One of the Vail Valley’s fur-baby favorites, Dr. Julie Alt, is calling it a career
Alt founded Castle Peak Veterinary Service
- What: Dr. Julie Alt retirement reception
- When: 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Brush Creek Pavilion, Eagle
- Information: Bring a picture of your pet for the photo booth, but not your actual pet. Service animals only.
- Catering provided by Red Maple Catering and the fur patient Bear.
EAGLE — One of your fur baby’s favorite humans is calling it a career.
Veterinarian Dr. Julie Alt is a fourth-degree black belt and breast cancer survivor who helped pioneer pet acupuncture and traveled twice to Africa with her college roommates to treat both people and their creatures.
Her retirement reception is Sunday afternoon in Eagle’s Brush Creek Pavilion.
Castle Peak Veterinary Service will continue with Dr. Denny Simonton, Dr. Steve Conlin and Dr. Jennifer Wells.
“I am so fortunate to have had this wonderful friend, colleague, and business partner for the past 31 years,” Simonton said. “It has been a great run along the way and we have built something very special at Castle Peak Vet.”
All about Alt
Julie Helm Alt was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1958. Her mother and siblings moved to Oakland, California, in 1973. She graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs with a biology degree, and from the University of California Davis with a degree in veterinary medicine in 1985.
Between Colorado College and vet school at UC-Davis she worked in the Eagle-Vail Animal Hospital with Dr. Bill Nusz’ large animal practice. She was told that Eagle needed a vet. She finished up at UC-Davis, hung her shingle in Eagle and Nusz sent his small animal cases to her. She started on a shoestring in a log cabin on the corner of Broadway and Highway 6. It was the mid-1980s and many of Eagle’s businesses were boarded up following the oil crash.
Things picked up quickly, though.
“The town and I grew up together,” Alt said.
She soon needed some help, so she brought in Simonton. They’ve been together since 1989.
Her vet clinic had an X-ray machine before the doctor’s office did. The docs used to send their patients to their vet clinic for X-rays.
There were the calls in the middle of the night from people asking for help for their kids. Fishhooks in legs were remarkably common.
People took their dogs skiing and ran over them. The skis cut the dogs and Alt sewed them up.
Castle Peak Vets was home to Willy the Cat, the mayor of Chambers Avenue. Willy wandered around to other businesses to greet people as a successful politician would. Alt would get a call at 2 a.m. saying the cat was in the bar and asking what they should do with him.
Willy was even entered in Eagle’s Flight Days parade as the mayor of Chambers Avenue. A massive cat named Meatball soon joined the Castle Peak crew.
Alt married her husband, Myron, in Eagle and raised sons Brian, 23, and Wyatt, 21.
She earned a fourth-degree black belt in karate, studying with James Lee.
“Julie Alt is an absolute warrior. She comes from a family of military officers in Japan. Her energy, motivation, heart and spirit are unmatched. As long as I have been in the martial arts, I have never met another person like her,” Lee said.
Alt traveled twice to Kenya with her college roommates from UC-Davis for humanitarian tours through the African Network for Animal Welfare and Vet Treks, which arrange working tours for veterinarians.
Alt and her traveling partners stuffed as many medical supplies as they could into a few duffel bags to treat both people and their creatures — spaying and neutering to help curb the overpopulation of animals, taking care of donkeys and the people who depend on them, and giving rabies vaccinations — around 3,000 each trip.
As recently as 2014, Kenya had 6,033 rabies cases. The U.S. had one that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The World Health Organization estimates that 55,000 people die from rabies every year; 44% of those are in Africa.
“Rabies is a scary, scary thing,” Alt said. “If we can make a difference in how people can handle rabies in their country, it’s a great thing. Even the little bit you do can add up. In those villages, it can make a difference.”
As her retirement draws nearer, testimonials have poured in from current and former clients.
Like the times Alt sat on the floor with Chewie, Lora Silagy’s dog, until Chewie calmed down. “No other vet has put as much care into my babies as she has,” Silagy said.
Julia Denault Parker’s cat Molly was near death at age 7. Alt took care of her and Molly lived to 19.
“Julie is one of the most passionate, compassionate, fearless, caring people I have ever met. She cries when the owners cry. She hurts when her patients hurt,” said Kelley Church Bontempo. “She is a wonderful teacher to all of us who have gotten the privilege to work side by side with her and an amazing veterinarian and is a pillar of our community.”
She’s not completely done. Alt will stay involved with animals because she loves it. She’ll do some animal acupuncture and pretty much anything else she wants to do, and not much she doesn’t.