Meet Our Team!
Tender Care Animal Hospital
6002 S. Hwy 94, Weldon Spring, Mo 63304
Dr. Matt Bechtel
Dr. Matt Bechtel was born in Bethlehem, PA, and moved to St. Louis with his family when he was only five years old. From the time he was very young, he had always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. That dream came true in 2002 when he graduated from the University of Missouri – College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Bechtel has worked at multiple high quality veterinary hospitals in the St. Louis area and brings over 17 years of experience to Tender Care Animal Hospital. His experience is in all aspects of small animal medicine and surgery, with his primary focus being dogs and cats but also has worked with other animals including sugar gliders, rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats. He also has a special interest in internal medicine and dentistry. One of his greatest attributes is his desire to spend time building relationships with his clients, answering all of their questions, and following through to make sure his patients receive everything they need. As a result, Matt has a very loyal following of clients during his 17 years of practice. His desire to provide outstanding customer service is a great fit with our philosophy at Tender Care Animal Hospital. He served on the board of the Greater St. Louis Veterinary Medical Association for 8 years (from 2003-2011) in which he was the president for two of those years. He regularly volunteers for the Rockwood School District as a guest speaker for classes in the elementary and high schools. Dr. Bechtel lives in Wildwood with his wife Jayme, daughter Olivia, son Jason, and their mini-zoo including three dogs: Gracie, a Boxer/Wheaten Terrier mix; Oliver, a Yorkie/Chinese Crested mix; and Maui, a Wheaten Terrier; five rescued cats, Larry, Rosie, Ralph, Linus and Penelope; many freshwater fish, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, and a sugar glider named Kevin. All of his cats and dogs have been adopted from rescue groups and shelters. He and his family also have chickens which he adores. He is a huge sports fan (especially Mizzou football/basketball, the Cardinals, and the Blues). He enjoys spending time with his family, coaching his son’s basketball team, fishing, going to the movies and sharing his love of animals with his kids.
Dr. Christen Fielding is a General Practitioner who has been practicing in the St. Louis area since 2010. A native of House Springs, Missouri, she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Missouri Southern State University in 2006. Later that same year she entered the University of Missouri – Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine and received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. Her areas of professional interest include companion animal internal medicine and surgery.
At home, Dr. Fielding has two cats, 1 dog, 6 chickens, and a tank full of fish. Her interests include photography, fishing and other outdoor activities, as well as spending time with family and friends.
Dr. Bob McCool
Education: Dr. Bob graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1989.
Awards and Accomplishments:
Veterinary School Years:
- Graduated Magna Cum Laude in the top 10% of his veterinary school class
- President of the Veterinary School Fraternity
- Won First Place in the Hill’s Veterinary Nutrition Award for his paper on “Taurine Deficiency in Cats”
- Voted by his veterinary school classmates as one of the top ten students most likely to succeed
Years in Veterinary Practice:
- Owner of three veterinary hospitals: Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Poway, California; Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital in O’Fallon, Missouri; Tender Care Animal Hospital in Weldon Spring, Missouri
- Extensive work with animal rescues and shelters. In San Diego, Dr. McCool works with several large rescue groups to provide care for hundreds of homeless pets each year. Dr. Bob’s Missouri clinics spay and neuter about 2000 pets each year for a local shelter.
Dr. Bob has been a practicing veterinarian for approximately 25 years. During this time he has performed over 15,000 surgeries and has a vast array of experience diagnosing and treating medical conditions in cats and dogs. In addition, Dr. Bob has personally trained and mentored approximately ten veterinarians in his current Missouri practices.
Dr. McCool’s practice philosophy involves a combination of traditional medicine combined with alternative medicine with an emphasis on nutrition. He believes very strongly in the benefits of great nutrition for maintaining excellent health. Overall, he considers himself to be a more conservative veterinarian in his treatment of pets. Before deciding on any treatment, the risks versus benefits are carefully considered, so that only treatments with a strong possibility of helping with minimal risks and side effects are pursued. When medications are necessary, risk of side effects are always considered and lower, more conservative dosages are usually recommended. He has a “one year rule” for all new medications where he avoids using any new medications for at least one year after they have been brought to the marketplace. This is based on his past experience where he has discovered that most new drugs need at least one year to provide adequate time for a more complete list of possible side effects to be established. Since surgery is not generally reversible and entails some inherent risks, he believes in pursuing options with less risk before resorting to surgery.
Dr. Bob married his veterinary school classmate, Dr. Lori, in 1988. 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. Bob and Dr. Lori visited Africa in 2007 and 2009. From their experiences in Africa grew a desire to return someday and open a wildlife rescue. Poaching and poisoning of wildlife has become a serious issue in several parts of Africa. Furthermore, high orphan rates in children has compounded the problem by producing an environment where children lack guidance and have little hope for a better future. Dr. Bob’s and Dr. Lori’s dream would be to combine a wildlife rescue with orphaned children in a way that benefits both.
Dr. Melissa Lafferty
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. Jennifer Heidt
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!