What I Really Want

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Hubbel and Donohue, last night in Japan (not my photo).

I’d like to tell you all my thoughts on this weekend’s Grand Prix of figure skating event that took place in Japan, the annual NHK Trophy.

I’d love to share my joy at the amazing level of ice dancing right now, and how emotional all the top skaters were in their performances, including the Americans shown above, who placed second.

I could tell you all about Tessa and Scott’s sleek, sexy outfits and how they brought tears to my eyes as I watched their free dance last night and how relieved he must have felt to nail the twizzle section that almost took him down during their short dance.

But there’s a bigger, more important elephant in the room and its the reason I’m already crying right now.

 

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UB Fyfe… last winter

I have to tell you all that UB has died.

Our amazing, cuddly, loving, sometimes-serious, protective, friendly littlest buddy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge all on his own at the very end of October and our hearts and our world haven’t been the same ever since.

 

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Inspecting the newly delivered wood for big mice just a few weeks ago.

This wasn’t something we had been expecting or planning for.

UB Pickles Napolean Jumping Jack Flash Serge Savard Spinorama Fyfe was supposed to be hiking alongside us in the forests out back for years.

He was supposed to eagerly climb into his ‘Steve Austin’ smoking-jacket right now and for the next few months as we would be stretching our legs along our long driveways.

 

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Looking dapper in his smoking jacket earlier this year.

He was supposed to be Cleo’s assistance dog as she prances into old age with deaf ears and rear legs that don’t work as well as they used to. He was supposed to be Bebe’s boyfriend as our strange grey kitty continues to find her voice and place in our world.

We fully expected him to continue to charm the snot out of everyone who visited as he made friends with all of our friends and family who came to the Fyfe Farm. Anybody’s lap was fair game if you sat on the couch and full-body contact was preferred, if not expected.

 

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UB, Cleo & Uncle Pete a couple of years ago.

UB, the king of all laps, was supposed to find a few more over the next few years. With zero concept of personal space, UB should have spent a great more deal of time firmly squared away with someone’s arm wrapped around him.

 

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Last May in Bismarck.

And UB was supposed to pack up into one of the trucks yet again with Cleo & I on our next trip to Bismarck. And the trip after that, too. And maybe another trek to Canada as well. He had a knack for keeping Cleo and Loki calm when we travelled and he made the most out of wherever he landed as long as we were all together.

 

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Travels with Mummy & Loki up to BC in 2014.

 

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Our return trip from our month-long evacuation in Bismarck just weeks ago.

UB was only 9 years old so it didn’t seem to be a big deal when he developed a tiny, dry, little cough a few weeks ago after we returned from Bismarck. It certainly didn’t slow him down and he mostly did it when we first went out for a run (always at full speed) or when he first leapt out from under the comforter each morning.

And, hey, half of Seeley Lake is still coughing and dealing with sinus issues after the months-long Rice Ridge fire brought thick, grey smoke into our world and our lungs for what seemed like an endless summer. Even though we evacuated to North Dakota for a month I still put UB’s cough down to the smoke.

Because he was still UB.

 

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“Helping” Daddy edit my 3rd book this spring.

Playing, eating, jumping, snuggling, awesome UB.

But then maybe he was sleeping a little bit longer in the mornings.

And maybe it was noticeable that he stayed pretty close to us whenever we walked outside.

And perhaps he was actually a bit clingy during evening Couch Time when Daddy was in Bismarck for his two weeks.

 

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Evacuees in Bismarck this fall.

Which was all stored up in my head and my heart as I made arrangements for our fall house-sitter to come for our planned trip to the Big Island of Hawaii on October 26th.

Because that’s what I’d like to be telling you all about right now.

Sunshine, mai tais, old friends and new ones, my golf game, the enormous resort, incredible seafood, the annual veterinary dermatology conference and some much-needed Aloha.

 

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A very different kind of Aloha.

There was Aloha, alright, but it just wasn’t right.

My husband and my heart weren’t there.

Because a couple of days before our trip, UB suddenly stopped eating.

Just like that.

We coaxed some canned food, some bacon, and some of our own breakfast and supper but he mostly just looked at it. He didn’t touch the cat food dish either, and Doctor Me told Mummy Me that its never normal for a dog like UB to repeatedly refuse food. Particularly with nothing else really wrong.

