Skruffy’s primary Veterinarian, Dr. Marie “Meezie” Hermansen, was born into a commercial fishing family. Born in Soldotna, she was raised just 20 miles southwest from where the Animal Hospital is today. Her family are set-net fisherman from way back…before Alaska was a state. Her father Alfred was born in Alaska in the 1920’s, and was a proud World War II veteran, and he was a fisherman, as were at least one of his brothers, Herman. Both Alfred and Herman were born and raised right here in the same area. This place is the family's home, and Meezie’s entire family were raised as fisherman...it is what they are. Meezie has openly said that she has been a fisherman since she got out of diapers. Here is a quote from something she wrote that was published on the “The Alaska Salmon Alliance” website:
I have fished every Upper Cook Inlet salmon season of my life. Forty-five years, minus however long I was in diapers. I have never lived without fishing. I have never lived without fish.
Seasons have been bountiful. Nets sunk. Fighting against wind and tide and regulations to get our gear in on time. Long hours spent bent over picking sockeye after sockeye until my hands were sore, my back was sore, my being was sore — and I smiled. It was the best kind of sore.
Seasons have been bleak. Waterhauls and a narrative running from, “it’s still early,” to “everything is running late this year,” to “well, there’s always next year.”
Good years or bad, it has all been satisfying. Fishing is not just something I do, it is who I am. It is my passion. And my identity.Alaska State Regulations have hurt the fisherman’s way of life. As a youngster, her family could fish just about anytime the fish were running…now they are limited to just certain days, with that calendar set in March, as if the regulator “know” in March what the fish will be doing in July and August. Then there was the recent attempt to ban set-nets all together…until the Alaska Supreme Court declared that attempt to be unconstitutional. Meezie expressed to us, and it shows in her poems and writings, that she fears that one day, her way of life will be taken away from her.
Meezie went to college in Oregon, and then Veterinarian School at Colorado State University, graduating in 1997. She returned home to Soldotna after graduation to start the career she loves in the place she loves. She joined the Soldotna Animal Hospital staff in November 1999. At work she is very professional, yet in a very friendly, unstuffy way. She wears jeans, casual shirt, and (sometimes) adorns her white doctor lab coat . About being a Vet she writes (again, from The Alaska Salmon Alliance) :
I strove to become a veterinarian, and it is a profession I am extremely proud of. I love my work, yet here is the difference. I became a veterinarian. I was born a fisherman. People ask what it is like, being a woman commercial fisherman. I tell them I don’t know. I am not trying to be cryptic; the truth is, I knew I was a fisherman before I knew I was a woman.
If this was not enough…Meezie is also a Poet and a Writer and a Photographer. She is very active in the FisherPoets Gathering held each year in Astoria, Oregon. From their website, they say that the gathering is:
A celebration of the commercial fishing industry in poetry, prose and song, the FisherPoets Gathering has attracted fisherpoets and their many fans to Astoria, Oregon the last weekend of February since 1998.
Meezie is also an author. We bought her book, Brain Sand, and yes mom, I read it…most of it. Me, the retired Librarian who could count the number of fiction books he has read on his hands and one foot, yet I would need another person to count the number of non-fiction books…but I probably would only need their hands to go along with my hands and feet. Does not mean I don’t read…I just don’t read very many books…I read lot’s of news sites, lots of websites, lots of blogs...just not books. However, Meezie’s book is my kind of book…short, easy to read, deep meaning, and personal. (Click here for information on how to get a copy of her book)
We appreciate everything ALL of the folks at Soldotna Animal Hospital did for our Skruffy girl. Had we lost her, or even if we do loose her still since she is not totally out of danger yet, we know in our hearts that she was in great hands, especially under the care of Dr. Marie “Meezie” Hermansen, a Vet, a writer, but most of all, a fisherman. Frankly, we find you to be an amazing person! Thank you so much Dr. Hermansen…err…FISHERMAN Meezie Hermansen. We love ya…good luck with this year’s harvest…with every year’s harvest. May your nets be full, and we hope that the politicians and regulators will allow you to live your life, that you can always be you. And keep taking care of all those puppies and kitties and anything else that comes through the doors of the Soldotna Animal Hospital. And most of all…thank you for that kiss that I got Saturday when I got back from the store…the first kiss that Skruffy had given me in many days. I look forward to many many more, and we have you to thank for that.
Bubba, get out of the picture, they want “ME” to sing!
That’s our Skruffy this morning (Sunday) telling Dr. Meezie THANKS!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------If you want more information about Alaska set-net fisherman and how they catch their fish, click here (this is a typical set-net family). And remember, this video was done on a clear, calm day…but it gives you an idea of the work involved. Now imagine doing this in a storm…with high winds…with the hours counting down before you have to have your nets out of the water and catch up on the shore. Also, these are commercial fisherman…their harvest, as that of a farmer, is sold and becomes food on the table for you and I.
Also, here is a video of Dr. Meezie reading at the FisherPoet Gathering a few years ago. There are a few others, but the sound on this one is the best I could find.