Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital
Dr. Melissa Lafferty was born in Akron, Ohio and moved to St. Charles, Missouri with her family when she was just six years old. Having always had a love for animals, Santa gave her a kitten for her first Christmas in Missouri. That was the first pet Dr. Melissa ever owned, besides the frogs, turtles and birds she nursed to health from outside her home. Her beautiful little calico kitten was named TIffany, because that was her favorite pop star at the time, but eventually they shortened her name to “Tiffy”. Hilariously enough for a future vet, Dr. Melissa’s mom has always been terrified of animals, and it took two years before her mom was brave enough to be in the same room with Tiffy. Dr. Melissa attended high school right here in St. Charles County at Francis Howell High School and her parents still live in St. Charles. Before Dr. Melissa attended veterinary school at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she was a veterinary technician in Ashland, Missouri just outside of Columbia. Having a strong interest in science, animals, and medicine, Dr. Melissa decided that becoming a Veterinarian would enable her to pursue all of these interests. Dr. Melissa graduated from The University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006 and has been a part of the team here at Gentle Doctor ever since. In addition to the dogs and cats, Dr. Melissa loves interacting with all the interesting people she meets every day in her job. She also loves the challenge of never knowing what she may see on any given day. Dr. Melissa enjoys performing surgery and often works with rescue groups. She currently lives in Wentzville with her two children (Braxton and Cora rose) and they share their home with two dogs and two cats. Colt is a large Husky mix that was found as a tiny puppy in Indianapolis, Indiana and he has all the energy of a new born colt. Lulu, a small Long Haired Chihuahua, is Cora’s “partner in crime” and the two are rarely seen apart. The two dogs are the best of friends who love to wrestle each other, even though Colt has the complete advantage in size outweighing Lulu by close to 10 times. Their cats, Bob and Cinnamon, who look nothing alike despite being littermates, were born at Gentle Doctor after their mom was found as a very sick stray. Dr. Melissa and her kids fostered the mother cat and her other kittens until they were old enough and healthy enough to be adopted out.
Dr. Bob McCool was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. As a young child, he used to spend hours playing with plastic zoo animals, and his favorite thing to do was visit the zoo. He had a habit of catching animals (from frogs/toads to even a gopher) and trying to make them pets. He drove his parents crazy with the approximately 15 fish tanks he kept in his room. It was clear early on that he had a fascination for animals.During career day in high school, he recalled how most of his classmates chose 3 or 4 different career choices to research as most of them were uncertain what direction they would go. For himself, it was different. He knew he wanted a career working with animals. He had already narrowed his choice down to veterinary medicine. Everything he did from that point forward was focused on getting into veterinary school. In 1985, he was accepted for admission into the University of Missouri-Columbia Veterinary School. He would eventually marry one of his classmates, Lori, in 1988. He knew early on that the area he wanted to pursue was small animal medicine and surgery. So when he graduated he and his wife took positions as Associate Veterinarians in practices in California. Having grown up in Missouri, they both thought it would be nice to live elsewhere for a change. After one year in California, they made the decision to move back to Missouri to raise a family. Together they have two sons, Blake and Cameron. Cameron is a senior at Francis Parker in San Diego. Blake is a senior at Texas State University. As you may have guessed, Dr. Bob and Dr. Lori love animals. They currently own one cat, Maddox, 3 dogs (a pug named Watson, another pug named Tiberius, and a Maltese named Ella), 4 goats (yes… I did say goats… all four are Nubians, Spongebob, Patrick, Nairobi, and Kenya), one chinchilla (named Benji), one Sulcata tortoise (named Sweetpea), a green iguana (named Lizzy), and a tarantula (named Rosie).
