5 min read

Guy Meets Shelter Dog With An ‘Unadoptable’ Smile And Brings Him Home

“Not going to lie, it definitely freaked me out a bit at first.”

Dustin Kelley was checking out the dogs at his local shelter when one caught his eye. Unlike the other pups barking in their kennels or begging for attention, a golden retriever named Zeus was sitting in the corner of his cage, hanging his head. 

Kelley wasn’t looking to adopt, but when he found out that the sad-looking dog was scheduled to be euthanized the next day due to overcrowding, he changed his mind. Despite that, the shelter wasn’t keen to have Kelley take Zeus home, explaining that the dog was basically “unadoptable” due to his habit of baring his teeth.

Dog with unadoptable smile
Dustin Kelley

“The shelter told me that he had ‘aggressive behaviors’ [like] the smile,” Kelley told The Dodo. “And he likely wouldn’t be a very good dog because he was untrained and antisocial. But I was drawn to the sad boy in the corner of his kennel, and I said I’d take him home and if he turned out to not be a good fit in my home at least I gave him a few weeks of life.”

Golden retriever with scary smile
Dustin Kelley

After filling out the adoption paperwork, Kelley saw Zeus’ smile for the first time, and it was not what he expected.

“The shelter attendant took him out of his kennel and brought him to the lobby so we could leave,” Kelley said. “Not going to lie, it definitely freaked me out a bit at first.”

Dustin Kelley

For the first few months after his adoption, Zeus was still that sad dog from the shelter, just in a new home. He didn’t smile, wag his tail or show his personality. But once he started to trust his new dad, the smile came back — this time with a whole new meaning.

“After those first three months, he started to smile all day every day, and that’s when I realized he was showing his teeth because he was excited, not because he was mad,” Kelley said. “I think once he finally realized that I wasn’t going to give up on him and that this was his home now, he really opened up … and his loving, goofy personality started to shine.”

Golden retriever shows off his smile
Dustin Kelley

Five years later, Zeus’ smile has become his lovable trademark.

Dustin Kelley

“Everyone loves it!” Kelley said. “It usually makes strangers laugh, and they want to give him tons of affection once they see it.” 

“He’s typically the highlight of the day at his vet’s office, the groomer, pet store, Starbucks, and other places we frequent,” he added. “Once they see him coming they’ll yell to their coworkers, ‘The smiling golden is back!’ And everyone will rush out to see him.”

Dustin Kelley

Kelley couldn’t picture a more perfect dog and is so glad that he took a chance on Zeus — and that Zeus took a chance on him. “He’s been with me through some of the worst times in my life. And on every single bad day, his smile has made me smile,” Kelley said. “I might have adopted him, but he definitely rescued me.”