Well, there was that little cough…

 

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In Missoula, this spring. “Pay attention to the road, Mummy!”

So on October 25th, UB and I drove to Missoula while Alistair packed and we visited our internal medicine veterinary friend, Dr.Dave.

He and his assistant enjoyed getting to meet our happy little guy although he did seem a bit more subdued than normal. He was a perfect monkey for his ultrasound and for his chest x-ray and he seemed endearingly more concerned about me when I lost my shit in the truck when we left the clinic.

UB’s heart wasn’t the problem. It may have been a bit on the large size but everyone who has met him already knew that.

His lungs looked like a blizzard thanks to a ton of cancer throughout both sides.

 

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UB’s lungs. ūüė¶

(His head is off to the left, that’s his sternal bones on the bottom and his big heart is surrounded by white patches where the lungs should just be black.)

We don’t know what type of cancer UB had but it sure came out of nowhere and took us all by complete and total surprise.

And so we started prednisone at a high enough dose to get him to eat. And we gave more bacon and canned cat food that night as we continued to hold and kiss our special little friend.

Neither of us slept that night. Thankfully, UB was all up for cuddles under and on top of the covers with both Daddy and I.

 

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October 26th after Alistair got back from the airport.

At 3 in the morning, when our alarm was set to go off, Alistair said he would stay with UB. Even though UB loved our house-sitter and knew her well, it was what needed to be done. (I had already tried cancelling flights and resort bookings but it wasn’t going to happen.)

So I somehow got ready and even as we were ready to leave I ran down the hallway for one more hug and kiss from our loverboy. Which turned out to be the last ones for him and I.

And I flew to Hawaii and I wish I could be telling you about the fun couple I met as well as the really weird guy they put next to me because he was making a scene thanks to his size and window-seat ‘needs’ but he managed to fit into Alistair’s seat and shove his body against mine for 5 1/2 hours (and he didn’t open the window shade once!)

I wish I could tell you all about the resort but, to be honest, I wasn’t really there the first few days.

 

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day 1, post golf game, with the resorts adorable UB statues!

My heart was back home with my family and I lived for every text and update from Alistair.

The wonderful news is that UB had a couple of outstanding days. Alistair tweaked his steroids enough to get him really excited about food again and UB ate like the king he was! He rode in the Ranger with Daddy and they hiked and stacked wood and cuddled together on the couch and watched old Star Treks together in bed.

 

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Sunset from my lanai.

And I cried but I smiled, too, because UB got to truly enjoy his final few days with Cleo and Daddy and the kitties, too, even if I wasn’t there. He heard my voice on the phone the last day after he’d had a huge breakfast and even some snacks before I went off to my conference, where my close friends knew the reason why Alistair wasn’t there.

And so it was, on the early evening of the 28th, with Alistair outside in the hot tub and UB and Cleo running around in the leaves, that UB laid down peacefully by our back deck and, taking control of everything like always, he died.

Just like that.

 

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Couch Time last winter with UB.

And he’s gone and I cried my eyes and heart out alone in my hotel room in Paradise. And I continued to cry whenever it was safe to do so and sometimes even when it wasn’t over the next few days on the island.

And Alistair was suddenly very alone inside our big house in Montana.

I wasn’t alone during the days, though. There’s nothing quite like a conference full of veterinarians to make you feel some sympathy and love. And the outpouring of love and compassion and people telling me they were crying when I posted the news on social media was raw, real and heart-felt and I appreciated every comment and reaction shared.

 

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Getting by with a little help from my friends. Liz, from Vancouver, and her family happened to be vacationing island-style that time, too.

I’d like to be able to tell you all that we’re doing just fine and everything is honky-dorey but that would be a lie.

I’m happily back in Montana and Alistair was able to stay a few extra days with me which helped immensely. I’m not sure how well I could have¬† kept it together otherwise without UB in the house. And now Alistair is working in Bismarck and Cleo and I are getting into our own new routines with the cats.

I’m thankful that UB didn’t suffer. Ever.

Thankful he found us 9 years ago and was such a perfect Fyfe family member and sibling to all the other pets (maybe not the guinea pigs, although we still aren’t sure what went down that day…)

Even more thankful that so many of you got to meet and fall in love with our Boston Terrier, Cocker Spaniel cross who flicked his feet when he trotted, ran that kissing booth with his fetching underbite, sat like a human on any chair he could as long as we were with him and slammed Subarus and their dreadlocked, hippie, ten-and-two-in-my-Subaru, patchouli smelling, bra-burning slow drivers with abandon.

