Lentil, the 5 month old French Bull Dog puppy has found his place in the world and it’s helping kids and those around them accept the craniofacial differences that affect heads and faces like cleft palates or cleft lips.
Lentil started out as one of 4 pups born in New Jersey, all with facial defects. Little Lentil was the only one to survive despite being born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate. He was unable to eat or drink on his own and needed constant attention.
Lindsey Condefer is a volunteer working with the French Bull Dog Rescue Network of Philadelphia. She offered to take on Lentil’s care which consisted of feedings through a tube ever two hours around the clock. Food or liquid could easily go up his nose and Condefer says his life hung by a thread for the first three months. After that feedings moved to every three hours.
Condefer was able to line up surgeons through the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school. They would perform the necessary surgeries that would eventually allow Lentil to lead a more ordinary life. Because repairing the cleft lip is really a cosmetic procedure, it was decided to leave it as is. The veterinary school asked that Lentil become part of a program where kids with specific conditions meet animals with the same issues. Lentil would be a great asset in dealing with kids with craniofacial issues. The program helps those kids to feel as normal as possible.
Subsequently, Lentil is a staple at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where he has met with hundreds of patients like fourteen year old Danny Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer suffers from Saethre-Chotzen syndrome, a genetic condition which causes the skull bones to fuse too early and stops the skull from developing normally. The shape of the head and face can be adversely affected. Lentil helped him cope with his own differences because Lentil, too, looks different than a normal dog.
Lentil has been able to eat on his own since his surgery in May. Since then he’s become the mascot for craniofacial awareness and travels wherever he is needed. When he’s not on the road, he hangs out at Condefer’s pet shop in Philly where fans stop by to thank him for his work.
Condefer thinks Lentil was put here on Earth for a reason and that he survived his ordeal for a reason. She says he is a special dog and so do the hundreds of children he has helped in his short life so far.