Jillian, DMD, MD served in the Air Force from 2013-2017 as a Captain (0-3), commissioning out of dental school to train as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMFS) training. Due to adverse experiences during her military and OMFS training paired with the strenuous nature of being a surgical resident, Jillian developed a life-threatening illness that impacted her mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. During the same time period, she faced the unexpected deaths of an Air Force commander, her ex-boyfriend, and her surgical co-resident. Then, she was medically discharged from the Air Force after seeking care for her mental health. As an independent individual reliant on herself for financial support, Jillian did not feel able to take time to process the compound losses while trying to navigate her next career move. As she transitioned back into civilian life and left the careers that once defined her, Jillian was going through the motions in life on survival mode. 

Over time, the unprocessed grief and loneliness were met with the guilt and shame of being discharged from the military, and Jillian felt her life was void of meaning. At the advice of her co-workers to improve her own wellbeing and outlook on life, Jillian considered adopting a dog and aspired to find a chocolate colored cockapoo to name him Reese (after Reese’s peanut butter cups). Jillian had learned that cockapoos are empathetic dogs and may make good therapy dogs. Initially, her vision was to train Reese as a therapy dog for patients in her clinic (and the healthcare professionals). Reese and Jillian served as a therapy dog team with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs for three years, yet Jillian struggled to recover from the impact of her experiences in the military. As her life became more restricted and isolated, Jillian was recommended to pursue service dog training to work with Reese to learn how to improve her quality of life and reintegrate into social settings. 

Meeting Paul and having the incredible opportunity to train Reese as a service dog through Give Us Paws has expanded Jillian’s world and improved her quality of life while also being a great experience bonding with her best bud, Reese. Paul’s patience and kindness provide a safe space for Jillian to learn how to trust and be exposed to new situations while processing through the sympathetic overdrive related to PTSD developed from her experiences during military service. Paul’s positive reinforcement approach to training has been an ideal fit for both Reese and Jillian, and they are extremely grateful for his compassion, dedication, and commitment to training service dog teams holistically. 

With Reese’s support as a service dog, Jillian has developed more confidence exploring the world and getting back into life. Her outlook on life has improved, and she has become a fierce advocate for suicide prevention and quality of life improvement for patients and clients – creating meaning from her lived experiences and getting back to serving a mission greater than herself which provides a sense of purpose for her life. Reese continues to spread love and joy to others, and he has taken on his new role as a service dog with enthusiasm. He is extremely fond of Paul (his other best bud), and highly recommends his training and treats for all seeking service dog training.