Ralph Broshes spoke on April 27, 1996 at the Land's End Resort in Homer, Alaska for a Communities of Memory meeting where people told stories about life in Homer. In this recording, Ralph talks about how he came to Homer, what it was like to work in the community, and some incidents with injured wild animals.
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Coming to Homer to start a veterinarian practice
His early vet facilities and caring for animals
Being called to help an injured moose and handling of a can of pepper spray
Escape of an eagle that was being rehabilitated in his clinic
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RALPH BROSHES: My story is, I guess going to be a little bit -- since I'm the veterinarian in town, gonna be a little bit reflecting on the start and progress of the veterinary profession down here.
And I'd worked in Anchorage for three years and finally decided that it was time that I get out of Anchorage, 'cause I didn't come up to Alaska to spend the time in the city, there.
So I had the opportunity of either going up to the Palmer-Wasilla area or coming down to Homer.
And that was 21 years ago, when there wasn't much veterinary service down here.
There was a veterinarian from Anchorage that would come down about once a month and run a clinic. Otherwise, people had to go up to Kenai or Soldotna.
So I decided I'd kind of investigate and check out the possibilities of coming down here.
Well, I'd talked to the veterinarians that were up in Kenai-Soldotna, and they were somewhat discouraging.
And they said that, you know, there's not much population down there and that East End Road is nothing but a bunch of Hippies, and all they've got is a bunch of dogs and not much money to pay for the services.
And so I thought, well, I'd go ahead. I decided to come down here and try it out anyway. I could always go back up to Palmer-Wasilla later.
So I came down here, and I wasn't down here very long until I found out they were right. There wasn't much population.
There was a lot of Hippies out East End Road, and they frequently didn't have much money to pay for their bills.
But it wasn't uncommon I'd get maybe a load of firewood or some crab or shrimp, or they'd sometimes come by and help out around the house or clinic, just to get their services paid off.
And so when I started out I didn't have much -- I started out real simple, it was just in the utility room of the house.
And it was a small utility room, too. And so that served as the exam room and the surgery room, and the kennel room.
And it wasn't uncommon, people would come in with a dog or cat that would get loose and we'd be chasing it through the kitchen or the bedroom, trying to get it under control.
But the place -- the town grew and the economy became more stable, and I was able to build a -- well, actually, I was in the utility room for about six months, then I got it moved into a small clinic next to the house, which I converted from a wood storage shed there.
And that served for about eight years, until I -- in 1985, I moved into the clinic I'm at right now.
But Howard Myhill was one of the people that had helped a lot with people with their animals down here before I came down here.
He and Joe Cunningham seemed to have kind of take care of the animals.
And after I came down here, Howard said he was -- several times, how glad he was that I'd moved down here, because at least he didn't have to get up at all hours of the day and night to pull porcupine quills out of dogs.
I had a person that had come in and he had a dog that was sort of a repeat offender with porcupine quills.
And as he came in to pick his dog up after about the third or fourth time of getting filled with quills, as he walked up to the clinic, and out from behind the garage, a porcupine walked in, out in the woods, you know.
And he came in. He was just upset. He says, "I knew it, you're raising those things and turning em loose around here."
But I certainly have pulled enough quills out of dogs around here. There's gotta be some bald porcupines out there.
Since Homer's kind of in a rural and isolated area down here, I've had the opportunity to work with the -- some of the wildlife, and that's been kind of interesting.
The work with Fish and Wildlife, and also Fish and Game. Usually with fish and Game it's associated with moose -- probably more with the calf moose in the early, in the spring and early summer.
And we've had a couple of these who have been orphaned and people here around town have raised them and been able to turn them loose.
We had an incident one time where the -- we had a call that was up on East Hill Road that there was a cow moose that had a calf that had an injured leg, or possibly had an injured leg.
And so the area biologist and I had -- were driving up the East Hill Road.
And as we were driving up there, he was driving up there, and he started getting kind of agitated and fidgety in the seat.
And I wasn't sure what was going on, you know.
And so, you know, a cow moose with a newborn calf is one of the most dangerous animals that we have around here.
So before he left the office, he had the -- picked up the rifle and a couple cans of pepper spray.
And we started up there. Well, just before he got in the truck he went in and used the bathroom.
I guess he didn't realize that one of the cans of pepper spray had been used and had the cayenne pepper on the outside of the can.
Fortunately, the calf didn't have much of a problem and the cow didn't give us any trouble and we were able to get back down where he could get a shower and get a little relief from the pepper spray.
But, we've had -- we've also worked with quite a few birds and we've had -- we've worked with birds from little swallows up to eagles, and so we've got a wide variety there.
We've had a number of -- of owls and hawks that have come in who have been after peoples chickens and gotten tangled up in the netting or people have just gone out and thumped on them for stealing their chickens.
And fortunately, we've been able to rehabilitate some of these animals and turn them loose.
We have a -- since we have a larger eagle population around here now, we're certainly getting more eagles in and we had an immature eagle that had come in and it had some neurological problems.
Or we felt probably, it maybe had a bit of a head injury and we'd had it in the clinic there for a couple of days and it was improving and doing pretty well, but it still was a little -- a little dazed and since we were thinking it was probably getting closer to releasing it.
And Charlotte had gone in to feed it one day at lunch time, we were all gone for lunch and so she opened the cage to go in and feed it and normally when you open -- you know, when the eagles are in the cage there, they're real docile and they just sit there.
Well, this one had decided that it was time to get out and it just bolted right over the top of her and got out in the clinic.
And there was Charlotte, by herself in the clinic with this eagle with a seven foot wingspan flying around the clinic trying to charge out the windows.
I got a panicked call while I was eating lunch that she said this eagle was loose in the clinic.
So I was able to grab a large landing net and we got down and got it caught and back in the cage.
We decided then that it was probably about time to release it and we brought it out here to the end of the spit and it never looked back once it took off across the bay.
So over the years the community has grown and the practice has grown.
I have another veternarian working with me now and I think we'll provide a better service for the community and the animals here.