Alicia Simatos first saw the picture of Sophie, she knew that she would be the perfect companion for her young son because the two shared a very special connection. Sophie had been stuck at the humane society for over month because of her condition, but that's exactly what made her the perfect fit for the Simatos family.
Sophie was born with a cleft lip, which apparently was enough for people to pass over her when picking out their new family member. But Simatos knew that Sophie deserved all the love in the world and brought her home. She was excited to introduce Sophie to her son, who also was born with a cleft lip. Simatos has even teamed up with an organization that will not only help out the pups, but kids who are born with the same condition.
Cleft lip is a fairly common defect that happens to one in every 600 children born in America. However, when dogs are born with the condition, breeders will often have them euthanized because they won't sell. But now, these dogs have been given a purpose, and they are going to help a lot of kids...
Simatos has joined the organization Cleft Lip & Palate Foundation of Smiles, which has started the process of training these special dogs to act as therapy dogs for kids. The nonprofit's CEO, Rachel Mancuso, first realized the difference that these dogs could make when she adopted her own pup with a cleft lip and brought him home to meet her twin boys. The boys were both born with a cleft lip as well, and have gone through many surgeries to help correct it, but as soon as they saw Rocky, their eyes lit up.
"The day that I brought home Rocko, my kids looked at me and said, 'Mom, that dog is special just like me," Mancuso said. "If my boys can say that, I know there are other little girls and little boys and even adults that are going to say the same thing. Right there, I said we are going to go even further with this organization. We are going to make a difference and send more joy and more comfort to those families in need."
The nonprofit works hard to create a strong bond in their team. "We are not just a nonprofit," Mancuso said. "We are a community. We are a family." They have committed to training the dogs to help visit children's hospitals, schools, and help kids who are having a hard time. They feel as though sometimes the child won't be comfortable sharing their feelings with their parents, but a dog who knows how it feels might be the perfect confidant. "You are trying to find anything you can to comfort them," Simatos said.
Manusco said, "we really want to save these dogs. They can make such a difference." The program is a win-win, kids will love it and the dogs will too! To learn more about the program, you can check out their website.