Dr. Annette Otis - Veteranarian & Founder
I get asked all the time "how can I do this job, it must be so sad" and am told "I could never do what you do, I love animals too much" so I want to talk a little about 'why' I started this service.
I was a dedicated emergency veterinarian for 12 years and unfortunately had to perform a large number of euthanasias as part of my job. I know that saying goodbye is the most difficult part of having a pet and it was heartbreaking to see people do this in the stressful environment of the typical clinical setting. I began to think of ways to improve the euthanasia process for pets and their families. I realized that being able to say goodbye in a familiar and comfortable place with a process that encourages reflection and closure is more peaceful for you, and more importantly, your pet. So I stepped away from my emergency veterinarian career in order to provide these services to the local community because of the great need I saw to keep pets at home for their end of life needs. So as sad as it is to say goodbye to these beautiful souls it does bring me joy to see all the love and companionship they have shared with their families through their lives and help families give the gift of a peaceful passing to their beloved pets.
I grew up in the Finger Lakes and Central New York region and attended undergraduate at Cornell University. I continued my education at Colorado State University earning a Master's degree in Anatomy and Neurobiology and lived there several years before returning to New York to attend veterinary college at Cornell University. After graduating in 2005, I completed an internship in Virginia at Southpaws Veterinary Specialists and Surgery Center. I stayed in Alexandria, VA to practice emergency for another five years before missing the Finger Lakes and my family too much. I moved back to the area in the fall of 2011 and have lived in Skaneateles since. My "farm" currently consists of a Catahoula Leopard dog mix named "Effie," a Border Collie mix named "Keene," cats "Gonzalo" and "Hubris," and 10 pet chickens (the "Divas") named after various female singers. I love to hike, bike, paddleboard and do agility with my dogs in my free time. I am very passionate about improving the human animal bond and preserving our natural environment. The Adirondacks is my "happy place."
I am a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian (CHPV) and a member of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. I am the first provider in the Syracuse to complete their 18 month certification program. The IAAHPC promotes comfort care that addresses the physical, psychological, and social needs of animals with chronic and/or life-limiting diseases. They promote physical, emotional, and spiritual support for caregivers. They also educate professionals and advance research in the field of animal hospice and palliative care.
I am also a graduate of the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy that focuses on the "Education in the Art of a Gentle Death."
Dr. Cecilia Murch - Veterinarian
I joined Stillwaters Veterinary Care in August 2020 to extend our end-of-life services to Ithaca and the surrounding areas. It is an honor and a privilege to help families through the difficult transition of saying goodbye to their beloved pets. While we do share in the sadness of each family's loss, it is also heartwarming to see the beautiful bond that families share with their four-legged companions, and we strive to make this stage of their journey as peaceful as possible.
I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I earned my Bachelor of Science degree at Denison University in central Ohio. I then moved to Massachusetts where I completed a dual degree program at Tufts University, earning my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees in 2013. After graduation, I moved to Rochester, where I completed a one year rotating internship followed by a one year internal medicine internship at Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Service. In 2015, I joined Colonial Veterinary Hospital (now VCA Colonial) in Ithaca, where I worked as a full-time general practice veterinarian for five years. I have since transitioned to a part-time general practice role so that I can also provide end-of-life services through Stillwaters.
Outside of work you may find me on the hiking trails with my fiance, Derek, and our handsome mutt, Finnegan. I enjoy all things outdoors when it is above freezing (and have even learned to appreciate bundled walks in the snow), and I dabble in yoga and have participated in a few of Cayuga Lake's sprint triathlons. I also volunteer with the Street Dog Coalition where I met Kim, who graciously introduced me to Stillwaters. I feel very fortunate to be a member of this compassionate and dedicated team.
