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

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Professor Higgins

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

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

22. Cats.

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

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

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Pretty little Mae Mae

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

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

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

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Cooper, Boom-Boom and Oscar a few years ago

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

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

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

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

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

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Mulder in Bismarck back in the day

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

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

Imagine the money we’d save!

No more heartache!

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

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

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Professor Higgins and I in the barn this winter.

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

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

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

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

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Last week- lingering longer and longer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Whitey Fyfe?

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

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A present from Whitey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sporto a couple of nights ago

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Bebe, our resident Sunbeamer

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

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Babs and Sport on my lap a few nights ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Time and In Between

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I love the time and in between
The calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years of
Reaching out and reaching in
Holding out, holding in….

These are song lyrics by another Canadian, Sarah McLachlan.

I’m not entirely sure why they came to mind as I laid in bed a few mornings ago but it struck me that it was, really, the perfect time of day for me.

In between sleep and in between my day unfolding. I gave it some thought.

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This has absolutely nothing to do with the blog but I like the memory from almost a year ago

With Cleo and Sport curled up in bed with me its the time I don’t think about their ages. I don’t see Cleo’s right hind leg slipping out from beneath her on the tile floor. I don’t watch her miss a stair or two more frequently than ever and I’m not thinking about the fact she is at least 14 years old.

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Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe

I watch her sleep soundly in her completely-deaf world up high on her Daddy’s pillow and her breaths are comfortable, peaceful and even. I don’t have to think about her heart murmur, her arthritis, her cognitive dysfunction…

I am not reminded of the fact my beloved Siamese companion who is likely spooned up next to me with my arm draped around him is aging. He will be 19 years old in a few months but I don’t see his fragile frame because he is tight up against my body and his aging blue eyes are closed.

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HRH Sporto Fyfe

It is the time of day I haven’t been to the kitchen yet, where enormous, loud dehumidifiers hum and suck water from the walls that poured snow melt down their beams a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t walked through the wind tunnel created by equally obnoxious fans whirring away to dry out the walls that are wet from the cracked glass that is part of a one-year-plus insurance claim that continues to haunt us.

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my kitchen right now

I haven’t once again faced living with torn-apart walls and debris on my floors because I am lying in our bedroom on the other end of the house- a bedroom we were out of for almost a full year thanks to this claim.

It is a bedroom without a phone (by design) and its far enough away from the phones that when they do ring, we can’t hear them. So it is at this time of day that I don’t suck in my breath every time I hear it ring knowing Alistair is on his hours-long journey from Bismarck to Montana.

He calls at specific intervals, where he has cellular service, knowing I am worrying that day like I do every day, every 2 weeks, as I have done for the past 12 years.

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This guy!

He travels across the frozen plains and through a mountain pass on snowy, windy, often lonely roads and both of us know the length of time it takes to get from Circle to Jordan… from Great Falls to Lincoln… from phone call to phone call.

In that quiet time of day I have not yet caught of glimpse of myself in any mirror.

I haven’t had to look at the woman who is inching closer to 50 and pulling further and further from 40. I haven’t thought about belly fat or the bum knees that don’t allow me to run anymore. I haven’t washed or combed through my thinning, grey hair or wondered when my upper arms became so unattractive. I haven’t tried to squeeze into jeans that I swear fit fine just last year nor have I had to put on my reading glasses yet.

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Yeah. These.

I haven’t had the chance to look out any windows at that time of day to see just how wrong accuweather was the night before. I am blissfully unaware of the inches of snow that fell, or the ones that are still falling and I haven’t had to think about firing Big Red up for a few passes down the driveway.

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Big Red and I last winter

It is the time of day where I definitely haven’t checked my emails or read the texts alerting me to the fact individuals in Hawaii and in Vancouver have been trying to reach me to let me know my stepdaughter was in the ICU after having had an emergency the night prior that led to her requiring 10 units of blood and that things had been harrowing for the surgical team as they struggled to keep her tiny body alive.

I haven’t yet given any thought to the fact we could have lost Whitney and none of us was with her.

I haven’t yet thought about the emotional nightmare she would be going through along with the healing that would have to occur after the arduous ordeal she had survived.

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Just a few months ago on Kauai

I haven’t spent hours on the phone trying to get flights for her father to join her- flights that would take 2 full days and re-route him, if he wasn’t bumped, through San Francisco and Chicago.

I haven’t yet realized, in the time and in between, that I do have those motherly fears and worries and gut-wrenching anguish despite not having had given birth to my step kids.

