Archer, an Alaskan dog, was severely injured when his house caught fire in January. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they discovered Archer engulfed in flames. When firefighters tried to pick up the terrified dog, he bolted, leaving many worried about his safety.
Archer, fortunately, was discovered near the seashore not long after the fire and was immediately taken to the veterinarian. Archer lives in Haines, Alaska, which is somewhat rural and has limited emergency veterinary services. Dr. Michelle Oakley, star of Nat Geo WILD’s “Dr. Oakley,” has extensive experience assisting all animals and would provide care in these situations.
However, because Dr. Oakley was on his way back from California at the time of the incident, Archer was forced to endure a seven-hour vehicle journey through terrible weather to the nearest vet in order to receive treatment for his severe injuries. After he was in a more stable state, Archer was able to return home and begin his lengthy rehabilitation journey with Dr. Oakley by his side.
“We started with bandage changes and set up a burn unit in my office in town because we needed a sterile environment where you can keep everything clean,” Dr. Oakley explained to PEOPLE about the specific operation she set up to treat Archer.
However, it became clear that Archer would require more help than she could provide, so she consulted with a burn specialist at The University of California, Davis. To improve recovery, the doctor suggested a novel technique that involves applying the skins of tilapia fish to the burns. Dr. Oakley was even shown the procedure by the specialist, who paid Archer a visit.
Archer was quickly covered in fish skin, giving him a scaly appearance that earned him the nickname “Archer the Dragonslayer.”
“The relief was immediate,” Dr. Oakley said of Archer’s reaction to the fish skins. The poor dog was burned all over, but the lesions on his face were the most painful.
The community rallied around Archer as well. While Dr. Oakley treated her for free, Haines residents came together to cover any additional medical expenditures for Archer, which included a couple operations, laser therapy, numerous bandage changes, and more.
Archer progressed from a terrified burn victim with horribly pink skin and no fur to a completely healed and happy dog with only a quarter-sized bald spot from the burns to his face with plenty of love and fish skin over time.
Despite the fact that Dr. Oakley was instrumental in his recovery, she gives Archer the majority of the credit for his kind, tenacious attitude. Even though he was in a lot of pain, he never stopped wagging his tail at his vet appointments.
In other ways, Archer’s suffering has assisted others in need of healing as well – as a result of Archer’s trauma, Dr. Oakley now knows a lot more about treating burns, and she’s now able to apply her expertise to other animals injured in fires.
“This one patient will allow me to help so many animals,” she said.
Dr. Oakley regards the months-long endeavor to help Archer heal as a career highlight and one of the most satisfying cases she’s ever worked on.