In the natural order of survival of the fittest, Star wouldn’t stand a chance. But thanks to the unusual devotion and intuition of her brother, Denver, the 3-month-old deaf and mostly blind puppy is now poised for permanent adoption at the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe.
Star and Denver, a pair of litter-mates rescued from a shelter in Louisiana earlier this month, will be offered for adoption only as a pair because their relationship is so interdependent. Denver is not only his sister’s chief playmate, he is also her guide puppy and her caretaker.
Tracy Woodworth, assistant manager of the adoptions animal care program at Helen Woodward, said that in her more than five years working in adoptions, she has never come across such a unique relationship.
“It is very unusual. Thanks to Denver, Star is just charging ahead with life,” Woodworth said. “The only other story I can think of that came close didn’t involve sibling pups. There were these two adult Chihuahuas who were very close and one was blind, so they went as a pair.”
Star, Denver and three of their siblings arrived at Helen Woodward on Feb. 11. They were among a litter of puppies born to a female dog in Louisiana who was found dumped in a rural area last year. A couple adopted the mother and cared for her pups until they were weaned, then sent the puppies to the Heart of Louisiana Humane Society for adoption. Because there aren’t enough homes for abandoned animals in that area, Heart of Louisiana sent 31 puppies to San Diego for adoption earlier this month.
After the puppies arrived at Helen Woodward, they were vaccinated, spayed and neutered and given health assessments, where Star’s congenital disabilities and Denver’s caregiving attention were studied by the adoption team.
“It was really cute,” Woodworth said. “When they arrived on intake day, we do a medical exam on each one. We had taken Star away for an exam and when we put her back in, Denver was all over her, checking her out and making sure she was OK. It was very sweet.”
Woodworth said that in the wild or in stressful situations where food and shelter may be scarce, a puppy like Star would be rejected by its mother and littermates because it would have a low chance of survival. But because these puppies were raised in a home and shelter where Star could receive equal attention and care, she has not only thrived but become a playful, adventurous and outgoing young dog.
Dora Dahlke, Helen Woodward’s adoption services manager, said most of Star’s siblings did ignore her at playtime, but Denver singled her out for play and would bump her and tussle with her so she would know he was there.
“It’s really extraordinary,” Dahlke said. “We never stop learning from animals. These two really can teach us all a thing or two about sibling love and how much we can achieve with the love of a good friend.”
Star and Denver are now available for adoption. Woodworth said nobody has stepped forward yet to adopt the pair but she has received several inquiries about them in recent days.
The adoption fee for each dog is $493, which covers the cost of their care, vaccines and surgery, plus a $32 microchip registration fee per dog. For information on adoption hours, procedures and location, visit animalcenter.org/adopt-a-pet or call (858) 756-4117, Ext. 1.
—Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune