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‘Helping Paws’ Aiding Returning Vets With PTSD

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something many of us don’t really understand. Veterans dealing with the condition have certain needs that can be hard to meet.

A new program at Helping Paws, in Hopkins, is trying a unique way to help. They’re using specially trained dogs to help local vets get through day to day life and heal their emotional scars.

Carl Ringberg never thought a dog’s hug would change his life. But after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ringberg, who has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, needs just the kind of attention Jed’s trained to give.

“When I get anxiety or nervous, he kind of demands my attention and brings me back to reality,” Ringberg said.

The first dog to be partnered in Helping Paws’ PTSD Pilot Program, Jed, is keenly aware of Carl’s needs.

He turns lights on and off, and even opens doors so Ringberg feels safe entering a room. Jed can also wake Carl from flashbacks or nightmares about war.

“He’ll jump on me and lick me in the face until I wake up. Even if I push him off he’ll come right back until I get up,” Ringberg said.

The Golden Retriever can also act as a barrier between Ringberg and other people. And sometimes he just watches.

“Just kind of reading my body language and see how I’m doing,” Ringberg said.

Jed is a round-the-clock companion, going everywhere with Carl, including the golf course. But perhaps Jed’s greatest gift to this former soldier is helping him reconnect with those who mean the most.

“With him needing the attention and the love from me is kind of retraining me to be the father that my kids need,” said Ringberg.

Carl says Jed is not a cure to PTSD, but a tool to move him in the right direction. He’s had him a few months and says he’s already having fewer nightmares. Jed’s the first dog from this program, but they are training a whole group of these dogs. Veterans can apply for a dog.

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