And then I get up.

And I help Cleo off the bed and I watch Sport use the ottoman to assist himself.

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Miss Cleo, last spring

And I get Cleo her meds (wrapped in cheese) and I change the water dish (always adding ice cubes) and I get Bebe her Greenies because she is meowing at me to do so and I turn the fans off so I can at least think and I look at the calendar to see all of the obligations, responsibilities, meetings and planned events ahead.

I then I start to see the opportunities.

The adventures.

The next date Alistair will be coming home.

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Me

And I do see myself in the mirror and despite the odd wonky tooth and the increasingly- Eastern European-bloc eyebrows that I need to trim I’m actually okay with hurtling towards my 50s because I’m having fun being me.

I know the teeth aren’t perfect because I chose summer school skating over braces when I was younger.

I know the laugh lines and wrinkles are there from countless hours spent laughing with Alistair and our friends and our animal companions.

I know the grey hairs are earned after working hard at a few different careers and that I’m not going through puberty in spandex anymore so maybe its okay to buy a pair of jeans a size up.

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Working hard at my latest career on a beautiful summer day!

And I am so thankful that both Gareth and Whitney have pursued healthful lifestyles into their own 30s because Whitney’s physical strength helped her survive what easily could have taken her life. With 10 units of other peoples’ blood running through her to keep her alive her healthy organs kept doing what they needed to do to get her through that first night.

And the next night.

And the night after that.

Her mom was able to join her on Kauai (amazingly she was going there and was able to bump her flight up a few days) and her husband and in-laws surrounded her with love and support and we were able to talk via FaceTime and before we all knew it she was sent home from the hospital one week ago.

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Looking forward to this!

And I’m so thankful to have an amazing, talented, good man who loves me enough to keep driving 10 or 11 hours every 2 weeks to spend time with me. The same man who knows exactly how to make me laugh and who brought me 3 ferrets for Christmas, knowing they are the best present I could ever ask for! He shares my world view and he gets the jokes. We crack each other up quoting lines from Frasier or bringing Spirt of Loki into the conversation.

We cherish cocktails in the snow-surrounded hot tub with the tiki torches blazing and Hawaiian music serenading us from inside the house.

He has let me love him for 25 years this month and I don’t know what I would do without him.

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Best Christmas presents ever!!!

And even though the insurance claim woes continue, I still have a stunningly lovely house in an absolutely incredible part of the world with vaulted ceilings, the coolest bar in town and room for me to be me.

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Early winter in Paradise

I will have to face a world without beloved spirits at some point and as Dr. Mummy I may even have to have a talk with myself somewhere down the road.

But that time isn’t here yet.

And Alistair is back with me in Montana. Plowing snow in Big Red right now!

And we are hoping to FaceTime with Whitney later today and talk about our lives and how she is feeling and how she isn’t going to put taking surfing lessons off anymore because she has learned the truest, most pure value of every given day.

Including the time and in between.

How lucky we all are.

PS- donate blood!

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Earning those laugh lines with great friends

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More great friends

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Last winter with Cleo

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Blue-eyed beauty

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This guy!

 

 

 


 

 

 

The Update to my Resume

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My resume has evolved over my 45 years on this planet.

Initially it read that I had been a babysitter and church janitor. I added convenience store clerk (with a ticket in propane!), certified amateur figure skating coach and high school graduate within a couple of years.

It changed to professional figure skater, coach and choreographer, with the term, waitress, thrown in for good measure and it stayed that way for a few years until I could add my Bachelors of Science under the Education heading in 2001.

 

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Figure skating coach last summer in Manitoba!

My resume diversified with the title of Veterinarian in 2005 and I eventually added published, and now award-winning author just this year. In between those additions I branched out into the world of Direct Sales with the Chloe & Isabel brand of jewelry in 2015.

I love being all of these things and I enjoy developing many aspects of each role.

Under Interests or Hobbies on my resume I have added golf and even watercolor painting, which I started playing with again this weekend. Its relaxing and peaceful, particularly with the Hawaiian music channel playing in the background and cold, wet  skies outside preventing a round of golf.

 

 

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Inspiration and creation!

 

And now I’m ready to share my latest addition to my Job Titles that I eluded to in my last blog. I had hoped, when I wrote Seasons of Change a month ago, that I would be able to share the news sooner but I only just received a particular piece of paper making the whole endeavor legit on Friday.

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Ta-da! My Montana real estate salesperson license!

