Sheep in the Pyreénées Mountains, France, September 2017
First, a little background...In 2011, I sold my sheep and poultry farm in western Oregon and moved overseas for what I thought was a permanent relocation. I sold and/or donated almost everything I owned and packed the rest into 3 large suitcases and off we went.
My Australian Shepherd, Riley, cats, Livvy and Bell, and I moved from Portland, Oregon, first to southern Ireland, county Cork.
The pets being unloaded as cargo from the United flight at Dublin International Airport
A favorite photo from our time in Ireland
I applied to Ireland for permanent residency, as Ireland is one of the few countries in western Europe that offers a "retirement visa" for those who qualify. It generally takes 3 months to have an answer from the immigration service. After 9 months of paperwork filling out and jumping through Irish hoops, I received a letter saying I was not approved for residency. (I will leave that explanation for another blog post - it is quite a story to be told). I had always had a backup plan, as there is never a guarantee of residency approval in any country. My next step was to move to France, where they also have a permanent residency category for retired persons.
Since it was so long past the normal waiting period to hear an answer on residency, the local Irish immigration officer allowed me to travel to Scotland for the summer. We met good friends, visited castles, toured the Highlands, volunteered for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (educating the public on the importance of rare breeds of livestock), and explored the wonderful city of Edinburgh.
Sheep on the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands
Edinburgh, with the castle in the background
When the letter from the Irish immigration service finally did arrive, I was just about to leave for Montana for a visit home to see my parents. Once I arrived in Montana, I found my elderly mother to be quite ill. Time for another change in plans. This time, back to Scotland to gather up "la ménagerie" and return to Montana to watch over my Mom until the end of her life. She was with us another 18 months. Mom passed away in her sleep on December 27, 2015.
My Mom, LeAnne (Norville) Beene, and I at Thanksgiving 2015
In April 2015, my boy Riley succumbed to liver disease at the age of 12. What an amazing life he lived, on my 2 farms in Oregon and traveling throughout Ireland and Scotland. The UK and Ireland had just lifted their 6 month quarantine for pets coming from outside the country, so most people had never seen an Aussie. He was a star wherever he went! Riley was the 2nd of my 3 Australian Shepherds and I think, the best - only because I had him the longest - and is still missed to this day.
My dog-less days did not last. In May 2015, I adopted my 3rd Aussie, Sophie. She had been through 2 homes before finding her way to me and she will never go anywhere else. She was a "special needs" adoption, as she tore both ACLs in her back legs and her first owners never had them repaired, so both knees are quite arthritic. You wouldn't know it though, as she still hikes and goes backpacking with us - not much slows Sophie down!
Posing in the Beartooth Mountains
When I moved back to Montana, I moved into a 100 year old farmhouse near a teeny tiny town called Edgar, about 35 minutes southeast of Billings. I lived there happily for 2 years with Riley (then Sophie), multiple cats, and several chickens. My ancestors, Germans who emigrated to Russia and eventually to America (known as Volga Germans), lived in that exact area in the early 1900's. It was eventually time to move when the roof leaked so badly that it began raining in the bathroom!
This past May, I took up residence in the family home in Billings. My Dad had moved to a retirement living apartment and the plan was to sell the house, but at the last minute it was decided to keep it in the family. It is a terrific home, set atop of the Rimrocks that surround Billings. Mom and Dad lived there 30 years and it has "great bones", but there is much work to be done. I am looking forward to posting before and after photos of all the renovation work, as we make this house into our home.
Just last week, there was a little more sadness as it was time to say goodbye to Bell, a wonderful friend for 12 years. She had been experiencing 2 chronic diseases, hyperthyroidism and IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome) for over a year and yet she was still the sweetest, most curious, kitty there ever was. With IBS, there is always the chance this disease can actually be a precursor to lymphoma. She told us it was her time by no longer having the desire to eat. She lived a great life - born in Oregon, traveling to Ireland and Scotland with us, and living a peaceful life in Montana. Wherever I went, there she was and she always touched my cheek with her little paw to tell me it was time to get up to feed her or give her a bit of petting. It's not the same without her.
Soon after adoption in Oregon
Happy and healthy in Montana
Livvy (aka Big Mama) is still with us, at 12 years old, and weighing in at around 18 lbs. Though she was close to Bell as a kitten, they have not been as adults. However, she seems to miss Bell and is now quite vocal and has taken to following me around. This is a good thing, as she needs the exercise :) This is definitely a cat with "tortitude" and we love her to bits.
While living at the farmhouse near Edgar, I inherited 2 outdoor farm cats. Woodhouse, was a lovely cat and I enjoyed being her guardian for 2 years. Before moving to Billings, she was rehomed to a family in a nearby town, as no matter how much we tried, she just couldn't get along with other cats. Thankfully, the local rescue helped me find her a terrific furever home.
The other barn cat, originally named Snarfy by the former owner, is now called Bouffée, which means "bed head" in French. She is about 4 years old and living the good life, as an inside cat only now. She currently resides in our mountain house, but will soon be moving to Billings. She is a curious cat and reminds me of a miniature Norwegian Forest Cat.
With all the challenges over the past 3 years, at times it seemed there might not be any light at the end of the tunnel. Then one day I walked into a local bar and grill near Edgar, Montana, and met a Frenchman. Now, that sounds like a story, doesn't it? Well it is and it's the best one yet!
The Frenchman and I were recently married twice, once in Montana and again in his native France. We just returned from our honeymoon in southwest France, near the Pyreénées Mountains, where we plan to eventually retire. Maybe that is where we will have some sheep!
As I continue to write, I hope to share our adventures in hiking, backpacking, fly fishing (yes, I am 2 years into learning), cooking & baking in our wonderful new kitchen, renovating, and of course, all of our pet adventures. For now...Au revoir!
The Frenchman and I, married in Provence, France, September 16, 2017