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Canine Craniofacial Patients Help Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Craniofacial Patients Embrace Differences

By Ashley Berke Published: Jul 13, 2015

Event coincides with National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month

[July 13, 2015; Philadelphia, PA] – It has been well-documented that the human-animal connection provides a powerful healing bond. This bond will be evidenced at the third annual “Best Friends Bash” on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, as craniofacial patients from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) meet eight canines who have undergone similar craniofacial procedures or overcome other health challenges. The event coincides with National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month.

A video about the event is available at

This specialized form of pet therapy helps children see how dogs are affected by similar challenges and how they have adapted. During the event, CHOP patients will have the opportunity to interact with the following Penn Vet patients:

Darcy, a Portuguese Water Dog who had surgery to remove a craniofacial tumor
Emma, a Golden Retriever who had surgery to remove a craniofacial tumor
Jasmine, a Shetland Sheepdog who had surgery to remove a craniofacial tumor
Lentil, a French Bulldog who had surgery to repair a cleft palate
Bosco, a Rottweiler with a skull deformity who also has undergone four leg operations
Cyrus, a mixed breed dog who was born without front legs
Rumor, a Rhodesian Ridgeback who had surgery to treat a congenital condition
Vivian, a Staffordshire Terrier mix who was named a Therapy Dog Ambassador by the National Dog Show 

“Receiving unconditional love and attention is an essential part of the healing process,” said Dr. Alexander Reiter, Penn Vet Associate Professor of Dentistry & Oral Surgery. “The dogs that participate in this meaningful event provide unspoken comfort, creating an immediate bond that allows the children to realize they are not alone.

“Craniofacial problems are complex medical conditions that can also negatively impact children's feelings about themselves,” said Scott P. Bartlett, MD, chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at CHOP. “Despite this, our patients show great resilience and strength. They strive to return normalcy to their lives — often while coping with major surgeries and other therapies throughout their childhood and adolescence. Events like this are a great opportunity for these children to see how dogs affected by similar problems have adapted.”

In addition, clinicians and nurses from CHOP’s Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery as well as members of Penn Vet’s Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service will discuss cases and learn from each other’s techniques.

The Best Friends Bash will take place on July 22 at 5:00 p.m. in Penn Vet’s Hill Pavilion (380 S. University Ave., Philadelphia). The event is not open to the public. Photos will be available on Penn Vet’s Facebook page.

The event is funded by a grant from Penn’s Edwin and Fannie Gray Hall Center for Human Appearance (CHA), which consists of plastic surgeons, dermatologists, oral & maxillofacial surgeons, oculoplastic surgeons, and psychologists who have an interest in solving the problems of appearance caused by congenital defects, cancer, trauma, and disease. CHA funds many research and education projects that study and treat all aspects of appearance in children and adults.

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 535-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit