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News & Events
CVM Alumnus and Sled Dog Veterinarian Jim Leach
is Callaway Guest of Honor
- Article and photo courtesy The Fulton Sun

Jim Leach never imagined he'd be living in Alaska when he graduated from Fulton High School.

Dr. Jim LeachHe also never thought that he'd be coming back to Callaway County as the guest of honor for the 103rd Kingdom of Callaway Supper.

But, on March 18, Leach will return to speak at the supper held in the Amy Shelton McNutt Campus Center on the William Woods campus.

Leach, a retired veterinarian, has lived and worked in the harsh climate of Alaska for almost 35 years.

“Alaska is a little more of a land of challenges,” Leach said. “There's a lot of freedom up here that isn't always available in the lower 48 states.”

He arrived home Tuesday after spending most of February as a trail veterinarian for the Yukon Quest sled dog race. The 1,000 mile race travels between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse in Canada's Yukon Territory.

“We've been working with races for well over 30 years,” Leach said. “I've done many, many other races around the state, around the country and over into Russia, but this was our first Yukon Quest.”

He was chosen as guest of honor by Kingdom of Callaway Supper President Rob Wright after hearing about his work with sled dog races from a neighbor.

“That's what kind of piqued my interest in Dr. Leach,” Wright said. “He started out as a small animal vet in California and eventually went to Alaska. He became interested in sled dog races and has been the head trail doc for a number of sled dog races: the Iditarod, the Klondike, Copper Basin and one going from Gnome into Russia. It was all very interesting.”

Leach received a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1964. He practiced veterinary medicine in La Cresenta, Calif., until he was drafted in 1965.

“At the time we got out of school, the Korea conflict was over and Vietnam was starting up and getting pretty hot and they were drafting veterinarians,” Leach said. “There were two or three out of my class and three or four out of the class following. I was practicing in California when I got my draft notice.”

After the Army, Leach worked in several different practices in California, Florida and Colorado before getting the opportunity to move to Alaska.

He and his wife, Sarah Ann, started their Alaskan practice in 1974 where they served a more than 1,000 mile area of outlying communities by plane, utilizing Leach's pilot license.

“We both liked the cold weather,” Leach said. “We'd take time off to ski every year. So, when the opportunity arose to go somewhere we had cold weather and seasons we jumped at it.”

The couple sold their practice in 1980 to pursue gold mining in northeastern Alaska, and enjoy flying, traveling, and painting.

They now reside in the community of Big Lake, 70 miles north of Anchorage.

The Kingdom of Callaway Supper is an annual event that looks to bring all residents of Callaway County together.

“It's an event where all the people who attend just feel the pride that's here in Callaway County,” said Debbie LaRue, the supper's secretary. “There are just a lot of strong feelings that you're glad you're part of the Kingdom of Callaway.”

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Last Update: February 24, 2012