Veterinarian Michelle Oakley is used to facing the wild animals of the Great North, given her years of experience at Kluane National Park and Reserve in Canada's Yukon Territory, and nearby Southeast Alaska.
Now, Oakley, a 1987 graduate of Munster High School, also is facing cameras, as the new star of "The Amazing Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet," a one-hour reality series that already has been shot and sold, with the premiere episode airing at 8 p.m. April 12 on the National Geographic Channel.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the network will air a one-hour TV special called, "Yukon Vet: Meet Dr. Oakley," to introduce Oakley's wild career to viewers and promote the show's debut next month.
"I love my job," said Oakley, referring to the range of surprises and responsibilities she faces each day.
She said episodes will include showing her careful technique pulling out more than 300 porcupine quills from a sled dog, wrangling wild horses from a helicopter, checking to see if a cow who hasn't been producing milk is pregnant, examining eaglets with injured legs and helping a yak with eye problems.
"Living in the Yukon, you can get in trouble quickly," Oakley said.
Oakley, 45, the daughter of Steve and Georgia Plantinga, who live in Schererville, said the show follows her daily duties and includes family moments at home, in addition to her vet rounds in the Yukon Territory, treating animals of all shapes and sizes. She has lived in Haines Junction, Yukon, Canada, since 1992 with her husband, Shane Oakley, their three daughters, and an assortment of animal friends.
"Dr. Oakley is one of the coolest and greatest working moms I know," said Howard Owens, president of the National Geographic Channel.
Since graduating from veterinary college in 2000, Oakley has been providing veterinary care to all creatures in rural communities of Southeast Alaska and Yukon and throughout the Great North.
Right now, she's working with on-location camera crews to capture another six weeks of filming to edit into more episodes. Oakley said her first experience with veterinary work came when she was still in elementary school in Munster, volunteering at the Hammond Pet Hospital with veterinarian Dr. David George.