In Saving a Puppy, a Veterinarian Learns that Love is the Best Medicine

Emily’s veterinary career was off to a rocky start. Then she met Lego.

Emily + Lego

When Emily’s veterinary career was off to a rocky start, a homeless puppy gave her the confidence to practice her best medicine.

"Without corrective surgery he would die, and I was the one who had to fix him."

My name is Dr. Emily Bewley and I LOVE animals—always have. I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 5 years old and through hard work and dedication, I did it! But here’s the catch—I really didn’t like it once I got there. I wasn’t confident, and I started to hate my job and even resent animals sometimes. It was awful.

Lego the dog

After five years in private practice, I started working as a shelter veterinarian at the Kentucky Humane Society. I enjoyed shelter medicine more, but still didn’t have as much confidence as a veterinarian as I would’ve liked. One morning, I was spaying and neutering a litter of three puppies. One of the boys was noticeably smaller and more frail then the rest; half the size of his littermates! Under anesthesia he was breathing harder than normal, and I knew something was wrong. We took an X-ray that showed a very large diaphragmatic hernia—without corrective surgery he would die, and I was the one who had to fix him.

Lego the dog post-surgery

This surgery is intense; scary to perform and technically difficult. I never thought I could do a good job and I never thought he would survive, but without trying he would die. During this surgery (that I had never done before), the puppy’s heart stopped three times. His liver, stomach, and intestines were in his chest and attached to his heart. I had to detach and replace his organs, put them in their correct places, and piece his diaphragm back together—like putting together a Lego set.

The hours after surgery were touch and go. I was sure he wasn’t going to make it. My technicians were more confident than me than and took wonderful care of the puppy—we even decided to call him Lego. He got stronger every day, and me and my technician took turns taking Lego home in the evenings. To my great delight, this dog survived and thrived, surpassing all my expectations. Thanks to Lego’s survival, I became emboldened to try more surgeries and help more pets. I have now performed this same surgery successfully on two more animals. I enjoy surgery so much more now and have learned techniques I never thought I was capable of before—all because of Lego.

Lego the dog

My husband and three sons fell in love with Lego we nursed him back to health in our home. Several months later, we officially adopted him. I thought he would always be a little bit on the small side, but now at 90 pounds Lego is the largest and strongest dog I’ve ever had. He is a great family pet and has helped me to be a better veterinarian. Because of him I am able to save more cats and dogs’ lives than I ever thought possible. And it turns out I now love my profession! Lego has saved more lives than he will ever know, and has changed my life immeasurably.

Lego and a Veterinarian's family

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Emily won Kentucky Humane Society in Kentucky a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.

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