Photo: Robert Ochoa/pawmazing.com
Photo: Robert Ochoa/pawmazing.com 

She’s not just a talented wave-rider. Ricochet the golden retriever is also majorly philanthropic, and she helps veterans and children with special needs learn to surf.

By Lauren Phillips

A surfing dog wearing a colorful life jacket isn’t something you see every day, but for this compassionate golden retriever, it’s just another day on the job.

People around the world have fallen in love with Ricochet the surfing dog—who appeared in Coastal Living’s June 2016 issue—and for good reason: She’s a dog who surfs … for charity.

Ricochet has been surfing since she was just eight weeks old, but she uses her incredible gift for good. As a surf therapy dog, a so-called “SURFice Dog,” Ricochet works with groups like children with special needs and veterans by helping them learn to surf, among other activities. She has been featured in countless articles, and she uses her fame to spread awareness for many different causes. But Ricochet also uses her ability to help others directly.

Ricochet found her calling as a surf therapy dog seemingly by accident, though. She was originally trained to be a more traditional service dog for someone with a disability, but when she was still in training, she lost interest and motivation and was released from her role as a service dog. She eventually made it clear that surfing was her calling, and she and Fridono worked together to find a new path for her—one that would ultimately still allow her to help people.

Her latest campaign is Waves of Empowerment, an initiative that brings people together and helps them help each other.

“When you help someone else, you’re really helping yourself,” said Judy Fridono, Ricochet’s owner. “It’s healing for everyone.”

Waves of Empowerment brings together various populations—right now, it works with children with special needs, people with disabilities, wounded warriors, and veterans with PTSD, though it has grown and changed since the first activity, a surf session, in June 2016.

One Waves of Empowerment program, Wave Warriors, pairs people Ricochet has previously worked with and taught to surf with newcomers. These practiced volunteers then help the newcomer learn to surf, with the help of Ricochet.

Fridono described one surf session in which a young boy with autism was paired with a veteran. The boy had surfed with Ricochet before; the veteran had never surfed at all. Fridono said the boy supported the veteran throughout his surf lesson, helping the veteran feel more comfortable with Ricochet on the surfboard and empowering the boy to help another.

“We’re bringing them together to help each other,” Fridono said.

Photo: Robert Ochoa/pawmazing.com
Photo: Robert Ochoa/pawmazing.com 
Photo: Dale Porter/KillerImage.com
Photo: Dale Porter/KillerImage.com

Dogs facilitate all these interactions, which occur during activities such as SUP and outdoor games, in addition to surfing. The dogs serve as facilitators, helping participants be comfortable with each other and preparing them to help someone else down the road.

“It’s such a healing, nurturing environment,” Fridono said. “We give them an opportunity to give back to the community,” she added.

And this is just the latest on Ricochet’s long list of charitable efforts. Now nine years old, she has been involved in dozens of campaigns and causes. You can read about them all on her website, SurfDogRicochet.com.

“Ricochet takes her work very seriously. She’s very serious on the surfboard,” Fridono said.

Photos: Robert Ochoa/PawMazing.com (2); Dale Porter/KillerImage.com