A New Leash on Life: Lentil the "Ambassadog" Helps Kids with Facial Differences

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Lentil, a French Bulldog, wasn't expected to make it. Born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, he was the only one of his litter to survive.

Lindsay Condefer, a volunteer with the French Bulldog Rescue Organization of Philadelphia, stepped in to care for Lentil. Because of his cleft palate, he had to be tube fed.

"In the beginning, he ate every two hours throughout, over a 24-hour period, and then as he got older, we were able to stretch it to three hours," Ms. Condefer told CNN.

Ms. Condefer reached out to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School to discuss surgery that would make it possible for Lentil to eat and drink on his own. Around that time, she started a blog, My Name Is Lentil, to raise awareness of craniofacial differences in animals. Fans flocked to Lentil's very own Facebook page.

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In the mean time, veterinary surgeons at UPenn realized that Lentil, who would still have a cleft lip after palate surgery, would make an excellent "ambassadog" for children with craniofacial differences. Thanks to Lentil's surgery in May, he now able to eat and drink without help-and to meet kids that share similar issues to his own.

Lentil has now visited hundreds of patients at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and was recently praised on CHOP's Facebook page for helping children treated in their Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery's Craniofacial Program. Lentil even visited a Children's Craniofacial Association (CCA) camp in Florida this summer.

Danny Pfeiffer, 14, who has had multiple facial surgeries at CHOP, has teamed up with Lentil to reach out to kids facing similar issues.

"The bond shared between Danny and Lentil has helped Danny deal with the challenges that come with his surgeries and facial differences," CHOP's Facebook post said. "The duo offers support to other patients with similar conditions."

"He doesn't look like, you know, a regular dog," Danny told CNN. "So that kind of makes him special, so it probably makes kids who have something that I have, makes them feel special."

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month. To learn more about cleft lip and cleft palate, visit CCAkids.org or CHOP.edu.

-By Joslyn Gray

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