About Our Staff
The staff at Heart's Companion are animal lovers first and foremost! We all have pets and all have experienced the loss of a treasured animal. Our staff are trained to walk you through the end-of-life journey of your precious companion and help you at every step of the way.
KATIE KOEWLER • Marketing Director, CPLP, Certified in Pet Loss & Grief Companioning
Katie Koewler received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from St. Mary's College, CA. Katie worked in advertising for over 16 years before deciding to join the family business. She is not only our Marketing Director, but leads our monthly pet loss support group. When Katie is not companioning pet parents through their grief journey, she enjoys traveling, antique shopping, and spending time with family and friends, as well as her precious fur baby, Barkley.
ANDY BLACK • Director of Operations
Andy Black grew up in Santa Cruz, California. He loves sports and the outdoors. Andy has an Associate of Arts degree from Cabrillo College, a Bachelor of Science degree with distinction in Criminal Justice Administration from San Diego State University, and a master's degree in Public Administration from San Jose State University.
Andy has quite a diverse employment background, both within the public and private sectors. He worked as a wildland firefighter for the California Department of Forestry (CDF), both on engines as well as helicopters (Helitack). At that time he was also a medic (EMT). He then worked as a juvenile hall counselor, probation officer (adult & juvenile), as well as a parole officer for the Marin County Probation Department. Within the private sector Andy launched, operated and sold a chain of sports bar & grills as well as an ice cream company!
Being extremely gregarious and loving helping those facing difficult times, Andy has volunteered for Circle of Life Hospice and was a member of their board of directors. Andy spends his time away from work almost 100% with his family. His wife Laura of 20 years is his earth savior and as he says, "99% my better half". His 15 year old daughter Marina is his little angel & his 16 year old boy Tyler is his little 'Huck Finn' hunting buddy. Andy's family also includes his dog, Benelli (2) and two cats: Blue (6) & Honey (15). Benelli is quit spunky, while Blue helps to keep coyotes at bay and Honey rules the nest.
JULIE SPANIOL • General Manager
Julie Spaniol moved to Nevada when she was young. She has grown up around the area, and knows it well. She has two young kids, Mason and McKenzie, who both love to go on walks and hikes as a family with their yellow lab named Roxie (3). Roxie is very hyper but she loves to cuddle. She will also bring back souvenirs (rocks) from the hikes in her mouth and hide them by the couch! When she isn’t being an advocate for grieving pet parents, Julie loves to dance, read romance novels, and is currently learning to crochet. “I have always wanted to help people, and being in the pet loss business is my way of helping people cope emotionally with the loss of their four-legged friends.”
MATTHEW ZEIGLER • Customer Care Specialist
Matthew Zeigler was born and raised in Reno. He loves to do pretty much anything outside - whether it's spending time playing sports with his young son, Houston, or just relaxing with his wife, Victoria. Matthew loves helping people in their special time of need. When asked what he loves most about working at Heart's Companion Pet Memorial Center, Matthew answered: "I like helping people in this rough time of their life and knowing I made a difference in someone else's life." The positive attitude Matthew exudes makes him not only a wonderful addition to our team, but a source of reliable communication between our veterinary partners and our center.
GEOFFREY SHIELDS • Community Engagement
Geoffrey Shields likes to spend his free time skiing, hiking, mountain biking and being outdoors. He is inspired in life by waking up with a purpose and drive. Geoff is passionate about animals. In 7th grade Geoff wrote a letter and sent a hand drawn picture to the city of Fallon (where he lived at the time), asking if they would put in a dog park so that pets had a place to run and play in the city of Fallon. After Geoff submitted his plans, the dog park was built & opened later that same year to the delight of the pet parents of Fallon! He has continued this passion for pets into his adult life and is a huge asset to Heart's Companion.
