A Gentle Goodbye is a small, independently-owned company that has been offering end of life services since 2011. We know what an incredibly difficult time this is to go through, and we are here to help you navigate the process. We proudly offer veterinary hospice and geriatric care, telehealth quality of life discussions, in-home euthanasia, and aqua-cremation.

Our Veterinarians

Dr. Juliana Lyles

Like many veterinarians, I knew I wanted to be an “animal doctor” from the time I was very young. I worked toward my goal of becoming a veterinarian by receiving my bachelor’s degree in Zoology and Genetics from Iowa State University and my veterinary degree from Mississippi State University, where I also met my husband, William. Over the years, our family grew to include our two children, as well as 2 cats, Ravenclaw and Trika, and a ferret, Luna.

Throughout my veterinary career, I have had the pleasure of working with a wide variety of medical disciplines. I interned at an exotics-only practice, cared for working Clydesdales, racehorses, and even studied animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. I have always respected the bond between pets and their families, including the end of life care they receive. While I was still a young pre-veterinary student, I had to euthanize my beloved 11 year old ferret, and I realized how peaceful and comforting a process this can be when it’s done with the utmost respect and care. When my husband joined the army in 2010, we were relocated to Fayetteville, NC, where I worked at a small animal practice and started working in end of life care.

I quickly realized I had found my passion within veterinary medicine, and knew this would be my life-long career. After my husband completed his military contract in April of 2012, we moved back to my hometown of Chicagoland and I started a veterinary hospice business. Over the years, it has been such an honor to see it grow. The majority of the families we help find us because of a referral from a trusted friend or veterinarian, and it is such a privilege to help those families during this difficult time.

Dr. Kristina Kalivoda

I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago in a family that has always valued pets as members of the family. I wasn’t entirely certain I wanted to be a veterinarian, ironically because I wasn’t sure I could handle euthanasia. I received my degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois and then took a year off to work full time in a veterinary clinic as an assistant. We had only ever had dogs growing up, and I didn’t “understand” cats at all, but it was at that clinic that the hospital cat decided to attach himself to me and show me the way.

I attended vet school at the University of Illinois the next year, graduating at the top of my class. While in vet school, I discovered a passion for working with exotic animals, and completed an internship in zoological medicine at Texas A&M University, followed by a residency in avian and exotic animal medicine at Cornell University. I did miss working with dogs and especially cats, and have spent the last few years in practice working with all species.

Along the way, I collected several cats, including my long-haired orange guy Apollo. After moving back to the Chicagoland area, Apollo started to lose weight, vomit, and drink a large amount of water. He was already in severe kidney failure at the age of five. I kept him stable and happy for almost twelve months with intensive hospice care at home. He let me do everything I needed there, but he hated the hospital, so when it came time to say goodbye to him, I decided to let him pass at home. I was so surprised by how peaceful it was for him. I am so honored now to help other families say goodbye to their beloved pets peacefully and with dignity in the comfort of their own homes.

I currently live in the northwest suburbs. I most recently said goodbye to my best buddy Oscar, an amazing brown tabby who saw me through all my schooling. I have a three-legged leopard gecko named Achilles, a cockatiel named Percival (Percy), and my little black cat Imp.

Dr. Molly O’Brien

I grew up in Des Plaines and had many different pets as a child. I wanted to be a veterinarian from a young age and got my first job at an animal hospital while I was in high school. I received my Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois and my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Ross University. I worked in private practice in the Chicagoland area for 14 years prior to joining this practice.

I currently have a rescued Welsh Terrier named Chewie, and have had to deal with the loss of multiple pets in recent years. Even though I am a veterinarian, I know it can be very hard to lose a special pet and even harder to have to make the decision of when to do it. When that time comes, I think it is nice to have the option to say goodbye at home in a familiar setting. I always want those last moments to be as peaceful as possible for the pet as well as their family. I have always felt it is a special honor to perform euthanasia and hope to provide comfort and compassion during a difficult time.

Dr. Heidi Cunz

Born and raised in Illinois, I pursued a career in theatre for 6 years before moving to Colorado to study as a veterinary technician. I fell in love with veterinary medicine and earned a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University while working as a vet tech in the Critical Care Unit and Animal Cancer Center at CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. I received my Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and I chose my clinical year at Louisiana State University so I could spend a year living as close to New Orleans as I could get.

I have worked in emergency medicine and general practice. My favorite patients are my geriatric ones. I love to make them as comfortable as possible, giving them more quality time with their loved ones. I share my home with a 14 year old Flat Coated Retriever Maggie, a 2-year-old terrier mix Penny and a 2-year-old cat Max who rules the house. Recently I had to humanely euthanize the love of my life Wrigley, a pit bull mix and I know how important it is to have end of life care performed not only humanely but with the love and respect our pets and families deserve.

