Back in January, Archer, a dog living in Alaska, was severely burned when his home caught fire. When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found Archer consumed by flames. The scared dog ran off when firefighters tried to pick him up – leaving many people worried about his survival.
Thankfully, Archer was located near the ocean not long after the fire and was immediately taken to the vet. Since Archer lives in Haines, Alaska, things are pretty remote and emergency vet services aren’t that abundant. Often these kinds of situations call for Dr. Michelle Oakley – star of the Nat Geo WILD show “Dr. Oakley” – who has experience helping all animals, and would provide care.
However, since Dr. Oakley was on her way back from California at the time of the incident, Archer had to endure a seven-hour car ride, through severe weather, to the nearest vet in order to treat his serious injuries. After Archer was in a more stable condition he was able to go home and begin the long recovery journey with Dr. Oakley by his side.
“We started with bandage changes and set up burn unit in my office in town since we needed a sterile environment where you can keep everything clean,” Dr. Oakley described to PEOPLE the special operation she set up in order to treat Archer.
However, it soon became clear that Archer would need more help than she could provide, so she brought in a burn specialist from The University of California, Davis for advice. The specialist recommended a newer treatment that entails using the skins from tilapia fish and placing them on the burns in order to promote healing. The specialist even paid Archer a visit and showed Dr. Oakley how the treatment worked.
Archer was soon covered in fish skin, giving him a scaly look that earned him the nickname, “Archer the Dragonslayer.”
“The relief was instant,” Dr. Oakley commented on how the fish skins helped Archer. The poor dog had burns all over his body, but the wounds were especially nasty on his face.
The community rallied around Archer as well. While Dr. Oakley provided her care free of charge, Haines residents came together to help cover any additional medical costs for Archer, such as a few operations, laser therapy, countless bandage changes and more.
Over time with lots of love and fish skin, Archer transformed from a scared burn victim with painfully pink skin and no fur, to a fully healed and happy dog who only has a quarter-sized bald spot from the burns to his face.
Even though Dr. Oakley played a key role in his recovery, she still gives Archer most of the credit due to a friendly, fighting spirit. Even though he was in a lot of pain, he never showed up to his countless vet visits without a tail wag.
And in a way, Archer’s journey has been helpful to others who need healing as well – Dr. Oakley now knows a lot more about treating burns after Archer’s ordeal, and she’s now able to apply these experiences to other animals injured in fires.
“This one patient is going to help me help so many animals,” she stated.
Dr. Oakley sees the months-long endeavor to help Archer heal as an overall career highlight, as well as one of the most satisfying cases she’s taken on.
If you want to learn more about Archer and the amazing work Dr. Oakley does to care for the animals of the Yukon Territory and Alaska, tune in to this week’s episode Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet on Saturday, Nov 9 at 9/8c on Nat Geo WILD.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.
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