HOW SHE GOT HERE Originally from a rural area in the Hudson Valley of New York State, Dr. Piwonka earned her DVM from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her professional experience began in the fourth grade, when she worked for a veterinarian walking dogs and observing surgeries. She came to Massachusetts because of the “abundance of outdoor activities combined with a fun and progressive community.” Dr. Piwonka joined the team at Windy Hollow Veterinary Clinic in 2010 and purchased the practice in 2014.
WHAT MAKES HER INTERESTING “Even though I practice veterinary medicine on mammals now, I love birds. I own chickens and parrots. I’ve worked with injured birds of prey, and I started a captive breeding program for threatened species of hawks at Cornell.”
WHY SHE LOVES HER JOB Dr. Piwonka enjoys connecting with animals and their owners, and combining scientific-based Western medicine with traditional Chinese veterinary medicine.
WHAT SHE DOES IN HER SPARE TIME Dr. Piwonka loves cycling, running, knitting, and playing with her children. She shares her life with her husband, two children, two cats (McLovin and Edith), a caique (Francis), a leopard gecko (Lightning), and 10 chickens.
OF NOTE Dr. Piwonka has run two marathons, and the longest day-long bike ride she ever took was 180 miles.
Dr. Natalie Thompson
HOW SHE GOT HERE Dr. Thompson grew up in the New York City suburbs. “My mom was a veterinarian, so it was the only thing I ever wanted to do.” After earning her DVM from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Dr. Thompson fell in love with Massachusetts and decided to stay, joining the Windy Hollow team in 2017.
WHAT MAKES HER INTERESTING “In high school and college, I was a competitive horseback rider. I wanted to pursue equine sports medicine until my second year of vet school when I discovered how rewarding I found internal medicine and behavior in cats and dogs (having grown up with animals with some serious medical and behavioral issues).”
WHY SHE LOVES HER JOB Dr. Thompson’s favorite parts of veterinary medicine include alternative medicine, nutrition, behavior, and internal medicine. She loves the problem-solving aspect of veterinary medicine as well as the emotional aspect of the bond between people and their animals. She strives to help optimize the relationship between people and their pets by taking care of both their physical and mental health.
WHAT SHE DOES IN HER SPARE TIME Dr. Thompson enjoys dog training, hiking, reading, cooking, gardening, horseback riding, and swing dancing. She shares her home with two dogs—Coda (a certified therapy dog and competitive agility dog) and Sukie (an escape artist), as well as a sassy cat named Heidi.
OF NOTE Dr. Thompson is slowly trying to learn how to grow, raise, and find her own food. She loves barbecued meats.
HOW SHE GOT HERE Aliesha has spent most of her life in Western Massachusetts, and she joined Windy Hollow Veterinary Clinic as a veterinary assistant in 2015 after earning two associate’s degrees—one in veterinary technology and one in criminal justice. She became the practice manager in 2016.
WHAT MAKES HER INTERESTING “I love crafting and making things to give as gifts, including T-shirts, cards, decals, and blankets.”
WHY SHE LOVES HER JOB Aliesha is passionate about animal behavior, and she seeks to prevent behavior-related relinquishments of pets by educating clients on the importance of training. She also enjoys wound care, supporting family and pets during end-of-life care, and therapeutic laser.
WHAT SHE DOES IN HER SPARE TIME Aliesha enjoys agility and obedience training with her dogs, crafting, reading, and spending time with her family, which includes her husband, two children, and three rescue dogs—Onyx (the self-entertainer), Nova (the power chewer), and Abbey (the daddy’s girl).
OF NOTE Aliesha’s dream would be to have the library from Beauty and the Beast.
HOW SHE GOT HERE Originally from Delaware, Jessi knew she wanted to work with animals at the age of 5, after a veterinarian helped her family’s sick dog. She earned a bachelor’s degree in pre-veterinary and animal science from the University of Delaware. As a certified and licenced veterinary technician with more than 20 years of experience, Jessi joined the Windy Hollow team in 2018.
WHAT MAKES HER INTERESTING “I’m interested in animal behavior and internal medicine, and I started doing Animal Reiki to help animals adapt to stressful or new situations.”
WHY SHE LOVES HER JOB An integral part of the surgical team, Jessi ensures patients are well cared for before, during, and after surgery. She is also passionate about educating pet owners on how to take the best care of their pets.
