Small Dog Brings Big Hopes

Thursday, October 23rd 2008, 10:18 am
By: News On 6

By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A small Chihuahua from Oklahoma City is getting international attention because she's helping children around the world cope with a medical condition that affects millions.

One in every 800 children is born with a cleft palate, or a split in the top of the mouth. The condition is rare for animals, and for those born with it, survival chances are slim. But so far baby Emma is defying those odds.

Baby Emma is a lot like a Hollywood baby, born with a camera always in her face. She was born with a cleft palate, cleft lip and severe nasal and facial deformities.

Emma's Photo Album

Her original owners gave her up to a woman named Dena Lamkin who tracked down Dr. Tina Neel, an Oklahoma City vet.

"I had her bring her in to see Dr. Domnick, who's the surgeon, to see if it was something we could help her fix here," Dr. Tina Neel of Neel Veterinary Clinic said.

Most vets put down animals with this kind of a condition, but together, Dr. Neel and Dr. Domnick agreed to perform Emma's first surgery.

She's still being hand-fed through a tube every 2 or 3 hours because if she tries to eat on her own, food could go through the nasal passage and into her lungs. That's why one more surgery is necessary.

"The final step will be to try and re-create a lip. And that's for aesthetics and to help her to maybe drink water normally," Emma's surgeon Dr. Ellen Domnick said.

In the meantime, Emma will continue to receive vaccinations. Her following is growing on the web and her story has already impacted hundreds, including parents of cleft palate children who are going through the same thing.

Emma is only 16 ounces. She's got her own line of t-shirts and mugs on A book author is also interested in publishing her story to help children with the same condition.

Emma already has a few thousands friends on her MySpace and pages. If you would like to friend Emma or donate for future caretaking expenses, click the links to the right.