When Susanne Vogel first saw the puppy dragging itself into their elephant research camp in the Okavango region of Botswana, Africa, she couldn't believe her eyes. The puppy had suffered traumatic injuries to its hind end and spine, and as a result was paralyzed.
Vogel and her colleagues immediately jumped to help this little lost soul who was desperately in need of a helping hand.
"She came crawling - literally crawling, because her back legs were completely immobilized - into our research camp," said Vogel. "She was unable to walk, but full of love and seeking help."
The nearest veterinarian was an eight-hour drive away, so the researchers took care of the puppy, whom they named Poppy, as best they could until they could get her the medical assistance she needed.
In the meantime, despite her physical limitations, Poppy was all smiles and full of joy to have found a group of passionate people who gave her love and kindness. Vogel was amazed that Poppy survived long enough even to reach their camp.
"The camp is in a remote region, filled with elephants, but also lions, hyenas and other predators," Vogel said. "Poppy had somehow made it to us, emaciated and soaking wet from the rain."
After the eight-hour car ride and a ferry ride across a river, Poppy and one of the researchers, Graham McCulloch, arrived at the veterinary clinic. There the vet determined Poppy was around 7 months old and would require surgery to repair her broken spine.
Another researcher, Amanda Stronza, started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Poppy's surgery. By this time, Poppy's story began to go viral, and so many compassionate people responded to this little pup's fighting spirit, that they completely surpassed their fundraising goal by over $7,000!
The surgery was risky, and Poppy's life was on the line. Stronza said, "[The veterinarian] said the chances were 'slim' she could make it through the surgery or recovery afterward. But she had so much life in her, and I knew we needed to honor her will to live and the hard fight she had already fought to find us and stay alive. I couldn't agree to euthanize her."
Poppy repaid the faith that her rescuers had in her. The veterinarian wanted her to become stronger and healthier before the major surgery, so Poppy started going to physical therapy at the Greenside Animal Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. There she has gone through strength training, hydrotherapy, and physical therapy.
Poppy was doing so well that she was able to start balancing and standing on all four feet! The hospital ordered a therapy cart so that Poppy could move around without having to drag herself everywhere.
Then, Poppy and her rescuers received incredible news. A loving family in Massachusetts offered to adopt Poppy and continue to help with her rehabilitation. So Poppy prepared to leave for the USA, and while her African friends were happy for her, they would also miss her presence in their lives.
Now Poppy lives with her new family in the States. Her therapy continues until she is strong enough for spinal surgery.
Until then, she happily keeps up with her new family by using her cart.
Poppy is living proof of the strong, loving spirit that is alive in all animals. We're so happy that Poppy has found a new home, and we're so thankful to everyone who took the time and effort to help this beautiful girl live a fulfilling life!
You can follow updates on Poppy's new adventures on her Facebook page, watch the moving video of her rescue below, and share her inspiring story with your friends and family on Facebook.