to be said. I told him that everyone loved him and that he had brought so much joy to so many people. That Phillipa and Luigi adored him and all of our house-sitters like Jessi, Carson, Lynn and Whitney would miss him so much. That if he showed me he was in pain I would try to do something as his vet but that night he hovered between life and death in a peaceful state so I just held him as his Mummy.

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Luigi and Calypso, post bath, fluffed & buffed.

And the morning welcomed both of us back!

Calypso lived to see 2016. And February. And March! And we went back to twice-daily calorie supplements and special bonding together. And I made the effort to include the full trio in our Christmas video this year because it was important for me to share him once more.

And he had a couple of minor episodes of weakness but he continued to eat, drink and be merry, stealing Loki’s kibble whenever he could and mucking around in the water bowl with ice cubes for Boomer.

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the boys bellying up to the bar…

And we didn’t tell anyone because he was still pretty vibrant and because we have lost so many of our companions over the last year and half and it became Time for old Boomer and Loki keeps having random seizures and I didn’t want more people feeling sad for us and I really wasn’t sure how I would do anything on my own if I had to and I researched what I could but there isn’t much out there and he kept stealing footwear and wanting to come out to play.

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Hard to get pics of them all holding still… hence the blurry Phillipa!

I had fully planned to take the trio with me to Bismarck this recent trip back. Calypso had been doing fine despite more weight loss and we have our old ferret cage there. What an adventure it would have been but in the end, it didn’t happen.

He had another episode of weakness that he didn’t bounce back from. And he wasn’t engaging with the thing-on-a-string for the first time ever. And the shine went out of his eyes.

For the very first time he wasn’t having fun.

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Noshing on Loki’s kibbles a few weeks ago.

I knew what I needed to do but wasn’t sure how to do it.

How to hold 1.6lbs of ferret and find enough muscle to somehow inject a sedative…by myself. I didn’t want his or my final memories of our time together to be a struggle of pushing and restraining and then a sharp needle in a thin body. Our relationship deserved better than that.

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All of our relationships deserved better.

Somehow I remembered a cough syrup that I had in my med collection and was able to put that with his calorie supplement 3 Sunday mornings ago and he peacefully slipped into a boozy slumber. I was then able to give the first injection peacefully without so much as a hair twitch.

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A couple of years ago, high up in the cat condo (and we wonder how he injured himself?)

I laid him on a blue towel in my lap and watched my tears fall onto his beautiful cinnamon body as I gave him his final injection.

And I sobbed as he took his last breath, a heavier version of what I’m doing now. He took my tears with him across the Rainbow Bridge where so many other Fyfes have gone.

And I’m sorry to write this because you all shared in his dramatic stories and his joy-filled adventures.

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Just a few weeks ago

And you all know how much Phillipa and Luigi miss him but I am just so thankful that they have each other.

And I’m thankful Alistair called that day to help me through and see how I was and I’m thankful Merielle and Theresa were online hand-holders as well.

And so goes the magical tale of Calypso Fyfe. If you know John Denver’s song you know it rings true about this boy, with a slight adaptation to one of the words:

Aye, Calypso, the things that you’ve shown us, the stories you tell. Aye, Calypso, I sing to your spirit, the men who have loved you so long and so well.

RIP, sweet Calypso. There will never be another like you. xo

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Calypso & Mummy this winter.

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More of our trio with Papa

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One of their many fans making sure Calypso looked good in his beret!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun With Ferrets

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Alistair and the Trio-of-Trouble, Luigi, Phillipa and Calypso

As many of you know, we adore ferrets.

It wasn’t a species either of us knew anything about or had yearned for as a child. In fact, I didn’t have any pets growing up so I honestly had no pre-conceived notions of what they were like as family members.

When Alistair’s kids moved in with us in Watford City at the ages of 8 and 10, they had just watched a speaker/entertainer at their school with his pet ferret who did tricks and played around on a leash. The kids were mesmerized.

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Gareth with Koshka the cat and Marshall the ferret (and Alistair, after hockey practice, apparently)

Enter Marshall.

She was a cutie who lived a good, long life and made friends with our cats, our Golden, and our neighbors. She moved with us to Canada where she would join Oscar, Boomer & I as I did my farm chores out on our 30 acre farm.

