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The last spay
When Hobson Fulmer was a boy of 11, he took part in the World Scout Jamboree at Farragut State Park in Idaho, only the second such Jamboree to take place in North America.
There the Scouts heard from such luminaries as actor James Stewart, Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey and Olave Baden-Powell, the widow of Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts.
But what stuck most in Fulmer’s mind was the stunning environment of the West.
“I’ve been always enamored of the West ever since,” he said.
So now, more than five decades later, the longtime Eastpoint veterinarian is returning there, and returning to the dream life of a Scout, hunting and fishing and enjoying the outdoors.
Fulmer, now 66, headed off this week, together with his two Lab mix shelter dogs – Snapper and Frank – and their pal SC (“Snapper’s Cat”) to a house he’s bought 7,000 feet up in Fish Haven, Idaho, two miles from the Utah border.
As an avid runner who picked up the sport at age 40, and later ran the Boston Marathon seven times, Fulmer will have to adapt to the higher altitude in his new environment. “I’ll trade the altitude for the high humidity,” he said.
He’s been a licensed Utah veterinarian since 1998, since he thought of moving out there in the late 1990s, and is now licensed in Idaho, Wyoming and Florida as well.
But he expects to use that credential only to fill in for other vets, and for the most part live out the life he fell in love with as a boy and later nourished with ski trips to Park City.
Fulmer’s four decades as the county vet leave behind a rich legacy of civic involvement, including coaching when his children were young and later working to start, together with Rene Topping, the county humane society in the mid-1980s.
“We had no animal control ordinance or officers,” he said. “We had no shelter. There were stray dogs everywhere. I’d come to the clinic and there’d be a dog tied to the tree, or boxes of kittens on the doorstep.
With the help of Ben Watkins and other benefactors, as well as bake sales and other fundraisers, the shelter got off the ground in what is now its permanent home, and now has had a top-notch director, for the last 10 years, in Karen Martin, Fulmer said.
A 1973 graduate of Rickards High School, Fulmer always enjoyed going to St. George Island and exploring Tate’s Hell with his dad as a young man.
So after attending Florida State and then the University of Florida for his bachelors in animal science, and then becoming one of 65 Florida residents to be admitted to UF vet school, Fulmer decided after graduation in 1982 to see about practicing here.
“I always wanted to live in a Southern town,” he said.
His job search took him here, where he worked for Dr. Randall, who later moved to Naples. Fulmer bought the practice of Eastpoint vet Dr. Tim Nelson and grew the Apalachicola Bay Animal Clinic into the large practice it is today.
“I graduated on a Saturday and started on a Monday in June 1982,” he said.
For most of those years Fulmer has been a sole practitioner, although he did work with Dr. Laura Rider in the 1990s, and John Duncan for a year and Marlena Johnson for two years.
In Sept. 2021, he sold the practice to Dr. Grayson Wallace Northrop, and her husband Michael, and this month completed a one-year contract he agreed to with the sale.
Fulmer is proud of the work he put into building the practice, becoming in 2000 the first practice in North Florida to use surgical lasers, a cutting edge technology that causes less pain, swelling and bleeding.
“I always wanted to be on the cutting edge and have the best equipment, and style of practice in our standard of care, equipment and techniques, and staff training, ” he said, noting that a third of the practice’s patients now come from Gulf County.
While most of his vet work was with household pets, he has worked with wildlife, including doing health care for the red wolf population on the breeding ground on St. Vincent Island.
“I even treated a beached whale on St. George Island, and a dolphin rescue in St. Joe Bay,” he said.
He’s equally proud of the work he put in as a coach, as his son Tyler Fulmer and daughter Jessica Love were growing up and attending the Franklin County Schools.
He did Dixie Youth League football and baseball, and started the track and cross country program at Apalachicola High School, and coached it in the late 1990s, for five years.
To raise money for the program he started the Sizzler 5K race on St. George Island, and that race would later become a chief fundraiser for the humane society. It now channels its donations to the Elder Care Community Council.
“I can leave here knowing I’ve made the county better in a lot of ways,” he said. “I helped a lot of people and the kids and the pets. I’m proud of what I did.”
One other thing he can’t help but mention.
He put in three years handling guitar and vocals, together with bandmates Steve Burke, Dewey Blaylock, Charles Elliott and Ellis Seawright, with the band Southern Flood.
Even a doctor’s gotta let loose some times.