You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on

This one is about: Meet Cleftie, the Cleft-Affected Dog

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A Puppet Program presented at the Second Ever Wide Smiles Cleft Care Symposium, Kids' Konference

Cleftie is a dog who was born with a cleft. Well, actually, he's a puppet, but he is a dog puppet who has a repaired cleft. This puppet program was written for and shared at the Second Ever Wide Smiles Cleft Care Symposium during Kid's Konference. In Cleftie, the kids found a kindred spirit and a friend. We are reproducing the Puppet Script here so that you may also wish to make up a Cleftie puppet and present this script to your child's class, or to whomever you feel such a story would be appropriate.

First - let me describe how I made Cleftie. I was in Toys R Us one day and found, on the close-out sale aisle, four very large white and black dog puppets. Their front legs wrap around your body and hand on with velcro - your whole arm fits up into the body, and in the head was a squeeze bulb that was supposed to sound like a bark when you squeezed it. Well, you could tell right away why this puppet did not sell well. The bark sounded more like a quack. Very nasally and distorted -- and EXACTLY what a bark would sound like if the dog had an unrepaired cleft palate.

I was THRILLED!! I bought all the puppets they had and took them home -- my mind just spinning with ideas.

First, I gave him a repaired cleft lip. I used hot glue to make a line from the nose to the lip - like of angled like a z-plasty. Some of the puppets got unilateral repairs, and some got bilateral repairs. Then, with a black magic marker, I drew a cleft into the palate. Again, some were bilateral, some were unilateral. And I was ready to go. (For anyone wanting to make their own "cleftie" puppet, I suggest you just buy any dog puppet and form the scars and cleft the same way. Most puppets will not have the built-in nasal bark, so I suggest you get an inexpensive duck call from a sporting goods store, or a Kazoo to imitate the bark).

The script, then is as follows:

Puppeteer's Script
By Joanne Green

"HI there - My name is Cleftie. You've heard of people called 'Leftie' when they are left-handed? Well I am called 'Cleftie'. Wanna know why?

"Because I was born with a 'CLEFT'.

"When I was first born, my lip was a little different from all the other puppy lips. Mine looked kinda like it was broken. It wasn't broken though. It just didn't grow together before I got born. All the other pups had cleft lips too, before they were born. But their lips grew together. Mine didn't though, and so after I was born, the Doggie Doctor helped it to grow together by giving me an operation.

"Has anybody here ever had an operation??? Boy, they can HURT -- for a little while. And then it gets better. The cleft didn't hurt, but the operations did. But my Mommy Dog was right there with me. And even though I was kind of afraid, I got to feeling better, and then my lip didn't look like it was broken any more.

"Look really close now -- do you see the scars on my lip? That is all that is left of my cleft. Scars. You see, when the doggy doctor gave me an operation to help my lip grow together, he had to make big cuts. That is what an operation is - - a big cut that the doctor gives you. And any time you have a big cut, you get a scar. Does anybody here have any scars? I do. Right here on my lip.

"And you know what else??? Here - listen to me bark [Use the bark function on the puppet]) (bark bark bark) Does that sound kinda different to you???? Well, it does. It sounds different because I have a cleft palate. See this (show palate of puppet to audience). The palate is the roof of your mouth. And most doggies have palates that are all in one piece. But mine had a hole in it. And the doggy doctor can fix that, too, with another operation.

"My cleft palate made it a little hard for me to eat when I was a pup. Mommy Dog had to use a special puppy bottle for me. But I got my tummy filled - don't you worry about that! And when it came time to chew on them yummy bones, I got to do that too. Anybody else here like to chew on bones??? (look around - -) ah, well, maybe you have to get used to it. Delicious, if you ask me.

"My cleft palate made it hard for me to bark like other dogs too. (bark bark) See that?  Sounds a little different. But my mouth is learning how to bark. I go to a bark therapist and we play barking games all the time. I can tell that my barking is getting better and better.

"Sometimes other dogs in the neighborhood don't understand why I have my scars, or why my bark sounds a little different. Sometimes they tease me (acting real sad). I feel bad for those dogs who tease me, cause I think they have mean hearts. Or maybe they just don't understand. They can't understand that I'm just like them, except for one thing -- I don't have a mean heart. Well...I guess two things. I don't have a mean heart -- AND I did have a cleft.

"But you know, this cleft of mine -- it doesn't make me any different from any of the other doggies on the block. It doesn't make me meaner -- or harder to train -- or any less loving than any other doggie. Heck -- I LOVE to chase a stick and to roll in the grass. I play catch with my humans and I protect them from bad guys. And I'll tell you something else -- (sharing a secret now) -- Sometimes I even like to chase cars.

"My humans love me, and I love them too. They know that I am not any different than any other doggy, just because the doggy doctor had to help my lip grow together.

"I understand that sometimes humans have clefts too. And I also understand that human kids with clefts are just like human kids who don't have clefts. Except that their doctors gave them operations to help their lip and their palate to grow together.

"I sure am glad I got the chance to meet you. If you guys have some questions - - I sure would like to answer them for you."

(Take questions now - - remember to answer them in character)

Cleftie has been very well received each time he has been presented (one time at the symposium, and a few times by me at our local school). He gives us a non-threatening vehicle for discussing cleft issues without singling out a specific child. And for the kids who have cleft - he provides a model of a cleft-affected "person" who can speak openly and positively about cleft issues.

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