by Ashley Flynn
The Countryside Veterinary Hospital has plenty to celebrate this month as they head into their 25th year at 1270 Manchester Avenue, Wabash.
Dr. Steve Pilgram has been in the veterinary business for over 40 years. He opened his own practice on North Cass Street in 1980 with the support of his wife, Ruth Ann who also works at the vet hospital. Before that he worked in North Manchester.
“At the time I just wanted to own my own business and be my own boss,” Dr. Pilgram told The Paper of Wabash. He continued with a laugh, “Which is a joke. You’re not your own boss. I have several bosses. Thousands of people tell me what to do everyday. So it’s just that I wanted to own my own business.”
Dr. Pilgram decided to move his business because the location on Cass Street was going to close down. A farming couple sold him a small portion of their 72-acre farmland to build his current office.
“It’s really hard to find a piece of unoccupied land here in Wabash that they will sell to you and not lease to build. Dick and Betty Merritt were nice enough to sell this to me. It was just land availability and plus the traffic flow on 13 is high. It’s a good spot,” Dr. Pilgram said.
Dr. Pilgram’s business is unique in Wabash because they are a mixed practice. They are the only veterinary hospital in Wabash that offers large animal emergency service. They work on horses, cattle, dogs, cats, pigs, sheep and even exotic animals such as a local kangaroo. They serve Wabash, Marion, Grant, Huntington, Miami and Fulton counties.
During his 25 years, Dr. Pilgram and Ruth Ann have been fortunate enough to find a dedicated staff. Marsha Butler, the veterinary technician, has been at Countryside for 21 years. Veterinary assistant Lisa Spencer has been with the company 18 years, and Patty Hagan, also a vet assistant, has been there 10 years.
Also reason to celebrate, the team recently added two new veterinarians to their staff.
Last year, Dr. Danielle Broeren came from Wisconsin to join the crew. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin—Madison in May 2012 before coming to Wabash.
Dr. Elise Meijer joined the team this year after graduating from Michigan State University this past May.
Both women grew up in agriculture areas with hobby farms. Dr. Broeren trained, showed and bred horses, and Dr. Meijer had all types of animals but especially enjoyed raising rabbits.
They agree that Wabash is very similar to their hometowns except there is less snow and a more friendly community.
“I consider it the southern friendly down here. Everyone knows their neighbors. Back home I maybe knew one of my neighbors. I like the good community ties down here,” said Dr. Broeren.
The friendly community feel they experience throughout Wabash also carries into their workplace.
“The staff here is really nice. They’ve helped me a lot since starting here,” Dr. Meijer said.
Dr. Broeren agreed saying, “There’s good camaraderie between all the people. Everyone gets along really well and there’s no drama. Everyone is willing to help everyone else out.”
Both doctors agree that working in a mixed-care veterinary service has some challenges. Instead of specializing on a few animals, they have to learn about a larger variety of animals and situations, but they love the work.
“I enjoy working with people and working with the animals. I like the science and medicine behind it. Diagnosing and treating,” said Dr. Meijer. “I really like cows. I like the medicine with them. They’re tough animals, and they are a livelihood for a lot of people. I feel like that’s a place I can make a difference.”
Dr. Broeren says she likes the preventative care of her job. “Good preventative care can help you avoid disasters or emergencies that can happen. We probably all get into this because we want to make sure animals are healthy and keep them in as good of quality of life as we can.” She also enjoys working with the kangaroo because she has a background in working at a zoo during her summers as an undergrad.
For Dr. Pilgram, the decision to hire the two new veterinarians came after a longtime vet, Jennifer May, went to work for the US Department of Agriculture.
“I needed some help to handle the work load, and it’s working out well,” he said.