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 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 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 pronouns: she/her.

Abby, Company Image.jpeg

Abigail Kender


Abby has had a love for animals since she was little. In 2021 she graduated from Purdue with a major in psychology and minors in animal science and art & design. Abby's hobbies include gaming, anime, and trying new baking recipes. She has three wonderful dogs Valka, Zeke, and Reggie 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 pronouns: 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 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 pronouns: she/her.

Ava Crees, Company picture.jpeg

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 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 Kevin the Chihuahua.

Whitney joined our team in the summer of 2021 and completed Fear-Free Grooming certification in 2022.

Whitney's 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.