It was like any other Sunday for Rachel McCleary and her chipper white pitbull mix dog, Walter. She and Walter were at Hermann Park with friends hanging around hammocks attached to the park’s billowing pine trees. There was a brisk breeze, a subtle buzz of people all around, a slight respite from the crazy Covid-19 world.
Then, suddenly, McCleary’s boyfriend spotted another white dog and a girl near the towering Miller Outdoor Theatre hill. He turned to McCleary and asked, “Doesn’t that dog look exactly like Walter?”
The girl was McGovern medical student Juliana Zhang. She was waiting for her friends to arrive for a Sunday picnic, to which she had brought along her dog, Luna.
Curious, McCleary and her boyfriend, with Walter in tow, walked up to Zhang and her pup.
“Rachel came up and said to me, ‘Your dog looks really similar to our dog,’” Zhang says. “Walter and Luna just started playing together, and me and Rachel began asking questions like ‘Where did you get your dog?’ and that’s how we found out that we got them at the same time, and that they are probably from the same litter.”
However, the story isn’t that simple. In fact, the girls didn’t even adopt their dogs in Houston.
McCleary was on the hunt for a pooch to adopt while living in Austin in January 2019. She hadn’t yet found the one, that is, until she headed to her car in the parking lot of Austin Humane Society after an unsuccessful adoption search. A woman and her son were outside their car with a box of 10 stark-white puppies in hand.
“I saw her with a box and knew there must be something cute in it, so I ran up to her and she told me to take one,” McCleary tells Houstonia. “Most of the dogs were white with spots, but Walter had no spots and these bright green eyes, which is why I picked him.”
She found out that the woman failed to make an appointment with the humane society to put them up for adoption, resulting in the puppies being rejected. This happened because AHS is a “limited intake shelter” due to a No-Kill Animal-Sheltering resolution the city of Austin adopted in 2010, which requires appointments to be made before animals are surrendered in order to avoid over-capacity—a policy Houston has yet to employ.
Around the same time, then-Dallas resident Zhang was on a birthday trip to Austin when she decided she wanted to adopt a dog. She found a white pitbull mix puppy at Austin Pets Alive!, where the woman with the box full of puppies must’ve had success surrendering the pups.
With the dogs' strong resemblance to each other, and a timeline of events lining up, McCleary and Zhang say they believe their pups were born in the same litter.
Dog siblings born in Austin serendipitously meet on a random Sunday in a Houston park. What are the chances? There are literally 366 parks in the Houston area.
“I’d like to think [the dogs] recognized each other,” Zhang says. “They were really excited and started playing and wrestling, so hopefully they recognized each other.”
McCleary says she and Zhang plan to meet at a dog park soon so the siblings can spend more time together. We love a good family reunion.