You see, this winter was a lot more than just shoving or shoveling snow. And other than my supportive husband and one or two friends I kept my studies to myself because I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. (Well, our Siamese cat, Sport draped himself across my lap as I took my online course, just as he’s doing right now and Cleopatra, our spaniel would snooze on the floor next to me… just like she’s doing now.)

 

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Happening now.

Thinking about and then choosing to become a realtor isn’t quite as random as it might seem for this figure skating, sparkle-loving, bling slinging, cat spaying, dog vaccinating author.

Somewhere along the way I was taught that little girls could grow up and be anything. The choices weren’t quite so broad when my Mom graduated from high school. Back then there was nursing, teaching or flight attendant school. Or marriage and a family, which are noble options themselves.

When I graduated high school in 1989 I may not have pictured myself in scrubs with cute matching caps, elbow-deep inside a Saint Bernard’s abdomen or getting excited to head to one of our local real estate offices to begin moving forward as a realtor. I couldn’t possibly have envisioned being able to swing a golf club and actually hit the ball to where I intended it to go back then.

 

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Making par at Old Works last week, one of America’s Top 100 courses!

But I knew myself and I knew that I could complete and be fairly decent at anything I believed in and anything I set my mind to.

Which is partly why I struggled, a few years ago, to finally admit that my cute little veterinary clinic  wasn’t thriving in our tiny community anymore. My husband and our accountant told me for 2 years that was the case and eventually I had to agree. It took some time to wrap my brain around the fact that it didn’t mean I wasn’t a successful veterinarian- it was the clinic and the economics of the time that didn’t pan out.

Which leads me to my real estate career!

 

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Cute scrub tops and caps for Cleopatra and I a few years ago!

You see, I didn’t want to abandon my community and leave them vet-less. I actually tried selling my practice.

There are national realty groups who are made up of veterinarians with real estate licenses who market practices and clinics throughout the country. Unfortunately, none of them wanted to list Seeley Swan Veterinary. Nobody even wanted to have a discussion about what potential there was for a part-time clinic run by a woman veterinarian who wanted to spend more time with her family. Or how perfect it could be for a semi-retired veterinarian wanting to work mornings only as they transitioned to their next stage in life.

I tried a couple of these veterinary realty groups and it seemed that, other than not wanting to take my practice on, they all had one other thing in common.

 

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They’re generally a bunch of older, white guys.

It got me thinking that theirs is a world I could shake up a little bit!

Granted, it took me 4 years to start the process of learning to become a realtor but the seed was planted. Last fall I got online and signed up with Real Estate Express and when I wasn’t moving snow from here to there last winter I completed my required 60-hour course with my cat on my lap and then passed my state licensing exam this spring.

I’ll fully admit that I really learned a lot! Just like every profession there is a whole new language to learn and I need to be immersed into that world to learn to speak it fluently.

 

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My real estate career thus far

I learned about types of leases and ownership, real estate brokerage, marketing properties, closing disclosure forms, primary & secondary mortgage markets, and that one acre equals 43,560 square feet.

I studied, I took tests, I read and re-read and then read some more and I’ve found some continuing education webinars that are enthusiastic and encouraging.

And I’m excited! I’ve joined the Clearwater  Montana Properties team and I start training tomorrow. I’ve made my first announcements on Facebook and Instagram and will share on Twitter as well.

 

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Cleo helping me write today’s blog… the same as she helped me study my online course this winter and how she helps me write my books.

Clearwater Montana Properties is a participant with Sports Afield Trophy Properties which offers worldwide listing exposure and is the only brokerage in Montana able to offer this partnership so its a terrific group to join and learn from. They are enthusiastic about me coming on board and I plan to give them the best I have to offer.

I know many of the people I’ll be working for because of my time spent in my veterinary clinic. I hope I can instill trust and confidence in my real estate abilities as much as I was able to as Dr.Fyfe.

And I still am Dr.Fyfe. Who writes books and slings bling when she’s  not playing golf. Book 4 is planned for this winter but that’s the only thing that’s planned. And the veterinary derm conference in Hawaii this fall.

I look forward to sharing this crazy ride with you all just as I’ve shared our loves & losses with our pets, my foray into self-publishing as well as marketing my book and our zany appreciation for the game of golf.

 

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Dr.Brock from Indiana, who is part of our Hawaiian derm conference golf foursome joined us out on the golf course here in Montana a couple of weeks ago!

I’m looking forward to meeting new people and broadening my relationships that already exist with friends from the skating, veterinary, bling, books and golf worlds. I’ve always said that my life changes with every phone call. I mean it!

