Looking Back To Look Ahead: Remembering Fern

They say you know it when you meet your soul mate. And that was true with Fern. It’s true I’d had dogs before, but when I held that tiny Labrador puppy and she wrapped her front legs around my forearm, I knew we were destined to share a life.

And so, with this latest adventure of blogging, I wanted to go back to the beginning and share with you how the name of Redfern Canines came about.
I want to introduce you to Fern and her legacy. She is the reason there’s a Redfern Canines Training Center. She was my soul mate, my comfort and my inspiration, and I’d like you to meet her.

Born December 13, 1995, Fern shared her birthday with my youngest daughter, and also with my beloved Julie. She came from a breeder in Akron, Ohio and was destined for another family. We had no business choosing each other, but fate and circumstances intervened and one month later, Susquehanna’s Redfern came home.

We never stood on ceremony, and Fern responded in kind, answering to calls of Fernster, Fernface, and Fernzilla. Far from a shrinking violet, Fern was always in your face.

She needed you to know she was there.
And she was everywhere. Her face graced posters and billboards to help raise funds for United Way. Fern played “Sandy” in the Oyster Mill Playhouse production of Annie, and, as I sat in the back row, I held my breath every time she appeared on stage. But Fern was a professional and I had no cause for worry. I just couldn’t help myself.

Dog in a bobsled? Yes, Fern did that too and her photo is hung proudly in the training center. Can you believe she even wore a helmet?

In addition to basking in the spotlight, Fern had her Canine Good Citizen (CGC), Novice Obedience title, and was a registered therapy dog. And that was the beginning of something special.

We still have descendants of Fern involved in the therapy dog and assistance dog business, and I am so proud to be part of her legacy.
Most days she was like any other Labrador Retriever. She loved to swim, and I mean LOVED. When we’d go to the lake, I’d have her wait on the dock while I swam out. At my signal, she’d fly down the dock and launch herself out as far as she could, paddling out to meet me and then pull me back to shore. Fern loved swimming so much I’d have to physically take her out of the water when she’d be too exhausted to continue.

She’d never willingly give up what she loved doing. And I loved her for it; she still makes me smile today.
But Fern had another side as well. She was incredibly intuitive and that’s part of what made her such an effective therapy dog. Fern instinctively knew what to do, and where she was needed. I remember a tragic accident in Harrisburg years ago that took the lives of several young people. The newest member of the emergency team had never experienced anything so devastating. The young woman sat, head bowed, oblivious in the aftermath of the call.

When Fern arrived, her only direction was, “Go on in, Fern.”
Fern walked over to the young woman quietly and rested her head in her lap, just standing. At first, the woman didn’t seem to notice, but then she began stroking Fern’s head. And then she began talking. Fern waited. When the paramedic’s voice dropped off again, Fern gently deposited a tennis ball in her lap. As the woman tossed the ball, she’d talk, trying to make sense of what had happened. Fern stayed with her. She was way beyond fabulous.

Amazingly, she passed these traits down to her children and I can tell you many stories of her children where their skills mirrored those of their mother. And those stories aren’t over yet either. They’re still being written.

We lost Fern in August of 2008, and I still miss her to this day. I was blessed to find my soul mate and the love of my life (at least when we’re talking dogs) with Fern. I’m happy that her influence still touches people today so many years later.

Fern was truly a gift.
For those of you who may have known Fern, this has been a wonderful walk down memory lane. For those of you that never had the pleasure, I wanted you to meet the dog that inspired me to do what I do.

Let’s talk again soon.