Some people were born to not fit in. And perhaps the same could be said in the canine world. It’s certainly true for Cletus, a little dog found wandering the streets of Los Angeles, California. What this little guy lacks in size and conventional looks, he more than makes up for in spirit. And there was to be a very happy ending for this adorable, sweater-wearing dog.
Cletus was given to Best Friends Los Angeles after he was picked up off the streets by a city animal shelter in 2016. Although he’s thought to be two years old, nothing else is known about him. Indeed, no one knows where he came from or how he came to be wandering the streets of L.A.
Least of all, no one knew exactly how Cletus survived. When he arrived at Best Friends Animal Society he had a long list of health problems. Worst of those were a severe respiratory infection and fused joints. The future wasn’t looking bright for little Cletus.
Speaking to animal-enthusiast website The Dodo in February 2017, Angela Rovetto of Best Friends Animal Society, said, “A little guy like him on the city streets probably wouldn’t have lasted very long.” Fortunately though, his path led him to the no-kill animal center. “The important part is that he got there in one piece.”
Although Cletus’ respiratory infection cleared up with antibiotics, there was nothing that could be done to improve his fused joints. It gave Cletus a distinctive “shuffle” as he walked around. But that wasn’t the only thing that made the little guy stand out from other dogs.
Cletus had a look about him that could only be described as “unconventional.” His nose was crooked, he had big, bulging, brown eyes, a huge overbite and what seemed like far too many crooked teeth for his tiny mouth.
As a dog, however, Cletus didn’t know he was any different from the others. He only knew how to be a dog. And once he had beaten his respiratory infection, his personality really started to shine. It wasn’t long before he started melting the hearts of all Best Friends Animal Society staff.
Rovetto recalled, “Once he got on some medication and he was consistently fed and having space to move about – to be able to use his body – he slowly started putting weight on and getting better. And also, he started showing a puppy factor.”
The little dog with a big heart started displaying lots of character, despite his disabilities. Cletus was quick to make friends with everyone he met, be they canine, feline or human. In fact, it was pretty much impossible for anyone who met him to not immediately fall in love with him.
“He really truly was just a loving little dude,” Rovetto told The Dodo. “There is nothing more perfect than a Cletus kind of dog because they’re exactly what you don’t expect.” Adding to his appeal, meanwhile, was the cute pup’s distinctive wardrobe.
While Rovetto looked after Cletus, she took to dressing him in brightly colored sweaters. Her idea originally was that it might distract people from his wonky gait. “It kind of didn’t make people gawk at him,” she said. As a fashion statement, however, Cletus absolutely killed it.
Rovetto said, “Any time a little dog will let me dress him up and enjoys it as much as I do, well, go for it! It turned into his thing.” And as anyone who’s had a makeover will know, with a new look can come a renewed sense of self confidence. It certainly seemed to work for Cletus.
Whether the sweaters acted as a type of support bandage or whether Cletus simply knew he looked good, his posture changed. Whereas he once had a humpback, the curve of his spine started to straighten out. And the more he moved around, the more his muscles built up.
Of course, Cletus’ environment would have made a marked difference on his personality, too. The confines of a shelter can be stressful. Predominantly for troubled or abandoned animals, they can be nerve-racking places for newcomers. For such a small dog, the shelter must have surely been terrifying.
However, Cletus couldn’t really have been in a safer place than the Best Friends shelter. In 1984, a group of animal lovers made a pledge to tackle the problem of euthanasia in animal shelters in the United States. At the time, 17 million unwanted cats and dogs were put to sleep each year. With no experience, Best Friends set up what would become the largest “no-kill” sanctuary on the globe.
Its work, meanwhile, would inspire other shelters to adopt the same methods. Thirty years on and the numbers of abused and abandoned pets put to sleep in the United States has been reduced by more than 75 percent. Despite Best Friends’ care for its animals, however, a shelter was still not the ideal place for Cletus.
Taking him out of a shelter environment and into her home by fostering him, Rovetto was able to give the neglected pup all the attention he needed. And it was a love that was given back in spades. Rovetto documented Cletus’ progress and then posted photos to social media.
It was hoped that by showing off Cletus’ personality, a forever home with a loving family might soon be found for him. And sure enough, Summer Esslinger and her partner Mark Enrietto fell in love with him after seeing him on Instagram. Needing to know for sure, Enrietto paid him a visit later that day.
Just like Cletus’ sweaters, it was the perfect fit. Rovetto said, “It was very casual. There was no push. There was no effort. It just kind of literally came together. When Mark came in it was so cute. Right away, he got down on the ground with Cletus.”
And the bond was instant. Cletus climbed onto Enrietto’s lap, and the adoption was completed as he sat with the dog curled up right there. Cletus loves his new home, and he enjoys running around the dog park with other dogs. “He’s a little stubborn,” Enrietto told Best Friends in 2017. “He’s the class clown. You can take him anywhere.” And despite Cletus’ unusual looks, Enrietto said, “He’s a dog in every way.”