When Poppy was very young, she suffered a terrible injury that shattered her spine and rendered her unable to move on her hind legs. She was most likely trampled by an animal or possibly kicked violently by someone. She struggled with her injury for weeks, maybe even months, before dragging herself to a remote research camp, desperately seeking help.
Suzanne Vogel works at an elephant research camp in Botswana’s northern Okavango region. She was shocked when she and her colleagues noticed Poppy slowly making her way toward their camp.
“She crawled – literally crawled because her hind legs were completely immobilized – into our research camp,” Vogel said.
“She couldn’t walk, but she was full of love and looking for help.”
Vogel and her colleagues immediately took Poppy in and cared for her as best they could. It was an eight-hour drive to the nearest vet. They were stunned that she had survived such injuries and was able to reach their camp.
“The camp is in a remote region inhabited by elephants as well as lions, hyenas and other predators,” Vogel said.
“Poppy somehow made it to us, exhausted and wet from the rain.
After she made her way to us, escaping predators and further injury, her rescuers knew they had to help her recover as best they could.
Finally, Poppy and one of her new friends, Graham McCulloch, made the eight-hour drive over dangerous roads and then took a ferry across the river to the nearest veterinary clinic. The vet determined that Poppy was about seven months old. She would eventually need surgery to repair her damaged spine. Team member, Amanda Stronza, organized a GoFundMe to raise the necessary funds while Poppy continued to get stronger by the day.
“The vet said the chances of her surviving the surgery or recovering from it were slim to none,” Stronza said.
“But she had so much life in her, and I knew we had to respect her will to live and the hard fight she was already having to find us and stay alive. I couldn’t agree to have her euthanized.”
After several days of good nutrition, plenty of water, and anti-inflammatory medication, Poppy’s condition improved considerably. And the vet decided it would be best to give her some time to recover before proceeding with the risky surgery.
Poppy shocks her rescuers every day with her progress, including the fact that she can get down on her hind legs. From the moment they met her, they knew she was special, but they had no idea how far she had come.
“Her eyes immediately drew us in,” Stronza said. “They are huge, pleading and sparkling with life. She reeked of the kindest spirit, and we could see that clearly, despite the desperate state she was in.”
Poppy is now staying with her friends in Botswana. While she recovers her health and strength. And in a month, her rescuers will assess her condition, determine what makes the most sense, and move on. Either way, they have high hopes for Poppy, a tiny dog who simply refuses to give up.