 

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Well played, Uncle Gary & Aunty Dona. Well played….

I miss those soul-searching brown eyes as he would just stare at me. I miss hearing him prance around the house to find us. I miss his naughty paw-pulling he did when it was time for nail trims and I miss watching him burrow into the magic blanket.

 

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Handsome dude!

What I really want right now is UB.

I want the last 4 weeks to not have happened.

I want to pick the smoking jacket up off the freezer and watch UB joyfully hold his arms out for me to wrap it on him.

I want to take him and Cleo for walkies and for him to mix up words in a song and for us to make a funny video with him taking to everyone tonight.

But that’s not real.

 

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“Excuse me, Barkeep! Some beverages for my Mummy and me, please!”

What’s real is the hole in my heart and the lump in my throat and the tears streaming down my cheeks. What’s real is Cleo’s need for a walk today and my concern that she’s also really missing her younger brother. The silence is real. The empty dog dish is real. UB’s collar and cute new name tag lying on the counter in the laundry room are real.

What’s real is the pain… which means the love was that real in itself.

And I’m honored to have been able to share UB with you all.

RIP, UB. Oh, how you are loved.

 

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Last fall when we were at the conference UB loved taking his meals with Theresa and Brian in the kitchen! (Theresa’s photo)

 

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UB and Loki, 2 of the most famous and well-loved spirits at the Dog Days of Summer a few years ago.

 

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I believe this was post-op back surgery for Alistair… classic UB. One of my favorites of these two!

 

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UB on Aunty Merielle’s bed during her first visit to MT in 2013. Not my photo. The eyes really are the window to the soul.¬†

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The BEST Path Ever!

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Aloha tootsies!

I’ve travelled¬†several paths already this year and it is only just the end of April.

The paths are sometimes real and sometimes metaphorical and yet they are all a means of sauntering along on my journey.

We sauntered our asses over to Hawaii’s Big Island again a couple of weeks ago for a fabulous little journey in the warm sunshine.

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A beautiful view!

The sky was bright blue, the ocean was navy, the clouds were fluffy, and the golf courses were awesome!

Our hotel room was a bit fancy but we didn’t complain.

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Lounging in our yukatas in the living room area…

We somehow landed this one-bedroom, ocean-view, corner suite on “cyber Monday”… a day that is uniquely American and geared to online consumers.

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One of our 3 lanais this last trip… we fell asleep every single night under the stars and waving palms listening to the ocean and the monorail below… talk about loving our Aloha!

Generally, we aren’t much for that type of thing but the rates last fall for the Hilton Waikoloa were 50% off! And then we found a conference for Alistair at a resort ‘down the road’…. I mean, we HAD to book, right?

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Many paths throughout the grounds at the Hilton Waikoloa!

I loved exploring the resort and the area around me when Alistair was off at the Hapuna Prince for his morning conferences.

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Pathways leading me around the resort

Its amazing to think that one week ago we were waking up all excited to play golf at a non-resort, more local golf course over by Kailua-Kona called Makalei.

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Every hole at Makalei was uphill or downhill…. a fun, friendly course we highly recommend!

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Getting ready to wrap up the round with our new friend, David, from AZ taking the picture at Makalei

Its amazing because here I am today, back in Montana, on a dramatically different farm than the one we left.

For starters, the weather is a bit different this morning.

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Our stallion, Dash, not overly thrilled about the weather situation…

It wasn’t all that cold before we left for Hawaii. Our local golf course had re-opened and we had played a couple of times.

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My step-daughter, Whitney and I before we left… we introduced golf and Norman to Whitney… a new journey for her, perhaps. (Note: no snow on the ground and no jackets on our bodies!)

Little Loki is missing her Mummy a lot and was a bit unsettled yesterday.

That could also do with the main reason our farm is so different now- Casey finally succumbed to his laryngeal paralysis while we were gone.

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Casey & Dad a couple of years ago riding in Steve, our Ranger

Casey.

Jumpy, eager, goofy, happy, silly, clumsy, fun-loving Casey.

