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 Primrose, 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. Sara Guzina

Like many of us in the veterinary field, my love of animals was fostered at a young age. From the kindergarten quiet time spent drawing pictures of cats, to the dog encyclopedias borrowed from my elementary school’s library, I saw early signs of the decision that I would make in my junior year of high school to pursue veterinary medicine.

I completed my Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Sciences from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I then returned to earn my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. After graduation, I joined a busy general practice in Chicago. The variety of patients and ailments that I saw in this time granted me a lot of insight on who I am as a veterinarian, and I quickly realized that I was particularly drawn to geriatric and end-of-life care. Our pets contribute such happiness and enrichment to our lives, and it feels so important to be there and provide comfort for them during their last chapter. I take pride in knowing that as veterinarians, we have the unique gift of being able to relieve suffering and at the same time provide support to the loving families of these pets.

When I’m not working, you can find me reading, (secretly) watching bad reality TV, trying new restaurants, and spending time with my sweet, sassy Shih Tzu, Miles.

Dr. Sam Landry

I grew up just over the state line in Burlington, WI and unlike most veterinarians, I actually did not grow up with any pets! Although I didn’t grow up with any animals, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian at a very young age. So I did just that! I did my undergraduate studies at UW-Platteville and received my bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. Platteville is most definitely known as an “agriculture town” – it was my first exposure to working with food animals and I instantly fell in love. I moved on to the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign to complete my D.V.M.

After graduation, I returned to Wisconsin and started my career as a mixed animal veterinarian where I was able to work with cows, goats, pigs, sheep, cats, dogs, and even the occasional exotic. Due to the physically demanding work and after-hours schedule, I had made the switch to a full-time companion animal veterinarian. While I’ll miss certain aspects of the day to day in general practice, it is such an honor to console and ease the stress of grieving families after the loss of a furry family member.

During my free time, my significant other and I are involved in bags (A.K.A corn hole) league that goes year-round! When it is hot, you can usually find me outside on our boat or outside doing something adventurous with our dogs!

Dr. Heather Venn

I grew up on a farm in central Illinois surrounded by animals. As a child, one of my favorite past times was finding stray kittens and convincing them they wanted to be my friend. Studying veterinary medicine was just a logical next step. I did my undergraduate work and received my DVM from the University of Illinois.

After graduation, I spent decades working in general medicine practices. I was still fairly new to medicine when a client asked if I would be willing to come to their home and help them say goodbye to their beloved pet. I had never considered this before, but was honored that they had asked me to help and could think of no better way to say goodbye than at home, in familiar surroundings. Over the years, I have gone to multiple homes to help families say goodbye to their pets. Joining A Gentle Goodbye seems like a perfect next chapter for me.

When at home, I am kept busy by my son and my rescue pets – a dog and 6 cats.

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.

Chabely, Aftercare Technician

Born and raised from Chicago, I never really imagined living anywhere else until I temporarily moved to the East Coast a couple of years ago. During that time, I found myself gravitating towards end-of-life care and decided to pursue my studies in that field to see where it can take me. With a lot of growth, I have found myself working in veterinary hospice in Virginia as a Fields Service Technician. The role I played was extremely rewarding seeing how committed and loyal the owners were to their animal companions, and the amount of compassion in making a very difficult, yet selfless, decision. The things I learned during my time in Virginia, I have definitely carried with me in my personal and work life.

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 7-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.

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.

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 movies, learning new pieces on the piano, cooking, and printmaking art for my friends and family.

Michaela, Care Coordinator

I am originally from Sioux City, Iowa, and from a young age, I knew that when I grew up I wanted to help people in any way I could. While growing up we had many furry friends and I took great pleasure in showering each one with lots of love, treats, and pets! There is such a pure form of love and joy that is developed with pets making each bond so special and rewarding. I am fortunate enough to share my life with a beautiful cat named Kitty, who has been by my side for over a decade! She is an absolute blessing, brightening each day with her presence.

