Ricochet, the California golden retriever who found her calling as a surfing therapy dog, has died at the age of 15.
According to AP, Ricochet was diagnosed with liver cancer in August and died on Friday. But the golden retriever will always be remembered for the big impact she had on so many people.
Ricochet was originally trained as a service animal, but it wasn’t the right fit for her as she would often become distracted and chase birds. However, the sweet dog soon found another way to help people in need.
While Ricochet was rejected from being a service dog, owner Judy Fridono realized the golden retriever had a surprising knack for surfing. According to ABC News, she started boogie boarding at 8 weeks old and became a pro on the surfboard.
Still desiring to help people in need, Ricochet found a new life as a “SURFice dog” and started fundraising for charitable causes. “I didn’t want her to just become a pet dog,” Judy told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “So rather than focus on what she couldn’t do, we focused on what she could do. And that was surfing.”
In 2009, Ricochet became a viral sensation after getting on a surfboard with a quadriplegic teen named Patrick Ivison. The moment inspired people around the world, and made the owner realize that Ricochet’s surfing skills could be used to provide therapy for people with disabilities.
“That day she hopped on the board with Patrick, she was reborn,” Judy said in a 2012 interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. “She kept running back to the water with her tail wagging like she could finally tell me, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
The golden retriever helped disabled people learn to surf by acting as their “co-pilot” on the board.
“She stabilizes the board,” Sabine Becker, who was born with no arms, told ABC News in 2011. “Somehow, she does it so we’re not off balance. She is just standing there and just surfs with us.”
According to her website, Ricochet taught and surfed with hundreds of people and was the only dog provide canine assisted surf therapy “to empower, enhance and improve the quality of life for individuals with physical, cognitive, or emotional disabilities.”
In addition, Ricochet was one of the world’s first surfing dogs and competed in dog surfing competitions. She raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities and was an ambassador for surfers with disabilities.
Ricochet died on March 31. Judy announced the news on Ricochet’s social media, saying the family “let go” of the dog at a veterinary hospital after her health took a drastic turn.
“My heart is full of sadness and gratitude today,” the owner wrote. “Sad because Ricochet is physically gone, and grateful for the long and triumph life she lived to the fullest… helping millions along the way. I’m also filled with gratitude for all of YOU as you were such a big part of her life.”
She also shared the last photo of Ricochet, and said that while she was “sad” and “lost” without her beloved dog, she would continue working to keep Ricochet’s legacy alive: “Her legacy is too powerful to think that her mission won’t continue.”
Rest in peace, Ricochet — what an incredible dog who changed so many lives and inspired millions around the world.
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