The dog who was always there is gone and the hole left behind is tremendous.

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On one of many, many hikes on one of many, many paths

We had¬†all hiked together before we left and Casey’s breathing had been labored so we did a much-modified, shortened hike. I had explained to Whitney that his disease was a matter of ‘when’… not ‘if’ and that we had already surpassed expectations by over a year.

Alistair and Whitney were adamant that we keep things as they were- that I wasn’t to step in and end things before we left.

Before he had a few more bumps with UB.

Or cuddles with Cleo.

Or sniffs with Loki.

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UB, Casey & Loki goofing around a couple of months ago

And I was and I am completely fine with that.

Because each day really is a gift and nobody knew that better than Casey.

The physical embodiments of the words, “Oh, BOY!” lived each minute as the BEST one ever, regardless of what came his way.

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Casey & Mummy, probably 12 years ago

As a puppy he never looked back when his former humans shattered his rear limbs with some blunt object. He became a ward of my vet school and joined our family for the rest of his own journey.

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Young Casey Fyfe! Oh, BOY!

He took every opportunity to cuddle and enjoy each companion he could, human or otherwise and there was always such joy in his eyes.

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Young (and bright-eyed) Loki with one of her BFF’s, Casey back in Bismarck about a dozen years ago. xo

His clumsiness seems more endearing to me now as I look through my rear-view mirror back down the paths we traveled.

At the time, though, I’m sure a few naughty words flew when he would slam into me.

Or when he knocked Alistair over post-knee surgery into a puddle on the driveway. I can only imagine what was being said as Alistair struggled to get his crutches while Casey was leaping all over and on top of him.

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Casey & Dad hiking this winter

Casey lived and loved at full throttle.

If you were in his way (as my brother’s boys discovered) you would be slammed into and then licked and loved as you laid on the ground.

His wiggly ass and wagging tail knocked Cleo into the hot tub one time.

That was the BEST dunking of Cleo!

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All 4 of the outside gang this winter

Something changed for Casey when we unexpectedly lost Harry in January.

He was still eager, keen, bright and goofy but he didn’t go for his kibble with the same gusto… and his runs through the pastures seemed more like he was looking for someone.

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This is the BEST time on the couch, Mummy!

I believe he has found Harry again and the 2 of them are on a different journey of their own now.

We laid our big boys to rest with pink roses along with Cousteau, Mae Mae, Oscar, Cadbury, Marmalade and Mulder on a cloudy morning with patches of blue peeking through and a breeze strong enough to keep me from keeping my Memorial candle lit.

Typical.

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Oh, BOY! This is the BEST photo opportunity ever, Dad!

And I miss Casey like I never thought possible and Cleo has moved primarily inside and she’s eager to cuddle and take over the bed and all of the animals are sorting this out and I still look for Mulder and long to hear Harry’s “Woo Woo’s” and I think I hear the guinea pigs whistling at me and I’m crying again but trying to be that strong, independent woman I think I am when clearly I’m not and our hikes out back are SO different now because although its the same path I have hiked for years, its a completely different journey.

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Oh, BOY! My first agility trials with my DAD!!!!

And we will all be okay.

Little things make me smile or laugh- like seeing my golf club head covers at the Mauna Lani resort 2 days after Casey had laid down in the grass with Whitney and Cleo on a sunny afternoon for the last time.

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Who knew Muldie and Casey would join Jinxie in the spirit world when I got these late last summer?

The fact we were an ocean away maybe even helped because of the Aloha surrounding us.

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View from the big lanai

We played golf and raised our glasses to one of the BEST dogs ever to join our rag-tag band of merry misfits.

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I had just made par on the par 3 hole below. People had been watching from this lava and had cheered me on. Seemed like a good time & place to celebrate ūüôā

And I continue¬†on my journey and I’m hoping that’s enough loss for awhile and that I can retain some of that Aloha ’cause it really is something special.

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Post hula lesson at the Hilton Waikoloa!

And I am okay with the hurt because it means the love was real.

And I still think I am the luckiest girl in the world to have known some amazing spirits.

Mahalo, Casey. That was the BEST of times! xo

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golf ball hunting in lava fields

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Ocean-side golf!

