During a house fire in January, an Alaskan dog named Archer suffered serious injuries. Archer was enveloped in flames when the fire department arrived on the scene. Firefighters tried to pick up the frightened dog, but as they picked him up, he escaped, raising concerns for their safety.
Archer was quickly brought to the veterinarian after being found, fortunately, not long after the fire along the coast. It is difficult to find emergency veterinarian services where Archer lives in Haines, Alaska, which is a rather rural area. In these situations, care would be provided by Dr. Michelle Oakley, the star of the Nat Geo WILD program "Dr. Oakley," who is skilled in helping all creatures.
Dr. Oakley was on his way back from California at the time of the incident, so Archer had to endure a seven-hour car ride in severe weather to get to the closest vet to get care for his serious wounds. Once Archer was more stable, he was able to return home and start his long road to recovery with Dr. Oakley by his side.
Dr. Oakley described the precise procedure she put up to treat Archer to PEOPLE. "We started with bandage changes and set up a burn unit in my office in town because we required a sterile atmosphere where you can keep everything clean," she said.
She consulted with a burn specialist at the University of California, Davis, though it soon became clear that Archer would want more help than she could provide. The doctor advised using tilapia fish skins on the burns to speed healing, which is a novel method. Even Dr. Oakley was shown how to perform the treatment by the expert, who visited Archer.
Archer immediately wrapped himself in fish skin, which gave him a scaly appearance and gave him the nickname "Archer the Dragonslayer."
Dr. Oakley remarked that Archer felt relief from his symptoms quickly after eating the fish skins. The poor dog had burns all over his body, but his face was where they hurt the most.
For Archer's benefit, the neighborhood banded together. Dr. Oakley treated her for free, but the citizens of Haines came together to pay for any additional medical expenses for Archer, which included a few operations, laser therapy, numerous bandage changes, and more.
With plenty of affection, Archer transformed over time from a terrified burn victim with painfully pink skin and no fur to a fully recovered and content dog with only a quarter-sized bald area from the burns to his face.
She still gives Archer the most of the credit for his recovery even though Dr. Oakley was crucial to it because of his compassionate, resilient attitude. He had many vet visits, and despite the fact that he was in a lot of pain, he never failed to wag his tail.
In some respects, Archer's pain has helped others who are in need of healing as well; as a result of Archer's trauma, Dr. Oakley is now able to use her knowledge to treat other animals whose bodies have been damaged in fires.
I'll be able to save so many animals thanks to this one patient," she said.
The months-long struggle to help Archer recover is one of the most rewarding cases Dr. Oakley has ever worked on, and she considers it to be a career highlight.