By Keely Biggs
This month I interviewed Dr. Terry Keo. Dr. Keo has led a life worthy of a movie script. His story is one of tragedy and triumph. Dr. Keo grew up in Cambodia in a small village. His family lived with many animals and he was in charge of caring for his village’s cattle. His family also kept chickens for food, cats to keep out pests and a few guard dogs. Being around animals was always very natural for Dr. Keo.
When he was seven, the Khmer Rouge overthrew the government and implemented their communist agenda. This led to a shutdown of schools, hospitals and religious institutions; along with the mass genocide of two million people.
One of the people murdered happened to be Dr. Keo’s grandfather. He was a General in the Cambodian Army and it was the Khmer Rouge’s aim to rid the country of anyone with education. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, government workers, existing military and merchants were all murdered. Books were burned and the population was forced into agricultural slave labor. This resulted in mass deaths due to starvation, exhaustion and disease. Children were abducted, brainwashed and forced into the government’s heartless, murderous army. Dr. Keo, his mother and siblings were separated from his father and eventually assumed he was dead, too.
In 1979 Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia and pushed the Khmer Rouge out of power, which lead to mass violent fighting throughout the entire country. The Khmer Rouge remained a strong rebel group. Amidst the chaos, Dr. Keo’s family was able to get refugee status and finally immigrated to the U.S. in 1980. When he was twelve, Dr. Keo’s family which included, his mother, grandmother, 4 siblings moved to North Carolina to start a new life.
After that, Dr. Keo was able to lead a seemingly normal life. He graduated high school and went on to North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro where he majored in Laboratory Animal Science. In 1994 he was accepted into North Carolina State University’s Veterinary Medicine program.
That same year, Dr. Keo and his family received a letter from relatives in Cambodia telling them that his father was still alive! Dr. Keo’s family sponsored him and brought him to the U.S. where he was finally reunited with his family after almost twenty years!
During his time at North Carolina State, Dr. Keo volunteered his time and skills with the “Second Chance Pet Adoption” group doing spays and neuters on feral cats. He also came across a litter of Doberman/ Shepherd puppies that he bottle-fed. He rehomed all but one that he kept. “Alvin” passed away one year ago after a good long 16 year life. In 1998 Dr. Keo graduated with his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Keo moved to Las Vegas in 1998 after accepting a position at the Parkway Springs Animal Hospital in Henderson. In 2001, he left Parkway Springs and accepted a position at the Green Valley Animal Hospital. Then in 2003, he left Green Valley and accepted another position at a Banfield Pet Hospital at a PetSmart in Henderson. While at Banfield, he heard from a colleague that help was needed at the Oquendo Center for Veterinary Medicine to moderate the Clinical Proficiency Exams. He became an Examiner for the center and this is where he met Dr. Henderson and first heard of Heaven Can Wait. To this day he still moderates the exams once a month.
In 2005 he bought his own Banfield practice at the PetSmart on Silverado Ranch. He found that business ownership wasn’t his cup of tea and preferred to focus on the animal side of the field, so he sold his practice in 2010. Dr. Keo then moved to Austin, Texas and worked for the Animal Trustees of Austin.
Dr. Keo didn’t stay in Texas long and he was back in town by May of 2011. He joined Heaven Can Wait in August and currently performs spays and neuters on Wednesdays. He also accepted a position at the Seven Hills Animal Hospital as well as the Haven Animal Hospital.
Last year Dr. Keo visited his homeland of Cambodia for the first time since leaving in 1980. He also got the chance to visit his extended family. He commented that the country had been brought into the dark ages by the Khmer Rouge and is still about fifty years behind the rest of the world. However, he saw significant improvement since the last time he was there.
Dr. Keo says he is happy where he is currently. He enjoys dedicating his time to combating the pet overpopulation crisis and hopes he lives to see the end of animal’s suffering and euthanasia due to overpopulation. He said it would be really nice to get the chance to open up a veterinary school or shelter in Cambodia some day. While visiting, he noticed there were many sick and stray animals and this would be a great way to give back to his recovering country.
Dr. Keo has two dogs: a Papillion named Molly and a “Pekapoo” named Mushy, as well as a cat named Buick; all of course are rescues. In his spare time Dr. Keo enjoys camping and hiking and is a movie and theatre connoisseur. He loves to travel and explore foreign cuisine, as well as paint and draw.
Dr. Keo’s epic story has the same theme throughout and that is his love and care for animals. Heaven Can Wait is truly thankful and lucky to have such a strong and determined individual on their side, for those are the type people that make a difference. Thank you Dr. Keo, for all that you do for Heaven Can Wait and for animals everywhere.
Come down and visit Dr. Keo to have your pet spayed or neutered! The Heaven Can Wait low cost clinic is open Monday through Thursday, 9 am to 5 pm. You can make an appointment for your pet by calling (702) 655-4800 by going to www.hcws.org and completing the clinic registration form.
Filed under: Programs Tagged: | animal rescue, animal welfare, Dr. Terry Keo DVM, HCWS, Heaven Can Wait, Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, Heaven Can Wait Spay & Neuter Clinic, pet overpopulation, pets, Veterinarian spotlight