On Thursday, February 18, at LeDeux Hotel in Hollywood, California, a two-year old Golden Retriever named Ricochet accepted the Dogswell "Wag" award for "Most Charitable," a title that is only partially fitting. However, the words “Most Charitable, Inspirational, Amazing, Determined, Touching, Accomplished, Tear Jerking, and Heartwarming” might not have all fit on the award plaque.
In the few short years that Ricochet has been on this earth, she has already accomplished more than most people, such as raising over $10,000 for a quadriplegic surfer, raising over $20,000 for charitable causes, and inspired millions of people with her touching YouTube video.
The amazing story of Ricochet, the Surfin’ for Paws-abilities SURFice dog, begins with her birth at the Puppy Prodigies Neo-natal and Early Learning Program, founded by Judy Fridono and located in San Diego, California.
Puppy Prodigies is an innovative program that specializes in the early learning and development of new born puppies. The goal of the program is to positively affect behavioral tendencies of dogs, thus reducing the number of dogs relinquished to animal shelters for behavioral issues, and identifying puppies that had potential to work as service dogs.
In January 2008, a predominantly male litter was born into the program, and as the last puppy was arriving Judy said, “Please let the next one be a girl with a white patch on her chest.” Like a miracle, Ricochet came into the world white patch and all. The tiny pup was quickly name Ricochet because she bounced all around, a fitting name since she still bounces around the world touching people’s hearts.
Ricochet was a brilliant puppy, quickly learning and excelling at the service dog training program. Suddenly, at 14 weeks of age, she lost interest in training and Judy found it very difficult to motivate her to continue her service training. To amplify the problem, at nine months old she developed a chase drive. After many months of trying to break her from chasing birds while working, Judy made the tough decision to release her from the program. “Can you imagine a service dog running after a bird while on the job? In good conscience I couldn’t breed Ricochet knowing her puppies could have the chase drive. It wouldn’t be beneficial to the people that need them,” said Judy who decided to keep Ricochet as a pet.
Bird chasing aside, Ricochet was still a smart and talented dog. Instead of being disappointed about what Ricochet couldn’t do, Judy decided to focus on what she could do, like surf - and that’s when the flood gates opened!
After many fun surfing events and competitions Ricochet was ready to began her fundraising career. In August of 2009 she surfed with the hope of sending a 15 year old quadriplegic surfer, named Patrick Ivison, to the Project Walk® Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center for physical therapy.
The moment she went into the water with Patrick, it was as if she finally discovered what she was born to do! Before, surfing was just a game, she would surf for a while, get off, run on the beach, then look for birds. Things changed while surfing with Patrick, she would run back to him again and again, she even jumped off her board and onto Patrick’s. They surfed together from that point on. If Patrick fell off his board she would swim by his side until he received assistance from people near him, it was a bond like no other.
Ricochet raised over $10,000 for Patrick, and her sponsor, the Rose Foundation, awarded a grant to cover three years of his physical therapy at Project Walk®. Patrick’s original goal was to walk with assistance of a walker at his high school graduation, amazingly he achieved his goal years before graduation, encouraged and inspired by Ricochet’s surfing fundraiser. Now nothing holds him back from setting even further goals!
Ricochet’s inspirational journey from puppy to fundraising for Patrick can be seen in a video that has gone viral. With millions of views, the video has touched people all over the world and has generated over $8,570 (and counting) in donations from all over the world including Canada, The UK, Taiwan, Japan, The Netherlands, and New Zealand. The video is so touching it has a “kleenex alert" warning that should be heeded! Watch the "From service dog to SURFice dog" video below, or watch it on YouTube here.
Ricochet’s fundraiser profits go to a variety of charitable causes, such as Ricochet's Surfin' Santa Paws toy drive which helped purchase toys for over 638 children in hospitals, and domestic violence shelters. She assists six year old Ian McFarland, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a horrific car accident that claimed the lives of his parents. She is even giving her Dogswell “Wag” Award prize, a year's supply of Dogswell dog food, to the AniMeals program that offers free pet food for the dogs and cats of elderly or disabled people throughout San Diego County. The AniMeals program is run by the Helen Woodward Animal Center, a non profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of animals and enriching the lives of people.
Away from her ‘cool surfer dog’ persona, Ricochet is very submissive and gentle. “She can get excitable, but she is very low key,” says Judy who must watch Ricochet around other dogs that may pick on her. Her favorite activities include running as fast as she can, lure coursing, digging for gophers, eating, surfing, and naturally, bird chasing! Ricochet plays hard, works hard, and sleeps hard, going to bed on her own at seven in the evening and rising every morning at eight. “In a sense she is very spiritual, there is some other energy at work and it is exhausting for her,” says Judy of her extremely loving and affectionate dog.
Ricochet’s best dog friend is a Golden Retriever Lab Mix, named Rina. “They are very different, but they get along very well, Rina is a wonderful teacher for her,” says Judy of seven year old Rina, who is also a trained service dog.
Originally, Judy’s goal was to have Ricochet touch the life of one person as a service dog, yet Ricochet decided to go on another path, and today she has touched the lives of millions! “I believe Ricochet is on a mission and I’m here to help facilitate that,” says Judy of her amazing dog, “I’m the driver and she’s the navigator. She has taught me acceptance, and to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Look at the things she has accomplished, they have been so big."
For more information on Ricochet please visit her website at www.surfdogricochet.com. For more on Project Walk® please visit their website at www.projectwalk.org. To learn more about the Helen Woodward Animal Center and the AniMeals Program please visit www.animalcenter.org. To read about the Dogswell “Wag” Awards you may visit: www.dogswell.com.
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