Stepping Stone Animal Training offers a staff that has over 40 years of accumulative training, veterinary and grooming experience.


Hilary Briggs

Co-Owner, CCMT

Originally from Indianapolis, Hilary moved to the Lafayette area in June 2011. She graduated from Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, IN in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. After that, she attended Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine for two years before deciding to explore other careers with animals, specifically related to animal behavior.

Hilary has been working with animals in one capacity or another since 2005. During her undergraduate career, she worked for a veterinary hospital in Indianapolis. Since moving to Lafayette, Hilary has worked at a veterinary clinic and local kennels with off-leash dog play programs.

  • Bachelor’s Degree with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from Saint Joseph’s College, graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2009

  • Certified Canine Massage Therapist (CCMT) since 2012

  • Two years of veterinary school at Michigan State University, 2009-2011

Hilary's preferred pronouns: she/her.

Smart Dog

Patrick O'Holland

Co-Owner, CPDT-KA

Patrick graduated from Purdue University of West Lafayette, IN in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Sciences with a concentration in Companion Animal Behavior. Although Patrick graduated in 2014, he has been working with animals since 2009 and has learned a great deal about behavior and how to effectively implement force-free training techniques.

Prior to opening Pawsitive Pets in June 2015, Patrick worked at a local kennel with off-leash dog play and was an independent contractor for another private pet sitting business.

  • Bachelor’s in Animal Sciences with a concentration in Animal Behavior from Purdue University, 2014

  • Certificate of Achievement in Dog Training through Animal Behavior College, 2012

  • Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), 2015

Patrick's preferred pronouns: him/he.


Sarah Heininger


Sarah started working at a veterinary hospital in 2006 and that confirmed her passion for working with dogs. She graduated from Purdue in 2012 with a Bachelors in Animal Science (concentration Behavior/Well-Being). 


Sarah and her husband share their home with three rescue dogs, two of which are Luna and Radar who are both certified therapy dogs, two cats, a Bearded Dragon and whatever foster(s) they have at the time. 


  • Bachelors Degree in Animal Science

  • Graduated from the Karen Pryor Academy in 2020.  

Sarah's preferred pronouns: she/her.

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Khaz Brooks


Khaz has been training, and working professionally with animals for the past 11 years. Their experiences range from running a dog rescue, to managing an upscale training kennel, to teaching one on one lessons and obedience classes. In addition to extensive work with domestic pets, Khaz boasts five years experience in working with exotic canids, including wolves, coyotes, and wolfdog hybrids. Khaz has a passion for connecting humans to their animals, and believes in a comprehensive, force free based approach to training that aims to rebuild behavior problems at their roots. They are capable of teaching all levels of obedience, foundational skills, and leash walking but predominantly works in behavior modification. Khaz is currently certified through the CCPDT (certifications council for professional dog trainers) and is pursuing additional accreditation through the IAABC (International association of animal behavior consultants.)


Their hair color changes frequently, and aside from immediately falling in love with every dog they see, they enjoy strong coffee, craft beer, and backpacking. They live at home with their two rescued fur goblins Ouija (presa canario), and Igor (one eyed pirate tabby.)

Khaz's preferred pronouns: they/them.

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Nikki Yoder


Nikki has been practicing animal husbandry and force-free desensitization training since 1999 and has worked professionally with animals since 2013 after receiving her Bachelors from Purdue University in Animal Sciences with a focus in Behavior and Wellbeing. Nikki has experience working with many breeds of cats and dogs as well as pocket pets, reptiles, birds and livestock and she works closely with our trainers in their more difficult cases of reactivity and anxiety. Nikki has worked with Pawsitive Pets since 2016 and currently resides with her cat Truff.

  • Bachelor Degree in Animal Science

Nikki's preferred pronouns are she/her.


Lauren Mackichan


Lauren has a bachelors degree in Animal Science and has been working professionally with animals for the past 6 years. She got her start in a small animal hospital, where she worked as a veterinary assistant for 3 years. Lauren also has 4 years of experience working with wildlife and exotic species, both in animal care and medical settings. Having the opportunity to work with animals such as birds of prey, wild canids, big cats, etc. has provided a unique perspective on animal behavior. She discovered her love of training and husbandry at Wolf Park as a two-time intern and is a current volunteer. Lauren has been working with Pawsitive Pets since April 2020. When she's not working with animals, Lauren enjoys coffee dates with friends, family dinners, hiking, and caring for her newest succulent kids!

