Dog Lives Awesome Life Despite Disabilities

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Cletus isn’t your average pup, but he’s got a lot of love to give.

To put it mildly: He doesn’t look conventional, per se. He’s got a massive overbite, and his teeth project at odd angles. His nose appears narrow and slightly off center. His eyes don’t quite line up.

When he walks, he shuffles; when he turns around, his whole body seems to seize into position. That’s because Cletus was born with several of his joints fused together.

But this dog is still one of the favorites at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Spay and Neuter Center in Los Angeles. Cletus might not look like your typical dog, but he has a way of endearing himself to everyone he meets.

Best Friends

“Cletus is the complete package,” explained Barbara Williamson of the Best Friends Animal Society. “[He is] a rescued little dog with an unusual mug, a spectacularly different swagger, and a unique fashion sense.”

Of course, his human companions can take some of the credit for that “unique fashion sense.” Cletus is often photographed in bright vests, which seem to give him confidence.

And the Best Friends Animal Society is hoping that Cletus’ story could inspire others to adopt—especially when animals have disabilities.

When Cletus was brought to the rescue, he was in considerable pain.

But a quick round of antibiotics cleared up the infection, and the staff was happy to discover that Cletus didn’t need substantial ongoing medical care. In fact, he was essentially the same as any other rescue dog, aside from some minor dietary requirements. (He prefers small, dry kibble, as it’s easy for him to digest.)

Best Friends

And Cletus was an immediate hit with his foster families. Angela Rovetto, one of the organization’s officers, took the 2-year-old dog for a few weeks. She discovered that he was remarkably active, funny, and friendly. Cletus made friends with other small dogs and cats, and his tail was always wagging.

“People tend to see dogs like Cletus and immediately want to baby them,” she said. “But just because he’s not everyone’s idea of normal doesn’t mean he’s suffering. If anything, Cletus is happy being who he is.”

While Cletus has a wonderful spirit, the shelter was concerned that his physical abnormalities might prevent him from finding a forever home. Potential adopters often worry about high medical bills, which leads to lower-than-average adoption rates for pets with disabilities. Sadly, some shelters are forced to euthanize disabled pets.

Best Friends Animal Society is passionate about promoting no-kill shelters in Los Angeles, so Cletus wasn’t in danger. However, dogs like Cletus sometimes end up shuffling between foster homes for years, never finding a permanent place.

Fortunately, this story has a happier ending.

Summer Esslinger and her boyfriend, Mark Enrietto, wanted a dog that was unconventional. They’d been looking for some time, browsing through various shelters to find a unique rescue dog.

As part of their search, Esslinger was monitoring the Instagram feeds of local shelters. She says that when she saw a picture of Cletus, she instantly fell in love.


“I think I found the one,” she recalls telling Enrietto. The couple quickly scheduled a visit with the dog.

Cletus was shy at first, but he warmed up to them when Enrietto sat on the ground next to him. Within seconds, he was curled up on Enrietto’s lap.

Rovetto, Cletus’s former foster mother, was there to watch.

“I could tell Cletus was going to a great home,” she said.

Cletus is thriving at his new home.

Esslinger and Enrietto say that they anticipated that the dog would have some difficulty adapting to home life, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, Cletus has shown some remarkable abilities.


He’s been jumping, sprinting, and gaining confidence. Enrietto says that Cletus has a wonderful personality, which has gradually become more established as he’s gotten comfortable.

“He’s a little stubborn, he’s the class clown, you can take him anywhere, and, like me, he loves his mom,” Enrietto said.

If you’re thinking of adopting a pet, be sure to consider disabled dogs and cats. As Cletus shows, they may look a little unusual, but they’re just like other pets—full of love.

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