Photography courtesy of surfdogricochet.com
Ricochet is an intuitive, smart, and soul-connecting dog who helps veterans, children, teens, and adults, either with disabilities or living with PTSD, to hone in on their coping skills through adaptive therapies. She’s “one in a million” for her unique gift of bonding immediately with the humans she meets. She has an almost magical way of detecting their internal battles and communicating with on them on a deep level. Her support gives the people she works with the strength, courage, and tools to navigate through their problems and concerns and learn more about themselves. Many of the people she works with say she understands them better than the doctors and therapists they’ve been seeing for years.
Finding Her Path
Behind every extraordinary animal is an extraordinary human, and Ricochet’s human is no exception. Meet Judy Fridono.
Originally from Chicago, Judy specializes in raising puppies from neonatal (newborn) to 8 weeks old, the age when most puppies can safely be adopted. Through this work, she developed a passion for training service dogs. Her passion led her to Northern California to study and become a certified service dog trainer, then to San Diego to work with Pawsitive Teams, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that trains and places service and therapy dogs with persons with disabilities (pawsteams.org). It was following this path that led Judy to welcome Ricochet into her life.
Ricochet was born in in Judy’s home, and the plan was to train her as a service dog for a person with a disability. Ricochet, however, had other plans. Right from the start, Ricochet showed she was super smart and excelled at basic training, but she also had a prey drive and loved to chase birds. Judy knew that behavior was not ideal, but she was determined to work through it and earn Ricochet the title of service dog. But soon Ricochet got bored with her training, and Judy says for over a year the two were “at odds,” until a trip to the beach revealed that Ricochet was destined for something different.
In 2009, Judy and Ricochet attended a beach fundraiser where they met Patrick Ivison, a teenager whose spinal cord was injured in a car accident when he was just 14 months old. Patrick, a quadriplegic, used a wheelchair to get around, but he was an avid athlete. On this day, he was in the ocean on his surfboard, riding wave after wave. Ricochet got in on the fun, showing off the boogie board skills she’d been learning in Judy’s pool: balancing on her board and catching a few waves herself. But what she did next surprised everyone. Without prompting, Ricochet jumped onto Patrick’s surfboard, planted her paws, and rode the next wave with him! Judy says this bold moment was Ricochet saying, “This is what I was meant to do!”
Moving forward, Judy backed off traditional service dog training with Ricochet and pivoted her into therapy roles that Ricochet enjoyed. For the last 14 years, Ricochet has provided therapy for people with disabilities through adaptive surfing, therapy support for military veterans living with PTSD, children and teens with disabilities, and much more. Along the way, Judy and Ricochet have made plenty of time to fundraise through their social media platforms and mailing lists to benefit the organizations and people they believe in.
Ricochet and Judy have been fundraising since 2009, benefiting more than 250 organizations. This year, the two finally reached their fundraising goal of $1,000,000 for the many deserving human and animal causes they support.
Thanks a Million!
Ricochet and Judy have been fundraising since 2009, benefiting more than 250 organizations. When Judy saw that Ricochet was only $70,000 away from $1,000,000 in funds raised, she decided she wanted to set a goal to raise a million dollars. “I really wanted that fundraising goal to be part of her legacy.”
After countless hours of volunteering, the two finally reached their goal, proudly announcing that they had hit the $1,000,000 fundraising mark for the many deserving human and animal causes they support.
To say “thank you” to her loyal supporters and donors, Judy created an early summer Thanks a Million Sweepstakes, which fans and supporters entered to win prizes, including dog accessories, clothing, feeders, health and wellness products and services, gift cards, and more. The sweepstakes wrapped up on June 13th, and you can check out all the happy winners at surfdogricochet.com.
Ricochet’s Personal Battle
This year, Ricochet fought a battle of her own—cancer. Cancer in goldens is common, and Judy says it was early detection that saved Ricochet’s life. Finding a lump on her side was the first warning sign, but then the lump began to grow very quickly. Ricochet had surgery to remove it and spent several weeks recovering. During that time, she wasn’t able to work, but she’s a dog who needs her humans, so Judy transported her carefully to a few low-key visits with some of her friends who needed her, too.