They really are that smart! She knew how to get in and out through the dryer opening and that was that.

She moved back to ND with us to Hazen where we had to live in town for once.

Sadly, the neighbor brought 2 aggressive stray spaniels home who had something to do with our 6 year old girl disappearing in the snow one morning.

And that was the end of Fyfe Ferrets.

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Bonjour!

Until Jacques moved in.

A few years had passed but we never got rid of the ferret crate, (which Alistair and Gareth designed and built)- that was a good thing when the local fire crew here in Seeley Lake, Montana showed up with a homeless ferret and guinea pig. Their owner had become a ward of the state (who had been living under a false identity, no less… you can imagine it was going to be hard to find family members to take them) so the crew brought them to me.

Not everyone is into ferrets. I get it.

Jacques and Bebe 2010

Jacques: “Bonjour, Large Cat! ” Bebe: “Great. Nice to meet you. Don’t eat my food, okay?”

They are kind of weasely-looking, with long, narrow bodies and pointy noses. A lot of people have had bad experiences with their incredibly sharp teeth and, in general, most of the population hasn’t had any interaction with ferrets.

Ferrets are very personable and friendly. They are curious and playful and maybe a bit mischievous and the rest of the time they are eating or sleeping.

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Jacques, our new black-eyed white, on his first day at home!

I had become a veterinarian since we had had Marshall and I knew that “exotic” pets often did better with one of their own.

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Our new little sable ferret! The pet store said it was a male and, to be honest, I never questioned that. I never looked!

Enter Phillipe!

We thought our 2 boys were super cuddly, never once thinking he might be a she. It didn’t seem to matter, though, because they became fast friends and cuddle buddies.

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Just a few years ago, Phillip(a) and Jacques with Papa!

When running about the house for daily Play Time, Jacques would often disappear (typical for ferrets). One day I found his secret hiding place… in my drawer of sequined, sparkly figure skating costumes from yesteryear!

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Mama? Is that you? I was sleeping!

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Its okay to play in here, right? Je suis in LOVE with this drawer!

Jacques was older, though, and even though we medicated him for his adrenal gland issues for a year, he eventually, sadly succumbed to the disease.

Ferrets are one of the most emotional mammals that exist, rivaling humans in their mourning.

With me working and Alistair gone half of the time, and the cats all old enough to not need to romp around kitten-like anymore, something had to be done for Phillip(a).

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Enter Cousteau! A true albino!

Alistair drove around in a snow storm on his way here and found Cousteau, an enormous albino who the pet store said was just young and sold him as such.

He settled in right away with his new friend- I mean REALLY settled in, which was when I decided to lift tails to see what the deal was.

Sure enough, Phillipe was Phillipa.

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Cousteau and Phillipa… you can just barely see her nose under his monstrous body!

Theirs was a short relationship, though, as not long after I noticed the dental tartar and put that together with his rather calm behavior, Cousteau became ill and I wasn’t able to save our big, older boy.

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Better, fun times with Cousteau & Phillipa

We felt awful for little Phillipa so during the long drive back to Montana again, Alistair showed up with a Cinnamon kit he had found at a PetCo in Great Falls.

Balance was restored and the frivolity resumed!

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Welcome home, Calypso Fyfe!

Phillipa and Calypso have been tight since day 1 and they remain snuggle buddies.

Calypso’s time as a Fyfe hasn’t been without its own share of drama.

He is the reason our guinea pig, Cadbury had 1 eye. (Blog from 2014 called One Eye Watching You details the gruesome events of the day). The whole thing was my fault for leaving the bathroom door to the guinea pigs open. The rest is history.

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Mr Innocent is underneath Phillipa in their Pirate Ship

Karma sucks, though, because a few months after the Guinea Pig Incident (which both girls survived) (and my Exotics medical knowledge skyrocketed), Calypso had a gait abnormality.

Basically, he couldn’t walk or stand well on his own.

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Stunts like climbing up the tall cat tree could be what led to the broken pelvis…

I x-rayed him at the clinic and thought I saw the tiniest of fracture lines in the tiniest of pelvises. (Pelvises were high on my mind that fall after Alistair had busted his up a few months prior).

