Our Team


Jennifer Peterson, DVM

Jennifer Peterson, a graduate of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, is a knowledgeable and compassionate member of our staff. Her studies took her through the completion of a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree in Science. Dr. Peterson especially enjoys the ophthalmology side of small animal medicine!

Becoming a veterinarian was her childhood dream that was even further sparked by a childhood pet Siamese, Crystal. She now has a full house with her husband Ryan. Together they have two beautiful children, Hunter and Taylor. She also has Casey, a 12 year-old chocolate lab, Flip the tabby cat,  and a horse named Stetson.

Aside from veterinary medicine, her passions include spending time with her family, cooking, horseback riding, watching Georgia football, and being outdoors. Jennifer is very active in her church community teaching bible school and helping lead a “Life Group” on the weekends. She also likes to volunteer at local schools to teach children about veterinary education and animal care. Most recently, her family adopted a sea turtle named Mahi through the Georgia Sea Turtle Center who has since been released back into his habitat!

She feels incredibly blessed to be doing what she loves each and every day and has a deep desire to keep animals healthy and happy so they can continue to enrich the lives of their owners and all those around them.


Kelly Laas, DVM

Kelly Laas (McCarty) originally dreamed of being the next James Herriot – both an author and a veterinarian. She received her bachelors degree in journalism but found that her true passion was with veterinary medicine and returned to school to pursue that calling. Dr. Laas went on to graduate first in her class from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. She feels that veterinary medicine is a wonderful blend of science, animal contact, and community relationships. Dr. Laas recognizes the importance of the bond between people and their pets and feels very blessed to be able to work in this profession.

Dr. Laas recently returned to Athens with her husband and two daughters, Lillian and Olivia, as well as the family cat, Chester. When she is not working or running after toddlers, Dr. Laas enjoys cooking, gardening, reading, and outdoor activities.

Dr. Middendorf

Karen Middendorf, DVM

After a childhood filled with various dogs from Sealyhams to Setters, veterinary medicine was the logical career path for Dr. Middendorf.  She received her veterinary degree from Purdue University and has been practicing veterinary medicine for over twenty years.

Dr. Middendorf enjoys spending time with her husband, four children, their spouses, and one perfect granddaughter when she can catch them. She and her husband live in Athens on a farm that boasts a horse boarding facility and houses a cart pulling Morgan horse named Giddeon, a German Shepherd named Seneca, Hattie, the Sealyham, several cats, koi, and several chickens that are very productive. Dr. Middendorf also spends a good bit of time tending their beautiful garden. She is also an accomplished cook, a talented quilter, a member of a book club, and loves being part of the Athens community!

Dr. Karen Middendorf opened Firehall 4 Animal Hospital with a passion to serve Athens and their pets with care and compassion.


Dot Conklin
Head Veterinary Technician/Practice Manager

Dot joined our team in 2012. She hails from Savannah and stayed in Athens after attending UGA. She graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Poultry Science.  Dot has been in the veterinary industry since 2008 and offers a wealth of knowledge to our team and clients.

Since starting at Firehall 4 Animal Hospital, she has gotten married to her husband, Jason, and had her first baby, a sweet boy named Lucas. Together, they have a Dachshund/Chihuahua mix named Logan, a Corgi named Delilah, and a Cattle Dog named Maverick.  With whatever spare time motherhood gives her, Dot enjoys reading, crocheting, and queso dip! We do sell her crocheted coasters at the front desk.  

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Sam Cannon
Veterinary Technician

Sam has been a pillar in the veterinary community and a guiding force at Firehall 4 Animal Hospital since it opened. He brings with him more than forty years of experience as a veterinary technician. If you have ever had the chance to meet him, he is one of the nicest individuals that anyone could ever have the pleasure of being introduced to. He lives in Athens with his lovely wife, Agnes, and his happy-go-lucky Labrador, Ragan.

He is a very active member at his church, Ebenezer Baptist Church West. Sam likes to use his time to volunteer in the community, including the inmate program in Athens-Clarke County. He likes to fish as well.



Kelli Thompson 

Veterinary Technician

Kelli joined our team in July of 2016, but has worked in the veterinary field for many years. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience.  With two children, and a whole herd of cats, dogs, and even two miniature pot-bellied pigs, she certainly has her hands full!


Shahean Barzegar

Kennel Technician/Veterinary Assistant

Shahean joined the Firehall 4 team in March 2016.  He is a university student and animal lover, and enjoys cooking and reading in his free time.  Shahean works to ensure that your pet has the most comfortable experience possible, and always looks forward to being greeted by familiar furry faces each morning.


Hollie Blasen

As an experienced groomer, Hollie is familiar with all standard breed cuts and grooms cats as well. She can cater to any specific needs that your pet may have. Hollie began her career with animals at a boarding kennel years ago and then decided that she wanted to become a groomer.  After becoming certified at a grooming school in Buckhead, Georgia she worked as a professional groomer for 5 years before joining our team.


Elizabeth Simmons

Veterinary Assistant

Liz has recently moved from Kennesaw to Athens. She has two dogs, Arrow, a German Short-haired Pointer, and Kyro, a Great Dane mix. She has been in the veterinary field for over three years now.  She likes to swim, read, and eat.  She enjoys spending free time at the lake with Arrow and catching up on her TV shows by Hulu binge-watching.



Ashley Withrow


Ashley recently joined the Firehall 4 team in August 2016, however she has worked in the veterinarian field for over three years. She has four cats named Anakin, Padme, Saphira, and Elva who she loves to play and cuddle with. Outside of work, Ashley enjoys spending time with her husband Avery, reading, baking and watching Netflix! 


Candace Smith


Candace joined our team in September of 2016.  She is a transplant from Hall County and has been living in Athens since January 2016.  She has two dogs, Sam, who is a corgi mix and Solo, who is a dachshund mix.  In addition to the pups, she has a cat named Muffy and a blue and red Beta fish named Kit.  She enjoys watching TV, especially Law & Order SVU, hiking, and eating, but is a long-time vegetarian.  She is recently engaged and will be getting married July of 2017.


Olivia Ulrich


Olivia joined our team in October of 2016.  She moved to Athens from South Carolina to be closer to her family.  She got married in 2015 and has a sweet son named Phoenix.  Several animals also call her mom, with the oldest and newest member being named Coyote.  Motherhood and work don’t leave her much free time, but she does enjoy shopping.


amberAmber Willis

Kennel Technician/Veterinary Assistant

Amber is our most recent addition, joining us just this November.  After moving to Athens from Sugar Hill, she spends the majority of her time volunteering at Bear Hollow Zoo, working with the deer, turkey, and bobcat.  She enjoys travelling, most recently returning from South Africa after interning at a veterinary clinic there.  She has been a staunch vegetarian for 12 years now.  She aspires to be a wildlife veterinarian, specializing in wildlife management and conservation.