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Their last hike together. “That was the BEST hike ever, Dad!” April 13, 2015

Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe

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The Princess

We weren’t in the market for a new dog. It was 2005, I had finished vet school and was working full-time at a clinic in Bismarck.

And, Casey and Harry were really enough of a canine handful back in their youth.

But we¬†usually aren’t¬†looking for a new pet when another addition arrives.

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Cleo trying to look like Mummy, with their similar dark curly locks and a cute hat

The clinic I worked at had the unfortunate contract with Animal Control to put down the dogs deemed unadoptable.

Aggressive, ferocious dogs.

Dogs with injuries so severe it was inhumane to keep them alive without an owner claiming them.

And sometimes, dogs who had just overstayed their welcome.

I was there that morning when the Animal Control officers came in the back door with this bouncing, tail-wagging, eager, fluffy black and white female spaniel.

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Cleo, this winter in Montana

“She’s aggressive. They’ll never find her a home. She might have Springer Rage,” was all¬†he said.

But I caught the eye of the female officer hanging back and there were tears there.

“How long has she been there,” asked my boss, with the spaniel standing up on her back legs, reaching to him with her front paws.

“3 days,” said Animal Control. “But this morning when I approached her cage she growled at me and you know, we’re full right now.”

The spaniel continued to run around the treatment area greeting the other veterinarians and technicians who had gathered. Another vet and I started to do a basic exam.

She was in good shape with clean teeth and ears and toe nails that weren’t too long. She was super friendly and started whipping out her tricks, like flopping over on her side, standing up and walking a little on her back legs towards us and sitting when asked to. No collar. No microchip.

My boss signed the intake form but as soon as the door shut behind the officers he put his face down to the spaniel’s and said, “we can’t put her down, she’s lovely.”

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Winter Cleo

Surprise and relief washed over me because this is the same boss who once told me I had to toughen-up when it came to euthanasias.

I had to start to do the drop-off ones¬†where I didn’t even know if the person dropping the animal off was its owner.

Pets I had never met before.

Pets whose histories I was supposed to ignore as I watched the light leave their eyes.

The same boss who once¬†told me I couldn’t save every animal.

I had responded with, “I can try.”

So the friendly black and white love bug got to live in our isolation ward at the clinic for a week, making sure she didn’t break out in full Cujo mode. She never once growled at any of us and she was handled by the entire staff.

I started visiting her a bit more and told Alistair about her.

He came to visit and left with a dog. He named her Cleopatra.

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Cleopatra and Daddy in 2006 in Bismarck

She went home with him and immediately leapt up into the cab of the tractor, never leaving his side.

There’s that one rule: donate¬†your reproductive organs at the door and get along. And she did and she does.

She never chased the cats and she was perfectly house trained.

Cleo immediately bonded with her Daddy.

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Riding Steve, the Ranger, with Daddy, one of Cleo’s favorite activities

But she slowly bonded with me as well and I will admit, it was fun having a dog inside the house again. Maybe not the hairs, but she fit into our household just perfectly.

With a bit of time Cleo started to develop her looks and affectations.

You know when she is rolling her eyes at you. She usually sighs when she is doing it.

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The Look… by Cleopatra Fyfe

Her voice is a southern drawl… think Blanche Dubois, with a slight lisp.

When we moved to Montana all 3 of the dogs thrived. There is something about having a forest for your backyard.

The boys chased deer but Cleo was never into that.

She must have been trained by someone because she suddenly stood on perfect point one time my husband had a sports channel on and they were doing bird calls with their kazoo thingies. She pointed beautifully at the TV and remained there like a statue, almost in a trance. Her hunting skills are wasted on us- we’re lovers not fighters.

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Cleopatra’s hunting skills are much more advanced than ours

Her middle names have come from her quirky behaviors.

And her freckles.

Her adorable face is speckled with black dots. Her entire body is when she’s shaved but generally you only see the nose.

I have a bunch of freckles on my arms and we joke that one looks like the constellation Cassiopeia.

Cleo liked that name so its now one of hers.

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Well-groomed Cleo with Mummy… what you can’t see is the ribbon she tore out of the other side of her head

The Carrie Bradshaw thing… if she’s in bed with you, shoes or slippers will somehow be there when you wake up. Or if you’re visiting in the living room, shoes will be brought forth. How can you not love a¬†girl with that kind of passion for shoes?!

