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Like millions of people throughout the world, Angela Perkins’ disability has forced her to rely on her service animal, Cletus Eugene, to keep her safe. But Perkins’ story is unique because Cletus is a miniature kangaroo.
Perkins lives with multiple sclerosis and credits Cletus with giving her the confidence to live a normal life.
With her kangaroo by her side, she has the confidence to drive to the grocery store or the bank. He is a constant companion, watching over her. He keeps her company when attacks leave her paralyzed and homebound.
On Oct. 26 Perkins’ life was turned upside down.
She was getting out of the car and going into her house when her dog jumped up on her and made her fall. The dog scared Cletus and he did what all kangaroos do when faced with a potential threat – he ran. That was the last time she saw her beloved companion.
“I feel like I lost my child,” she said, choking back tears.
Perkins lives near the Owen County Fairgrounds and she drove throughout her neighborhood frantically searching and screaming his name from the window of her car, but could not find him. Her lack of mobility prevented her from searching the wooded land on foot.
The Owen County Search and Rescue team came to try and track him down. The search dogs found his trail, but could not locate Cletus. Saturday, he was spotted near the schools. Kangaroos can run up to 40 mph, and he was gone by the time she could get there.
Perkins and Cletus have lived life side-by-side ever since he first arrived in July. She got him to have a pet to keep her company.
A friend, who lives in Louisville, has a kangaroo and she asked him to arrange for a kangaroo of her own. There is normally a two-year waiting list for kangaroos, but Cletus’ birth was a surprise to his mother’s caretaker and he had not been spoken for. He was soon flown in from New Zealand.
Perkins and her new pet quickly bonded and Cletus never left her side.
Perkins was diagnosed with MS two years ago and doctors discovered the disease was already in the late stages. Unknown to her, MS had been slowly damaging her nervous system for years.
One morning, Cletus started acting strange. The normally calm animal jumped up and started licking her face. Just 30 seconds later, she had an MS attack. She assumed it was just an odd coincidence and didn’t think much about it.
But it happened again. Cletus would start to act strangely and within seconds she would be paralyzed with an attack.
“Any animal that bonds with you can be a service animal,” she said.
Cletus had transformed from a pet to a service animal that saved her life. One time when she was driving home, Cletus jumped out of his restraint and desperately tried to get her attention. With Cletus’ warning, she was able to safely pull off to the side of the road before losing control of her legs.
Steve Wing, general animal curator for the Louisville Zoo, said most types of kangaroos could survive on their own in Kentucky weather and the plant-eating kangaroo would be able to find plenty of food. He said the biggest threat to Cletus is predators, but the animal should have the speed to outrun any dangers.
Perkins said Cletus is about 2 feet tall and is 8 months old. He is wearing a red harness and a leash. She said if anyone sees him to contact her immediately. Do not try to catch him because he will be scared and run out of the area.
Because of her close bond with Cletus, she is the only one he will allow to approach him.
If anyone sees Cletus contact Perkins at (502) 750-0773.