Kim Apgar, LVT, VTS (ECC) - Hospice Nursing Manager
I joined the Stillwater's team in November of 2018. I fell in love with the idea of being able to help pets with end of life care in their home. Some people think it's very sad but I know that I am helping a family and their family members to care for their loved one in the kindest way possible. I started my career as an office manager of an equine business, and then moved on to earn an Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology. I worked in a specialty clinic and earned a Veterinary Technician Specialty in Emergency and Critical Care in 2014 and have worked in many specialities including surgery, oncology, internal medicine, and critical care. Bringing all this experience together to help families in their home is my biggest career reward. I am looking forward to continuing my education by becoming certified in hospice and palliative care and continuing to help this part of the field grow.
My furry family includes a pug called Molly Elizabeth who's 10 years old, a pitbull called Angel Anne who's also 10 years old, a 17 year old grumpy cat called Gus (whom I love dearly), a geriatric cat addition, Minnie Mouse, who's 14 and joined us in March of 2020, and an African Cichlid I call Mr. Fish. The newest addition is Sapphire, a 7 year old paint mare.
In my free time, I love to walk my dogs, work with Sapphire, and volunteer in a program called the Street Dog Coalition. I like to paint, though I have zero talent, and I also love to spend time with my nephews, nieces, and grandchildren.
The photo above is in memory of my longest soulmate, Kiddo. He was 33 years old this year and was my partner for 26 years. I lost him on July 7th, 2020. He will always be in my heart.
Casey VanAuken, LVT - Aftercare Manager
I graduated from SUNY Delhi in 2005 and practiced in a hospital setting for 10 years before moving. After working many years in a veterinary hospital, I started to realize that my passion was starting to shift into end of life comfort and care and was lucky enough to meet Dr. Otis. I just recently moved to the Skaneateles area and couldn't be happier, it's a great place to raise my children. I have one dog named Vance and two kitties, Oliver and Charlie.
Rebecca (Becca) Hartz - Client Care Coordinator
I joined the Stillwaters team in June 2020. The Stillwaters team helped two of my dogs, Zack and Kenna, to pass peacefully in my home. Even though it was extremely difficult, it was such a peaceful and positive experience it made a very difficult time a little easier. Our dogs are part of our family and are our "kids." Being able to have their final moments in their own home with us gave us such peace. So when Dr. Otis asked me to join the Stillwaters team, it was a no brainer. I get to play a part everyday in helping other families and their "kids" through this very difficult experience and hopefully make it just a little bit easier.
I have a degree in Business Management with a specialization in Equine Studies from Cazenovia College and an MBA from SUNY Oswego. I started my career working in management positions at equine facilities. From there, I managed a CountryMax Store and then became a CSR at Voss Signs. I enjoy helping people and it was a natural move for me to become the Customer Care Coordinator for Stillwaters Veterinary Care. It blends my love for my dogs with a career that truly helps others.
We currently have 7 border collies: Tuck (6 months), Luna (2 yrs.), Dan (3 yrs.), Oscar (3 yrs.), Barley (5 yrs.), Moon (5 yrs), and Bella (13 yrs.). We compete in sheep herding trials and do as much hiking as we are able to fit in. Basically. my life revolves around my dogs!
Kimberly Simers, BS - Pet Loss Grief Support
I have been working with Stillwaters Veterinary Care providing pet loss grief support since spring 2019. After working in the emergency veterinary field for several years while going to school for human services, I felt a strong passion to connect the two fields. Luckily, working with Dr. Otis, this dream became obtainable. I have a strong desire to help those who have lost their best friend understand the grief process and validate their feelings every step of the way. The loss of a pet can be one of the most traumatic experiences someone can go through. I am happy to be there to support you every step of the way.
I received my certification as a pet loss counselor through the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement to help families in this heartbreaking time. I have my Bachelors of Science from Cazenovia College in Mental Health and currently am a Program Manager for a Residential Mental Health Program through a local nonprofit. I am also a member of the Syracuse Animal Cruelty Task Force and a facilitator for a jail diversion program for those convicted of animal abuse. Throughout my life, I have been drawn to animals and mental health, wanting to assist in any way that I can. Having pets as part of my family my whole life, I deeply understand the pain and suffering we experience when one of our beloved pets leaves our lives. I currently have 2 dogs - Harry (5 years old) and Dottie (12 weeks old), and a kitty named Lila (3 years old).