  • Bachelor Degree in Animal Science

Lauren's preferred pronouns: she/her.

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Abigail Kender


Abby has had a love for animals since she was little. Currently, she is studying at Purdue with a major in psychology with minors in animal science and art & design. Abby's hobbies include gaming, anime, and trying new baking recipes. She has 2 wonderful dogs Lucy and Zeke that she loves to spend time with.


Abby started working with Stepping Stone in October of 2019 as an intern then moved up to Pet Parent Advocate and most recently was promoted to Assistant Trainer in April of 2021!

Abby's preferred pronouns: she/her


Samantha Johnson


Samantha is a current Purdue student who is studying pre-veterinary medicine. She's had experience in the pet care field for 3 years but that's not including all the crazy animals she would bring home when she was growing up. She has experience working in a veterinary clinic, a research facility, and working within a doggy daycare. She has a passion for working with animals as most people do working in this field and hope to eventually open her own veterinary clinic. Animals fill her with energy and you might find her talking to them like they were a long lost friend. She has a border collie/aussie mix as well as two chinchillas who will hopefully not get too jealous of all the new smells she'll be bringing home. She has been working with Pawsitive Pets since December 2019.

Samantha's preferred pronouns: she/her.


Amanda Jones


Amanda is currently a Junior at Purdue University in Animal Sciences with a concentration in Production. She has worked extensively with a wide variety of animals. Amanda has been certified in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue (TLAER), completed lab animal handling training, shadowed zoo keepers, and assisted in veterinary clinics. 

Amanda plans to have her own facility for boarding, grooming and training in the future. She currently owns her own dog Margo (English Cocker Spaniel), Valor (Doberman Pinscher), 2 orange tabby cats (Milo and Theon), and 2 snakes (corn snake: Zuko, Ball Python: Athena). Outside of school and work, Amanda enjoys anything and everything outdoors. She also enjoys painting, playing piano, and flying airplanes. She is working towards her Private Pilots License currently. She is a very family-oriented person, and always treats all animals as her own.

Amanda's preferred pronouns: she/her.

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Ava Crees


Ava was born and raised in Bloomington, IN, but she moved to Lafayette this past March for school. She just finished her freshman year at Purdue, and is studying with a concentration in pre-vet. Ava is also in they Veterinary Scholars program. 

Ava has worked with dogs in some form or another for the past 3 years and has several pets to call her own. She has 2 dogs, Albert and Violet, and 3 guinea pigs, Squonk, Shiloh and Sage. During Ava's free time she likes to kayak, play guitar and construct stained glass windows with her mom. 

Ava's preferred pronouns: she/her.


Whitney McGregor


Whitney has been working as a professional groomer for the past four years. She has two dogs of her own, a Chow, Malla, and Great Dane, Stella. 


Whitney joined our team in the summer of 2021 and is working toward her Fear-Free Grooming certification.

Whitney's preferred pronouns: she/her.


Jannet McCutchan

Pet Parent Advocate

Jannet graduated in 2015 from Purdue University with a Bachelor's in wildlife and has been working in animal-related fields ever since. She has always had a strong interest in the human-animal bond and loves helping clients relate better to their four-legged friends. She currently has a pitbull mix, Serra, and two fancy mice, BMO and Science.

Jannet's preferred pronouns: she/her.


Julie Shaw

KPA-CTP, RVT, VTS (Behavior)

Julie became a registered veterinary technician in 1983. She worked in private practice veterinary medicine for 16 years  and owned a dog training business until 1999. In 1999, she became one of the first animal behavior technicians in the country at the Purdue University Animal Behavior Clinic. 

In 2010, Julie became one of the first board-certified Veterinary Technician Specialist in Behavior(VTS -Behavior), comparable to an animal psychiatric nurse. Julie is also a Fear Free certified professional, Fear Free approved speaker, and is on the Fear Free advisory panel. 

Her work in animal behavior is well known, and she frequently travels both nationally and globally to give lectures and seminars.

Julie founded Stepping Stone in 2015 to provide better help and support to pet parents and veterinarians in the local area.

Julie's preferred pronouns: she/her.