NORTHAMPTON — When Dr. Hugh Edmonds launched the Northampton Veterinary Clinic in 1957 from an old house on South Street, it was believed to be the first veterinary clinic in the city.
Sixty years later, the business is still going strong. So strong, in fact, that the house in recent years became like an oversized dog in a too-small kennel — five doctors and 23 staff needed more space.
“We just simply outgrew it,” said Dr. Ellie Shelburne, who owns the clinic with colleague Dr. Lori Paporello.
That led the owners to look for new digs last year, which they found in a former medical center for human patients at 190 Nonotuck St.
The new 4,000-square-foot clinic is about the same size as the old house, but actually gives veterinarians more space because they were limited to treating patients only on the first floor.
A several-month renovation over the fall and winter culminated on Valentine’s Day when a ribbon was cut at the new facility.
The new space features seven exam rooms, as opposed to the four rooms that were in the clinic on South Street.
With more exam rooms, staff can see more patients at a time. In many cases, they can place more anxious animals in a room to wait rather than having them mingle with other pets in the general waiting area.
“Hopefully this will decrease wait time,” said office manager Shana Petit.
With the move, the laboratory treatment area has doubled in size. The owners also noted the additional parking and green space and improved handicap accessibility as benefits of the move.
Beside the front door, a quote by Anatole France runs across a light blue painted wall: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Fun design
When designing the new space with the help of design firm HAI Architecture, Paporello and Shelburne kept the comfort of employees, clients and especially beloved animals in mind. The waiting room even features a “cat corner,” a sectioned-off corner for cats and their owners to wait, out of sight from dogs.
The clinic’s design also splits up hospitalization areas. Rather than placing all recovering pets in one central kennel, there are five separate kennel areas, which allows for a quieter and less stressful space for animals to heal.
The owners had some fun while creating the design, Shelburne explained. With a laugh, she pointed out tiny images of dogs in top hats that are on the cabinet knobs in an exam room.
Quotes in large, adhesive lettering are stuck on walls throughout the office. A quote by Winnie the Pooh stretches along the wall of one exam room: “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
When Paporello and Shelburne began working at the clinic on South Street in June of 2000, they were the only doctors. Now the are five doctors including a new cardiologist, which wasn’t possible at the South Street location for space reasons.
There are now 23 total staff members. The clinic is not currently looking to expand its staff, but it could potentially do so in the future, Petit said.
“We have a great staff,” said Petit, who has been with the clinic for 13 years.
“If anything sets us apart from any other practice, it’s the team that we’ve built,” said Paporello.
Both owners said they wanted to be veterinarians from a very young age.
“It’s a nice way to match a really sophisticated craft in the art of medicine with something that brings joy,” Paporello said.
The two owners see many regular clients, from places as far as East Longmeadow.
“It’s really nice to be on a first-name basis with a lot of your clients,” Paporello said.
The clinic treats mostly cats and dogs, along with a few other critters such as rabbits, rats and guinea pigs. Bubba, the black-and-white clinic cat, watches over operations at the clinic and naps on the break-room couch.
The clinic also does side-work with local wildlife rehabbers. Shelburne recalled treating a huge great blue heron, brought in by a FedEx employee who witnessed the bird get injured. Shelburne had to suit up in riot gear to save the crane, a bird that can be dangerous in close proximity.
Most of the time, though, the staff handles furry felines and canines.
“I’m inspired and always have been just by the joy that they (animals) bring to people,” Paporello stated.
The clinic will host an open house event May 21, from 3 to 5 p.m. It will be held at the clinic, 190 Nonotuck St., Suite 105. Attendees are invited to enjoy tours, informational booths and refreshments. The Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center will be present at the open house.