Dr. Julie grew up in the Pacific Northwest and moved to the O’Fallon area in 2005. She knew she wanted to be a veterinarian as long as she could remember. As a child, pets were always part of the household. She begged for her first dog, Sadie, at the age of 12 by hiding cut-out pictures of dogs all over the house until her parents finally gave in. For education, Dr. Julie attended Washington State University where she obtained a major in Zoology and minored in Animal Science and Business. She graduated in 2005 with a Degree in Veterinary Medicine and soon after traveled to the O’Fallon area and started working at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital. Missouri was always a second home to her, as much of her extended family live in the area. Dr. Julie regularly attends yearly conferences and is always striving to stay as current as possible with the constantly evolving practice of veterinary medicine. She can’t imagine herself in any other profession and truly enjoys coming to work everyday. She loves the interactions with people and the rewarding feeling of helping animals in need. Dr. Julie is very happily married to her husband Steve since 2005. They have no children, and she enjoys traveling when time allows. She is grateful to have been a part of Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital family for over 10 years. Having a love of animals, means numerous dogs and cats have shared her home over the years. Currently she has two dogs and three cats. Sheila, an Australian Cattle Dog, came to our clinic in 2008 with a broken leg and pelvis after being hit by a car as a stray. She spent a month here recuperating before Dr. Julie decided she would be a perfect fit with her family. Her second dog, Kaiser, a German shepherd, was adopted as an exuberant puppy in 2009, and continues to be full of energy. Her cats are all older, ranging from 11-17 years of age. Willy, the youngest, lost his eye to a herpes infection when he was only 8-weeks old. Mango is the middle child, and Opal is a 17-year old street-smart cat with 9 lives. After moving several miles across town (and Highway 70!) a few years ago, she found her way back to her old home…..twice….before she finally decided her new place wasn’t so bad.
Dr. Judy Dennis was born and raised in the St. Louis area of Missouri. Her family always had pets, so from a young age she has had mice, hamsters, a rabbit, cats and dogs. From the time she was a young child she had a strong interest in biology, animals and helping others. Her first job was as a kennel employee and her interest in veterinary medicine grew from there. Unfortunately during her work as a kennel employee she developed a bad allergy to rabbits. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from Webster University. Then she attended the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in May of 2006. Her first job as a veterinarian was in Peoria, Arizona at a small animal clinic. During her time in Arizona she adopted 2 rescue cats, Cleopatra and Isabella. Cleopatra and Isabella are now 8 years old and enjoy lounging in sun beams. While she enjoyed her job, she missed Missouri and decided to return in 2007. She joined the staff at Tender Care Animal Hospital in Weldon Springs for 6 years before coming to work at the sister hospital, Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital. She continues to enjoy practicing veterinary medicine and forming lasting relationships with her patients and clients.
Dr. Jennifer Heidt was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. She has loved animals since she was little and always wanted to be a veterinarian. Her first job was even at the St. Louis Zoo so she could be around animals all day. She has always had a lot of animals in her life, including a cat named Pretty as a child, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, dogs, even Violet the Hedgehog in college. She attended NOtre Dame High School and went on to obtain her Bachelor’s in Animal Science at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She graduated from the University of Missouri-College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. Initially she moved to San Diego, Ca where she practiced for 7 years but moved back home 3 years ago. Currently she lives in St. Charles with her two dogs, a 14 year old beagle mix named Amy and a 12 year old Jack Russell named Auburn. Although they are older both dogs enjoy hiking and exploring Missouri any chance they get as well as meeting all new friends they make along the way!
Dr. Autumn Tatro was raised right outside the St. Louis area. She knew she wanted to be a veterinarian from an early age, and grew up with a variety of animals including, cats, dogs, fish, birds, and box turtles. Dr. Autumn fondly remembers playing in the back yard with her sisters and pets. She has always had a strong passion for veterinary medicine; with her first job as kennel help at an animal hospital in Illinois, and working her way up to being a veterinary technician. Perusing her dream of becoming a veterinarian she attended the University of Illinois, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and graduating from Ross University in 2015 with her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. During her time in vet school she adopted a Dane mix, named Isla, and met her fiancé Justin. They have recently adopted a new puppy, named Theodore, and are excited to move from Soulard to St. Charles.