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.
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.
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.
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.
Jackie, Care Coordinator
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Illinois and have lived there all my life. Like many children, I had an interest in animals that developed early on. My earliest observations of animals were mainly based on their appearance, with my favorite animals being the “cutest.” Since then, however, I have broadened my perception of animals and have gained a deep love and respect for all animals and the environment that they inhabit. My love for animals was the driving force behind my choice of major in college and in 2021, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies with a biological concentration.
I tend to spend my free time in a lot of different ways. I volunteer weekly at a farm animal rescue and enjoy spending time caring for animals in need. My favorite farm animals are goats, which I have come to realize are very much like dogs in personality! I also do quite a bit of recreational running and am frequently training for marathons in my spare time. When I’m not running or volunteering, I enjoy playing video games, spending time with family, and watching Netflix. I also have two dogs whom I love dearly. Their names are Chop and Zelda and I love playing with them and giving them treats.
Ultimately, when it comes to animals and their owners, it is my goal to be as radically compassionate as I can be. Here at A Gentle Goodbye, I hope to be able to extend kindness to families who are going through the painful end of life process for their beloved pet.
Jessie, Care Coordinator
When I was younger, I had always wanted to be a teacher so when it was time for college, I began studying Education. During that time, I was also working full-time at an animal boarding facility. I quickly realized that Education was not my forte and switched into the Veterinary Assistant program.
After I got my certificate, I began working as a canine rehabilitation technician at a specialty center. It was compassionate, dedicated, and rewarding work. There is where I met Mae, a then 6-month-old pit bull mix who just had a hip surgery. I was assigned to her case and told by the rescue, who brought her in, that they were looking for a foster for her. I offered and rehabbed her until she was ready for adoption. Of course, I ended up being a foster-failure! Mae has taught me the significance of the human-animal bond, and has been my best friend for the past 5 years now.
After being a rehabilitation technician for quite some time, I decided to move into primary care. I learned so much and continue to grow in the veterinary industry. Even though the knowledge was incredible, I was searching for something. Once I found A Gentle Goodbye, I knew what I was searching for: to be able to be a part of something that provides comfort and support during such a difficult time. With my previous experience, I learned how important it is to make the end-of-life process as gentle and smooth as possible. I hope to make the memory for the pet parents a more pleasant one with my role here.
More about me, I enjoy spending most of my time with Mae. Our favorite game is catch, although she’d rather chew the ball than bring it back. At home, I like watching many different types of anime, and playing video games. When I am out, I love spending time with friends, going to arcades, and concerts.
Liv, Care Coordinator
I was born and spent much of my childhood in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with my mom, my grandmother, and my uncles. In my teenage years we moved around a lot and when I turned 18 I decided to attend North Central College. I studied abroad in France during that time, and had the privilege of visiting 10 different countries. Then, in 2021 I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Navigating being a new grad in the height of the pandemic added some twists and turns to my path, but I’m happy to say that I made it back and I’m now settled in Evanston with my partner and my sweet pets.
For most of my life my family loved to joke about how we lived in a zoo; cats, dogs, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs and fish not only lived with us, but ruled our house. Moving out of my family’s home and into my own space was so exciting but I was quick to realize that for me, a house without pets is not a home. We now have a tortoiseshell cat named Juniper (Junie B. for short, Juniper Beatrice when she’s bad) and a tan mini lop named Pancake. They are best friends and love to play and nap together.
In my free time I love to bake cakes and host dinners with my partner and our best friends, along with making art whenever I have the time. Pottery painting studios are my happy place and I love painting mugs with anyone that I can convince to go with me. I’m a Scorpio so of course I love horror movies and in my heart, it is Halloween year round.
In early 2022, I unexpectedly lost my dwarf hotot rabbit named Panini. I always said she was my soulmate and she was my teeny tiny best friend. As hard of a time as it was, the love and support we received from her veterinary team helped us immensely. I’m so happy to now have the opportunity to be a part in providing animal care, especially during such a hard time for both a pet and their family. Animals have just as much of a right as humans do to finish their life with love, support and dignity; and I’m proud to be on a team that helps provide just that.
Kailani, Care Coordinator
Born and raised in Chicago, I’ve been working in the pet care industry since I was 15 when I ventured out to the north suburbs and landed my very first job, at a doggie daycare/boarding facility. Working there, my passion for pet care only grew, and it totally solidified my belief that working with animals is my purpose. I could never see myself doing anything else. I soon became kennel manager, running and operating every aspect of the facility, where the employees, customers, and especially the dogs I had the privilege of caring for, completely changed me for the better. I will always be grateful for my experience there, that has made me who I am today.
As my chapter at the kennel came to an end, I wasn’t exactly looking for a job related to end of life care. Ironically, I always used to say I could never work in the veterinary field because I didn’t think I could deal with euthanasia. Now, after years of working with dogs, my philosophy has changed entirely. I now see euthanasia as the final loving act, and the most selfless choice an owner can make for their loved one. My goal is to provide those services with care, compassion, and the utmost respect for your companions. Pets give us their entire lives unconditionally; their last moments should be filled with nothing but love.
When I’m not at work, you can most definitely find me caring for two crazy rescue dogs of my own, a Border Collie mix named Darwin, whose intelligence lives up to his name, and a Rottweiler named Gwen, who has enough spunk for the both of them. I also enjoy watching and analyzing movies, learning new pieces on the piano, cooking, and printmaking art for my friends and family.