Before leaving Sioux City, I had the experience of working as a CNA on the oncology/hospice floor at my local hospital. Providing compassionate care during such vulnerable and challenging times in people’s lives demands the utmost respect, empathy, and kindness. My experiences there have deepened my understanding of how difficult it can be to lose a loved one and how important it is to provide compassionate care. Though I never anticipated working in animal end-of-life care, my time as a palliative CNA guided me toward joining the compassionate team at A Gentle Goodbye. I aspire to provide the utmost love, respect, and compassion here as a care coordinator. Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is one of the hardest things a pet owner can endure, and I strive to be a comforting presence throughout this difficult process, offering unwavering support in every possible way.

After leaving Sioux City I moved to Iowa City to pursue psychology and recently graduated with my bachelor’s from the University of Iowa! I find the human mind incredibly fascinating, learning about behavior, development, and various mental processes. In the future, I hope to become a professor specializing in social and developmental psychology while actively engaging in research in the field.

While not at work you may see me relaxing in nature, playing tennis or frisbee, exploring the good eats in Chicago, reveling in the music scene, and spending time with friends. I also love to cook, watch movies and various shows, play video games, and crochet! There is nothing better than letting my heart lead the day and open it up to new opportunities and discoveries.

Elizabeth, Care Coordinator

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and have lived there the majority of my life. I studied at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale starting fall 2018. In college I studied animal science with a focus on equine science before switching to recreational therapy. I decided to pursue therapeutic horseback riding as a career at the time. Unfortunately, during college, the pandemic began and I never finished my studies. Instead, I moved to Kentucky and worked full time at a stable for almost two years. I was surrounded by animals and was able to focus on therapeutic horseback riding through a program called Healing Reins of Kentucky. It was founded by the owner of the stable I worked at and she mentored me through the process. I eventually moved back to the northern suburbs in 2022 after being away for about four years. I plan to continue my education somewhere in the area now that the pandemic is coming to an end.

Despite some college, and a career I was pursuing, I still don’t know what I’d like to do. Joining the team at A Gentle Goodbye was a surprise but a journey I’m excited to take. Similar to therapeutic horseback riding, helping people is the goal and I believe that my compassion and love for animals will help me excel here. I hope to continue here for the foreseeable future.

During my time in Carbondale, I also adopted both of my pets. I have a yellow husky mix named Yadi who I adopted in June of 2019 and a gray tabby named Izumi who I adopted in November of 2020. Yadi is my first dog I’ve had on my own, and he is a playful senior who loves going on adventures. He loves to howl and will speak his mind when excited. His favorite things include butt scratches, stuffed kongs and a good game of tug. Izumi is a foster fail I was not planning on keeping, but fell in love with during the month I had her. She has since proven to be a lovable cat who loves attention, snuggles and food. Her favorite things include ear scratches, cuddling under the blankets and Greenies Dental Treats. Like her brother Yadi, she is also vocal and will tell you when she wants something. Between the two of them, there’s rarely a quiet moment in the house!

If I am not working or spending time with my pets you may find me figure skating, singing or spending time with friends and family. I also love a lazy night in watching Netflix, getting kitty snuggles.

Sam, Care Coordinator

I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. Although I didn’t have any siblings growing up, I was always surrounded by animals. I’ve had several cats, fish, hamsters, a bearded dragon, and a dog throughout my life.

Throughout college, I worked part-time as a bather for PetSmart. I particularly loved the transformative aspect of the job and working hands on with pets. Although it was challenging at times, I learned a lot of grooming skills and gained a ton of animal handling experience. I eventually graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor’s degree in Digital Media. At the time, I was interested in pursuing a career in television production, but had a difficult time finding any paid internships and leaving the animal world. I eventually landed a job as an animal care attendant at The Anti-Cruelty Society. I cleaned kennels for about a year and then worked my way up to becoming a field agent. I trained with the Department of Agriculture and eventually received my certification as a humane investigator. I gained a ton of experience working with the community and became an expert at driving around the city of Chicago.

After purchasing my home in Prospect Heights, I conveniently landed a job at Heartland Animal Shelter only five minutes away. As their Cat Program Lead, I was responsible for front and back of house operations. I coordinated animal intakes, volunteer training sessions, fundraising events, and foster placement. However, my favorite part of the job was adopting our cats and finding their forever families.

When I’m not working, I spend a lot of time with my 3 cats and my wife. Since both of us graduated with a media degree, we decided to put our creative efforts into starting our very first TikTok channel for our kitties. We eventually want to add more fur-babies to our family and are committed to building a catio for them someday.