Ashleigh Rhoades, DVM

I was raised in Phoenix, Arizona with my dogs, cats, guinea pigs, snakes and even a rat here and there.  As long as I can remember, I have loved animals and needed them to be a part of my life. Even though Phoenix was a large city, we were very close to the desert environment which meant different types of wildlife animals.  Helping wildlife animals in need also became a big part of my childhood and helped drive me toward a career with animals.

However, that career didn’t start in veterinary medicine. I spent a lot of time working with zoo animals and wildlife before deciding that being a veterinarian was my calling.  I attended the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in hopes of one day becoming a wildlife veterinarian.  However, during my internship working with cats and dogs, I was reminded of how important our household pets can be. Every animal in the world is special, but our pets are a huge part of our FAMILY.

The hardest part starting out in the veterinary profession was the thought of putting an animal to sleep.  I quickly learned that this task was not a burden, but a gift.  As an emergency veterinarian for many years, I have had the privilege of helping lots of animals and this includes helping end an animal’s suffering in the last moments of their life.  The struggle to make the tough decision in the final moments will always be the hardest part of the human animal bond.  It is not something that gets easier with time and it is my honor to be able to help families say goodbye when this time comes.

Charlotte Hotchkiss, DVM

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston as the youngest of six children in a big old house with a big old barn.  We always had animals around – dogs, cats, horses, and in high school I bred rabbits.  When things got too loud in the house, I could escape and be with the animals.  I guess that’s how I ended up in vet school.

I went to vet school at Cornell, but wasn’t really sure that I wanted to go into private practice, so I looked into doing research.  After the cloudiness of Ithaca, NY, I needed some sunshine, and did graduate work at the University of Florida, earning a PhD in gastrointestinal physiology along with board certification in laboratory animal medicine.  I then spent several years working as a clinical veterinarian – except my patients were mostly mice, rats, rabbits, and monkeys.

Working in research is rewarding in the long run, as we find treatments for human and animal diseases, but the process is slow, and it takes a long time to see the positive effects.  I originally went to vet school to learn to help animals and people, and I missed that direct interaction when I was working in the lab.  That’s when I started looking for opportunities to work with pets and their humans.

Over the years, I’ve had to take pets in to the clinic to be euthanized, and I know how stressful it can be.  When my mother was in her final illness, we had a hospice nurse who came to our house, and it was so comforting for my mother to be at home in her own bed those final days.  When I found out there was veterinary hospice, I knew that was something I wanted to be a part of.   I want to help people say goodbye to their beloved pets in familiar and comfortable surroundings, without distractions.  And most importantly, I want the pet’s passing to be peaceful and without stress.  We owe it to them for all the devotion they give to us.