Trust Their Companion Animal Care to Dr. Kelly Harper Andrea Galko and Andrew Acker adopt abused and sick pets who others have abandoned. “If there’s a rare, incurable disease that exists, most likely my pets will have it,” Andrea says, half joking. She resides with her husband Andrew, two dogs and a cat in rural Wake Forest. The unconditional love and attention the Andrea and Andrew give their health-challenged pets require that they have a veterinarian they can trust, as well as someone who goes above and beyond preventative companion animal care. They’ve found that with Dr. Kelly Harper, founder/owner of Tuscan Ridge Animal Hospital. “Dr. Harper is the best veterinarian we’ve ever had. She’s our fourth vet since moving to North Carolina in 2006 and she is our last one,” Andrea explains. “Not only does Dr. Harper genuinely love the critters, but she is an excellent diagnostician. When I take my pets to her for some obscure issue, she figures out what it is and how to treat it.” Andrea and Andrew’s 13-year-old dog Gunnar, a German shepherd-Siberian Husky-Doberman mix, was found on the streets of their neighborhood in 2009. He was infested with more than 100 ticks, had a BB bullet in his shoulder, a tumor on his leg, contusions on his stomach and tested positive for heartworm. Andrea had only planned to get Gunnar healthy and then find him a good home because they were “cat people” who never owned a dog. Through treating him, they not only fell in love with him and kept him, but also learned he was a Hurricane Katrina dog, with Ehrlichia, a serious tick-borne disease that affects his white blood cell count and heterobilharzia, a parasite found along the Mississippi River that causes calcium deposits on an animals’ organs that eventually causes death. “Gunnar should be dead, but he’s lived a good life with us and is still active, despite his hip dysplasia and all these other ailments,” says Andrea. Their second dog, Ziva, a seven-year-old Australian shepherd, was adopted after she spent the first year of her life in a cage in the dark basement of a breeder. She was timid, afraid of everyone and everything, and had to be put on Prozac for two years just to function. Andrea weaned Ziva off the drugs and says she is now the happiest dog ever. Gandalf, a Russian Blue cat that someone dumped behind a dog grooming business, with stitches holding his intestines in after hernia surgery, is now eight years old and perfectly content with his canine siblings.
Andrew and Andrea are both from New Jersey and have been married for 28 years. Andrew works in pharmaceutical regulatory compliance and Andrea is a paralegal. They feel fortunate to have the means to care for sick pets that need veterinary care. Andrea recently lost two cats—Belle, a 17-year-old, and Tuna, a three-legged cat that lived with chronic respiratory issues. Andrea credits Dr. Harper for diagnosing Tuna’s condition—a rare and aggressive tumor that filled his nasal cavity. “Three vets examined Tuna and told me that he had an upper respiratory infection. He wasn’t responding to the medications they prescribed,” Andrea explains. When his nose started bleeding, Andrea decided to find another veterinarian and found Dr. Harper. “Dr. Harper took one look at Tuna and asked how long he had a Romanesque forehead. She was the only vet to diagnose what was wrong. We scheduled radiation, but it was too late—not because of Dr. Harper. She gave us answers and reassurance that no other veterinarians could provide,” says Andrea. Because of the compassion they have for pets that face medical challenges, Andrea and Andrew will continue to adopt sick pets. With Tuscan Ridge Animal Hospital’s Dr. Harper as their veterinarian, the decision to rescue dogs and cats is an easy one. Andrew and Andrea know their pets will receive proper care to live full lives and be loved unconditionally.