Archer, an Alaskan Malamute, was seriously injured when his house caught fire in January. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they discovered Archer engulfed in flames. When firefighters tried to lift the frightened dog, it ran away, leaving many concerned for its safety.
Fortunately, Archer was discovered near the shore not long after the fire and was immediately taken to the vet. Archer lives in Haines, Alaska, which is somewhat rural and has limited emergency veterinary services. Dr. Michelle Oakley, has extensive experience supporting all animals and will provide care in these situations.
Archer endured a seven-hour journey through terrible weather to the nearest vet to be treated for a severe wound. Once in a more stable condition, Archer was able to return home and begin his long journey of recovery with Dr. Oakley by his side.
“We started with dressing changes and setting up a burn unit in my office in town because we needed a sterile environment where you could keep things clean,” explains Dr. with PEOPLE about the specific sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ she set up to treat Archer.
However, it became clear that Archer would need 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 new technique that involved applying tilapia skin to the burn. Dr. Oakley was even shown the procedure by a specialist, who visited Archer.
Archer is quickly covered in fish skin, giving him a scaly appearance that has earned him the nickname “Archer the Dragonslayer”.
Dr. Oakley said of Archer’s reaction to fish skin: “Immediate relief. The poor dog had burns all over his body, but the most painful was the wound on his face.”
The community also gathers around Archer. While Dr. Oakley treated her at no cost, the residents of Haines collectively covered all of Archer’s additional medical expenses, including several surgeries, laser therapy, multiple dressing changes, and more.
Archer has progressed from a horrible burn victim with horribly pink skin and no hair to a happy and completely healed dog with only a quarter-size bald spot from a facial burn. full of love and fish skin over time.
Despite the fact that Dr. Oakley was instrumental in his recovery, she still owes most of the credit to Archer for his tenacious, kind demeanor. Although it was very painful, it would not stop wagging its tail during vet appointments.
In other ways Archer’s suffering has also aided others in need of healing from Archer’s injury, Dr. Oakley now knows more about how to treat burns and she can now apply his expertise to other animals injured in the fire.
“This patient will allow me to help so many animals,” she said.
Dr. Oakley considers the months-long effort to help Archer heal as a highlight of her career and one of the most gratifying cases she has ever been involved in.