Our Staff

Aaron Blohm, Aqua-Cremation Manager

I was born and raised in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Up until I joined the A Gentle Goodbye family, I had worked in many different fields from body shops and auto detailing, to retail and jewelry sales. There have been aspects of every position I have held that I found very fulfilling, but nothing quite as much as working in end-of-life care for pets. Before joining the A Gentle Goodbye family, I ran and operated a local pet cremation company for 6 years. During that time, I found my love for helping families during one of the most difficult times they may ever experience.

Three years ago, my then girlfriend, Kelly, and I rescued an adorable grey and white tabby, Sterling. He was found under the hood of a client’s car curled up next to the battery for warmth. He is a spirited little guy who, my now wife and I can’t imagine being with-out. A year later we decided Sterling needed a little cat brother, so we found Oliver, a grumpy-looking, mostly grey, somewhat “slow” short haired angel. He is the biggest love bug and scaredy-cat with fur as soft as a Chinchilla. My life has found a new vigor since adopting these boys and marrying the love of my life.

In my free time, I enjoy collecting, watching TV shows and movies of all kinds, and growing my collection to over 2000 titles. In the spring and fall, I enjoy camping for a couple days and I have found nothing that resets the mind and body better.

Grace, Office Manager

I grew up in the northwest suburbs for most of my life here in America. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and arrived in the United States when I was about 7 years old. My first dog, and my first friend in the States, might I add, was a beautiful Golden Retriever named Lady. My mother named her because she thought she looked like the Cocker Spaniel from Lady and the Tramp. Lady certainly had her personality too. Despite the tremendous transition I was going through, Lady was someone I found comfort in during a difficult transition in my life. At that moment, I developed a strong attachment towards dogs.

I currently have my best friend, a terrier mix, named Beanie. Sometimes I call her Beanzo. She’s 6-years old at this time and is timid, yet the smartest dog I’ve ever had so far. Right from the beginning, I was blown away by how intelligent she was. She has been with me since I started college and has witnessed some of the hardest times I had to go through. The emotional bond that I have with Beanie, I don’t think I could have gone through them without her. When thinking about her life span, it truly makes me wonder what kind of life I can give her before she leaves.

I lived in the city most of my college years but just recently moved back to the suburbs. I love to binge watch shows/movies on Netflix and Disney+ during my free time. I find it hypocritical of me that I don’t like to watch something new. I find myself rewatching them because I already know what’s going to happen. One main thing that I’ve learned so far is that there is always an opportunity to be led further in life. But how would you know if you like it or not? Be good at it or not? How do you get to where you are if you don’t step forward? Whether it’s an activity, food, a career option or even meeting someone new, I tell myself to try it at least once.That is why I learned to get out of my comfort zone and expand my life experiences.

I have been in the restaurant/hospitality industry for the past 8 years. I am currently working towards becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer (ultrasound technician). So coming to work for A Gentle Goodbye was definitely a surprise but truly a blessing in my life. I came into this job not knowing anything about the veterinary field. But as I have been telling myself, how would I know if I am capable if I don’t even try. Even if I may not have the passion to get into the veterinary field for my career, I know I at least have the passion to help during a difficult time in someone’s life. Especially when they are going through dealing with the loss of an important family member. If you had asked me when I moved to the United States what I would be doing in my mid 20’s, I’d never have thought I’d be a part of an end-of-life care company for pets. As cheesy as it may be, everything happens for a reason. And I hope I can give families a sense of comfort and peace while prioritizing their pet’s quality of life.

Kelsey, Head Care Coordinator

From a young age, I knew that I wanted to work with animals. I grew up with a wonderful, big male tabby cat and a sweet, lovable Labrador Retriever. They were my best friends growing up, and definitely helped shape the trajectory of my life later on. I spent 4 years working in local animal shelters, where I gained invaluable hands-on skills and knowledge regarding animal welfare and how we can best serve our furry friends. My goal is to become the best animal advocate that I could possibly be, so I’m happy to be expanding my skill set and further my ability to help those who need me. I’m particularly interested in cats, but I love most any animal – big or small.