I may never join one of those big groups that sell veterinary practices but they were the inspiration for me to take this path at this time. My resume, like my character continues to evolve and I’m so happy to add Realtor under the heading Job Titles.

Its fun being me. Choose happy every chance you get and remember that anything is possible if you believe in it and you put your mind to it.

 

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Still Dr.Fyfe (after a recent vaccine clinic in a nearby community)

 

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Chillaxin’ with some watercolors yesterday.

 

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My number 1 supporter in every crazy thing I do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Ya, 2017

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Outside our front door today. More on Snowmageddon later…

There were times this past year when it seemed that 2018 would never arrive. Moments or days or situations that will forever be associated with 2017 could have weighed so heavily at times but, thankfully, Alistair likes to laugh at life as much as I do.

Not that we laughed all of the time.

The spirit world grew rich this year in January and November when Loki and then UB crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I have cried rivers of tears over both of those losses and our entire way of living changed each time.

 

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UB and Loki a few years ago

March had a lot of snow and I developed a pesky little pneumonia but it forced me to stay home, plow snow and finish my third novel. A silver lining to everything, right?

Of course 2017 will always be the summer of the Rice Ridge Fire that threatened our entire community on both sides of the mountains. It was a day-to-day experience for so many people and families and the business district took a huge hit from the loss of tourism, which is what Seeley Lake relies on to stay alive during our long winters.

 

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The pilots were our tourists this summer!

Bitterness and anger remain for a lot of folks for a fire that just wasn’t managed correctly from the beginning.

We were lucky in that we have a farm and acreage and big trucks and great friends and we were able to take our pets with us to Bismarck for a full month during the fire.

While a lot of things were bad about the fire, I think, perhaps, the worst part was the fact we all put our trust in our hired forest officials to do their job and save our town. Why did such a little fire have to turn into a public health and economic behemoth of a monster that raged over 160,000 acres and lasted over 3 months?

 

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the night we decided to get out… MMK’s photo

Thankfully no homes or businesses burned but that doesn’t mean businesses weren’t lost. I hope beyond hope that each restaurant, salon, and service can stay open this winter and thrive into 2018’s tourist season. Our little Chamber is re-focusing with new members and if everyone sticks together and supports one another we will see hundreds of out-of-state license plates clogging up our highway by Rovero’s and the Ice Cream Place yet again!

 

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Normal summer shenanigans in western Montana

My bling thing continued to provide a sparkly distraction to my world. I actually hit $60,000 in personal sales and I’m just 2 months shy of my 3-year anniversary with the company.

The company is going through some growing pains and major changes right now, though, and I’m not sure where I will fit in the new plan. I still love the jewelry but the company is focused on growing the number of merchandisers and recruiting and that’s just not my thing.

 

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Some of the bling (not my photo)

Doing direct sales for the first time ever has taught me some business skills and things I never learned on the ice or in the vet clinic and I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and make women feel absolutely beautiful when they wear the jewelry. (There are one or two men out there rocking our men’s leather wraps, too… I’m just saying…)

 

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I earned these this month! Super cute, not even on sale yet!

 

2018 will begin the blogger and media outreach we are planning with the Jenkins group we have hired for my 3rd book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

If you’ve read any of my Missing Lake series, you know that the teens are tasked with making sense out of songs that their hippie English teacher assigns them. Its a sub-plot in the book but its a fun one as I explore songs and artists that I like and try to think how my various characters would analyze things.

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My books (Photo from Dr.Alison, who got the books for her daughter!)

For the 3rd book I went out on a limb and chose a lesser-known artist with an even lesser-known song to challenge both myself and my characters. The artist is Matisyahu and the song is Hard Way.

The really cool thing about this is that Matisyahu and his peeps are coming to a small theatre in Missoula, which is an hour from here, at the end of February.

He’s coming to Missoula!!!!!!

Tickets are already purchased for the small show (the only one in the state) and I’ve reached out hoping to meet him. Maybe he can sign my book!

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Just about into 2018….

And just when I thought we would skip through the last few days of 2017 without any drama, Mother Nature happened. And she happened, like she often does in the middle of nowhere, Big Time.

We have learned living in both Montana and North Dakota to take warnings about thunder storms and snowfall very, very seriously. The people in charge of those things usually are on top of it, knowing that either situation could mean life or death out here. (Tornado warnings are pretty spot-on in North Dakota, too.)

So when we looked ahead at weather reports, Alistair decided to head back to North Dakota a day early, leaving me to fend for myself during what was supposed to be quite the epic storm.

