Puppy Born with Cleft Lip Thrives and Becomes Ambassador for Dogs with the Same Condition

The following story is a finalist in the Rescue to Royalty Challenge. Three grand prize winners will receive a $250 shopping spree, while a shelter of their choosing will be awarded $2,000 in cash and needed supplies! You can vote for your favorite story here through May 8!

As if it is a mark of death, countless puppies like Tennison Mars are needlessly euthanized just for being born with a cleft lip or palate (or other birth defect). He is the ultimate Rescue to Royalty Story.


An underdog from the start, Tenny fought for life from the moment he was born, due to his cleft lip and palate. He required tube feeding and specialized care around the clock. Because he could not nurse on his own, intervention was necessary for his survival, which meant that he would be separated from his mom and hand raised at just hours old due to the severity of his condition.

Like humans, a cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when the puppy’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy. It makes nursing almost impossible, and those that try to nurse risk aspiration from milk going directly into the lungs. The amazing news is that, once these puppies are weaned, they are taught to eat, drink and live just like normal dogs but with an extra touch of special!


Tenny lived to tell his story and to represent the amazing kind of life the 1.3% of puppies born with cleft palates can live! He lived to help raise other cleft puppies just like him. He lived to raise awareness and advocate for their lives by being part of a study, at major veterinary schools, showing that cleft palate/lip puppies can live incredibly normal lives without surgery!

He shows the world that a cleft puppy can fetch, swim, travel the world and even dock dive. He inspires children who look at him and for the first time feel “normal” because they are different, too, and what sets them apart is what makes them special!


Tenny lived so that others may also. He lived to bring hope and joy into other’s lives, and he is proof that we need to look beyond the imperfections to see a life worth saving and a smile fit for a king!

This story was submitted by Melinda Bobb in support of Save The Clefts Rescue. You can read more Rescue to Royalty Challenge stories and vote for your favorite here!