Chewsing Kindness & Changing The World….One Smile At A Time
In September 2013, just after my unborn son Frankie had his diagnosis of a very severe cleft lip and palate and reeling from the inappropriate way that the news was delivered to us, I came across a page on Facebook called “My Name Is Lentil”. This little puppy called Lentil Bean, who lives in the USA, was born with a cleft lip and palate and who had to have surgery to allow him to eat properly, was one of the cutest dogs I had ever seen and I was soon hooked and couldn’t wait to see every update that his owner posted about him. He is an “ambassadog” for children who were born with cranial facial differences, with his mission being to change the world one smile at a time and teaching everyone to “Chews Kind.
No day is complete without me seeing and following the “Good Morning” and “Good Night” posts on Lentil’s Facebook page, and every day at approximately 2.00-2.30pm I look forward to the notifications that a new post has gone up on the page. Lentil has become such a big part of my life now and I always follow what he’s up to and follow his mission to help others “Chews Kind”.
I am also very honoured and privileged to have got to know his Mama Lindsay Condefer very well on Facebook, and I’m delighted that she agreed to be interviewed for “Cyber Geek Girl” as part of Cleft Lip & Palate Awareness Week. Lindsay, you are an amazing and inspirational woman, and I’m so pleased and proud to know you. I am also so very grateful for the beautiful card that you sent me last Christmas with my Team Lentil medal and calendar that included Lentil’s paw print when he was a puppy on a wooden disc, which I will treasure forever.
Over to you Lindsay….
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
Since 2001, I have been running a natural pet food store along with a special needs dog rescue in Philadelphia. I’ve dedicated my life to the wellbeing of animals….little did I know, in 2013, my life would take a turn, and I would be adding another mission…one that has truly restored my faith in humanity.
Tell us a bit about Lentil, “My Name Is Lentil” and his story/mission.
Lentil, having been born with a double cleft nose, lip and palate, came into my life at just 2 days old. He was a foster though French Bulldog Rescue network (FBRN) and needed to be tube fed- every 2 hours- until he was old enough for surgery. I created a Facebook page for him, “My Name is Lentil”, in order to update the volunteers at FBRN on his progress. Days later, his page went viral. I couldn’t understand why so many people all of a sudden “cared”….originally, it was my friends and family that cheered me on and credited me for the work that was doing….but now it was the world?! I knew that there had to be a hidden reason why all of this was happening, and then one day, it clicked. Many of our followers were parents of children born with cleft palates, and the children, themselves! Lentil was an inspiration for them. The general public was drawn to his “look” and this is the same condition that many children had been growing up and getting ridiculed over. I had finally found our mission…and my answer to the “why” Lentil came into my life, so together, we could raise awareness for children born with craniofacial differences.
“My Name Is Lentil” has over 150,000 fans on Facebook. How do you keep up with posting “Good Morning”, “Good Night” and other photos/news throughout your very busy days?
I don’t think I ever really “keep up”. The page has just turned into another full time job….but a fun one! I try to just keep a schedule. Obviously, some days are more “fun’ than others….when I have more time to take pictures and do posts! I had to turn off the private messaging on the page (as much as it broke my heart to do so) but it hurt me more that I couldn’t keep up with it!
Are you surprised at how much interest Lentil has had across the globe?
I still can’t believe it – but for the children, I’m so grateful for it! These children now have a voice! They no longer feel as though they need to “hide” in public. They can be themselves…and most importantly- be proud of who they are!
Our Kids Club consists of any child born with any craniofacial difference. It’s free to sign up. Parents can send photos to us to post on surgery days, so all of Team Lentil can send well wishes and show their support! It’s wonderful for the kids and their families to see how many people are behind them! They are no longer “alone” during that potential scary time. I always try to encourage people to “like” or “comment” on our posts with the children…even if they ignore everything else. The children truly enjoy seeing all of the support. I also love surprising our kids! Each year- I send out “Bravery Medals” to them that they can take to their surgeries. It’s a little something to show them how special they truly are.
Lentil is a very well-travelled dog! Do you have any funny stories or incidents from his travels?
Oh dear…where would I even start with this question?! It’s always an adventure traveling with a dog. He has his own agenda most of the time…and Lentil is very good at finding “trouble”. I’ll never forget one time when we were traveling down south….we stopped for a potty break and I looked down at him and he was covered in fire ants! Poor boy stepped on a nest! He was covered in bites, but luckily responded well to the allergy meds that I always keep on hand, so it didn’t turn into a huge disaster.
Airline travel is always difficult. He’s ok with his carrier…but once he’s out he isn’t fond of getting back “in”. Dogs need to be taken out of their carrier to go through security, so immediately after I am always searching for one of those “Mommy and me” bathrooms to get him back into the carrier. (No one needs to see the scene he causes). When we board the plane- he puts up a fuss when I’m putting him under the seat. Everyone around me laughs, as Lentil is showing that he is our “security” on the plane. Once settled, thankfully he sleeps throughout the duration of the flight.
Lentil is also a bit of a celebrity in the press and media! What is the most memorable interview he has given so far?
All of them are memorable to me. Our funniest was when we surprised Rachael on the TV show “The Doctors” and Lentil thought it would be best to poop on stage! All we could do was laugh….it was the perfect “dump”. The whole audience went from crying to laughing. I love the little reminders he gives us that at the end of the day – he is still a dog! It’s part of his charm.
What is the most memorable trip you have made with Lentil on his mission to teach others to “Chews Kind”?
Each trip is special in it’s own way. For our tour, I’ve been carefully planning our trips in order to help/encourage the children. I want them to be more meaningful than just going to lunch. My goal is to leave the kids with a new found confidence that they will be able to carry with them forever.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a mom to a cleft lip/palate dog?
The rewards are the same as being a Mom to any dog! I’m just as proud of Bean as I am all of my furkids. They’re all special in their own way.
Describe a typical day for you.
We never have a “typical” day. The only constant is the “Good Morning” and “Good Night” that we post. “Behind the scenes” I’m usually running around with the animals at Street Tails or attempting to clean up after my kids. I always laugh when people suggest that I have a “live feed” for our life…I think maybe we come across as having this “exceptional, fun filled life”- but in reality- I’m just a normal dog Mom who is trying to get by and attempting to keep everyone safe and happy.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
I don’t feel as though I, personally, have any big achievements. I’m proud of what we are doing…but it’s not just Lentil and I- it’s all of Team Lentil, together, that are making a difference in the world!
What are your ambitions in life?
To make the world a kinder place to live in. My hope is that people will learn to accept one another and embrace each other’s differences, rather than harp on them.
Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?
Hopefully right where I’m at now. I love what I’m doing, and as difficult as it can be sometimes, there’s not a thing that I would ever change…except, perhaps, figuring out how to continue this mission and be more financially stable! There is so much more that I want to do, but I just don’t have the resources to do so.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work with animals and dogs with special needs such as cleft lip and palates?
Have faith in yourself, and keep going! Most importantly – trust your vet! Each case is so different, and many times I’ve gotten ridiculed for not offering advice through Facebook on how to “care” for someone’s animal. I don’t feel that anyone could give proper advice through the internet.
Finally, happiness is…
Something as simple as a smile or a small act of kindness.
To contact “My Name Is Lentil”, follow the links below:
Thank you Lindsay, and thank you Team Lentil!