Six months ago an adorable French Bulldog puppy named Murphy came to see me to be neutered. He jumped excitedly, licking my face and wagging his entire body along with his cork-screw tail. He was like most puppies; full of joie de vivre, excited by everything he saw and everyone he met. There was one thing about him that was different though—the loud snort that accompanied every breath he took. You see, he was born with a condition known as stenotic nares, a severe narrowing of his nostrils that makes it hard to breath.
I can relate.
I love being a veterinarian. I love being slobbered on by cute little puppies in for their first exam, the puzzle of piecing together a difficult diagnosis, and even the honor of being able to help comfort a heartbroken client.
But most days, even while I am loving my job, I am weighted down by the everyday stresses that accompany it. The joy of those puppy kisses are tempered by the annoyance of having to explain why your breeder is wrong about the leptospirosis vaccine. The satisfaction of figuring out what’s ailing Bella is muted by having to tell you what it’s going to cost to treat it. The gratification of performing a life-saving procedure is muffled by the voices complaining about how behind I was running because of it. To be honest, some days it feels like I can hardly breathe under the weight of it all—like it’s hard to get enough oxygen to sustain my passion for veterinary medicine. It is easy in those moments, to forget what I’m doing it all for. There are many days where it’s hard to remember that I’m making a difference.
Six months ago I neutered Murphy. During his neuter I was also able to surgically enlarge his nostrils. As Murphy was sleeping off his anesthetic he snored away and when I re-evaluated him the next day he still snorted with every breath. I was convinced that my efforts hadn’t helped. I thought I had failed and Murphy would continue to be forced to experience his love of life through the veil of constant hypoxia.
Last week, Murphy came back for his regular check-up. Like last time, he jumped excitedly, licking my face and wagging his entire body along with his cork-screw tail, only this time the only sounds of his breathing were excited panting. In the weeks after surgery the swelling in his nose had gone down; he had improved tremendously and other than an occasional snore he was doing great.
Murphy was breathing easy thanks to me, but it turns out, he was the breath of fresh air I needed. He reminded me that what I do really does make a difference and he taught me that even when life feels suffocating, there is joy to be had.