Service dog reject Ricochet becomes surfer dude

Golden Retriever Richochet and Patrick Ivison. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

You can learn more about Richochet in our previous blogging and at our foundation’s site on Golden Surf Dogs.

Golden Ricki

Richochet’s story made it bigtime, the Associated Press doing a fabulous article and video. And, she has been an incredible fundraiser, donations in for almost $9000.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ricochet is a service dog dropout. It’s not that she wasn’t dog enough. To the contrary, there was way too much dog in her.

Her undoing? Chasing birds. But she’s found redemption in the ocean, surfing to raise money for a quadriplegic teen.

Ricochet, a 19-month-old golden retriever, lives with Judy Fridono in Escondido, about 25 miles north of San Diego. The two set out to raise $7,000 to help Patrick Ivison, a 15-year-old who was just a year old when he was run over by a car.

They exceeded that goal when Ricochet competed in the inaugural Surf City Surf Dog Contest in Huntington Beach, bringing her summer fundraising total to more than $8,200, Fridono said. The playful surfer dog came in second in the large dog finals Sunday, even with a special bootie she wore after tearing a paw pad while racing around the beach a few days before the contest.

Ricochet plans to continue hanging 20 and raising money to help with Ivison’s physical therapy. Insurance pays for one hour of therapy every week, but the San Diego high school sophomore needs six.

Dog and dog owner hope to eventually help someone else after Ivison.

Ricochet had nearly nine months of service dog training behind her when her bird problem developed at the beach one day. Fridono was brokenhearted.

“I didn’t want her to just become a pet dog,” she said. “So rather than focus on what she couldn’t do, we focused on what she could do. And that was surfing.”

Ricochet had worked with a boogie board in the puppy pool during service dog training and developed remarkable balance. So she was spayed and Rip Curl Ricki — her surfer girl nickname — was born. She entered her first surfing contest in June, then Fridono set up “Surfin’ for Paws-abilities,” the fundraising drive.

Ivison had been surfing adaptively for about seven years, so it seemed natural that they would meet and team up. He said he couldn’t ride the adaptive surfboard, which is built for two people, without Ricochet.

“She acts as that second person. She knows how to balance, too. She leans back and turns the board and it’s pretty cool to watch.”

Meet Abigail, the Dog Teacher

As Dean Koontz says, “Bonnie Bergin is legendary for her groundbreaking work with dogs.” President of the Assistance Dog Institute, Dr. Bergin originated the service dog concept and movement, and she has been training dogs to assist people with disabilities for more than thirty years. She knows that dogs have an almost limitless capacity to learn.

In the book, Teach Your Dog to Read, Dr. Bergin provides concrete advice on achieving the seemingly impossible: teaching ordinary dogs how to recognize and respond to written commands. With more than fifty instructional photographs, Teach Your Dog to Read is an amazing tool for making your dog smarter and enhancing your capacity to communicate with each other.

Dogs, she writes, decode visual messages, “reading” the symbols of body language and hand signals; they can similarly, therefore, decode the symbols of typed words and stick figures. Her simple method relies on homemade flash cards, delectable treats, and markers (e.g., a clicker) as well positive reinforcement. This is not a book of “stupid dog tricks”; it is a serious training manual easily accessible to the layperson wishing to enhance communication with a dog or to use a dog in therapeutic situations or in school or library “Reading to Dog” programs.

The principal question the book raises—why is it necessary for dogs to read?—is addressed by Bergin’s emphasis on special assistance dogs who need to read signs for the visually impaired and others who rely on a dog’s help in everyday life. As for those who aren’t disabled, Bergen explains that the skills involved can keep the dog away from your turkey dinner and off your favorite chair, while helping owners form an intense emotional bond with their dogs.

Here is a sweet retriever-mix named Abigail who demonstrates nicely how beneficial this reading behavior can be.

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