Thursday, 9 September 2010

Ricochet the surf dog makes a splash... helping disabled youngsters to conquer the waves


By Claire Bates

Sea dog: Richochet, the surfing dog helps brain-injured Ian McFarland, 6, surf off the coast of Del Mar in California. The labrador helped raise £5,000 for the boy's treatment

An incredible Labrador has mastered more than just the doggy paddle - the golden brown pet helps disabled children learn how to surf.

Ricochet was first trained as a guide dog but she was not well-suited to the role as she kept rushing off to chase birds.

Then her owner Judy Fridono took her to a beach near her home in Del Mar, California, and Ricochet took to the waves - like a dog to water.

Miss Fridono said: 'I was also working with her at balance and coordination.

'We started on a body board in a paddling pool, and from that it went into surfing.

'Her balance is so good she helps to stabilise the board for the kids who've never done it before. And it makes them feel good to know that Ricochet is there with them, keeping them company.'

Since becoming an expert, two-year-old Ricochet helps the disabled build up the confidence to get on a board themselves through local organisation Adaptive Surfing Foundation.

The goal of the organisation is to give anyone, no matter how disabled they are, the chance to surf. Ricochet, dressed in a flourescent yellow jacket, helps to counter-balance the board and acts as a reassuring presence.

Wet and wild: Richochet helps Patrick Ivison, who is confined to a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury

Popular pooch: Owner Judy Fridono said she decided to concentrate on what her dog Richochet could do, rather on what she couldn't do

One of those who has benefited from Ricochet's skills is six-year-old Ian McFarland.

In 2008 a car crash robbed him of both his parents and left him with brain damage.

Ian underwent extensive physical therapy and started to regain significant movement.

However, although he had loved surfing with his father before the accident, he was too nervous to go back into the water.

Success: Patrick Ivison is all smiles after his session with Ricochet. The dog has raised over £30,000 for charity

His fear turned to excitement when he was told he could try a tandem surf session with Ricochet. His aunt Melissa said: 'When he woke up on the morning of the surf the first thing he said was "I want to surf today!"'

Their session was a success and by the end of it Ian was beaming from ear to ear.
As well as providing therapy, Ricochet also raised £5,000 to help continue Ian's rehabilitation.

Ricochet's owner, Judy, knows just what an impact her beloved dog can have. She herself suffered from chronic arthritis since her teens.

She said just having Ricochet around lifts her spirits and inspires her to conquer her pain to get on the board.

'Ricochet has taught me to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't', she said.

Over the last 10 months Ricochet's spectacular antics on the high seas have raised more than £30,000 for a number of causes including animal and human arthritis.

Footage of Ricochet and Judy in action have made them internet stars with 2.5million hits on YouTube. The popular dog also has more than 11,000 friends on the social networking site Facebook.

For more information or to donate money visit

source: dailymail

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