MANUEL MARTINEZ • Cremation Operator
Manuel Martinez is another senior employee at Heart's Companion who is actively involved in the day-to-day operations at the center. He was born in Mexico and lived in New York for a short time before moving to Reno. Manuel has a loving wife, Alma, and two children, Ariel (6) and Mia (4 months). In his spare time, Manuel enjoys watching action movies, listening to music, eating sushi, and playing soccer with his son. When asked what Manuel likes best about working at the center, he said, “I like being able to help people out when they are going through a hard time.”
KRISTA GEORGE • Customer Care Specialist
Krista George grew up in Lovelock before moving to Reno. She has been helping people with their pets for many years, and welcomes the chance to bring this experience to Heart's Companion. In her spare time, she is an avid fisher-woman, collects local art, and spends time with her precious chihuahua, Pearl. When asked why Krista wanted to join the Heart's Companion Team, she replied: "I hope to be able to make this difficult time a little more calm and comfortable for the pet parents and their loved ones."
DR. CATHY GREEN, DVM • On Site Veterinarian
Cathy’s love for animals began in her youth and by the time she graduated from high school she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to working with animals professionally.
Cathy is a 2nd generation, lifetime Reno local. She graduated from Reno High School and earned her pre-veterinary degree from the University of Nevada at Reno. After receiving her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Colorado State University in 1986, Cathy returned home to Nevada. She began her career as the on-staff veterinarian for the Nevada Humane Society.
Dr. Green is a pioneer in the local home euthanasia industry & brings her 20+ years of expertise to Heart's Companion. She works diligently and compassionately to help pet parents find a peaceful and humane solution to alleviate the suffering of their animal companions.
Cathy is a member of the Truckee Meadows Dog Training Club (TMDTC). She is also a member of the Sierra Rottweiler Owners (SRO, a non-profit club), which is befitting since she has three Rottweilers named Addie, Stark, & Cap.
DR. SUSAN BROCKUS • Veterinarian
Dr. Susan Brockus fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian when she finished her degree from Oklahoma State University, College of Veterinary Medicine in 1985. Susan has practiced small animal medicine and emergency medicine/critical care for companion animals. During her 30+ years in practice, Susan has realized how important it is for clients to have hospice and palliative consultation and compassionate euthanasia for their pet at their home. Each home euthanasia she performs is different and she strives to tailor each home visit to the family and pet’s needs.
Susan and her husband moved to Reno in 2006 and love being back “out West." When she is not working, she enjoys running and swimming and spending time with her husband and their kitties.
DR. DEBORAH ULLRICH • Veterinarian
Dr. Ullrich graduated from the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1997 and has been working in small animal practice her entire career. Even though five of those years were spent at a feline only practice, so she has a special place in her heart for all pets.
Her career has evolved over the years, and she now focuses on hospice and end of life care for dogs and cats. She really values the opportunity to help pets pass with peace and dignity in the comfort of their own home, or one of their favorite places.
Dr. Ullrich moved to Nevada from northern California late in 2012. She and her family live in the beautiful Carson Valley and are very happy they made the move (needless to say, we are as well!). Furry family members include Nick (dog), PJ and Tom Cat (horses), and Blondie, Peach, Rosie, Connie, Trudy, & Madge (chickens). Plans for this year include adding a few steers and possibly a couple of goats!
In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and exploring the Lake Tahoe area and all Nevada has to offer. Additionally, Dr. Ullrich enjoys gardening and cooking. She believes you can never have too many cookbooks!
DR. MICHAEL LAFFINS • Veterinarian
Dr. Laffins was born and raised in Chico, CA. He graduated from Chico High School in 1986 and received a BA in Criminal Justice at UNR in 1990. Immediately after college, Dr. Laffins became an NHP trooper where he worked for several years before returning to UNR to attend the pre-vet program. Dr. Laffins graduated from Colorado State University Veterinary program in 1999. He has practiced in small animal medicine for 15 years. He worked for Charles River Labs for 15 years and is currently the Director of Colony Animal Health and Surgery.
Dr. Laffins is married with two teenagers and a little poodle mix puppy. In his spare time he enjoys jogging, fishing, boating, reading, and motorcycle riding.