fern ethel
fern ethel

fern ethel

where did you get her?

the dreaded question.

how can I possibly explain to this random person that fern, in fact, survived the most horrible conditions while being used as a breeding dog for the meat trade in shanghai, china? either this person won’t understand the immense pain fern endured, or they will think I conjured it up in my imagination or worse they won’t care. and then someone will honk their horn behind me because this story is entirely too long to explain at a thirty second stop light.

i was born in a thunderstorm
i grew up overnight
i played alone
i’m playing on my own
i survived – sia

in less than two years on this planet, fern had experienced the horror of giving birth to two litters only to see them ripped away from her for the meat trade. her fear, so deeply instilled within her, still shows its darkness when triggered by the mandarin language, golf clubs and loud noises. every time her memory releases the darkness she experienced, my heart breaks to know that such a precious being was hurt so deeply. and yet, fern strives to love and be loved. her kindness extends all else.

i will learn to love the skies i’m under. let me learn to know the skies i‘m under. hold me fast because I am a hopeless wanderer – m&sons

in october of 2016, tk and I met fern. before she arrived, we had finished fostering (and transferring) dora, the squishiest, chunkiest, not-sure-if-she-will-meet-airplane-weight-requirements-golden-retriever.  in the midst of dora’s absence, our german shepherd rescue, lezzie, was ready for her new foster sister to arrive. when I first saw fern’s photo, I knew she was destined for our home. the saddest eyes of them all. we knew she was set to be adopted to a family in the uk around christmas time. our only responsibility as foster parents was to house her safely in our chinese apartment and love her back to life until then. however, it did not go as planned. yes, fern was loved back to life. but so, very very much, was i.

fern is the most loving being I know.

cautiously, I tried to coo her out of the car. cowered in the corner, this scrawny and dirty being had no intention of listening to me. fear and anxiety overcame her.

come here, fern. come here, sweetie. 

slowly she allowed me to take hold of her collar and lead her out of the car and into our lives. it was not until an hour later in the kitchen, did I understand the extent of her abuse. I placed a plate of scrambled eggs at her feet. she cowered thinking she was going to be hit. I slowly convinced her that she was not going to be hurt by eating her meal. it took many meals for her to learn to trust us. however, even eighteen months later, her tender soul would not fully allow anyone to offer her food without first cautiously monitoring whether or not she will be hit by accepting it.

tk’s favorite fern memories consist of her stealing tortillas from the countertop to eat in the basement alone. or the time she immersed herself in blueberry pie while we were not home. unfortunately for fern, her pristine white coat gave away her guilt.

fern’s story took a turn when during the holidays of 2016, the orignal adopters backed out and asked if we would take her since she had adjusted well to our new home. we promised the rescue group that we would indeed find a way for fern to get out of china and to a safe forever home. getting fern out of the country was one of the most difficult tasks we experienced living there. days before I flew out, we were told that her reservation was not set. she was too big for this particular airline. tk, like the superman he is, spent endless hours finding a way for fern to leave. it wasn’t until lezzie and fern both landed in sfo and met tk at cargo did we finally breath a sigh of relief. she made it.

lezzie and fern were a bonded pair. a sisterhood. had overcome so much pain and were finally in the land of the free.

it’s been a long day, baby
things ain’t been going my way
and now i need you here – r.m.

fern’s empathy and intuition was evident in my short time with her. when many women monitor signs of pregnancy, I saw through fern’s determination to constantly sniff my body and rest loyally by my side that we had a miracle residing within. her commitment to me was put to test as months later she lay by my side as I lost another baby. her loyal presence at my feet was more healing than most anything I sought comfort in. her unconditional love was evident and I was humbled by her loyalty.

fern’s gentle soul taught me that no matter what I go through in life, I can still be kind to others. I can still accept love offered to me. and I can still decide to trust in what life may have in store.

and i won’t let you get me down
i’ll keep gettin’ up when I hit the ground
oh, never give up, no, never give up no
 – sia

and now, in our loyalty and commitment to her, we had to find her a warm, gentle home. our current home and expat lifestyle was not conducive to a great pyrenees breed. fern deserves room, space and ability to bark at all hours of the day without repercussions. to run in pastures. to live a good life after such a horrible start to life. she deserved to be as free as possible.

with the help of the national pyrenees rescue group in colorado, fern found a country home in southern denver. here, her new siblings include two dogs, horses and two loving parents. her new parents have rescued and fostered cats and dogs for years and recently lost their prior pyrenees rescue, sugar, to bone cancer. so far, the transition has been smooth on fern’s end. however, my transition has left me with swollen eyes and a broken heart. although I am extremely proud that we found fern a lovely home, I selfishly miss her white precious soul snuggling up to me.

after we said our final goodbyes, tk and I went to lunch and toasted to fern. our mission helping fern was complete. our precious girl is safe, comfortable and getting an immense amount of love.

tk asked if I want to continue to foster/rescue more down the road. I laughed. we didn’t rescue these precious beings, they rescued us.


a tribute video to fern can be found [at] https://vimeo.com/263802315

like jezzie, fern celebrated her final day with us being a unicorn, licking whip cream and listening to her favorite music, sia. in lieu of jezzie’s choice of elton john.

the first photo I received of fern after she had been rescued from her abusers:

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