Melissa Schelling was a new graduate of Columbus State College when she applied for a job with a Chillicothe veterinarian as a registered veterinary technician. The Chillicothe vet wasn’t hiring at the time, but he suggested talking with his colleague, Dr. Robert Sharp, who was opening a new practice in Highland County.
“Dr. Sharp was willing to take a chance on me, if I could work in the practice he’d just bought in Hillsboro,” Schelling said. “I was hoping to get a little work experience then move back home to Chillicothe.”
On July 1, Schelling celebrates her 40th anniversary with Hillsboro Veterinary Hospital. In her clinical role, much like a registered nurse, Schelling has prepared innumerable animals for surgical procedures, performed treatments, applied dressings, administered injections, assisted in surgery, arranged lab work and provided before and aftercare instruction to apprehensive pet owners. As the doctor’s aide and office manager, she has answered thousands of calls and thousands of questions, calmed hundreds of panic-stricken callers, assured scores of worried pet moms and dads, and kept the books for the ever-expanding practice.
A lot has changed since the beginning, Sharp said.
“For the first 13 years, I also treated large animals and was often out on farm calls. There weren’t cell phones, so Melissa handled the office and used a two-way radio when she needed to contact me,” Sharp said. “With the new technology, we do a lot more testing and monitoring and provide more immediate results. Melissa keeps up to date with continuing education every year. I can always rely on her and have since day one. She’s been there through all the animal stories I’ve written and told. She’s been an integral part of the practice since the start, my first and only veterinary technician.”
Working in the family practice, she also became part of the family. Sharp’s daughter, Amy Sharp-Schneider, joined the group in 2007. She said, “Melissa would often meet me at the bus when I was little. We would go to lunch when Dad had Rotary meetings. She took us to the Highland County Fair every year and to King’s Island, and she let us ride horses at her place. Plus, she’s the best gift-giver ever.”
When Rob Sharp’s son, Reid, was born, the office was decorated with blue ribbons. Reid said, “Melissa has been part of my life since I was born. I grew up with her sons. Her family and our family are just entwined.”
Also a veterinarian, the younger Dr. Sharp bought the family practice three years ago. Reid said, “Melissa assists in surgery, dispenses medications, does routine treatments and fluid therapy, and, of course, keeps the books. We have always counted on her.”
Schelling also met her husband, Dale, at the vet’s office. “He worked across the street, and would bring in his mother’s cat for care,” she said.
Animals were a big part of their life at home too: their home includes 40 acres just outside Hillsboro.
“I was raised on a farm with horses and cattle and spent 10 years in 4-H, showing both,” Schelling said. “I encouraged our sons, Evan and Levi, to participate when they got old enough, and both took it to heart.”
Dale was raised on a dairy farm. “We’ve had horses, dogs and cats, though the number of each changes,” he said.
The couple still live in the house they originally bought.
At work, Schelling says the days are all about animals and the people who trust her with their precious pets.
“It’s physically and emotionally demanding. The phone rings constantly. Callers are often worried and scared.” Still, Schelling said, “The most important job is holding the animals to make sure the veterinarian doesn’t get bitten. That’s a priority!”
She admits there are times when it’s tough to maintain a calm, professional manner.
“It’s so hard when animals we’ve known for years must be put down,” Schelling said. “Sometimes I cry right along with the owners. I just try to remember the good times we had with them. And, think about the ones that we do save.”
On her 40th anniversary with Hillsboro Veterinary Hospital, Schelling remembers “so many people, and so many animals. Technology changes some things, but the work really doesn’t.”
One thing remains constant, and both Drs. Sharp agree it won’t ever change: “Melissa still keeps the books, perfectly.”