Cletus, a 2 year old Chihuahua mix, came to Best Friends Pet Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center in Mission Hills from Los Angeles Animal Services, where he was listed as a stray. Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society.
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Spend just a few minutes with Cletus and you’ll learn two valuable lessons: Being normal is overrated, and life gets a lot more interesting when you aren’t worried about fitting in.

On the surface, Cletus doesn’t look like your average two-year-old dog. He was just born different — with a crooked nose and a massive overbite. And because he has several fused joints, he shuffles more than he walks.

Look beneath Cletus’s unique exterior, though, and you’ll see something else — his indomitable spirit and love of life. Cletus doesn’t worry about his disabilities. After all, there are just too many friends to make, walks to take and toys to chase.

Differences only make this dog more special

This special little dog had fused joints and a unique facial structure, but nothing stopped his spirit. Cletus thrived in a foster home before he was adopted by a couple in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society.

Cletus was brought to the Best Friends Pet Adoption/Spay Neuter Center in Los Angeles as a stray from a city shelter. The moment you see Cletus, it’s clear he’s different. But when he arrived at the center, the medical team also observed that he had a serious respiratory infection.

Vets soon determined that the cause of Cletus’s mobility issues are the fused joints. A dose of antibiotics cleared up his infection, but there was nothing that could be done about his joints. It’s just the way he is.

Once Cletus was feeling better, he got to enjoy the comfort of a foster home, where his spunky personality began to emerge.

Fostering proved invaluable for Cletus, who spent a few weeks with Angela Rovetto, administrative coordinator for Best Friends–Los Angeles. Rovetto paid careful attention to how well Cletus gets along on his own, and she learned to what extent his disabilities affected him.

It turned out, not much. Aside from making minor modifications to his diet (Cletus has an easier time ingesting small, dry kibble) and keeping him separated from her big dog when she wasn’t around, Rovetto said fostering Cletus was the same as fostering any dog.

In fact, Cletus doesn’t know he’s different, and he doesn’t need coddling.

“People tend to see dogs like Cletus and immediately want to baby them,” Rovetto 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.”

Celebrating a dog’s differences

Mark Enrietto and his girlfriend, Summer Esslinger, had for some time been looking for a dog to welcome into their home, but they hadn’t found the right match — that is, until the day that Esslinger saw Cletus’ photo on Instagram. She wanted a dog who was like no other, and Cletus certainly fits the bill.

Mark Enrietto and Summer Esslinger of Los Angeles adopted Cletus after seeing him on the Best Friends LA Instagram page. Cletus now has his own Instagram, where he models sweaters and shares his adventures with the couple. Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society.

“I think I found the one,” Esslinger told Enrietto.

That day, Enrietto paid a visit to the center to meet Cletus. The little dog was shy at first, but when Enrietto sat down on the ground, Cletus shuffled over to him, tail wagging, and made himself comfortable on his lap. It was clear: Cletus was indeed the one.

“Everything felt comfortable,” said Rovetto, who was there that day and helped with the adoption. “I could tell Cletus was going to a great home.”

And she was right. Today Cletus is happy to be in a home where his differences are celebrated. “He’s showing us all his amazing abilities,” Enrietto said about Cletus, whose full name is Cletus Spuckler, after “The Simpsons” character, who, like his adoptive father, hails from Springfield, Illinois.

Life in a Home

Cletus is also gaining dexterity and getting braver every day, thanks to regular outings to help strengthen his legs. Recently, his new family learned that Cletus is quite the athlete, regularly sprinting and even leaping in the air at the dog park. He’s also got a keen sense of fashion, and looks fabulous in his very own giraffe outfit.

But most of all, Cletus is enjoying being a much-loved dog as part of a family, just like any other dog would. And just like other dogs, he’s one of a kind.

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

For more information on Best Friends Animal Society – Los Angeles, visit www.bestfriendsla.org.

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