April 9, 2013 at 11:12 AM ET
Lentil, a 9-week-old French bulldog puppy with rare facial deformities, is melting hearts and gaining thousands of online supporters with his inspirational story. His foster mother, Lindsay Condefer, was quite surprised her puppy became a viral hit when multiple news outlets from all over the world covered the story.
“All of a sudden this baby turned my life upside down,” Condefer, 34, told TODAY.com.
When Lentil was born Feb. 2 with a cleft palate and deformed nose and lip, The French Bulldog Rescue Network knew he would need special love and attention. As founder of the nonprofit Street Tails Animal Rescue and a pet foster parent with 12 years of experience, Condefer was a perfect choice to take in Lentil, who was the only surviving member of his litter. She took him home a couple days later and now feeds him through a tube every three hours.
“I have received more support than I can ever in my mind imagine possible. I don’t know how it happened,” Condefer said.
While she isn't sure why Lentil’s story has touched the most hearts out of all the dogs she’s fostered, Condefer hopes something good will come out of all the attention, such as raising awareness for rescue pets and those born with cleft palates.
Cleft palates usually cause problems in puppies shortly after birth, before the clefts are even noticed, said Dr. John Lewis, assistant professor of dentistry and oral surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Lentil’s rare combination of deformities makes him more at risk for inflammation of his lungs and nasal passages, which can make it difficult to breathe. While he’s survived longer than his siblings, he’s not out of the woods yet.
Condefer is taking Lentil to see Dr. Lewis at the end of April, when surgical options for the puppy will be discussed. Multiple surgeries may be necessary, but there is hope that Lentil won’t have to eat from a tube forever.
“Long-term, once the palatal surgery heals, Lentil should be able to live a normal life. He will always look a little different, but dogs don't tend to dwell on these things,” Dr. Lewis told TODAY.com.
While Condefer waits for the next step in Lentil’s care, she continues to be grateful for the amount of support and attention his admirable battle to live one day to the next has received. She hopes little Lentil’s story will make a difference for pets in similar situations.
You can learn more about Lentil by visiting his profile on The French Bulldog Rescue Network.