As the only veterinarian in Haines Junction and for miles around in the Yukon, Dr. Oakley is the last resort for animal emergencies. Over the years, she has often treated creatures who were seriously injured or sick, and in grave danger. “It’s an amazing feeling to be able to help an animal to live,” she says. “But sometimes it’s even amazing to be able to help with an animal that you have to put to sleep. I hate that part of my job, but I’m glad to be there, to reduce their suffering.”
One of her most memorable experiences was working to save a group of young eagles who’d been tossed to the ground when their nest was blown out of a tree by the wind. The birds had injured feet, which for an eagle is a serious problem. “Their feet are so important,” Dr. Oakley explains. “They need them to hunt, to grab fish.” In some instances, even if she manages to keep a wild animal from dying, she may not be able to restore its health enough that it can survive in the wild, so that it may end up spending the rest of its days in captivity. In this instance, though, she was able to nurse the young eagles to a full recovery and release them. “It was just awesome to be able to watch them fly away,” she recalls.
Sometimes, part of the satisfaction from saving animals is to relieve the pain of the humans who are responsible for them. Once, for example, a person who’d been entrusted with watching a neighbor’s baby goats misunderstood the directions for their care, and gave injections to all of them that were meant for only one. When the goats developed seizures, the goat-sitter brought them to Dr. Oakley in desperation. While one of the babies didn’t pull through, she was able to save the rest, and spared the goat-sitter a lot of angst. “It was such a nice feeling to be able to help in that situation,” she says.