Ricochet is 14-½ years old now, and while she no longer surfs as much, she continues her therapy work with veterans and others. Judy says, “Connecting with people is a lifestyle for Ricochet. She needs that interaction to thrive. I don’t believe you can retire from a lifestyle, but when Ricochet is done sharing her gifts, she will let me know. It’s my responsibility to know what she needs.”
Ricochet’s work with others leaves no doubt how special the human-animal bond is and how extraordinary animals are as vessels to healing. She also proves that each animal has a purpose and reason for being here, and it’s up to the humans who care for them to listen, like Judy did, to discover their true purpose.
Aqua Dog Cori
Cori, a female golden/Labrador mix born in 2016, began service dog training the day she arrived home and earned her AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate when she was just 15 weeks old. She’s gone on to become a certified, goal-directed therapy dog with Pawsitive Teams and a registered therapy dog with Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
In the beginning, Cori was terrified to go in the pool. So, when her instinct to respond to activity in the water kicked in, it was a surprise. At about 9 months old, she saw a teenage neighbor go underwater, and she jumped into the pool to save her. With her youthful energy, she alerted us to the emergency and saved the day.
Like Ricochet, Cori has chosen her own life purpose—canine-assisted swimming coupled with canine-assisted playing for kids living with autism, special needs, fear of the water, or other challenges. She is being formally trained to perform water rescue.
You can learn more about Aqua Dog Cori, Canine-Assisted Swim Lessons, and Canine-Assisted Water Play at surfdogricochet.com/who-is-aqua-dog-cori.html.
Jose Martinez, Adaptive Surfer
Jose Martinez is a California native, Army Veteran, triple amputee, Purple Heart recipient, motivational speaker, and member of Team USA Adaptive Surfing. Ricochet has been working with Jose and sponsoring his surfing career for several years now, thanks to her supporters. She also partnered with the charity One More Wave to create a custom-shaped board for Jose.
“I can’t thank Ricochet enough for her continued support,” says Jose. “In return, we have changed people’s minds and hearts, showing them that anything is possible.”
Highlights of Ricochet’s SURFice©
Ricochet became the first-ever, canine-assisted surf therapy and adaptive surfing dog in 2009, on that day at the beach when she decided to jump on adaptive surfer Patrick Ivison’s surfboard.
Ricochet is a certified, goal-directed therapy dog with Pawsitive Teams and a registered therapy dog with Alliance of Therapy Dogs (formerly Therapy Dogs, Inc.). She also holds the highest American Kennel Society (AKC) title of Therapy Dog Distinguished. When Ricochet is representing organizations that registered or certified her, she is considered a therapy dog.
SURFice dog—it’s a play on words, a twist on the more generic title of “service dog.” We gave Ricochet that title to describe the work she does when on board with individuals who need her assistance. Working with adaptive surfing organizations and special-needs surfers is the perfect platform for Ricochet to combine her surfing skills, and experience with disabilities.
Ricochet starred in the IMAX movie Superpower Dogs, a film showcasing the life-saving superpowers and extraordinary bravery of some of the world’s most remarkable dogs. Available on Hulu.com.
Paw (Pay) It Forward Day Ambassador
Ricochet is an ambassador for Paw (Pay) It Forward Day because she lives a lifestyle of “pawing” it forward for human and animal causes. If someone does her a favor, rather than paying them back … she pays it forward! See more about this day of generosity at surfdogricochet.com/paw-pay-it-forward.html.
Adaptive Surfer Sponsor
Ricochet proudly sponsors Army Veteran Jose Martinez, Team USA Adaptive Surfer, who became a triple amputee after stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan. She also sponsors Team USA Parasurfing Team, AmpSurf, Stoked For Life and more.
Learn more about Jose at surfdogricochet.com/josemartinez.html.