As for Houdini, I came home from work one winter night to have Cleo greet me on the driveway. The boys were still inside the locked kennel.

It didn’t take long to figure it out once I¬†saw the snow load and the bare roof.

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“Mummy, are you up for some shoveling?”

Diamond… well, she picked that one herself because diamonds are beautiful, rare and special. Just like Cleo.

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Two clever and classy gals, my Nan and Cleopatra at the Dog Days of Summer (photo by Gary Kyrouac)

And she is clever.

One of the times when Alistair was trying to get UB to stop barking at a grizzly bear a few feet away the other dogs all came charging in.

Its the only time we’ve seen ferocity out of Casey, with his hackles up, foaming at the mouth.

Harry was somewhere, spinning circles in the distance, making his woo-woo sounds even though Alistair doesn’t remember actually seeing him.

Cleo was probably back at the house thinking, “I’m not getting involved in that. That’s stupid. I’m going to call Mummy at her clinic. Now, where is that telephone?”

Cleo loved being the shop dog over the past few years when I brought her to work.

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Lynnie and Cleo… bath time again!

Sometimes she got the spa treatment from her best friend, Lynnie.

Sometimes she would have special visitors come to chat and they’d end up petting her the entire time.

Fireman Frank has an unworldly love of dogs and Cleo had him wrapped around her furry paws.

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Cleo and one of her BFFs, Fireman Frank

Other times she would just play with Mummy and Lynnie.

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I love you, Lynnie! Shhhh… don’t tell Mummy about the treat with the Easy Cheese on it!

She was wonderful with other dogs and was fine when we had to crate her when it was time for surgeries or appointments with dogs or cats who maybe didn’t want to see her. She adored a box full of Schipperke puppies who were just a week old. Mind you, she claims that her uterus was “ripped untimely” from her body so maybe there was some maternal instinct there.

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Cleo wanted to have a special cap just like Mummy at the clinic

On extra special days at the clinic, though, she would see Matt, the UPS driver.

It wasn’t the biscuits because she doesn’t go ape with our farm delivery UPS guy.

Matt was different. Cleo even leapt up into the cab and the back of his truck on several occasions.

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“I love you, Matt!”

So there’s our aggressive, needs-to-be-euthanized dog. Doing her thing standing up on her legs, which is one of the tricks that saved her life. We don’t know how old she is but she hasn’t started to slow down at all. She likes to sleep and snuggle with me when Alistair is gone as¬†part of the Usual Suspects (Loki, UB, Cleo, Mulder and Sport).

Cleo likes to help finish my scrambled eggs if I accidentally make too much.

She likes to watch me clean and feed the guinea pigs in the mornings, her ears perking when they whistle and tweet.

But she also likes¬†sleeping outside with Casey and Harry and I think the 3 of them are a fun unit, even if she only occasionally plays with them outside. She’s usually off looking for a good spot to dig a hole, or a creek to romp in, or horse poop to eat, or someone to stand up against.

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Cleo and her boys with something extra special to sniff

Aggression isn’t always aggression. Dogs growl for all sorts of reasons and I’m pretty sure Cleo was scared and lonely. She was obviously well-trained in many ways and I’m certain she was loved.

It saddens me only to think that a little girl or a cute older couple were her original owners but I would hope they believe she went to loving arms with loving hearts with a huge back yard and buddies of all species.

And lots of shoes.

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Snowshoeing with Daddy in Montana

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Standing up against the snow walls with Mummy after the heavy snow this past winter

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The only Fyfe who has brought home a trout in Montana. Granted, it was frozen but you have to give her credit!

 

 

 

The Unlikely Crazy Cat Lady

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

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

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

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

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

Especially cats.

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

I didn’t know how intelligent they were.

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

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

Or what unconditional love felt like.

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

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

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If anything, I feel kind of sorry for her.

But the old Tanya became the new Tanya.

Thankfully, a person can change.

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

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

I loved her immediately and named her Koshka.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all night long.

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She is only now getting through it.

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

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

But he kept eating.

And eating.

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

“Give him another,” he replied.

Muldy hasn’t looked back.007

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

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

Which is a whole different type of cat.

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

Or shaking it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not bring me more kittens.

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

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

Enter Mae Mae.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That, and donating their reproductive organs at the door.

And getting along.

And not being Phantom Piddlers.

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

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