Assistance Dog Helps Veteran Transition Back to Civilian Life

November 7, 2016

Friday, November 11, is Veteran’s Day. Here’s a story of one veteran, Carl Ringberg, and how his assistance dog is helping with his transition back into civilian life:

In 2013, Ringberg and six-year old golden retriever, Jed, were the first graduates of Helping Paws PTSD, a program to help train assistance dogs to help veterans who are affected with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Ringberg had served in Afghanistan from February to August 2002 and in Iraq from February 2003 to February 2004, the Helping Paws website said. According to Ringberg, he did a lot of research into service dogs for veterans with PTSD and searched for the right dog for two years.

“When I heard about a local pilot program at Helping Paws, I decided to go to their facility and look at their dogs,” Ringberg said in
an email. “My dog, Jed, wasn’t going to be placed because he has ‘separation disorder’ that Helping Paws thought would be a drawback. But once I tried working with Jed, it was clear that he needed me and I needed him. He needs constant contact, loves to be touched, and for me, reaching out to Jed was exactly what I needed, too. It is a perfect fit.”

Jed now assists Ringberg in his job as a senior district fleet manager at Waste Management in Minnesota. There, Ringberg oversees maintenance and parts for a fleet of 84 trucks and a team of 12 technicians and operations associates, according to the company. Jed is there to help keep Ringberg calm, manage workplace stressors and fight off emotional numbness associated with living with PTSD. Waste Management said that Jed even brightens the day of the veteran’s colleagues.

“I start the day off with a good attitude—no depression, no anxiety,” Ringberg said in an email. “Jed wants to go with me wherever I go. He is with me when I have conversations with the mechanics and he just generally brightens up the workplace. If I have a flashback moment or lose focus, Jed keeps me in the present—he senses that I need him and he knows how to keep me on task and in the moment.”jed2

Jed now accompanies Ringberg to veteran hiring fairs and local hiring events with hopes of finding other veterans that can benefit from employment with Waste Management, the company said.

“Before I got Jed, I was afraid to go out of the house. I couldn’t go to the grocery store, school activities for my kids—I would hide,” Ringberg said in an email. “Having Jed has changed my life. While he isn’t with me every day, he is still there for me when I need him. It has changed my life at home, too. Reaching out to Jed transfers to reaching out to my kids. Jed has broken down the emotional numbness brought on by PTSD and he has allowed me to live a much fuller life.”

Dogs like Jed provide key assistance to veterans suffering from PTSD, and it is estimated that, today, one in five veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan—nearly 300,000 veterans—have PTSD, according to Waste Management.

And it is service dogs like Jed that are helping today’s veterans, including the 16 in the Twin Cities area who have been helped by service dogs from Helping Paws, Hopkins, Minnesota, Ringberg said.

“These dogs have helped veterans make the transition to civilian life,” Ringberg wrote. “In the military, we have to work as a team, we have to lean on each other. That isn’t always the case when we get back home… sometimes we are on our own and afraid to reach out to others. Jed has helped me through that, and I am grateful that I have an employer like Waste Management that has been patient with me through my day to day struggles.”

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