With 84 trucks coming and going from his shop, Carl Ringberg’s workplace is a loud one. A former military mechanic, Carl is perfect for his role as a senior district fleet manager for Waste Management. The team atmosphere reminds him of the structure and comradery of the military, but sometimes, the work can bring back bad memories too. When the scent of diesel or a loud noise pulls his brain to Iraq or Afghanistan, a wet nose is there to remind Carl that his feet are in Minnesota.
“Having Jed by my side is kind of a security blanket for me,” Carl tells Dogster.
His journey to Jed, a now 6-year-old Golden Retriever, began in 2004, when Carl left the military. He moved to Minnesota and got married, but it was hardly a happy ending. While Carl’s wife liked to go out, he preferred to stay at home, where he felt safe. He didn’t know it yet, but he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
That first marriage ended in divorce, but Carl got a second chance at love, remarrying and becoming a father. Carl also got a diagnosis of PTSD, but it took awhile for him to find the right therapeutic approach to control his symptoms.
“I was going to the V.A., and they were [suggesting] let’s do this pill, let’s try that pill, and I really didn’t like the way it made me feel,” Carl remembers.
In 2011 Carl began researching PTSD service dogs after hearing some success stories about other veterans. After two years, he hadn’t yet found a service dog organization that was both local and not cost prohibitive. In 2013, he approached Helping Paws of Hopkins, Minnesota. The organization trains service dogs for people with various physical disabilities, but broadened its mission after meeting with Carl.
“I told them my whole background, my whole story, and why I was looking to have a service dog for PTSD. They presented that to their board of directors, and they decided to start a pilot program for veterans with PTSD, placing them with service dogs,” he says.
Meanwhile, one of the Helping Paws dogs in training, Jed, was dealing with some issues of his own. At 3 1/2 years old, he’d been in his training foster home for about a year longer than expected. He’d been considered for multiple applicants, but each time Jed turned out to be a little too needy for his prospective partners. He was about to be leave the service dog program for life as a pet when Carl came into his life.
“They were really worried about him because he had separation anxiety and always needed constant attention and touch from somebody,” says Carl. He had spent time with other prospective matches, but felt instantly connected to Jed. The emotionally sensitive dog put his need for affection to good use by keeping Carl in the present.
“[PTSD] can put you back overseas, back to the time when you were at war. He’d just nudge me to get my attention, wanting to be petted,” Carl explains. “The touch was a reassurance that, hey, I’m okay. He was able to give that to me, and in return I was able to give him the attention he needed.”
For their first two years together, Jed was never more than 6 feet away from Carl. During that time, in 2014, Carl took the job with Waste Management. He says the company is a great fit for veterans, and welcomed Jed from the very beginning.
“When I did my interview it was like, ‘hey, I have a service dog, is that good?’ and they were like, ‘yeah.’ That’s was basically it,” Carl recalls.
According to Carl, the guys in his shop love having Jed around, but the service dog doesn’t come to work every single day anymore. They’ve both grown more confident, and Jed will now occasionally take a day off to stay home with Carl’s wife and kids.
The duo stay busy with family life and helping veterans connect with employment and service dogs of their own. Carl says the bond he shares with Jed isn’t a crutch or a cure, but a great tool for remaining present.
“The day to day things I can do now — like going to the grocery store or playing with the kids — that’s how he’s impacted my life,” he explains.