By Heather Theunissen
Dr. Michelle Oakley is the only all-species vet for hundreds of miles across the rugged Yukon Territory. In the season premiere of Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet, Fly Like an Eagle, viewers follow Dr. Oakley as she hits the road for some house calls. With over 300 miles to cover, Dr. Oakley has a jam-packed schedule as she responds to emergencies and rehabilitates some of the Yukon’s most treasured species, including a Bald Eagle.
The First Stop: Alaskan Sled Dog Operation
For many in the Yukon, sled dogs are the vehicle of choice. Dr. Oakley’s first stop is to Eva Glanzmann’s sled dog operation. Eva is a typical, tough as nails, Yukon woman who lives entirely off the grid without power or regular water. Eva moved to the Yukon Territory from Switzerland and runs a sled dog operation with more than 30 Alaskan Huskies to care for. As this operation is Eva’s livelihood, she has to ensure that all of her dogs are healthy and physically capable of pulling sleds. With 26 dogs to see in one visit, Dr. Oakley has her work cut out for her, and carefully performs a thoroughphysical on each pup.
Home Sweet In-Home Clinic
When she’s not out in the field or making house calls, Dr. Oakley schedules in-home appointments for her local clients. Because she spends a lot of time on the road, Dr. Oakley’s conveniently located clinic enables her to treat patients while keeping an eye on her husband, Shane, and her three daughters, Sierra, Maya and Willow. As Dr. Oakley says, “Creatures great and small, I do them all.” So one day Dr. Oakley may be blowing darts and getting chased down by muskox, and another day she’s giving a lesson in clipping dog nails.
Out On the Ranch: Meet Raspberry
Dr. Oakley’s next stop is Circle D Ranch, owned by Bill and Barb Drury. With the nearest grocery store hours away, Bill and Barb rely on their cows for fresh, farm milk. Barb loves her milk and uses it to make everything from cottage cheese to butter to whipping cream. Barb is really hoping that her cow Raspberry is pregnant this year, so the farm won’t have a shortage of milk. Dr. Oakley puts on her full shoulder glove and gets ready for Raspberry’s rectal exam, “Go deep. or go home,” she says. It turns out, Raspberry’s not pregnant. Jokingly, Dr. Oakley suggests that Barb put on some mood music, or “moo music,” and let Raspberry and the bull spend a bit more, quality time together.
The First Emergency: Sled Dog Covered in Porcupine Quills
Next, Dr. Oakley receives an emergency call from her neighbor, Eva Glanzmann, stating that one of her sled dogs, Cayenne, is covered in more than 300 very painful, porcupine quills. Usually, Eva is able to remove the quills on her own, but this time, she needs help! With his mouth and nose entirely covered in quills, Dr. Oakley and Eva race against the clock in hopes of removing the quills before they get into Cayenne’s internal organs, heart or intestines. As time runs out, Dr. Oakley monitors Cayenne’s heart rate and tries to keep him as comfortable as possible. In just under two hours, the two of them successfully remove all of the porcupine quills and Cayenne is in for a sore recovery!
Satellite Clinic: Haines Alaska
When she’s not chasing across the Yukon tending to emergency calls, Dr. Oakley spends some of her time in Haines, Alaska, where she works out of a satellite clinic that she shares with the American Bald Eagle Foundation. At the clinic, Dr. Oakley works with a wide variety of birds, including Aspen, a Great Gray Owl. Typically, Great Gray Owls make great predators, however, Aspen faces greater challenges as one of her wings has been amputated. With the inability to fly, and nowhere to go, Dr. Oakley suggests that Aspen’s best hope for recovery is for the stump to heal, and for a blood feather to develop. Although she won’t be able to soar in the wild, Dr. Oakley ensures that Aspen will be without pain and will have a good quality of life.
The Mighty Bald Eagle: Flying Free
At the end of the episode, Dr. Oakley visits the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, home to many animals native to the Yukon. The reserve has a large wildlife rehabilitation facility where Dr. Oakley examines two Bald Eaglets. Although these three-month old eaglets survived a brutal fall, they have fractured legs, preventing them from flying in the wild until they are fully healed. After many months of healing, and a few final X-rays, Dr. Oakley and the staff at Yukon Wildlife Preserve, release the eaglets back into the wild, where they majestically soar away.
For more adventures with Dr. Oakley, tune in to the next episode of Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet: One Angry Muskox Saturday at 9P on Nat Geo WILD.