The Story of Clover 

A quick poll on our Champion of My Heart Facebook Fan Page revealed that some folks MUCH prefer to read Clover's entire adoption story all at once. So, in addition to a series of 5 posts set to go live on the blog between Sunday, November 23, and Thursday, November 27, 2014.

Here is the whole LONG story of the 10 days between when I first saw her adoption profile online and her arrival at our home on September 13, 2014.

Scroll all the way to the bottom to see a Gotcha Day Tribute to Clover's first year in our family.

Clover's Story - Told in 5 Parts

My apologies for the long delay between announcing the arrival of our new puppy September 13 and the official beginning of her story. It turns out that raising a puppy – especially a border collie puppy – is a full-time, full-contact sport that has consumed me.

I’ve also had many work projects and deadlines, including three work trips in five weeks, which is a lot for a girl like me. And, wouldn’t you know it? I got some rotten cold / cough thing during the first trip, and I’ve been coughing ever since – like nine weeks now.

So, between working, coughing, and raising a puppy, I’d get to the end of each day and simply not have the oomph to write.

Plus, when it’s a decision between writing about her or spending time with her, I’m ALWAYS going to choose bonding time. Puppyhood is so important and goes by so fast.

Those who follow the blog almost exclusively on our Champion of My Heart Facebook page have enjoyed puppy photos and puppy updates these last two months. Again, my apologies for not doing so here.

I didn’t want to start telling her story until I felt I could do it justice. Truth? Part of me wondered if I might have to wait until after the first anniversary of Lilly’s death (Dec 17).

I decided that Thanksgiving was a pretty good time to begin The Story of Clover.

That’s what we named her … Clover Lee Hawn. That’s a whole other story, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s begin at the beginning in this story of fate multiplied.

dog blog, border collie puppy, champion of my heart

Clover's Story - Puppy Adoption Across 1,600 Miles

As I noted briefly in the announcement of her arrival, The Story of Clover begins with me seeing her photo in my Facebook feed. I read her adoption profile (where they called her Little Meg), and some way, some how, I knew in my heart she was born to be ours.

That was on a Wednesday (September 3). I showed her photo to Tom and asked if I could email the rescue group, which is located some 1,600 miles away in Virginia, to ask if they would even consider a long-distance adoption.

We slept on the idea, and the next morning, Tom gave me the OK, and I sent the email that started everything.

I received a quick reply from Beth, the puppy’s foster mom, who owns / runs a dairy farm in the hills of Virginia. Her note said she was open to the idea, but she wanted to know more about us and our home.

I sent back probably one of the longest emails in the history of dog adoption:

  • Details about our home and where we live, including links to maps and overhead photos of our valley
  • Background on our elderly boy Ginko
  • Specifics about myself and Tom, including how long we’ve been together / married, etc.
  • An overview of our combined experience living with border collies
  • A recap of our life with and loss of Lilly, with links to her obituary and tribute video

I even admitted the following to Beth: “Honestly, we were NOT planning to start looking for a puppy / dog to adopt until early 2015,
 but I am drawn to Meg’s photo and the description of her temperament. I very much like a smart / sensitive dog with just enough
 ornery to keep things interesting.”

Later that same day, Thursday, September 4, I went ahead and completed the rescue group’s online application. All told, I bet I spent 9-10 hours that day on possible adoption related stuff. My whole body vibrated. I didn’t sleep much.

I wanted to be sure I didn’t get declined for not following the rules, so I hit send on the adoption application and hoped for the best.

border collie puppy, dog blog, champion of my heart

Each step in the process, I kept telling myself, “It’ll work out, if it’s meant to be.” If not, I knew I’d be disappointed, but I hoped I would be OK. I even told them, “I know this is complicated, so if it’s too complicated, just say so.”

Doing that application Thursday evening, it turns out, was the best decision I’ve made in a long time …

Clover's Story - Hello, Fate!

You see, the electronic application didn’t just go to the rescue group’s adoption committee or leadership or just to her foster family, it went to EVERY single volunteer in the organization. Everyone saw everything I wrote. Everyone (I suspect) felt the emotion behind Lilly’s loss. Everyone got probably too intimate of a look into my life and into my heart.

That includes a veterinarian (Dr. Beth) who volunteers for the rescue group, who just happens to be really, really good friends with our primary care veterinarian. They went to veterinary school together.

