The poor paralyzed puppy must have been terrified. With no feeling in her rear legs, she dragged herself across wilderness that could have killed her many times over. She had survived those dangers, but could she last long enough to reach what she saw on the horizon?
She seemed to have come from nowhere out of the Botswanan badlands that should have killed her, so where the paralyzed little dog called Poppy originated from was a mystery. Equally as mystifying were the circumstances behind her paralysis. However, it is known that she wasn’t always disabled.
Indeed, it’s believed that she was caught under the hooves of a stampeding animal or under the boot of a human abuser. Whatever the cause, the results were profound. She was left with spinal damage that robbed her of the ability to walk.
It’s impossible to know, furthermore, how long Poppy suffered alone with her injuries. When no help came, however, the resilient canine apparently decided she would go and find it. Indeed, she began a death-defying trek across dangerous territory to look for someone who cared.
The paralyzed pup dragged herself out of an unknown location in Botswana and set out across the country’s badlands. She must have travelled for miles, because eventually she ended up in the isolated northern Okavango region. And miraculously, she found a camp there.
It wasn’t just any camp, though. It was an elephant research facility, to be exact. And workers stationed at the camp seemingly couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the dog approaching from the wilderness. Susanne Vogel, one of the researchers present, recounted the events to animal enthusiast site The Dodo in March 2017.
“She came crawling – literally crawling, because her back legs were completely immobilized – into our research camp,” Vogel explained. It’s amazing that Poppy survived the trip at all, but with a crushed spine? The odds were stacked against her – and not just because of her mobility issues.
Finding the strength to pull herself miles across unforgiving terrain must have been a challenge in itself. But there were other dangers too. And each one could have ended Poppy’s life in an instant – not least of which was the local wildlife.
“The camp is in a remote region, filled with elephants, but also lions, hyenas and other predators,” Vogel explained. And the one thing a hungry carnivore can’t resist is an easy meal… such as a wounded dog, for example. Poppy also had to contend with starvation, dehydration and potential illness.
“Poppy had somehow made it to us, emaciated and soaking wet from the rain,” Vogel said. The dog’s condition, however, had seemingly done little to dampen her spirits. When the pup arrived at the camp, all she showed was joy at seeing human company.
“She was unable to walk, but full of love and seeking help,” said Vogel. Although the researchers gave her food and water, Poppy needed expert medical attention which they simply couldn’t provide. Furthermore, the clinic that could help was a good distance away from the isolated camp.
In fact, the clinic was around eight hours away by car. Until she could make the trip, however, Poppy’s rescuers built up her strength to prepare her for the journey. She was going to need every bit of energy she had.
When Poppy’s next big adventure came, she didn’t have to face it alone: she travelled with researcher Graham McCulloch. Together, they set out on the long trip to the nearest animal clinic. It was described as an “eight-hour drive on terrible roads.”
The journey culminated in a ferry ride that took them over the Okavango River. After her medical assessment, the vet could finally give Poppy’s new friends some answers about their charge. It was he who revealed that the seven-month-old pup had suffered a spinal injury.
“From her X-rays, it seems two of her discs are crushed, and she needs surgery to survive,” researcher Amanda Stronza explained. She told The Dodo, “[The vet] said the chances were ‘slim’ [that Poppy] could make it through the surgery or recovery.” She had beaten the odds before, though.
“She had so much life in her,” Stronza said. “I knew we needed to honor her will to live and the hard fight she had already fought to find us and stay alive.” But then the vet noticed something. Poppy was in fact responding very well to medication.
Within days, the little dog showed a significant improvement. So much, in fact, the doctor then postponed surgery in favor of physical therapy and medicine. It was decided that the best thing for Poppy was to stay with carers in Botswana and monitor how she responded to treatment.
And just as she did when she dragged herself to the research camp, Poppy showed an amazing drive for life. She continues to grow in strength every day. Amazingly, her back legs have even been able to bear a small amount of weight.
“She has been… showing slight improvements in her ability to move her legs,” Stronza wrote on the Gofundme page set up to help raise funds for Poppy’s treatment. “Our plan now is to get her ready in the next month for travel to Johannesburg [to see a specialist]. Then we can make a decision about whether surgery is needed.”
“The news from Botswana is that Poppy’s tail is wagging regularly now,” Stronza continued. “As she gains strength, she is even beginning to show ‘a bit of step action!’ The challenges for Poppy are still big, but she is unstoppable. Thank you, everyone, for your concern and generous support.” If any pup deserves that support, it’s surely the incredible Poppy.