And it was.

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this was after the 1st day. My walk path the UPS guy must have used the night before!

I’ve never minded being up here alone because Alistair has me well set up with machinery to move snow from here to there, particularly Big Red, our ’96 one ton Dodge Ram. And we stocked up on wine and food in Missoula a day before he left and pet food supplies are full and we had brought 2 tractor buckets full of wood over to the house as well.

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Yesterday  morning… after I had “cleaned off” Big Red…

As predicted, the snow started to fall.

And it kept falling.

And sometimes it picked up in intensity and other times it just fell.

Most of our community has been without power for some length of time. There is a young couple in Seeley Lake who have been without for 3 days now and a friend north of town with an electrical line down on her driveway so not only can she not plow, she can’t leave her house.

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The snow piled up along our kitchen windows. This isn’t the ground floor.

Our power has been on and off but, for the most part, I have been extremely lucky.

There has been 1 avalanche already along the highway that Alistair travels through Lincoln, MT on his way back to ND. Nobody was injured but it closed the highway for half of a day as crews worked in the falling snow to clear it up.

And while this is life in the mountains of Montana, I have never seen such a snow event in my life. I’ve seen it accumulate but not in one 3-day event.

I plowed twice daily with my newest Hawaiian singer, Keali’i Reichel singing and chanting about sunshine, love, and Aloha in the warmth of Big Red’s rumbling cab. I got good and stuck at one point and contemplated melting down but I managed to channel that energy into getting myself unstuck.

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My first run up the driveway yesterday morning

I was able to create a path out to the main road yesterday, at least, which was my main goal despite all the plowing I had done the days prior. We are the last house on a long driveway and if I want to connect with the outside world I have to be on top of things. I don’t like the idea that I can’t get out if there’s an emergency or an ambulance can’t get in.

So I pushed the road open and then it snowed through the night and this morning I cleaned it up as best I could.

Its not my finest plow work but there is a road.

The problem is that I’ve run out of room to put the snow so it feels a bit like a narrow tunnel in places but, hey, its a road.

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Tidying it up as much as I could today.

I’ve also been shoveling to get the other trucks out and that has re-awoken some muscles in my arms and back that I had forgotten about. Either that or I had just kept them in check by playing golf all summer & fall. Regardless, they are talking to me and I’m glad to have Ibuprofen around.

But I’m done shoveling for 2017.

I think I’m done with 2017 in general.

As much laughter and silliness and as many wonderful friends & family we got to see this year, I’m totally cool with moving forward and letting any issues with 2017 disappear along with the calendars.

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Today’s handiwork. Not going to be using “Big Silver” anytime soon….

For now I’m going to bundle up in my warm, purple ski suit and take Cleopatra down the flat driveway for a walk and later I’ll make a yummy shrimp pasta and curl up on the couch with my ancient bestie, Sport purring away in my lap and maybe we’ll make it to see the ball drop and maybe I’ll even try making myself a Caesar before I switch to wine and maybe my family will call or I’ll call them. Alistair will call but he has to work all day tomorrow after working a very long day today, so we won’t talk late.

I shall sip wine and whole-heartedly welcome a new year with new dreams, new goals, new friends, new challenges, and a surprise or two up my sleeve.

Its Fyfe Life.

May you close 2017 with joy and embrace the New Year with a welcoming heart.

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Cleo helping me shovel today

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Sport, 17 1/2 years young… my new Couch Time partner at nights.

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I was fine with the amount of snow we had before this storm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of “Those” Winters

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How to survive winter in western Montana.

I’ve certainly posted pictures of enormous snow drifts and buried hot tubs over the years. And I’ve shared many before & after pictures of our deck in Montana that would be buried overnight and require my little body to shovel as if there were no tomorrow.

I’ve also told winter tales of woe from our ranch in North Dakota, where the winds blow in unimaginably cold temperatures for days and you pray that you don’t get stuck and that your diesel doesn’t gel.

But this winter… this is one for the ages.

 

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Our barn in ND before Alistair could really do some work.

Its been particularly harsh in Bismarck because they have had two extended periods of extreme cold weather and a tremendous amount of snowfall. Usually the snow comes down and blows around. The drifts make travel and movement a challenge but the volume doesn’t often stack up.

Its stacking up this year.

Like it did in 1996/97 where everyone in North Dakota remembers trying to beat the swollen Red River with sandbags. They were unsuccessful and downtown Grand Forks, ND flooded.

