2001 Biography of Sun Joie's Golden "Aspen"
ASPEN , a female Golden Retriever, was one of several special task canines trained for Urban Search and Rescue by the Miami-Dade County Fire and Rescue Department. She was assigned to the Special Operations Division, Canine Search and Rescue Unit. The department in cooperation with the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains an Urban Search and Rescue Task Force to respond to disasters both natural or man-made, internationally and nationally. The Canine Search and Rescue Unit is a part of those task forces.

ASPEN was a member of the Canine Search and Rescue Unit for approximately 5 years. During that time she responded to numerous requests for assistance. ASPEN responded to federal requests to assist in search and rescue operations to include, the aftermath of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, earthquakes in Armenia Columbia, and the collapse of a six story building in Puerto Rico. She has responded to local building collapses in the Miami area. Aspen has responded to numerous natural disasters to include Hurricane "Opal" in Florida's panhandle, and tornadoes in northern Florida. She has participated in the search for victims of the American Airlines crash of flight 965 in Buga, Columbia and the Fine Air crash in Miami, Florida. ASPEN has also assisted numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies involving missing persons, homicides and body recovery operations. She has performed thousands of hours of community service to include visiting children in children's hospitals. ASPEN was qualified in live victim and body recovery.

ASPEN has been the recipient of numerous awards and citations for her service to the community. She has received awards to include the ASPCA Trooper Award in NYC. ASPEN has received numerous commendations, citations and certificates of appreciation from the Government of Peru, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Martin County Sheriff's Department, Miami Dade Police Department, Miami-Dade County, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Souers Knuck O'Rourke Auxiliary, Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League. ASPEN has been inducted into the AKC Hall of Fame. ASPEN has traveled extensively assisting in establishing Canine SAR Unit for fire departments in Florida and Georgia, and Peru.

In 1997, the state of Florida pasted a state law that protects SAR canines. When enacted, it was called the "Aspen Search and Rescue Dog Protection Act".

ASPEN comes from the Sun Joie Kennels in Topanga California. She displayed those traits, which were necessary to perform this special task work, and was obtained for that specific purpose.

ASPEN's partner is Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony "Skip" Fernandez of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. Currently assigned to Battalion 9, Station 4. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1982, he has been a member of the department since 1988. A certified firefighter, paramedic, and Open Water Rescue Scuba Diver, Skip has received awards and commendations for participation in numerous operations to include responding to disasters for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance as well as local, state and federal operations. He was awarded "Employee of the Month" twice, for responding to Oklahoma City and for SAR operations in support of Martin County, Florida. Skip was also selected as state Firefighter/Paramedic of the Year for 1995. And, he was recognized by the ASPCA, AKC, VFW, Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, and numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and fire services. ASPEN was his second canine partner.

Skip currently holds the rank of Lt. Colonel, United States Marine Corps Reserve and is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. Numerous military awards include the Army Commendation Medal for Valor for actions in support of 1st Armored Brigade "Tiger Brigade", Southwest Asia, and the U.S. Marine Corps 1994 "Professional Officer" of the year. He is currently assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South, Miami, Florida.

Book Recalls the Thorns of Pain from Bombing
By Larry Maddry, The Virginian-Pilot, September 11, 1995

ROSES. They tossed roses into the bomb crater. The final scoops of rubble collected from the gutted Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City rattled into the bin on May 4. The next day there was a ceremony of closure - after all the broken bodies that could be found had been removed.

Fire and police buglers played "Taps." Then, one by one, the rescuers and their kin stepped forward toward a strand of red tape bordering the crater's rim. Outstretched arms tossed roses into the pit's rubble. Hundreds of roses. Some shredded their blooms slowly, pinching petal by petal from the bloom, the petals rocking in the wind before sinking into crater's ragged maw.

But the last rose is the book - the published remembrance of the 168 lives claimed by senseless violence on April 19, 1995. It's titled " In Their Name: Oklahoma City: The Official Commemorative Volume." An explanation for the senseless bombing - which carved the federal building from roof to ground like a giant chainsaw - is not to be found within its pages. But the stories of the survivors, the rescuers, the doctors, the families, are all told with sensitivity and compassion. And only the most hardened among us can view the photos unmoved.

The world remembers the photograph of the bloodied body of Baylee Almon, an infant cradled in the arms of helmeted firefighter Chris Fields, which appeared on the cover of "Newsweek." But there are many other equally remarkable color shots in this book's pages. They capture the scale of the tragedy and the heroism of strangers from across the country who rushed to the scene (including a 56-member team of Hampton Roads firefighters and rescue workers).

One of the most touching is of a helmeted Miami firefighter and his dog, Aspen, a Golden Retriever. The dog has a remarkably forlorn look and deep sorrow in its eyes as its weary master, Skip Fernandez, enfolds her in his arms. The dog stares into the distance, outfitted with an orange rescue coat emblazoned with a cross. Beneath it is the grim text: "When my dog finds someone alive, she barks. When she finds a body, she whines. . . . she's done more whining than barking."


Poster to Raise Funds for Fallen Firefighters
By Roberta Freeman, Ventura County Star County News Staff Writer, September 15, 2001

A timeless award-winning portrait of a weary firefighter seeking solace from his canine rescue partner has renewed meaning in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on America. A new edition of the poster, originally created following the Oklahoma City bombing, will be released within a few weeks in the hopes of raising $1 million or more to benefit the families of fallen firefighters in New York City. "The power of the message is overwhelming," said Dan Borunda, marketing director for Holden Color in Simi Valley, which is printing the posters. Holden recently won an international printing-industry award for an edition of the print that benefited the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association.

The gripping artwork features Miami firefighter Skip Fernandez and his golden retriever rescue dog, Aspen. The pair was airlifted to Oklahoma City from Miami hours after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. Agoura artist Fred Stone, 71, is re-releasing a new edition of his work as a poster dedicated to the firefighters who lost their lives in the tragic events on Tuesday.

Last April, Stone, Fernandez and Aspen attended a memorial poster signing at the Oklahoma City bomb site that attracted more than 1,000 people the first day. "It was a very emotional evening," Stone said, noting the tears of many who stopped by who had lost loved ones in that horrifying event and who took solace in petting Aspen. Stone, who usually paints racehorses, said he was struck by newspaper photos of Fernandez and Aspen and was moved to paint a portrait of the duo, which is a composite of several photographs. "The emotion was so powerful, I just had to paint it," Stone said.



Fred Stone is the best known painter of horses in the world today. The Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune have called him the most famous painter of horses in the world. His work is in the homes of some of the world’s most notable people including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and in the office of the president in the White House. And, more people own a Fred Stone print than that of any other horse artist in history, making him the most sought after equine artist in the world.

The image above, of a Golden Search and Rescue team from Dade County, Florida, is one that will forever touch our hearts, our own framed copy gazed upon daily. It features ASPEN, a member of the Canine Search and Rescue Unit for approximately 5 years.

During that time she responded to numerous requests for assistance. ASPEN responded to federal requests to assist in search and rescue operations to include, the aftermath of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, earthquakes in Armenia Columbia, and the collapse of a six story building in Puerto Rico.