Sometimes a simple love of an animal can inspire the toughest person to overcome great obstacles.
Dog Tags, a cooperative effort between Moore County commissioners and the Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion, is a six week, 24-hour certification class to teach wounded warriors the basics in dog training for a potential future profession in civilian life, said Mary Jo Morris, chairman of the Moore County Animal Control Ordinance Revision Committee.
“These Soldiers can save a dog’s life,” she said.
Morris initiated the program and asked Frank Ringelberg, a Moore County animal control officer since 2005, to create the class.
The Soldiers learn basic animal training skills while giving adoptable, yet not desirable dogs from the Moore County Animal Control Center a ‘little jump up’ towards becoming adopted, he said.
Other topics include grooming, prevention of cruelty to animals and obedience.
“These Soldiers have nothing planned and no idea of the future,” said Ringelberg. “Many of them have physical and mental issues. The dogs make it easier for Soldiers to ‘come back to life.’
“I have been in their shoes. I know what’s in their brain,” said Ringelberg, who served 18 years in the German Border Police as a police officer and K-9 handler/trainer. He was also shot three times while on duty.
Matt Godwin, assigned to Company B, WTB in January 2012, was recovering from neck surgery when he volunteered for the Dog Tag program.
“The program was phenomenal. It was nice to get away from the ‘flag pole’ and decompress,” said Godwin.
The training helped Godwin land a job as a multipurpose canine trainer at K2 Solutions.
“I never thought when I was lying on a stretcher (after being wounded in Afghanistan) that one day I would be doing this,” he said.
During a recent class, Staff Sgt. Allen Arguello, Company B., WTB cadre, drove the Soldiers to the Southern Pines Veterans of Foreign Wars. He experienced the bond between Soldier and canine first hand.
“I never saw (the Soldiers) smile. When they started working with the dogs, they looked like they truly enjoyed it. That’s when I was sold (on the project,)” he said.
Arguello also learned to train his own dog during the course.
“The instructor was really good. He could relate to the Soldiers because he had also been wounded in the line of duty. He showed the Soldiers no matter what had happened to these dogs, it did not ruin their future,” said Arguello.
Classes are every Tuesday and Thursday, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with transportation provided to Carthage, N.C., said LaRhonda Harris, WTB social work supervisor.
“The dogs are there. The Soldiers are there. We just need to put them together,” said Morris. The next class will begin Tuesday.
To sign up for future classes, call Harris at 907-7713.