 

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Image from 1997 Red River flood (not my picture)

 

Everyone in the state watched the largest city get buried in raging, muddy waters that were formed when the snow never seemed to stop that winter. Snow that was shoved to the sides of the road higher than our one-ton pickup, Big Red when we were at a hockey game in Grand Forks months before the flood.

 

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All that snow melted and it had to go somewhere (not my picture).

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, fire broke out downtown but nobody could get to it because of the floodwaters. North Dakotans are remembering this springtime disaster because the snow this year is much like the snow that winter.

 

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haunting aftermath of the flood and fire (not my photo)

Because nobody wants to see this again.

But we know that many precautions have been made and banks were reinforced so we are all hopeful to avoid that kind of nightmare.

Or the nightmare of 2011 when Bismarck flooded after heavy snowfall in Montana had to go somewhere.

It chose the mighty Missouri.

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Flooded roads and residential areas in Bismarck, 2011 (not my picture).

Families were evacuated, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and an army of people and pets moved into our home with Alistair for most of the summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers will hopefully be more on top of things this spring so we won’t see a repeat this year.

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snow load and drifts on our ranch in Bismarck right now.

Because there’s a boat-load of snow and its only the middle of January.

Many Montanans say that the snow used to come down like it has all of the time in the “old days”. That people were shoveling and roof-raking all winter long. It was the price you paid to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I guess we’re paying for it now ourselves.

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My view for much of this winter already.

I have it a lot easier than poor Alistair, though.

For starters, I can plow in the warm comfort of Big Red with Jack Johnson, Iz or Coldplay blaring out of the speakers.

I have the big tractor with the covered cab and more heaters and a radio for company.

I also only have one horse to care for here versus the dozen he must feed and protect in Bismarck.

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from our snow-blown deck in North Dakota last week

Which is a challenge when he’s not there for 2 weeks. Its a challenge when New Neighbor is clueless about our tractor (which does not have a cab, heat or music) and damn near destroys a rim as he tries to clean up the snow. And its a challenge when it feels like 60 degrees below zero and the wind has blown for 3 days while snow kept coming down but he still needs a road to get to the horses and to get to work.

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a challenge to get into the barn where the tractor is kept!

I got to post cute videos of me listening to a warming Hawaiian ukulele with the incredibly beautiful Horseshoe Hills just beyond our Montana dream home while poor Alistair froze himself for hours trying to make sense out of the mess in front of him.

A mess New Neighbor truly hadn’t helped with. A mess our postman refused to enter so we didn’t receive mail for a few days. A mess that was very, very cold.

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You have to have a path, right?

He had to stop 5 times during the massive snow upheaval to shiver and shudder in our heated tack room. He traded socks, toques and gloves and stuck his bare toes directly into the slots on the baseboard heater and hoped beyond hope that when the tractor sounded like it wanted to seize up thanks to gelled diesel that it was just messing with him.

Its not as if he has the splendor of the Rockies to look at while he’s trying to move snow from here to there.

He has the flat, white horizon. Its a treeless, dreary, almost depressing landscape when its like this and you recognize how Seasonal Affected Disorder can creep in.

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My stunning backdrop in Montana.

But this is why we do what we do.

Because he gets to call this place home as well and we can enjoy our time together with our pets, heated tractor and vehicles that hopefully all start.

Today Alistair has been back in the big, warm tractor snowblowing out our driveways that are now too tall for Big Red’s blade to push aside. He has the roads wide enough to land a plane on so I’m ready for the next dump of snow.

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Taking a break on the hay bales yesterday with UB, Cleo & Jockey

And we laughed a lot yesterday splitting wood with our electric wood splitter, playing with our remaining band of merry misfits, hot tubbing with toques on our heads and fires lit in the tiki torches he had to dig out.

We watched PGA golf on Oahu and smiled at the vast difference in landscapes while sipping martinis and wine, and we talked about the antibiotics Cleo is on for a dental infection and the meds I started for Sport for a likely overactive thyroid and we shared a sad glance or two at the empty, cleaned-out ferret cage, Quebec and we make each other smile when spirt of Luigi or spirit of Calypso has something to say and we take Loki outside and beg her to do her business out there and we wonder how long we have with her but we can’t get enough of her snuggling into us and onto us during couch time or through the night and the cribbage game continues and we are hopeful that surgery might be soon to remove a pesky pelvic pin for hubby and that eventually, some day, maybe when the snow melts and hopefully doesn’t flood riverbanks onto the prairies, the sun will shine and we will be able to get back to our golf game.