When she saw my application with my veterinarian’s name listed, she essentially told everyone, including some naysayers of the idea of a long-distance adoption, “Let me make a call.”

And, that was the first appearance of fate into the adoption process. Well, maybe the second … if you count me seeing her adoption photo out of the blue on Facebook, the day AFTER I sent the draft of the first book based on Lilly’s life off to beta readers. (I suspect that big step freed my heart in some way.)

Friday morning, I learned about Dr. Beth’s role in our possible adoption approval right before I took Ginko to see our vet. I was anxious to see our vet’s face when she walked into the exam room. I figured I’d know right away if Dr. Beth had called her yet or not. She hadn’t, but when I told our vet the story, showed her puppy pictures, and explained how complicated the adoption logistics might be (early on, I thought I would fly to Virginia and fly back with the puppy), she basically said she would not only give us a glowing recommendation but that she would tell them they should bring the puppy to me.

Pretty good reason for Dr. Beth to come to Colorado and visit her friend. No?

Friday morning, I also learned from Beth (whom we’ve come to call Clover’s “Sister Mom”) that a friend of her cousin lives not far from us and was willing to come do a home visit that weekend. (Yes, I stayed up late and woke up early, scouring the house like a woman possessed.)

To say that Beth and Dr. Beth took on the puppy’s future like a mission from God is an understatement.
 They became our advocates and our logistics partners and our cheerleaders from that first email until puppy’s arrival in Denver, Saturday, September 13.

border collie puppy, dog blog, champion of my heart

After spending part of the afternoon at our home Saturday, September 6, talking to us, walking around our property, and meeting Ginko, the rescue’s surrogate site visitors (Teri and John) declared our home “dog heaven” in their official report back.

Throughout the nearly non-stop talks surrounding the possible adoption, I kept saying, “Let me know when we’re officially approved.” It seemed like a done deal, but I really needed someone to say so.

You see, there were 20+ other applications submitted for this puppy – more than any others from the same litter. Beth suspects it’s because her adoption profile said she was the runt.

I’ve dug through my email trail, and I think we finally got the GREEN light to adopt, Sunday, September 7.

That’s when things went wild …

Clover's Story - Like Planning Military Black Ops

For all the fate and destiny, we experienced some glitches as well. At various turns, we worried the adoption would fall through:

  • The puppy was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection Saturday, September 6, which put her ability to travel in question. (It's also a medical saga that's ongoing.)
  • Thanks to good food and lots of love, the puppy grew too much and was no longer technically small enough to fly in the cabin of an airplane.
  • If you’ve never done it, all I can say is that flying a puppy requires all manner of documentation and long lists of rules and regulations.

The idea of me flying to Virginia to get the puppy went away almost immediately. Once Dr. Beth spoke to our veterinarian, it got clear real fast that the puppy would fly to us – one way or another.

The next plan involved us paying for a plane ticket so that Dr. Beth could fly with the puppy to Colorado. With less than a week between our adoption approval and our hoped arrival date, the airfares were absurd. Truly absurd – jumping like $400 between Saturday night and Sunday morning, when we started looking at dates and times in earnest.

No joke. It totaled something like $1,500, but I was willing to do it, if it was the only way. I planned to dip into the money I inherited when my mom died, if necessary.

We toyed with the idea that Dr. Beth’s veterinary status might afford the puppy some size leeway about getting to ride in the cabin, but at nearly 15 weeks old, and growing like a weed, we figured out that just wasn’t going to happen. She was just too big already to fit in a carrier that could fit under the airplane seat.

That meant she would have to fly in cargo. Something I swore I would never do.

Then, a new plan arose that ruined Dr. Beth’s chances of getting a free trip to Colorado to visit her friend (our vet) while bringing us the puppy.

You see, a couple of Dr. Beth’s clients come to Colorado every few months, and they were ALREADY BOOKED on the flight we were trying to get Dr. Beth and the puppy on to. Funny enough, their names are Teresa and Mark (which are my siblings’ names too). Hello again, fate!

Suddenly, our puppy had guardians in the air willing to help shepherd her across the country. Yes, she would still be in cargo, but at least there would be two people on the plane who knew she was in cargo and who could speak for her needs, if the plane got diverted or something.

