Phil Luciano: Cleatus sightings filter in, but cold slows dog's owner
The search for Cleatus grows.
Turns out, owner Matt Martin isn't the only one looking for the monster-headed Great Dane. Sparked by a column here Thursday, area residents have been reporting Cleatus spottings in and around Peoria. Most peg Cleatus as riding around in autos, often with his gigantic noggin skyrocketing out of a sunroof.
Martin spent Thursday tracking down the sightings. But cold weather was daunting.
"It's a bummer, because it's 17 degrees," he said at mid-morning. "If it was 60, they'd probably have the dog out, cruising him around."
On Feb. 23, Martin 38, of rural Washington was working with a power saw in his shed. The 5-year-old, 170-pound Cleatus was doing what he often did: romping around the big, unfenced yard. So was Cleatus' mother, 10-year-old Abby.
But Martin's saw slipped and he cut off a third of his thumb. He rushed to a prompt care, so fast he didn't even bother to retrieve the sliced part of his thumb. When he got back, Abby was there, but Cleatus wasn't.
Martin looked around the area and ran an ad in the Peoria Journal Star. No luck. No Cleatus.
As I mentioned here Thursday, it's hard to fathom how a 170-pound dog can vanish so quickly. In agreement is Lauren Malmberg, director of the Peoria Animal Welfare Shelter, whose officers have been keeping an eye out for Cleatus.
"My heart goes out to (Martin)," says Malmberg, who has a Great Dane at home. "It's not an easily taken dog. You can't just stick him under your jacket. ... And it's not easily hideable. He's big. And he's unique looking.
"It's very strange."
Martin and I got calls Thursday, all about a dog with an enormous head - Cleatus' is twice as big as his mother's. Most of the reports clustered around far-north Peoria, near Pioneer Parkway. But others popped up elsewhere.
- A District 150 bus driver saw a Cleatus-like dog in a Subaru-style station wagon on Pioneer Parkway. The dog's head was sticking out the sun roof, "just lookin' around," Martin says.
- A motorist reported a Subaru-style station wagon near the Fish House, at University Street and Glen Avenue. Again, the dog was craning its neck out a sun roof. "He looked like he was enjoying life," Martin says.
- A resident near Candletree Shopping Center, near University Street and Pioneer Parkway, spotted someone walking Cleatus. "As soon as the dog went missing (Feb. 23), it appeared there," Martin says.
- Another caller saw a big-headed pooch poking out of a sun roof. But this was a BMW or Mercedes, on Forrest Hill Avenue between University Street and Sheridan Road.
- Only one caller offered a sighting anywhere near Martin's home: in the country between Washington and Morton. But Martin has doubts: "He said it was dark. And if Cleatus is in the country (near Washington), he'd find his way home. He can smell his mom."
Thursday, Martin focused a lot of foot and car mileage on the far-north end of Peoria. He put up a bunch of fliers to keep the manhunt (doghunt?) alive.
Of course, Martin wants his pal home as soon as possible. For now, though, he takes comfort in the reports that Cleatus - if it is, indeed, Cleatus - looks happy.
"I hope no one is hurting him," Martin says quietly.
Phil Luciano can be reached email@example.com or (309) 686-3155.