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Another break in the wood splitting yesterday.

We plug the rigs and the tractors in. We only use diesel 1 which southerners don’t know even exists. We keep a steady supply of wine and vodka and frozen food and pet food on hand. We split more wood. And we move more snow.

And Alistair took the keys away from New Neighbor, saying it was time for them to get their own tractor.

Its just one of those winters and we’re doing everything we can to get through it.

Smiling.

With our version of winter Aloha, booze and hot tubs.

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Bismarck hot tub buried after the 2nd blizzard before Alistair dug a path.

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Our Jetta, Klaus in Montana… probably not going anywhere soon.

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Blasting out a “piddle path” for the dogs last month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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“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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Time of our Lives

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Fall of 2003 or 2004 at WCVM- Andrew, Sandy, Budi, Boyd, Suzanne, me and Jocelyn

2015… it will be 10 years since we graduated veterinary school from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 2005.

As I am helping plan our 10 year reunion for June, I can’t help but flash back to the 4 years we all spent together in Saskatoon, where the bitter winds in winter freeze your eyeballs and everyone gets a funky peri-oral dermatitis from the dry cold air.

I’m pretty stoked to see everyone again.

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Sport visiting us at school one day with Tara, Lana, Alex, Meg, Tracie and some girl who was a year ahead of us and I honestly can’t remember her name. She was nice…

72 of us spent 4 years together- learning, studying, observing, practicing, drinking, preparing, panicking, not eating well, cramming, operating, palpating and drinking at the Sutherland.

You can not help but become bonded with one another.

Veterinary school is grueling. Everything surrounding it is.

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Ah yes, the rigors of veterinary school, with Hugh and Leanne

We only had 4 vet schools in Canada at the time and the competition to get in was fierce.

And based on what province we came from.

So by the time you sit down for the first lecture on your first day in the first semester of your first year, you’re already whupped.

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Dream Radiology rotation- Karla, Jocelyn (“fire in the hole”), Claire and me

And you’re a teensy bit worried that your name badge with ‘Dr. Fyfe’ won’t be down on that table in front because you didn’t actually get into vet school and its all been a dream.

But it is and you really are going to be a veterinarian!

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Alpaca medicine!

Until your first Anatomy exam marks come back.

And the Histopathology profs have to sit your class down to tell you you’d all better pull your grades up or nobody would be making 2nd year.

My class wasn’t known for its outstanding academic brilliance but we shone brightly as fun, co-operative, tight-knit, friendly people.

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Random sunny afternoon with a bunch of my peeps

Which is why I’m so happy to help put our reunion (and a golf tournament!) together.

It will be wonderful to see so many of my classmates again.

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Field Service dream team with Emma and I… spot the turkey

Like my friend, Teresa who kept her horse, Max at the stable with my horse, Blaze.

Where we would go after classes or on weekends and solve the world’s problems on the backs of our geldings.

That same friend watched me get busted by our anatomy prof several times… once pretending to read the instructions for something with the paper upside-down in my hands… another time moon-walking through blood and ‘stuff’ on the anatomy lab floor… and yet another as I leapt up from the 5-headed microscope and broke into some sort of crazed Happy Dance because I got something correct.

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Blaze, T-Co and Max

Friends who gathered together one freezing cold weekend to learn and practice being equine Endurance Ride veterinarians.

It wasn’t mandatory. It was just for those of us who knew we would work endurance rides.

Like the one that very cold weekend that was mostly ridden by our professors. No pressure there.

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We’re going to be Endurance Ride veterinarians! Andrew, Budi, Mark, Karla, Lana and Nate

My friend, Danielle who loves Sport, my Siamese cat as much as I do.

And red wine.

Who would join me for fancy schmancy suppers at hoity toity restaurants where we would wear our dresses and makeup and fancy heals, even if that’s how I had to help push her car out of the snow one night.

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Red wine and Siamese cats. I knew Fritzie and I were of the same soul.

The same one who joined me for 2 Lobsterfests at the local zoo and who house/cat-sat for me when I would go home to Bismarck.

The friend who break-danced during our infamous Round-Up skit that we hosted with Pinel and Garcia and did whatever we suggested during our photo-op with Justin.

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Round-Up photo shoot with Justin getting some ‘assistance’ from me, Fritzie and Pinel

The same friend who asked me to be one of her bridesmaids after we graduated.

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Suzanne, newly-married Fritzie and I on Vancouver Island, BC

Where her parents thanked me for helping their daughter relax and enjoy veterinary school a little more for what it was and not living so much for the exams and tests.

