How George Clooney's Rescue Dog Went from Kill Shelter to Hollywood

01/12/2012 at 04:30 PM EST

George Clooney: How He Rescued Dog Einstein
George Clooney and dog Einstein
Laura Cavanaugh/Landov; Camp Cocker
How did an overweight shelter dog with an underactive thyroid end up living with George Clooney?

It's actually quite a tale.

When Cathy Stanley, founder of L.A.-area breed rescue Camp Cocker, made a stop at a high-kill shelter in June 2009, she only had room to take two cocker spaniels – but there were three others. Among them, a special pup named Einstein.

"He was in a filthy, crowded dog run with other dogs," reads the text in a video about Einstein. "Poor Einstein was so afraid, he would leap backwards, trying to get away, and his rolls of fat were shaking."

Stanley ended up taking all five cocker spaniels that day, and Einstein, who was not only overweight but also had an underactive thyroid and dry eye, began his amazing trajectory toward Casa Clooney. Due to his condition, he was quickly taken out of a boarding facility and into a foster home with a Camp Cocker volunteer, who gave him lots of exercise and low-calorie food.

Clooney, who says he saw Einstein on the Internet, might have seen him on this adoption page, which describes Einstein as "quite affectionate" and "a real teddy bear of a dog!"

According to the actor, he called to express interest in adopting the pup but was told that Einstein would have to like him first. So when Einstein paid his prospective adopter a visit in January 2010, Clooney did what anyone would do – he rubbed meatballs on his shoes – and Einstein was his!

"Forever, now, he just thinks of me as the guy with the meatball feet," Clooney told Esquire. "He loves me. I can do no wrong. He follows me everywhere."

That wasn't Clooney's only gesture: According to the video about Einstein, Clooney made a "generous adoption donation," which the rescue used "to pay down a big portion of our January vet debt that we'd been struggling with."

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