They Needed Each Other: Our First Veteran/Service Dog Team
The following story appeared in CityDogs Magazine in March, 2017. We appreciate CityDogs permission to reproduce it here.
Six-year old Golden Retriever Jed and his human handler pal Carl Ringberg were the first graduates of a Helping Paws Veterans with PTSD program designed to train assistance dogs to help veterans affected with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since 2014 Jed has been with Carl in his job as a senior district fleet manager with Waste Management, helping him manage workplace stressors and fight off the emotional numbness associated with living with PTSD.
Carl has what most would consider a stressful job at Waste Management, overseeing maintenance for a large fleet of trucks and a team of technicians. Carl searched for two years to find a dog like Jed. “First and foremost, you have to apply to Helping Paws to show interest,” explains Carl, “then the veteran has an in-home interview and has to get referrals from a physician and psychologist.” The journey for a veteran with PTSD to get a dog like Jed is well worth it once there’s a match, which is when the veteran and dog start training to learn to work together to manage PTSD.
“There is a training process where the dog and the veteran work one-on-one, every Saturday for three months, and then the dog goes home with the veteran to live full-time,” says Carl.
Jed showed some early separation anxiety issues that caused Helping Paws to question if they would be able to place him. All turned out well when Carl came along. “I needed the consistent touch from the dog and so did he, Jed needed me. We were a match made in heaven and we bonded right away,” says Carl. Jed helps Carl at work and in life by demanding attention whenever he senses that Carl is anxious, jittery, or losing focus.
Jed also helps Carl feel safe in crowded places, and often will put himself as a barrier between Carl and approaching strangers. He can lead Carl out of a crowd on command.
“Jed does a great job hanging out with me at the Waste Management office,” Carl offers. “All of my co-workers love having Jed at work. He tends to wander down the hall every now and then to say hi to all the office people.” The sweet face and loving nature of the beautiful Golden Retriever helps Carl remain calm as he slowly re-acclimates to life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He wakes me up from nightmares and jumps up on me to lick my face until I wake up, even if I push him off,” Carl shares. Helping Paws worked with Jed to help him learn a lot of different skills designed to help Carl feel safe and calm. “The utmost important job Jed does for me is teach me to fight the emotional numbness you get from PTSD. By being able to hug Jed and give him the love that he needs, he is in turn making it easier for me to give my children the hugs and love they need.”
Carl feels blessed to have Jed, and together they make a special duo. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD affects between 11-20% of men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and 12% of Gulf War veterans. Organizations such as Helping Paws, along with supportive companies like Waste Management, make it possible for veterans to thrive at work with a little help from specially-trained dogs like Jed. To learn more about Helping Paws visit their website at helpingpaws.org.
About the Author
Rebecca Sanchez lives in Seattle with her three dogs and is a published author and nationally recognized leader in exploring the human-animal bond. Known as The Pet Lifestyle Guru™ Rebecca firmly believes “We need animals as much as they need us!” To showcase her love of all things dog, Rebecca is the founder, chief creative officer, and brilliant mind behind the award-winning social media star MattieDog, who happens to be ‘A Little Dog Making A Big Impact In This World!’ See more at mattiedog.com.
Access CityDog Magazine at citydogmagazine.com