CLOVERDALE — There’s a little barn on the Surrey-Langley border that’s all modern and pretty and couldn’t be more picturesque. Green grass all around, towering trees overhead – it’s the type of setting you might see on a postcard.
But inside it’s a different story. They’ve really let this place go to the dogs, and Linda Fedje couldn’t be happier.
At her “regular” job, she breeds and raises Golden Retrievers on her home turf in Cloverdale, as she’s done for the past 15 years. But these days you’re just as likely to see her, along with a whole posse of friends, clients and associates, at the little barn on the border. With a bunch of dogs. Really big dogs.
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On a recent Saturday afternoon at the barn, Fedje and her human and canine compatriots did what they like to do best of all: perform. Ten people in all, and just as many dogs.
Among the humans, Jenny Rogers runs High Seas Newfoundlands, a small, Surrey-based kennel specializing in one of the most humongous breeds around: the Newfoundlander. Retiree Richard Neely, 79, hopped aboard because his daughter Janet, who works with Rogers at High Seas, suggested it.
Soon, the conversation ended, someone fired up the music and the group launched into its routine. Part parade, part dance, part look-at-what-this-dog-can-do showcase, it’s an intricate 20-minute affair that surely must task the memory as much as anything else.
First, they’re in a single row, coming straight at me. Rogers blurted out “windshield wiper,” and the row split in halves, each half mimicking the pivoting action of a, yes, windshield wiper.
The show continued and the dogs, all Newfoundlanders and Golden Retrievers, and their human counterparts sashayed this way and that, somehow avoiding any monumental collisions in the middle. It’s pretty and it’s impressive, and it left little doubt that anyone in the room would rather be doing anything else.
The performance is also the realization of a dream for Fedje, the group leader. She started her breeding business 15 years ago when a friend suggested she needed a hobby. A Golden Retriever fanatic practically from birth, she agreed and soon opened Kulalani Goldens. Not long after, she quit her job in the satellite-TV business.
“The name Kululani came about during a trip to my favorite place, Hawaii,” she explained. “I spent a lot of time sitting on the beach thinking about my dogs. In Hawaiian, Kululani means ‘heavenly gold.’ It was a perfect fit.”
But several years ago, Fedje realized that owning and raising dogs wasn’t enough.
“I wanted to train them. I wanted to relate to dogs in a better way. And I wanted to teach people. I could see there were a lot of people who needed help.”
And so, 4 Paws on the Run was born. There were teething pains at first, running a second business in gypsy fashion, bouncing from halls to distant church basements. But all that came to an end when a good buddy offered Fedje her little barn on 192nd Street.
Today, 4 Paws on the Run sports a permanent location, a gaggle of customers and, of course, that dancing, prancing drill team. Indeed, the squad is already a veteran of several shows, and is currently gearing up for its next, at the Vancouver Pet Lover Show, this weekend (Saturday, Feb. 27 and Sunday, Feb. 28) at Abbotsford Tradex Centre. Fedje and company will perform both days; for details, visit PetLoverShow.ca.
“What’s really interesting to people is that these are large-breed dogs, and they’re doing these things that are usually reserved for the little breeds,” Fedje said.
Worldwide fame may await, but it’s the seniors circuit that really interests these folks, Rogers explained.
“What we wanted to do was some volunteer outreach,” she said. “And all the dogs are pretty friendly. When I’m working, I do work in senior’s homes and I know seniors get kid of bored sometimes in these facilities. It’s nice to have some music and some pets to liven it up.”
Last Christmas, the gang put on a holiday-themed gig at the Al Hogg Pavilion in White Rock. They dressed the dogs in costume and had them dance to carols, and handed out gifts. More recently, they swooped in on The Residence at Morgan Heights.
“After the last show,” Neely recalled, “we took the dogs around and introduced them to the people. So I took (Newfoundlander) Rio over to this one lady. She asked, ‘Do those dogs drool?’ and I said, ‘Well yes, if there’s food around.’ And this older gentleman leaned over from his wheelchair and said, ‘Well, I drool too.’”
The team wants to do more. Fedje, who recently lost a good friend who lived at a seniors’ facility, discuses openly the emotional impact it had on her and the school. All enquiries are welcome, she added. To reach 4 Paws on the Run, call 604-574-7248 or email email@example.com.