Meet Ricochet, a Service Dog Turned Surfer Dog

Ricochet the surf dog.
Ricochet the surf dog.

When a photo of surfer dog Ricochet came across my desk, I had to reach out to service-dog trainer and founder of the nonprofit Puppy Prodigies, Judy Fridono, to learn more.

Apparently Judy had intended for Ricochet to be a service dog. Just one pesky little problem — Ricochet loved to chase critters, which is risky behavior when you’re a service dog. But Judy still felt Ricochet had a service purpose.

“My idea was for her to fundraise for a 14-year-old boy who was getting rehab due to an accident that caused him to become quadriplegic,” she says. “He was an adaptive surfer, so I thought if they both rode their boards on the same wave, I could show people what they had in common to encourage donations.” Of course Ricochet had her own ideas. Although Ricochet and Patrick rode several waves side by side on their own boards, Ricochet then jumped off her board and onto Patrick’s. “She wanted to surf with him on the same board,” Judy says. “It was her idea, and we all trusted her. She has continued surfing with kids with special needs, people with disabilities, wounded warriors and veterans with PTSD ever since.”

Judy believes people respond to Ricochet because she lets her do what she was born to do. “We humans have preconceived notions of what we want our dogs to be,” she explains. “Service dogs, therapy dogs, agility dogs, surfing dogs, whatever. We often think our dogs are misbehaving, so we squelch the behavior. But, most of the time they are just trying to communicate with us. If we listen, the magic is endless. Because I’ve nurtured Ricochet’s natural abilities of empathy, intuition, mirroring and healing, she is a profound paws-on healer.”

So what does Ricochet do when the surf’s not up? Lure coursing! Judy says it’s Ricochet’s absolute favorite. She still loves chasing critters, cats and squirrels the most. “She spends a lot of time playing with our new Golden Retriever/Lab mix puppy, Cori,” Judy says. “She adores people, especially kids, and is happiest when we lose count of the number of hands petting her at one time.”

So what’s next for Judy and Ricochet? “We recently started a new program called Waves of Empowerment,” Judy says. “Since 2009, Ricochet has been working with people/kids with disabilities and military with PTSD. This program brings both populations together in a mentorship/comradeship type environment and the kids and military empower each other.” 

Judy also wants to educate dog owners on how to listen to their dogs and what various behaviors mean. “I’m especially passionate about teaching military with PTSD who are hypervigilant that they don’t need to be when they are in the company of their dog. Dogs are hypervigilant by nature, so as long as the individual watches their dog’s behavior, they can take a lot of pressure off themselves.”

That’s not all. Ricochet was featured in a 60 Second Doc on Facebook and YouTube and will be in the IMAX movie SuperPower Dogs. Follow Ricochet at or through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @SurfDogRicochet.

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Editor’s note: This article appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you

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