A brother and sister puppy pair, whose adoption story went viral around the world, is settling in nicely at their new home in Encinitas.
Star, who’s deaf and nearly blind, and Denver, who acts as her guide, were two of eight puppies whose mother had been dumped in rural Louisiana.
A couple who found the mother kept her with her babies and, once weaned, asked the Heart of Louisiana facility to help find good homes for her pups. Because there aren’t enough homes for abandoned animals in that area, the litter, along with 31 other rescue puppies were sent to the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe for adoption in February.
The duo, who were adopted out as a bonded pair, were adopted by Sheri and Art Armendariz last month. Sheri Armendariz said she saw the puppies on the news and fell in love immediately. The couple lost their beloved dog Cosmo last year and were just getting ready to start looking for a new family member.
“We were thinking maybe a three-year-old, female dog, not a puppy, so they could travel with us,” Armendariz said. “And all of a sudden here we are home with puppies. But we love them, we’re absolutely thrilled. They’ve melted our hearts.”
The four-month-old puppies, who were born on Veterans Day, are believed to be either full or part Catahoula leopard, the state dog of Louisiana. They are all white – what’s known as leucistic, or without color – with pink noses, ears, and bellies and have light blue eyes. Armendariz said they are almost identical except for their eyes and noses, Denver has black spots on his.
Armendariz said when they first met the pups at the Helen Woodward Animal Center, Star went right up to her and sat on her lap.
“One of the reasons I think that we were picked to adopt them was that they picked us,” Sheri said. “Dora Dahlke (the center’s adoption services manager) saw Star come sit in my lap she said, ‘Oh, Star picked you as her mom.’ We were extremely honored to be chosen.”
Armendariz, who said she feels they were also chosen because they have experience with dog training, said an anonymous donor surprised them by covering the adoption fees, and Blue Buffalo Pet Food gifted them a year’s supply of dog food.
Because of Star being special needs, the couple are learning how best to help her navigate things. The animal center appointed a trainer for them, but because of social distancing, the Armendariz’ have been left to their own devices.
“We’re letting Star decide herself how she wants to interact with the world we’re not pushing her to do things,” Armendariz said, adding that they put “deaf” and “blind” Velcro swatches on her leash, so that people won’t come up to her and startle her.
“I’m actually reading Helen Keller’s book, she mentioned that until she was 7 years old she didn’t have any help and she would get angry and frustrated and lash out a lot because no one understood her language. So we’re trying to understand (Star’s) language first and see how she communicates.”
Armendariz said the pups have a unique bond. They know where each other is all the time and sleep curled up together.
“The story we were told was when the puppies were nursing, usually the weakest one doesn’t always get anything, and Star was kind of pushed out, not getting as much attention, and Denver picked her out and bonded with her from all the other puppies,” Armendariz recalled. “So somehow he picked her.”
Armendariz admits they fight like little kids, too.
“They don’t share well, each one has to have their own bone and their own toy,” she said.
Before being adopted, the duo spent more than three weeks at Helen Woodward, where the staff was also captivated by their bond.
“It’s really extraordinary,” Dahlke said in a news release. “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.”
Armendariz said the pups have acclimated very quickly and seem so happy to have a home.
“They bring so much to the house,” she said. “We just are so in love with them. They were meant to be here.”
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.