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. Karen Gadberry
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs in a pet-loving family. Throughout my life, I have spent countless hours loving and caring for many creatures. I always knew I wanted to give back to animals and decided to turn my love of animals and science into a veterinary career. I graduated from veterinary school at the University of Illinois in 2002 and worked as a general practice veterinarian in the Chicago suburbs for over 15 years before moving into hospice medicine. I also have a Masters in Public Health, with a focus on the spread of animal disease.
During my time in general practice, I found that one of my most important responsibilities is helping owners at the end of their pet’s life. When it was time to euthanize my Sheltie, Gwen, who had been with me since early on in veterinary school, I helped her pass peacefully in our home. I realized how comforting it was for both her and I to allow her to drift away sleeping in her favorite spot. I hope to be able to give that same comfort to other pets and their families by helping provide comfortable end of life care and a peaceful passing in their home.
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.
Victoria, Office Manager
I was born in Rockford, IL, and when I was a little girl, my family moved to a small suburb right outside Chicago. In college, I studied Criminology and Sociology. I always had great interest in those fields, but more-so a deep passion for wanting to help animals. Being a part of helping them and their families at the end of their journey is something really special and dear to me.
My family and I have rescued several furry family members over the years. We have 3 Chihuahua mixes: Daisy, Pepper-Potts Alexis, and Guadalupe. They love car rides to PetSmart, Starbucks for Puppaccinos, visiting friends in the neighborhood, and many other adventures!
In my spare time, I love hanging out with my family, my friends, and our pups. I enjoy reality TV and Lifetime movies (my guilty pleasure!). I can’t forget about National Geographic and Animal Planet; I live for vet shows!
Aaron Blohm, AquaCremation 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.
Elisa, Care Coordinator
I was born and raised in Des Plaines and moved to Mount Prospect about 2 years ago. I’ve had many different jobs with insurance, social security disability, and property management, but I realized that working with animals is my true passion.
I currently have 2 hedgehogs, an axolotl, a gecko, and a Boston Terrier puppy, Coby. I am also fostering for the Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue.
My goal is to finish any schooling that I need to become a veterinary tech to assist with exotic animals.
I enjoy binge-watching my favorite shows on Netflix and Hulu and spending time with my family, friends, and pets.
Leona, Care Coordinator
I spent my childhood learning how to care for an array of pets in Tennessee. Two years ago, I moved to the Chicago suburbs to pursue work and adventure. I knew I wanted to work with animals, and with a bit of searching, I found A Gentle Goodbye.
I currently have a furbaby, Jawz. He is a Lab mix, and he’ll soon be 10 years old this coming December. He is my pride and joy. In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, drawing and writing.
Alicia, Care Coordinator
I was born and raised in the Chicagoland area and recently moved into Dupage County. I always had a furry friend with me every step of the way. It wasn’t until I realized my love for rabbits that I realized this is what I needed to do with my life.
I started rescuing rabbits on my own as a little hobby of mine. Helping care for them, and giving them the attention and love that they deserved. In doing so, I discovered that helping animals was what I wanted to pursue.
I recently enrolled into classes for veterinary medicine in which I will receive my certificate and then work on the rest of my schooling. I want to become a veterinary tech and then afterward my end goal is to work with exotic pets! I am very excited and passionate to start this chapter of my life.
In my free time, I love to take my baby girl, Leah, who is a Beagle and an Australian Shepherd mix, to her favorite dog park to play with her friends. I love to binge-watch my favorite show over and over, Grey’s Anatomy, and shop online!