North Carolina canine officers have alumna to thank for bulletproof vests
profile by Michael Sutphin
When Dr. Karla Frazier (DVM ’94) saw the news reports about Gorky, a K-9 officer who lost his life in the line of duty, she knew that she had to help.
Back in January, German shepherd Gorky joined Davie County sheriff’s deputies in serving an arrest warrant to a man who first tried to get away and then took hostages. The situation escalated and both Gorky and his handler, Deputy Chris Fleming, were shot. Fleming recovered, but 5-year-old Gorky died from his injuries the next morning.
Frazier and her colleagues at the Hillsdale Animal Hospital in Advance, N.C., about 20 miles south of Winston-Salem, paid close attention to the news about the shooting.
“Gorky went into a situation with an active shooter,” said Frazier, who learned details about the situation from one of her team members who’s married to a sheriff’s deputy. “It’s hard to read the news reports about him lying down next to his handler after the shooting and not be touched by the story.”
The local community came together and held a vigil after the shooting. It was the first time a K-9 officer had lost his life on the job in the area.
“We are in a small, growing town. It’s still rural for the most part, but it’s increasingly becoming suburban,” Frazier said. “Southerners are good, giving people, especially in times of tragedy.”
The Hillsdale Animal Hospital decided to raise money for bulletproof vests, which cost approximately $1,500 each, for Davie County canine deputies to honor the memory of Gorky’s sacrifice. When the shooting took place, Davie County only had one bulletproof vest for three canine deputies. “Not all police dogs have bulletproof vests, but they are becoming more common,” Frazier explained.
The hospital staff solicited donations from their regular clients in Advance, as well as nearby Clemmons and Mocksville, N.C., and held a fundraiser for the community at large. Nestlé Purina also provided $1,000 in matching funds. In just a few weeks, the hospital raised more than enough for three bulletproof vests.
“The Sheriff’s Department has one dog in training and two others already wearing the vests,” Frazier said. “The leftover money will be used for medical care for retired police canines.”
Before the fundraiser, Frazier had not worked with police dogs since her days as an intern prior to veterinary school, but she appreciates the relationships she has established with the Davie County Sheriff’s Department and its canine deputies. Frazier started her veterinary career in the Winston-Salem area after graduating from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1994. She opened the Hillsdale Animal Hospital in 2000.
“I never wanted to be anything else,” she said of her decision to become a small animal veterinarian. “My siblings were always jealous that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I always told them that it wasn’t lucky. What if it doesn’t work out or I don’t get into vet school?”
Frazier grew up in Fairfax, Va., and attended the University of Virginia as an undergraduate. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
“Math came very easy to me. I remember when I was interviewing for a job at a clinic earlier in my career and the interviewers asked me, ‘Why did you major in math in college?’ I told them, ‘Math is life,’ and they seemed to appreciate that answer.”
Frazier, whose husband is a Virginia Tech football fan, describes herself as a Wahoo at heart but says she really enjoyed her four years in Blacksburg. “I don’t think I realized the charm of the area until my senior year,” she said.
Today, Frazier and her family now live in another town with charm, where her 17-acre property is home to a horse, miniature donkeys, dogs, and cats. She describes her home life as a “zoo,” but like her love for veterinary medicine, she wouldn’t give it up for the world.
“Sometimes when I come into the animal hospital, I think to myself, ‘I can’t believe that this is work,’” she said.