By Heather Theunissen
In this episode of Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet, Dr. Michelle Oakley kicks into high gear as she preps the Yukon’s animals for frigid temperatures and a brutal winter. As one of the few vets who treks hundreds of miles across the Yukon territory, Michelle faces a particularly tough week as she tests two stud colts for a highly contagious equine disease, gets chased by a mad muskox, and diagnoses a terminally sick family dog. Being a vet isn’t always easy for Dr. Michelle Oakley; although her job is challenging and rewarding most of the time, sometimes she faces tough decisions and heartbreak.
Home Is Where the Horses Are
Cash and Zip, Luke Johnson’s newest stud colts, are Dr. Oakley’s first patients of the day. Luke, a true horseman, inherited his family’s tourism business and relies on his herd of horses to offer horseback riding tours across the Yukon Territory. As his family’s livelihood depends on the health of his horses, he wants to ensure that his new colts are healthy and will be able to endure the negative 40 degree temps that are heading their way. At first glance, Dr. Oakley notices that the skin and bone colts are severely underweight. In order to withstand the bitter cold temps and fight their way away from bears and wolves, Dr. Oakley suggests that the colts gain at least 200 lbs. prior to the winter season. As severe weight loss is a tell-tale sign of Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), Dr. Oakley fears that these colts may have a highly contagious disease that is transmitted by biting insects. Much like HIV in people, EIA typically breaks down a horse’s immune system and causes them to drop weight quickly. Just to be sure, Dr. Oakley pulls a blood sample. A few days later, Luke learns the test results and finds out that his colts are in the clear; their results were negative!
One Mad Muskox
Next, Dr. Oakley heads out to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve (YWP) in Whitehorse to check in on a grumpy muskox with a mystery illness. This muskox, weighing somewhere between 500-800 lbs. is nearly 6 times Dr. Oakley’s size! Afraid that the muskox might charge her, Dr. Oakley prepares a “muskox cocktail” to sedate her large, strong-willed patient. As Dr. Oakley and YWP manager, Randy Hallock, get within range of the angry muskox, the rampant beast decides to charge the vehicle and manages to run right into the back of the car! Luckily, Dr. Oakley and Randy are okay. The car, on the other hand, suffers a broken tail light. A few tries later, Randy manages to get the car within 10 feet of the Muskox and Dr. Oakley blows a sedative-infused dart his way, in hopes of sedating him for enough time to complete a check-up. Dr. Oakley closely examines the muskox’s liver and kidney, hoping to eliminate the chances of a liver disease. She rounds up the appointment with routine vaccines, a blood sample, and a clean bill of health.
Home on the Range
Back at the Oakley’s house, Michelle’s husband, Shane, teaches the girls how to chop firewood and gets Sierra, their oldest daughter, ready for her first caribou hunt, a Yukon rite of passage. The pressure is on for Sierra, as she’s the oldest daughter and will be the first one up to the test. Living in the Yukon Territory isn’t all fun and games; it can be hard work too. Since you never know what you might run into in the Yukon Territory, Shane wants his girls to be self-sufficient and well prepared as he teaches them how to be rugged, wood-splitting, animal-hunting women! After a tiresome and draining week of field work, house calls, and clinic visits, the Oakley clan heads into the mountains for a peaceful, secluded adventure. As Shane and Sierra head out in search of a caribou, Michelle, Willow, and Maya pick berries and enjoy the beautiful weather. After a long day with no success, Shane and Sierra fear that their caribou hunt may come to an end. Just as the sun begins to set, Sierra spots a caribou in the distance. With no daylight to spare, she aims and successfully hunts her first caribou!
Care and Compassion Go A Long Way
Whether she’s out making house calls or treating patients at the clinic, Dr. Oakley reveals that she really is Super Woman! In times of distress, not only does she need to calm, comfort, and care for her animal patients, but she needs to consider their owners, too. Scared that her dwarf lion head bunny, Coy, may have a broken leg and be unable to hop again, Lowana Drurey looks to Dr. Oakley for a comforting solution. Dr. Oakley quietly calms Lowana down, while she skillfully crafts a splint for Coy’s leg. Dr. Oakley ensures Lowana that Coy will be hopping again in six, short weeks!
For more adventures with Dr. Oakley, tune in to the next episode of Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet: Caribou Down Saturday at 9PM on Nat Geo WILD.