After 67 years at one location, family-run vet clinic moving to make way for new retail space

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. After over six decades at one location, a local vet hospital is moving further south on Campbell Avenue to make way for a new multi-business development near Bass Pro Shops.

The world around the Cottage Veterinary Hospital near Sunshine and Campbell in Springfield has changed a lot since it opened in 1952.

"You have to remember that 67 years ago Sunshine St. was the city limits of Springfield," explained Dr. Michael Pfanders, whose father started the hospital. "Campbell Street was gravel past Sunshine. Where Bass Pro sits right now there was a very large dairy farm that in fact my father got to do work for."

It was Michael's father Burl who started the vet hospital after serving in World War II and declaring his intentions to his then future wife, Reba, Michael's mom, on the couple's very first date.

"So they're at the movies in Lamar and my mom asked dad 'Well, what are you gonna do now that your out of the service?' Michael said. "And my dad said, 'I'm going to go to the University of Missouri and be a veterinarian and I'm going to marry you. So I guess that's how the proposal was made."

Michael was born in 1957 when the family also lived at the clinic. The kitchen is still in-tact and almost every photo of young Michael includes a shot of a pet by his side as his world was full of four-legged friends.

"I remember being able to go back and talk to the dogs and cats," Michael said. "And I remember how mad my mom was when I came home one day and had pig lice from playing out with the pigs."

Michael would follow in his father's footsteps by pursuing a veterinary medicine degree at Mizzou where he also played in the marching band.

After graduation, he returned to the clinic where he's spent the last 37 years treating all kinds of animals and all kinds of illnesses right down to a turtle's ear infection.

"They don't have an outside external ear," he explained. "So they're eardrum is right on the side of their head."

Look around the reception area and you can't help but smile. There are lots of cute photos of clients and family with their pets and funny signs that say, "Dear Patient: Please keep your owner on a leash" and "The Doctor will be with you in a minute...sit-stay".

As those signs point out, the family has learned about the unique bond between pets and their owners.

Michael's daughter Meghan put it best.

"People can be a part of your life but you are your animal's life," she said. "You are everything to your pet.

"It's just a unique relationship," Michael added. "It seems to fill an instinct in us."

As the family packs up for the move, they're discovering interesting items they didn't even know they had like a World War II short-wave radio owned by Michael's father.

Burl and Reba have both passed away, and now this part of the family's heritage will be gone as well.

"I'm going to miss it," Meghan said.

"There is sadness," Michael added. "But the building really just represents the memories and that's not in the mortar and brick. It's what those memories mean to you."

According to the developer, Jason Pullman, the building will be torn down within the next three weeks to make way for the new retail space that will include a number of businesses like an AT&T store, a Mercy Go Health, and a drive-thru restaurant.

He hopes to have the new development completed within six months.

The Pfanders are comfortable with their decision.

"This area has a great future as there are a lot of out-of-town people who come through here and it has a high-traffic volume," Michael said. "It will be great for retail growth."

The Cottage Veterinary Clinic will be re-locating to a strip mall just across the street from the Wal-Mart on Campbell Avenue and will re-open on Monday.