What an incredible adventure we've had with him. Many know the experience of transporting their "family" with them across international borders. Stover, being 30 lbs. was not able to have the luxury of flying in the cabin with us, so his flight was in the cargo. But what brave little creatures they are - adapting and flexing to whatever the situation brings them.
We've had the privilege of having our little guy with us the two years we've lived in Cuenca. What a comfort he has been as we too, have adjusted and transitioned to living internationally. And what a gift to have him here with us.
Stover had more friends than we did. Everyone who kept him during our travels came to love him. When we lived in the US, strangers often stopped us on our mountain hikes and in parks to meet this charming enthusiastic "people dog." Frequently, we gave the testimony of God's gift and love through Stover. Unconditional love is completely disarming!
Stover's been to nursing homes with me when I gave concerts and touched the hearts of many elderly with his love. One of my favorite memories was when one of the nurses picked Stover up and put him in the lap of an elderly gentleman. As I looked over in their direction, I saw them looking face to face and the man loving every minute of it.
It all began 11 years ago for us, when we talked about getting a dog. We had already experienced the sorrow of losing a beloved cat, Bilbo (short for Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit). And what a cat too!
We prayed that God would give us His choice for a dog. And He gave us the perfect match for us!
In May of 2002, I was at a grocery store in Asheville, North Carolina. Every Thursday, a shelter would set up right outside their doors as a adoption center for those coming to shop. Naturally, each week I would stop and visit the animals - just curious to see who had arrived that day.
Yet came this one particular day... I was coming out of the store, with my hands occupied with grocery bags. The shelter had just arrived to set up for the day and she was getting the carriers out of the vehicle - ready to set up in animal crates.
My eyes immediately saw a dog being inspected by two ladies, who obviously had asked permission to get him out of his carrier.
It was love at first sight.
Gary likes shelties - I love golden retrievers. However, having a golden was definitely, too much dog for us - more than we really wanted.
But this dog. He was kind of a mix of both those breeds and a little of collie.
Yet there was something about him. And I thought to myself, "These ladies probably want this dog..." the next moment, they put him back in the crate.
Now was my chance. I sat down the groceries on the courtyard, and out of the carrier came what was soon to be our dog!
He was a little sad looking, maybe scared. Guess I would be too if I had been abandoned. As I was studying him though, one of those ladies came over and kneeled down besides me. Her words to me are what I shall never forget: "I know dogs and I want to tell you, this is a good dog! I would take him myself, but I already have three dogs! Yes, this is a good dog!"
That's all the confirmation I needed. Immediately I went to the person in charge of adoption and said, "I want this dog - but I need to call my husband first and get him to see him!"
Because I had made friends with her over the months, she in a way, knew me. Somehow she knew we were a perfect match and she said, "I'll hold him for you!"
I called Gary and after a business meeting, he went to the place where they had the shelter set up. I had not described Stover to him at all. By this time, Stover was in a pen with other dogs. Gary however, (I wasn't there) was drawn to Stover - perhaps Stover let him know, "It's me, it's me! I'm the one!" Then of course, it was confirmed by our shelter friend, that he was the right dog.
He called me and said, "We've just adopted a dog!"
In thinking upon a name for him, nothing seemed right until the "light went on" to name him my maiden name, Stover! It just had the perfect "ring" to it. Sounded good too, when calling for him, "Sto.......verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" But Stover needed a complete name too. Theodore seemed perfect for the first name because it means, "God's gift."
"Russell Stover" is the candy company's name. When I was in high school, there was a Russell Stover candy store across the street. The question, "Are you related to Russell Stover candy people?" was asked numerous times. And since Stover was SO sweet - giving him the name Russell along with my maiden name seemed appropriate.
We did all the usual "stuff" with Stover - shots, having him neutered, and then obedience school! And was he ever a natural - his temperament leaned towards wanting to please his masters. So he was pretty good at obedience!
Through the years we hiked with him in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Stover enjoyed people so much - he loved to meet and greet people Because of him, we made new friends! He also entertained them with his obedience tricks!
Like all who have loved their pets, we have many stories of our life with him and his with us - wonderful, wonderful memories - and no regrets!
During Stover's short illness of almost 3 weeks, he kept his loving, sweet demeanor - wanting to please us. With him, we had a great love. And we are grateful to have had him for these beautiful 11 years. When it came time for Stover to go, of course, we cried and said our goodbyes.
Then there was the question "Where could we bury him?
The night before the vet was coming to our apartment to put him down (Stover could not have made it one more day - he was so sick!), we called our dear friend of two years now, Tania, of Hotel Inca Real. One of her family members owns property in the Cajas. It seemed to be the perfect place to lay our beloved to rest. She told us she would take care of it and that she did!
It was all arranged. The vet came a little after 8:00 a.m. We had our last moments with Stover, then proceeded to the Cajas. Two of our American friends joined us, Mike and Lawrence - Mike graciously drove us to the Cajas.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by those who knew of the arrangement. We were led to Stover's burial spot. Everyone so kind. Enrique lovingly dug his grave.
And there we laid Stover in his special place.
Below are the pictures we want to share where our beloved friend and family member is privileged to be buried. It seemed so fitting - for as a family, we always loved the mountains and Stover had been on so many hikes with us.
Again, we are SO grateful to have been blessed with our precious Stover. And we are so grateful for all of his friends and our loved ones who knew and loved him, and took care of him. There are so many.
These are memories which can never, ever be taken from us.
We love you, Stover!