A family who spent six years searching for their missing dog have finally been reunited with their pet.
Jodie Ferrier kept up a campaign to find her sprocker spaniel Fern from April 2013, when she is believed to have been stolen from outside her home in Surrey, until Wednesday when she received a call from a vet to say they had found her.
“I instantly fell to pieces,” Mrs Ferrier, a 36-year-old personal assistant, told PA. “I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.
“We ran through the confirmation of what the dog looked like and her name and everything like that and it all tallied, the information on the microchip was all correct and it was definitely my dog.”
Mrs Ferrier believes Fern, who was one when she disappeared, was stolen from their farm for breeding purposes.
“It was absolutely heartbreaking,” she said. “We were doing some work in the field – my husband, myself and our son. We had four dogs at that time, they were all out with us. The last time I saw Fern she was sat on the driveway and then two minutes later she’d vanished.”
The family immediately launched a search of the area, bringing in neighbours, dog wardens and eventually the police.
When none of that helped, Mrs Ferrier launched an online campaign, including a Find Fern Facebook page which over the years has developed a following of more than 10,000 people and threw up a number of potential sightings.
“We actually went to meet a few dogs in person just to make sure because you can’t always tell from photographs and it was never her,” she said. “The heartbreak, time and time again when the disappointment sets in and you realise that you’ve got to start again – it’s just heartbreaking.”
But the search finally came to an end this week when Fern “was stumbled across by a nice man who saw her wandering the street in Bracknell”.
He took her to a local vet, who scanned Fern’s microchip and called the family – who had since moved to the Isle of Wight.
“I slung my three children in the car and we drove to the ferry,” Mrs Ferrier said.
Staff at Twyford Veterinary Clinic stayed late so Mrs Ferrier and her three children – Ethan, Abbie and Rowan – did not have to wait until the morning to be reunited with their pet.
“The moment that door opened I knew it was her instantly,” said Mrs Ferrier. “She sort of went to walk past me then she doubled back and I don’t know if she smelled something or recognised something – and then her tail started to wag and it just hasn’t stopped. She’s continued to wag that tail the whole time.”
Mrs Ferrier believes Fern has had at least two litters of puppies since they last saw her.
She believes the dog may have been discarded by breeders once she was no longer useful to them, but aside from some itchy skin Fern appears to be in good shape.
The reunion has been particularly emotional for eight-year-old Ethan, the only one of the family’s three children who had been born when Fern was taken.
“He was asking us all the time when his dog was coming home,” Mrs Ferrier said. “He was two when she was stolen – he’s eight years old now and he’s never wavered in hoping that she’d be back so we never stopped looking, never stopped trying.”
She said he was “still in shock” that Fern was back and “spent most of the day curled up with her”.
Mrs Ferrier said the story emphasised the importance of getting pet dogs microchipped, of keeping your details updated on the system and of vets scanning animals with which they come into contact.
“It’s such a massive point,” she said. “These chips need to be implanted.
“As long as you do those three things – chip, update and scan – it works.”