He never stopped eating & drinking or having control of his elimination and he had feeling in his extremities so I never stopped trying to fix him. Its a vet thing but its also a Mummy thing.

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Twice-daily anti-inflammatories, vitamin supplement and PT including massage and ‘bicycling’ with Calypso

He didn’t give up so why the Hell should I?

He let us bathe him almost daily because he couldn’t really lift up to urinate and ferrets generally like to be clean.

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Just a little Fluff’n’Buff post bath

When he started to get more strength in his back and hindlimbs Alistair fashioned a John Deere cart for him to run around the house in. A quick video for your chuckles….

After about 6 months he was standing, playing and goofing around again! His legion of Facebook fans rejoiced along with us when I would post pictures of him standing on his own.

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Calypso: “Look at me, Phillipa! I can do this on my own!” Phillipa: “Sit down before you hurt yourself again. I’m not losing another boyfriend!”

And whether it was an act of celebration or a subconscious effort to make sure Phillipa was never without a boyfriend again, Alistair went to the new PetCo in Bismarck… repeatedly to check on a cute silver kit he saw there…

(You know where this is going…)

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Enter Luigi! The Italian Stallion!

Luigi joined in and immediately cuddled up with Phillipa and Calypso. Any given day at any given time I will find at least 2 of them snuggled up, and often its all 3 of them.

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Phillipa, Luigi, Calypso and Papa… a real handful!

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The boys… when you’re a ferret, every part of your body doubles as a pillow for your housemates

They are good with the cats and naughty with blind little Loki, darting in and out at her. I swear I can hear them giggling when she barks at the air in front of her.

They are hoarders who steal shoes from houseguests. They are class clowns who love to play the Chase Game. They are inquisitive to a fault- wherever they can fit their face into the body can follow.

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Petite little Phillipa fits under the hall closet… for when she needs to get away from The Boys. Every girl needs a little Moi-Time.

Ferrets aren’t for everyone and they require your time for playing, cleaning, interacting, and making movies together. You should research them if you are considering one as there is a lot to learn.There are also ferret adoption agencies for surrendered ferrets needing forever homes if you don’t want to buy one at a pet store.

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Luigi being inquisitive. A new bucket must be explored!

I will do my best with my fantastic little companions (who really try to commit to their French or Italian accents!) to be a ferret ambassador. They are the only creatures I’ve known who can always, without fail, make me laugh.

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Well, maybe not as much laughter finding Luigi with the sub-woofer’s insides on the outside…

We will share more from the Sing-Song Saddle another time. For now, much love from the Fyfe Farm Ferrets!

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Bonjour! Hope you have a happy summer!

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We’re innocent! Honest!

An Introduction to the Ferret Fyfes

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Phillipa and Luigi in their new ‘ball room’… a much ballyhooed product I got online that my gang thinks is merely ‘meh’

I will write more about the Fyfe Ferrets in a longer blog tomorrow.

You see, there is a large community of Fyfe Ferret Friends & Fans who was expecting our annual Canada Day video yesterday and it didn’t happen.

Or, wait… the video happened.

Posting it to Facebook didn’t happen.

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The background of our stage for the 2015 Canada Day video

These began a few years ago with a veterinarian friend’s suggestion/request that I sing Oh, Canada atop one of the horses wearing chaps. Possibly sipping wine, I can’t remember the specifics.

I couldn’t provide that but as I looked around the house (always up for a comedic challenge) I spotted our saddle bar stool… and then a ferret ran by.

And so began the Sing-Song Saddle tradition that puts smiles on faces and makes people wonder if I’ve been alone in the middle of nowhere for too long.

Or I have consumed too much wine.

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Calypso, giving Papa some nuzzles!

In truth, I consume nothing prior to the making of the videos. (Once I hit “enter” and post them its a different story…)

So I shall try to attach the video from yesterday’s Canada Day celebration with our French duo, Calypso and Phillipa. Our Italian Stallion, Luigi sat this one out because, come on, I can only do so much. There will be children in Canada disappointed to not hear the Luigi Song.

There will be time for that.

And time for the tales of Marshall, Jacques, Phillipe, Cousteau, Phillipa (oops on that one!), Calypso and Luigi.

For now… enjoy our own special brand of zany:

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?