We’re Going to Miss You Ferndog

Yesterday afternoon we made the tough decision to say goodbye to our dog, Fern.

In recent weeks she’d gotten more picky about her eating. She’d always been different than most labradors, who will eat every last crumb of whatever you put in their bowl. Throughout her life Fern was known to skip meals, usually when she was tired, and then make up for it later. She’d even get tired of a specific brand/flavor and hunger strike until we got something new, then gorge like it was the best day of her life. But a couple of weeks ago she gave up kibble entirely. Then she decided she didn’t want any wet food either.

I took her to see the vet where they found tumors near her heart/lungs, lymph nodes, and spleen. In the last few days she had almost entirely stopped eating anything. It was a sad choice, but I knew I couldn’t let her suffer, and with her not eating it was going to get worse very quickly.

Ever the working dog, she still mustered up the energy to play some fetch on her last day. If you didn’t know her, you’d never know she was very sick and spent most of the day sleeping or laying down.

But retrieving was her calling and if given the opportunity, she was going to do it no matter how she felt. She came from a kennel that specialized in hunting and field trial dogs. I think she would have enjoyed hunting with me if I’d ever put her through the proper training.

She had bounds of energy and wouldn’t stop retrieving unless you made her. There were numerous times where I had to force her to take breaks to keep from passing out. One time while playing at my parents house she sliced her paw open on something in the yard, and despite bleeding steadily and needing stitches in her pad, she was still trying to get us to throw the ball. It took 2 of us to hold her while another person wrapped it up.

Fern making a leaping catch of a ball on a snow day by the neighborhood pond.

She loved the water and probably would have been happiest living at the lake. If she saw a body of water and wasn’t on a leash, she was going to get in. Lakes, ponds, the ocean, mud puddles…it didn’t matter. If there was an inch of water she was laying in it.

She attacked hoses and sprinklers like a toy, constantly biting at the stream. You couldn’t water plants in front of her without her jumping in the way. But if you told her it was a bath, it’s like a switch would flip in her mind and she’d stand still and let you hose her down.


Posted by Lucky Paws Boarding & Daycare on Thursday, June 3, 2010

But she also had a much calmer side that came out once the excitement of seeing a new face would wind down. She loved to cuddle and was notorious for licking knees and faces. When the winter rolled around and we made the house cold at night, her favorite place to be was completely buried underneath the covers.

I assumed I’d get 12-13 great years with her, but that unavoidable day came a lot sooner than I anticipated. She would have been 10 years old at the end of October.

In many ways it’s easier that it happened now. My boys (2 and 4 years old) had just begun to take interest in feeding her and loving on her and talking about how sweet she is. But they are young enough that they won’t feel the impact the same way as they would 2-3 years from now.

The hardest part is my habit of looking at my backdoor every time I walk past. We have a fenced in backyard, so she spent a lot of time out there. When she wanted to come in, she would just stand there waiting, staring through the window. It’s a gut shot every time I look and know I won’t see her face there anymore.

Fern was a part of my life for almost a decade and has been by my side through some of my life’s biggest milestones. I got her in December 2009 when Lauren and I had been dating for 6 months or so. A year and a half later, she helped me propose.

I had a special collar made that said “Will You Marry Me?” for Fern to wear when I proposed to Lauren.

We bought a house. We had kids. We changed jobs. Through it all, Fern was there.

It feels silly to be so sentimental about a dog, but they often become a close part of your life—like another family member. We owe them our heartache and tributes because of their unwavering dedication to us. It’s ok to be sad.

I have tennis ball sized hole in my heart right now. We already miss you, Fern.


  1. The only thing that compares to the love for/from a dog is the pain when you have to say goodbye. May the memories of the good days eventually outweigh the pain you’re in.

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