I won’t bog you down on all the planning, documentation (health certificates and such to allow the puppy to cross state lines), and logistics required. It was a lot. Many calls and emails between the various players. Lots of calls to the airline (some staff more helpful than others). An absurd number of details in Virginia and in Colorado to arrange.

Tom said it sounded like I was planning military “black ops.”

What kept me going were daily updates and photos from Beth of our puppy-girl. Beth even sent us a few videos, but they came as private messages on Facebook, and for the life of me I cannot figure out how to export them to share.

border collie puppy, dog blog, champion of my heart
border collie puppy, dog blog, champion of my heart

It was a roller coaster of a week with all that plus getting the house ready for a new puppy. Again, an understatement. Remember our plan for having a new fence configuration for our next generation of dogs? Yeah … Tom did some serious speed-fencing. He got all the posts in before the puppy arrived, but he finished the fencing itself her first weekend home.

Together, we also hand-scrubbed (no kidding, on our hands and knees) every inch of tile in the house with enzymatic pet cleaner. We did a good job cleaning up all of Lilly’s accidents due to incontinence (and Ginko’s issues now too), but we knew that any lingering smells would do us NO good as we worked to housetrain a puppy. So, we scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. And, we puppy-proofed the house, room by room. It was a ton of work in just a few days.

I could hardly eat or sleep, and trying to get any work-work done was a challenge.

Clover's Story - Puppy Goes WEST!

The puppy’s journey home began Friday, September 12, when Dr. Beth and Beth met halfway between Beth’s dairy farm in Virginia and Dr. Beth’s home near Washington, DC. They sent me photos so that I knew the handoff was complete.

puppy transport, border collie puppy

Our little sweetheart spent Friday night with Dr. Beth and her puppies.

border collie puppy, dog blog, champion of my heart

Then she had an early adventure Saturday morning with Dr. Beth, Teresa and Mark who brought her to the cargo facility two hours before the flight. They called me at about 5:30 am my time to let me know she was now in the airline’s possession. As I told them, “I won’t be sleeping anyway, so please call.”

I was a nervous wreck, but I tried to be brave. Everything else had worked out. It had all fallen into place. Surely, the flight would be uneventful. Surely, I told myself.

We watched the flight’s status and progress online and left our house about an hour before it landed. We parked in the “cell phone lot” at Denver International Airport and waited for news from Teresa and Mark.

They texted us when they landed, and they texted us when they were on the curb. We drove through the passenger pick-up area to get them, then all four of us drove to the nearby cargo facility to get our puppy.

As we signed the final paperwork, Tom and Mark could see her through the window in the door. She was hollering. Barking, barking, barking.

We carefully cut the zip ties that held her special airline crate closed, and I quickly fitted her into a puppy harness and leash. After her long day and long journey, I was NOT going to be the girl on the news whose puppy got loose on airport property.

Having to be at the cargo facility two hours before her flight, plus a long direct flight, and another hour getting from the plane to the cargo facility, our little sweetie had been crated for like 6-7 hours. At just 15 weeks old and with a UTI, we were worried, but she was dry on arrival. No accidents at all. Good puppy!

While the others gathered her things, I picked her up,  held her cheek to my cheek, her body to my heart, and whispered my thanks to her over and over again for being so brave.

She traveled all that way and seemed entirely unfazed. I carried her to a nearby patch of weeds and set her down. We walked around just a little bit, and she happily peed. It was such a relief, for both of us, I think.

We loaded her back into her crate in the back of the 4Runner with a frozen puppy Kong, on top of Teresa and Mark’s luggage. Teresa took this photo in the car and immediately texted it to Dr. Beth and Beth, while I called them both to say she had ARRIVED SAFELY!!!!

border collie puppy, dog blog, champion of my heart
border collie puppy dog blog, champion of my heart

We then drove Teresa and Mark to pick up their rental car. That's where Tom took this first photo of me and Clover. (We could have had someone shoot video of our first moments together. We chose NOT to.)

After expressing our thanks to Teresa and Mark that will never fully convey our gratitude for their help, we began the hour-long drive home from the airport.

That, friends, is the story of Clover's arrival. MUCH has happened since this happy, Happy, HAPPY day in September. I promise to answer all the BIG questions people often ask us soon!

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