I spent time as a kid roaming around my neighborhood looking for lost pets to help. When I was 14 years old, I found a scared cat hiding under a set of stairs. The cat was so small it looked like a kitten, and was understandably quite wary of me. Any time I tried to get close, he would try to run away; he never got very far because he was exhausted. I followed this cat for almost an hour until he allowed me to pick him up and carry him home. I snuck him into my parents’ house, named him “Doodle,” fed him, cleaned him, and then told my parents of my discovery. We took Doodle to the vet the next day, and they told me that he was not a kitten but actually an adult cat! He was suffering the late stages of feline leukemia, and I was told the most humane thing to do would be to euthanize him. It was a heavy lesson to learn as a kid, that my “kitten” was nearing the end of his life and that despite my best efforts I couldn’t “save” him. But, looking back, I’m thankful that I was able to help Doodle pass peacefully and loved, rather than enduring any extended hardship with his illness outdoors. I believe this experience helped lead me here to A Gentle Goodbye Veterinary Hospice, and for that I am truly grateful.

I have always lived around the Chicagoland area. My family grew up in the northern suburbs, and I later spent 9 years in the Evanston / Rogers Park area after my education took me to Northwestern University. There, I studied journalism, participated in a multitude of extracurriculars, and even spent a year performing as Willie the Wildcat – NU’s Big Ten mascot! With lots of reflection and immense change in my life, it became clear that journalism was not the path for me. I later trained to become an Emergency Medical Technician. I’ve had many interests that come and go in life, as we all do, but the one constant for me has always been animals. I currently spend my free time with family and friends or watching some of my favorite shows and movies. I particularly love horror movies, anime, and documentaries. Working in animal care has reignited many other childhood passions of mine. I’m trying to spend more time reading, writing, and creating art. I share my home with 4 amazing cats – Aria, Mara, Guppy, and Scythe. I also have a dog that I help take care of. Her name is Callie and she’s a Whippet / Border Collie mix. She’s one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever met, and she’s been a great friend to me over the past few years.

Hospice is essential to animal care, and it is one of the greatest services we can offer families and pets as they face inevitable death. My passion for community service, medicine, and animals all intersect in veterinary hospice medicine. Between my personal understanding of grief and my professional experience with animals, I hope to provide essential, empathetic care to our community’s pets and families.

Joy, Care Coordinator

Growing up in northern Illinois, interacting with animals and nature was a normal everyday experience. From a young age, I was surrounded by beautiful lakes and forests teeming with wildlife. Given the environment around me, many hands-on learning experiences were made available to me that I am thankful for everyday. With the loving support of my parents, I was not only taught to respect animals, but also how to interact, co-exist, and raise them as well. Young me was hooked! I dove into the animal world head first, proclaiming at the age of 6 that I would become a wildlife rehabilitator. I grew up mesmerized at National Geographic, Animal Planet, all of it!

I held on to that dream since, but have decided to dip my toes into all sorts of animal-related fields as well. After high school, I started towards my associates degree for Zoology and then quickly found myself working at my local pet store. Since then, I have gained so much experience, becoming a jack-of-all-trades due to my love of learning and trying new things. Dog grooming, training, CNA work, photography, management, animal care, you name it!

Unfortunately, with animal care, it also included the harder aspects. End-of-life care and handling sensitive situations gave me a new respect for the life cycle of our beloved pets. I had focused so much on raising these animals when they were young, but had never truly thought about how life changes for them as they decline in health or get older. I got to witness and experience first hand how much it can make a difference in both people’s and pets’ lives to simply focus on comfort, dignity, and respect. It made me feel good to ensure that these animals were living their best life — in every stage of life.

I have since found A Gentle Goodbye and am excited to continue my animal career adventure on the opposite side of the animal lifespan. I plan on continuing my education and adding to my ever-growing plethora of experiences. I am lucky enough to be supported by my wonderful husband and our rambunctious dog, Athena. When I’m not focusing on animal-related work, I love to dive into various forms of art, travel and try new things, or just take a nice long walk to ground myself in nature with my family.

Madison, Care Coordinator

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Illinois, where my earliest memories all seemed to be connected to animals in some way. At the age of four, I told everyone I was determined to become a marine biologist when I grew up. Animals of all different demeanors, shapes and sizes fascinated me.

In elementary school, I started taking my love for animals and merging that with my profession. I created a pet sitting and boarding business named “Meow & Bark.” Shortly thereafter, I found my passion for training animals, starting with dogs. My updated life goal was to become a dog behaviorist.

After becoming a certified dog trainer, I worked as a private in-house trainer for many years. I specialized in training service dogs for disabled persons and running a team of therapy dogs to service the local community’s schools, retirement homes and libraries.

My current furry babies at home include 4 failed foster cats, 7 rescue ferrets, a sweet African Sideneck turtle and a sassy Bearded Dragon. In my spare time, I love spending time with my human kiddos, creating artwork and remodeling/interior decorating.