Monday, March 15, 2010
By Julia Williams
Some of you have undoubtedly heard about Surf Dog Ricochet, and you may have watched the incredibly moving YouTube video about her, “From Service Dog to SURFice dog: Turning disappointment into a joyful new direction.” If you have, then you know what an amazing canine Ricochet is. If you haven’t seen the Surf Dog Ricochet video, then I hope this article inspires you to do so— because the story of how this beautiful young golden retriever found her true calling and is changing countless lives as a result, is one that every pet lover should see.
Two-year-old Ricochet’s original path in life was to be part of the Puppy Prodigies Neo-Natal & Early Learning Program, as a service dog for a disabled person as well as a service dog breeder. Ricochet’s training began when she was just a few days old, before her eyes were even open. She learned quickly and showed great promise for becoming a service dog. But as she grew, so did her interest in chasing birds. Because this could be unsafe for a person with a disability, Ricochet had to be released from the service dog program.
Her people were terribly disappointed, but rather than dwell on what she couldn’t do, they chose to focus on what she could do, which was surf. You see, at 8 weeks of age, in addition to her service dog training, Ricochet had begun learning to surf on a boogie board in a kiddie pool. Although her surf dog training was begun just for fun, Ricochet displayed a remarkable natural talent for it. Moreover, she really seemed to love it.
Ricochet’s surf training progressed and before long she was “hanging 20” in the ocean, competing in (and eventually winning) Surf Dog Competitions. So Puppy Prodigies created a brand new job for Ricochet, as a ‘Surfin’ for Paws-abilities’ SURFice dog who would raise awareness and funds for charitable causes. And the rest is history, as the saying goes. In just seven short months, Ricochet has raised more than $20,000 for charitable causes!
Her first fundraising endeavor was last August, for 15 year old quadriplegic surfer Patrick Ivison. Surf Dog Ricochet raised $10,000 to help pay his medical bills, and one of her sponsors awarded Patrick a grant to fund three more years of physical therapy. Then in December, Ricochet began a new fundraiser: a Surfin' Santa Paws toy drive. About the same time, the inspirational SURFice Dog video went viral, which spurred an influx of donations from all over the world. As a result, Ricochet was able to provide toys for 650 children in hospitals and domestic violence shelters.
Continued donations from the video have allowed Ricochet to fund therapies for six year old Ian McFarland, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident that claimed the lives of his parents. Additionally, most of the surfing competitions Ricochet enters are fundraisers for animal charities. So besides having fun and competing, the “Little SurFUR Girl” (as she is sometimes called) is also making a difference in the lives of her four-legged cousins. When she’s not surfing or fundraising, Ricochet is involved in goal assisted therapy work with children through Pawsitive Teams.
I’m a firm believer in the old adages, “Everything happens for a reason,” and “When one door closes, another one opens.” I’ve seen enough examples firsthand that I don’t doubt this is exactly how the universe works. And now, the story of Surf Dog Ricochet is yet another fine illustration of these principles. Instead of greatly changing one disabled individual’s life by becoming their assistance dog, Surf Dog Ricochet is changing the lives of thousands... and potentially millions.
If you’d like to know more about Surf Dog Ricochet, you can visit her website, become her fan on Facebook, and even follow her on Twitter. And if you want to try teaching your own canine companion to hang 20, Ricochet offers some great beginner doggie surf training tips here.
There are two lines in the inspirational YouTube video on Surf Dog Ricochet that I just love: “When I let go of who I wanted her to be and just let her ‘be’ she completely flourished. And I reveled in knowing she is perfect, just the way she is.” She sure is. The video features the Taylor Hicks song, Do I Make You Proud. I just want to end this by saying “Yes Ricochet, you do!”
Photo courtesy of Diane Edmonds
Read more articles by Julia Williams