EMERGENCY (Existing Clients Only) # 613 284 6108 info@avet.ca

Our Staff - Your Team

Veterinarians – (Athens, Merrickville, Smiths Falls Locations)

Dr. Gus Stringel

Dr. Gus Stringel

Dr. Gus Stringel graduated from OVC in 1998 and also has an undergraduate degree in Biology from U. of Guelph. After vet school, Gus took an internship in large animals at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown for one year. He and his wife Andrea, also a DVM 2000 worked in equine practice for two years in the Guelph area before moving to Merrickville in 2001. They have been breeding horses as a hobby since moving to the area and enjoy raising and selling young riding horses through their farm business Merrickville Equine. Gus is a passionate skier and loves windsurfing and working on the farm with his three kids.

Dr. Leslie Hungate

Dr. Leslie Hungate

Dr. Leslie Hungate has spent over thirty years practicing both large and small animal veterinary medicine. She is the heart of the Athens clinic where she has spent the majority of her career helping pet owners with their furry family members. When not researching cases and attending to her charges, Leslie can be found enjoying her new grandson and frequenting the theatre. She is also an avid reader and enjoys arts and crafts.

Dr. Robert Rinfret

Dr. Robert Rinfret

Dr. Robert Rinfret, DVM.   Dr. Rinfret grew up in Toronto and studied veterinary medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, graduating in 1998.   Robert spent his first five years of practice in southern Ontario and has been happy to call the Ottawa Valley his home since 2004.   As a partner in the Smiths Falls, Merrickville and Athens Veterinary clinics, Robert takes a particular interest in mentoring recently graduated veterinarians as well as students. In order to further his interest in Dairy animals, Robert completed the Dairy Health Certificate Program at the University of Guelph in 2005. Now a father of three, Robert enjoys curling and travelling.

Dr. Hillary

Dr. Terri MacKenzie

A graduate of the Atlantic Veterinary College in 2002, Terri spent 14 years in Upstate NY in dairy/large animal practice before returning home to Canada and settling in with the Smiths Falls Vet Services family.  This is her third career after spending time at Queen’s and Guelph in research, then 10 years in pharmaceutical sales & marketing before going to vet school.  In addition to the usual herd health duties, Terri enjoyed working with a large group of sheep dairies as well as equine clients in NY.  She co-owned a 600 ewe sheep dairy sending milk off to be made into fabulous yogurt and soft cheeses.  Terri is happiest driving around the country with her trusty border collie Shirley doing farm calls on all variety of farm species.

Dr. Hester Grodde

Dr. Hester Grodde

Dr. Hester Grodde has spent the last 17 years at Merrickville Vet Services, initially as a mixed animal practitioner. After the arrival of four energetic sons she turned her focus to looking after the many wonderful dogs and cats the area has to offer. She has a special interest in nutrition and how it effects overall animal health; from a newborn animal to supporting them through their senior years. She also has a personal interest in canine breeding which can be seen as she walks her two gorgeous dogs around her farm where she raises beef cattle. Hester also enjoys growing and eating her own food on the farm and watching BBC programming.

Merrickville Assistant

Dr. Chantal Skjonsberg

Dr. Chantal Skjonsberg hails from the Maritime region, having lived in New Brunswick and completing her veterinary degree at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island. Dr. Chantal practices small animal medicine exclusively with an interest in ophthalmology and preventative medicine. She loves all creatures great and small (even reptiles!), but has a special place in her heart for cats. When she isn’t working you can find her tending to her garden, out on the water kayaking, or sipping a hot mug of tea and reading a book.

Veterinarian Support Staff

Heather Foster


Heather is a Smiths Falls native and a favourite with clients after an amazing 37 years here at the clinic. She enjoys working with all of our small animal clients, especially the furry senior patients who need that little bit extra amount of attention. Heather enjoys boating in the Upper Rideau Lake and spending time with her yellow lab Annie along with her grand-dogs and cats.



Lana plays the special role of dog and cat groomer in Smiths Falls. Making your pets always look their best is no easy task, and she always knows just how to make them shine. Lana enjoys spending time outside with her family camping and boating. She has a German Shepherd named Roxie who is the matriarch of the family.



JC is a Registered Veterinary Technician, graduating from Saint Lawrence College. She has been contributing her knowledge to the practice for over 5 years. Working with animals who require special dental care and going out on the road to help with Equine calls are her special interests. She is also the Healthy Weight Coach at the clinic; don’t let your pets cheat with one foot off the scale when she is around!



Debbie Usher’s smiling face has been a main feature at the Merrickville clinic for over 20 years. Her dedication and compassion for animals and their owners is the glue that keeps the clinic together. Debbie enjoys foreign travel and has many interesting stories to share. When she is not at home reading a good book with calico cat Freida on her lap, you may find her enjoying local art exhibits and sampling fine wine with friends.

Melanie Maitland


Melanie is a veterinary assistant at Athens Vet Services. She studied Equine Agriculture at the University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus. Her passion is horses, and she enjoys spending time training and competing on her dressage gelding, McCoy. In her spare time she can be found working on her farm which houses both sheep and horses, with entertainment provided by her three crazy hound dogs; Calvin, Stanley, and Cinnamon.



Fabienne is the smiling receptionist at the Smiths Falls clinic and is likely your first point of contact there.  She previously spent 20 years
working as a Veterinary Technician, and is now enjoying her new role interacting with our fabulous clients.  She also loves the great outdoors, camping and canoeing with her two dogs.


Christine is our Office Manager for all three locations, and spends her time organizing the big and small details that allow the clinics to
operate smoothly.  She has been a dedicated member of our team  since the summer of 2000.  When not at work she can be found enjoying time with her family or in the great outdoors, hiking, camping and kayaking.


Keisha is a registered veterinary technician, who graduated from St. Lawrence College. She has a special interest in small animal behavior. When she is not at work, Keisha enjoyed spending time with her two horses and two cats, Karlsson and Louie.

Alison Eyre

Jessica Crate

Jessica grew up on her family’s horse farm in Brockville area, and spent eight years working at a local veterinarian there. After take a few years off to raise her daughters, she joined our practice and can be found bouncing between our Smiths Falls and Athens locations.

Jessica loves spending the day on our front desk greeting all the clients, and helping in appointments when needed.

When not at work, she spends as much time with her family as possible, and it seems no amount of fresh air can tire out her two daughters or her Chocolate Lab, Kolby!