Friends who agreed to write a newsletter with me.

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Times of our Lives’ editorial team… at my place for a beer & wing review. Pinel, Kubik, Sport, me and Nate. We had just had some of the worst ‘delivery’ wings of our lives and were trying not to die here.

The Times of our Lives got going in our 2nd year, when I appreciated that getting into veterinary school was the hardest part of all.

I knew I wasn’t going to be the ‘gold medal’ academic of our class and that I wasn’t going to go into research. I didn’t intend to do an internship or residency.

I just wanted to be a good vet.

But I also wanted to enjoy my time there and the people I was with. I am one of the older ‘kids’ in my class and was married with step kids. I had already had a career so my perspective was a bit different.

So we wrote a newspaper.

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The Times of our Lives…. “The TOOL”

Quite a few of them, in fact!

The TOOL became a cult classic that residents and professors would ask for whenever we deemed it time to get one put together.

We had Pinel’s musical selections, Nate’s movie or rotation selections and Pat’s… well… I’m not sure what to call Pat’s column but it was pretty damned funny and what most people turned to first.

Sport wrote his Sport’s column and I had my editorial. Looking back, it was a sort of pre-blog because my writing style is much the same.

We did beer & wing reviews in each paper, scouring Saskatoon for seedy dives or hidden gems where I’d have a silly questionnaire for ‘the boys’ to fill out.

And we had contests in 3rd and 4th year- you had to identify our body parts and you’d get a dream date with us!

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The first TOOL Dream Date- Kubik, Boyd, me, Claire, Rockin’ Robyn, Pinel and Nate… and our limo!

The limos toured us around the city and then we’d do another beer & wing review, all classed and prettied-up.

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What goes on at beer & wing night STAYS at beer & wing night!

Somehow we managed to fit a contest and Dream Date into our hectic 4th year and even one of the residents came along.

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2nd TOOL Dream Date! Kubik, Nate, me, Fritzie, Meg, Colin, Dr.Mitch and Pinel and another limo!

More beer, more wings, and more memories.

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The final beer & wing Dream Date with 2 of ‘the boys’

I had friends who enabled my creative side by “helping” me with projects.

Little things I did to keep everyone smiling throughout our stressful days.

Like Celeste Shadow, who only showed up in 4th year, but she was a blast.

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Celeste Shadow… our secret classmate

She was naughty, but even the profs got a kick out of Celeste!

And the friends who helped do ‘skits’ for whatever function was coming up.

Our class had some fantastic skits over the years.

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One of our classic skits with Gina, me, Emma, Lauren, Nate as Austin Powers, Leanne, Shannon, Carla & Sarah

Don’t get me wrong- veterinary school is tough.

There were challenging times of studying and not sleeping and missing my home and family in Bismarck and trying to make the campus rec hockey game and cars-on-fire and board exams and oral exams and uptight residents with inferiority complexes.

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Pathology dream team where we actually played a part in CSI-ing the real cause of death in this moose (he had been shot!) Starring Jocelyn, Travis, Sandy, Shannon Budi, Christine, Sarah, me and Leanne! And I can’t remember our prof’s name… Haigh?

 

But it was manageable.

Survivable.

Because 71 of my closest friends were enduring it as well.

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Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2005

Many of us have stayed close during these past 10 years.

I got to hang out with Leanne and Jocelyn on Maui at a conference in 2010.

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Canadian veterinarians take over Maui!

And Ken and Nat bring their boys to our ranch in Seeley Lake once a year for visiting or hockey tournaments.

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Dr.Kenny’s boys this summer at the Fyfe Farm

And babies have been born and couples married and clinics started and people have moved and Casey and Harry are still kicking and clinics have closed and some of us have travelled and some aren’t working as vets and we are busy trying to decide if we want our reunion banquet on the Friday or the Saturday.

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Tara’s wedding in St.Augustine, FL with Carolyn, me and Candace (can you believe I wasn’t into golf back then… and I had a day to myself in St.Augustine…????!!!!)

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Grey’s Anatomy… for vets! The Anesthesia dream team of 4th year. Dr.Singh, me, Travis, Bowyer, Fritzie, Lana and Aimee

I can’t wait to see my classmates & colleagues again.

Pinel and I hosted our graduation ceremony back in 2005. I remember saying something like how honored I was to call everyone there my colleague.

But I teared-up when I said it was more special that I could call them all my friends.

Here’s to WCVM’s class of 2005!

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Grad night with Alistair in 2005