Although Carrie Hulse is comfortable both in a courtroom and picking her way around devil's club, she doesn't think she stands out in a crowd.
"I do what I enjoy and it doesn't seem any different from what other people do," she said.
Hulse, 36, began working in the District Attorney's office in 1996. "There's never a dull moment, and (District Attorney) Rick Svobodny is a wonderful man and exceptional boss. I have a good learning curve there, because the three attorneys allow me to get into things."
Her official title is victim witness coordinator. "I try to make it easier for witnesses to understand and cope with legal matters," Hulse said. She also assists in investigations and trial preparation.
"Personally, I would be lost without her," said Assistant District Attorney Sue McLean. "She is like the hub of the wheel. She does all this coordinating behind the scenes, making sure people are where they should be on time, making sure they get basic instruction on procedures and notice of upcoming hearings.
"On top of all this, when people are upset and emotionally
struggling, she always has time to sit and listen. She refers people to other services, like AWARE, and she does that in hundreds of cases a year, most of them misdemeanors," she said.
AWARE is Juneau's shelter and counseling center for battered women and children.
"It's a good thing she likes adrenaline," McLean said. "I am not sure how many people understand the multi-tasking a legal assistant does. She works miracles for us."
Outside this 8-to-4:30 routine, Hulse is a handler for Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search.
"I often feel like Jekyll and Hyde. I can be in my skirts in the DA's office, and an hour later I can be in my Levi's and Extra-Tuffs breaking through brush," Hulse said.
"I have always been interested in animals and spend my leisure time in the outdoors, so this idea came together. For a long time I was what we call a 'walk-along' or a 'ground-pounder.' I didn't have a dog; I just assisted," she said.
Then, four years ago, she acquired Guinness, a chocolate Lab, and last fall, after many weekly training sessions, she became a certified SEADOG handler.
Typically, hunting season in the fall and avalanche season in the spring are peak times for SEADOG activity, she said. She averages 10 searches a year. All handlers are volunteers who pay their own expenses, but if they are called out by the Alaska State Troopers, air fare is usually taken care of, she said.
The rewards of working for the legal system and SEADOGS overlap, she said.
"They both go in the same realm. SEADOGS is less emotionally taxing than working with the DA's office. Most of the time it's walking through the woods. It's anticipated because of our vast area that you are not going to have a find," Hulse said.
Both her vocation and her avocation hinge on ferreting out facts, she added.
"You always have to make sure it really is a lost person and what the whole picture is. The first rule in any search and rescue is not to make yourself a victim."
A resident of Juneau since she moved here with her family from Wisconsin in 1971, Hulse believes she thrives in these diverse arenas because she is a team player who enjoys working with Type A personalities.
"A Type A is someone who is a taking-charge person, who likes things to continue to move and get to an end result. He does 90 million things at once. The more input from life, the better," she said.
When she's not occupied with law and the lost, Hulse zeros in on home and family. Her husband, Tim, is a general contractor who is learning to be her partner on SEADOG expeditions. Tim Hulse is a captain with the Juneau Volunteer Fire Department and an emergency medical technician, so "I really like to have him there," Hulse said.
One of the most important people in her life is her daughter, Aubrey, 11, just entering sixth grade. "She is the center of my existence," Hulse said. "She is interested in everything. She reminds me that imagination is always important."
Hulse also is an outdoor and landscape photographer who has won prizes for her work.
"Photography helps me to balance out my life between chaos and sanity. It's important to have that time so you are not frying yourself," she said.
"I love what I do. I think I am very fortunate because I have a supportive family that encourages me to take on new challenges. They allow me to really understand who I am," Hulse said.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.
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