During his visit to the shelter, Boyers, 27, spotted a small black-and-white dog whose cleft lip reminded him of his son Bentley. His thoughts quickly shifted from poultry to puppies.
“It was pretty shocking actually,” said Boyers. “I had never seen a dog with a cleft lip before.”
He called his wife on FaceTime to show her the puppy.
“I immediately told him to adopt her,” said Ashley Boyers, 23. “I said to bring her home today.”
Brandon Boyers asked Lydia Sattler, the director of the animal shelter, about the adoption process.
“I explained that they could take the puppy home two days later, after she had her final vet appointment,” said Sattler, who was delighted that a family was interested in adopting the dog.
But Bentley’s parents couldn’t wait to introduce their son to his new friend with a familiar face. The next day, Ashley Boyers brought Bentley to the shelter for a visit.
“They were head over heels for each other right away,” she said. As Bentley cradled the puppy in his arms and nestled next to her, “everyone started crying.”
“We were all in tears seeing the two of them together,” said Sattler, who explained that this is the first time the shelter has had a puppy with a cleft lip. “The fact that this is something we never see, the puppy came from 1,000 miles away and that Bentley’s dad just happened to be here at that moment, it was just amazing.”
“The puppy immediately started soaking up all his love,” she continued. “It was genuine joy.”
Bentley, who decided to name the dog Lacey, was born with a cleft lip and has had two surgeries. He has several more procedures to come, including a bone-grafting operation, his mother said.
“I found out he was going to have a cleft lip during my gender ultrasound. He had his first surgery when he was 5 months old,” said Ashley Boyers. “He is the strongest little boy I know.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 2,800 babies is born with a cleft lip in the United States.
While the numbers aren’t as clear for canines, purebreds have a higher incidence rate of the condition than mixed-breed dogs. Although Lacey’s breed is unknown, the shelter suspects she is a combination of many breeds.
Lacey was transported from an area in Mississippi with an overpopulation of animals to the Jackson County Animal Shelter, along with 24 other rescued dogs.
“She was one of the last ones of the 25 to be adopted,” said Sattler, adding that despite the birth defect, the puppy is expected to live a normal, healthy life.
In a Facebook post, the shelter wrote, “It’s so hard to put into words how meaningful this adoption is to all of us.”
“Bentley found his match today in this tiny pup who also has a cleft lip,” the post says. “They instantly loved each other.”
Although the cleft lip is a coincidence, Bentley’s parents believe Lacey was meant to be their son’s dog, they said.
“He knows that the dog has the same condition as he does. He understands,” said Ashley Boyers. “It is remarkable to see him share something in common with the puppy.”
Along with his parents, Bentley is overjoyed with his little buddy.
“My puppy [is] so cute,” Bentley said. “I cuddle Lacey and give her kisses.”
Lacey is adjusting well to her new home and older canine sister, Remi, a 9-month-old English mastiff.
“The dog has been fantastic,” Brandon Boyers said. “She even stands up to our big dog.”
“Bentley spends all day playing with her,” Ashley Boyers said. “They play outside with balls and find sticks and rocks. And all three of them take a daily nap on the dog bed together.”
But beyond being his playmate, Lacey and her cleft lip will be an important companion for Bentley, his parents said.
“He won’t feel like he’s alone on this journey,” Brandon Boyers said.