Ricochet was literally born to be a service dog; as soon as she could open her eyes, her training began. She was a quick learner and inherently friendly ... but also innate was her desire to chase birds, which is a no-no for service animals. Then, her owner Judy Fridono (the founder of Puppy Prodigies, a non-profit that has focused on training puppies as service dogs from birth for over a decade) put her in the water and saw brand new possibilities. Now, she regularly heads to the beaches near her home in Escondido, California to perform her special role.
At just 15 months, Ricochet performed her first wave-bound service ride.
This phenomenal outing with Patrick, who has been in a wheelchair since he was a toddler, changed her from service dog to SURF-ice dog.
Ricochet might do things a bit differently, but she's just as helpful as any other service animal.
When she hits the waves with Jill, who lost her leg to cancer, she provides a stabilizing force so both dog and human can enjoy surfing.
Kids like West, who have been diagnosed with autism, often have difficulty trying new things and meeting new people. Before Ricochet, West was afraid of both dogs and water.
Now, he not only surfs with the surf-ice pup, but he also helps out other kids he meets while out on the water.
Part of Ricochet's success as a service dog, either in or out of the ocean, is her ability to instantly connect with people.
She's friendly, but it goes even deeper than that, as people have described her excellent sense of empathy.
Surfing with Ricochet is such a memorable experience that she has even been asked to provide her services to children through Make-A-Wish, an organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Caleb, who had Stage 4 brain cancer and was given six months to live, used his wish to surf with Ricochet. When Fridono, Ricochet’s owner/handler, got the call from Caleb’s mother to set up his time with Ricochet, she said she began to cry and was honored that the pup had touched someone’s life so deeply. Sadly, Caleb last his battle with brain cancer six weeks after his trip with the pup.
The surf dog is also an Ambassador for Life Rolls On, an organization devoted to helping young people with spinal cord injuries.
The freedom and mobility offered by surfing makes it a perfect fit for the group.
Working with veterans suffering from physical, emotional and mental wounds has a special place in Ricochet's heart.
She intuitively knows when her veteran is experiencing anxiety, pain or other symptoms. She is then trained to carry out a series of behaviors, such as refusing to move or barking, to alert caregivers or nearby people that the person is in need of help. This either prevents episodes, such as panic attacks or self-harming behaviors, entirely or keeps them from escalating.
Children are a another of Ricochet's favorite groups to help.
Ian, in particular, has a special bond with the pup. After both his parents where killed in a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury, he was afraid to return to surfing (an activity he loved to do with his dad). Once he found Ricochet, though, he was back in the water in no time.
Most of all, Ricochet likes to "paw it forward." To date, she has helped raise awareness, as well as over $300,000.
The Battle Buddy Initiative, to help veterans with PTSD, is the current focal point of Ricochet’s fundraising.