WHAT SHE DOES IN HER SPARE TIME Jessi loves reading, watching the Red Sox play at Fenway, and visiting thrift and craft stores. Her human family includes her husband and her daughter, and her animal companions include two dogs, Rhage (who’s obsessed with his Jolly Ball) and Juno (the ruler of the home), and a cat named Yoda (who is blind but still uses “the force” to torment the dogs).
OF NOTE Jessi loves to sing karaoke, especially in the car on long road trips.
HOW SHE GOT HERE After growing up in Western Massachusetts, Rachel earned her bachelor’s degree in animal behavior from UMass Amherst. After working in animal training, Rachel joined the Windy Hollow team in 2018 as a veterinary assistant and receptionist to “gain experience in another field crucial to keeping a happy, healthy pet.”
WHAT MAKES HER INTERESTING “I spent a couple years training service dogs, and I currently do part-time family dog training.”
WHY SHE LOVES HER JOB Rachel was drawn to work with animals because she is inspired by the unique bond people share with their pets. She enjoys helping to strengthen that bond, and working at Windy Hollow allows her to promote the physical and mental well-being of companion animals.
WHAT SHE DOES IN HER SPARE TIME Rachel loves hiking and walking with her dog, reading, and volunteering at an animal shelter. She shares her life with her dog, Jinx, who is always eating things she shouldn’t.
OF NOTE Rachel is terrified of mascots of any kind, but especially those with disproportionately large heads.
HOW SHE GOT HERE Born in Colorado and raised in Nebraska, Brady visited the East Coast as a teenager and fell in love with “how green everything was.” She eagerly applied to Smith College, and has been in Massachusetts ever since. She started working as a veterinary assistant in high school after becoming involved with the local 4-H dog training club, and she joined Windy Hollow Veterinary Clinic in 2018.
WHAT MAKES HER INTERESTING “I have a special interest in pocket pets and other exotics.”
WHY SHE LOVES HER JOB Brady’s favorite aspect of her job is getting to know and love each individual animal with all their quirks and different personalities.
WHAT SHE DOES IN HER SPARE TIME Brady lives with her twin sister and her “adorable nephews,” who she says steal her heart and much of her spare time. With any remaining spare time, she hikes, knits, cooks, reads, gardens, studies herbalism, draws, and does puzzles. She shares her home with two dogs (Luna and Cranberry), two cats (Crackers and Nigel), and two rats (Fiver and Too Ticky).
OF NOTE Brady was homeschooled until college and loved it.
HOW SHE GOT HERE After raising five children while living just south of Boston, Jan and her husband moved to Western Massachusetts, purchased their first pony, and bought a farm. She holds an associate’s degree in veterinary technology, and she joined the Windy Hollow team in 2007.
WHAT MAKES HER INTERESTING “While working in a veterinary office, I attended Holyoke Community College to earn my associate’s degree in veterinary technology, and I graduated first in my class.”
WHY SHE LOVES HER JOB Jan has always loved animals and is interested in people.
WHAT SHE DOES IN HER SPARE TIME Jan enjoys writing, reading, quilting, and knitting. She shares her farm with her husband, four Chincoteague ponies (Layla, Hoochie Coochie Man, Belle Bottom Blues, and Sunshine of Your Love), a PMU appaloosa (Strange Brew), a Briard (Indy), two barn cats (Midnight and Dragonfly), and seven chickens.
OF NOTE Jan’s ponies and her PMU appaloosa are all named after Eric Clapton songs.
HOW SHE GOT HERE Heather has always loved animals, and she has a passion for working with horses. During her senior year of high school, she shadowed a veterinarian and loved it. She’s now currently enrolled at UMass Amherst and is working toward her bachelor’s degree in animal science on the pre-veterinary track. She joined the Windy Hollow team in 2019, and will be applying to veterinary schools in 2020.
WHAT MAKES HER INTERESTING “I love plants, and I have a growing collection of more than 25 houseplants that’s slowly taking over my room.”
WHY SHE LOVES HER JOB Heather became a vet tech because she has a passion for science, educating people, and, most importantly, helping animals.
WHAT SHE DOES IN HER SPARE TIME Heather enjoys drawing, painting, horseback riding, and hiking with her rescue dog, Blue. Blue’s favorite pastimes include sprinting through fields, howling at police sirens, and standing—not swimming—in the lake. Blue lives with Heather’s family in Groton, Massachusetts.
OF NOTE Heather originally didn’t want to pursue veterinary medicine—she was accepted into all the colleges she applied to as a history major.