"None of us are immune to suffering, and unfortunately, some of us must endure it more than others. But for the most resilient, many times the bad things in life are like stepping-stones upon which each of us, on our individual journeys, must walk."Judy Fridono, Ricochet: Riding a Wave of Hope with the Dog Who Inspired Millions
We live in a world of cynicism. As a realist for much of my life, I can attest that bad things do happen to good people, and the world can be unjust. However, it is how that person overcomes the adversity, which is a testament to their strength, and what they can do with that strength. Judy Fridono takes us through her journey of overcoming adversity, to discovery her purpose with Ricochet, by releasing the concept of control.
Judy Fridono, guardian of, and messenger for, Ricochet, the singular Golden Retriever who is the only SURFice dog in the world who surfs with children with special needs, people with disabilities, and Wounded Warriors who have suffered injury, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as an assistive aid, has experienced adversity in her life, suffering loss, pain and depression. However, within her journey of discovery with Ricochet, she has learned, we do have choices, actively refusing to allow negativity to enter her life, "There is bad in the world, but there is so much more good." In doing so, it led her to her purpose, with Ricochet.
The tumultuous journey began with Ricochet training to be a service dog; what resulted was a spiritual discovery of love, acceptance, and embracing what makes us all special, individuality, and the potential behind individuality. Originally, Ricochet had been training to become a service dog; as time progressed, Ricochet lost motivation in the training (at sixteen-weeks of age), as Fridono grew frustrated over Ricochet's potential. However, motivation for Ricochet emerged, as she discovered her own way to help people, by becoming a "SURFice" dog.
Ricochet, at 15-months-old, was invited to the The Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge Surf Competition in 2009, winning third place. Ricochet's service dog training was a constant struggle, full of frustration; however, after Ricochet's surf competition, Fridono felt inspired, hugging Ricochet, as tears filled her eyes; she was so proud of Ricochet. At this point, Fridono released control (of training Ricochet to be a service dog), accepting Ricochet to be who she was, an individual with her own plan. To Fridono, once you let go, things that are meant to happen will happen, where it can be better than what you were trying to control. "There is so much tragedy in the world [where that] tragedy [is] what leads you to your purpose."
Fridono recognized, "Ricochet was good at surfing;" they could perhaps do something that involved surfing, such as fundraising. The first fundraiser, "Paw-abunga for Patrick" was for Patrick Ivison, a quadriplegic adaptive surfer whom Fridono had met a couple of times; he needed expensive physical therapy. In September 1995, an uninsured driver pinned 14-month-old Ivison underneath a car, while walking with his mother; Ivison suffered a C4-5 spinal cord injury. Confined to a wheelchair, Ivison, at age ten, began Project Walk, which costs approximately $30,000 per year; Ricochet raised $10,000 and Ricochet's sponsor, The Rose Foundation, awarded a grant for an additional three years.
Ivison and Ricochet were to surf on separate boards. Suddenly, Ricochet leaped onto Ivison's board, signaling to Fridono: this was her destiny, tandem surfing. Patrick Ivison was the person whom Ricochet surfed with that touched Fridono the most, as he was the first person Ricochet was able to help, cementing her destiny in helping an innumerable amount of people, as "The ocean has a magical quality." Coupled with a dog, it brings out a special experience of "pure joy."
As Fridono describes, what Ricochet does in the water with children with special needs, people with disabilities, and Wounded Warriors, is more than therapy. "It is different for everyone, she is different for everyone." For some, she drew out independence for those who never thought they would ever surf; some found courage with Ricochet. Particularly with children, Ricochet offers comfort, compassion, and support, giving them an "outlet to feel connected, understood, and less isolated," as she loves everyone unconditionally, with no preconceived notions of a person; you "can't be in a room and not feel loved by her." Ricochet is incredibly sensitive and intuitive, where "she instinctively knows what [that person] needs," many times before that person even knows.
Ricochet's intuition was highlighted in working with Wounded Warriors, as she embarked on combating the alarming rate of soldier suicide (PTSD can be a factor), by creating the PTSD Battle Buddy Initiative. Ricochet was credited in saving retired-Staff Sergeant Randall Dexter's life, partnered with him in February of 2013, during Paws'itive Teams Canine Inspired Community Re-integration (CICR) program (canine therapy helps reduce PTSD symptoms). His time with Ricochet gave Staff Sergeant Dexter what he needed, a connection "on a very deep spiritual and soulful level, probably something he hadn't felt before," observes Fridono. "The more Ricochet helped Randy, the more I realized she could do more."
Despite Ricochet's celebrity, Fridono is adamant, "It is not about Ricochet, it's about the cause at the moment." Plans are rarely made; often, Fridono is asked, what's next, as she replies, "Ricochet hasn't told me yet." However, each new project will continue to keep "Ricochet's heart as pure as it is."
The journey Ricochet has taken with Fridono has been a very deep and spiritual journey, one of which was "very intense, life changing, and very simple," something Fridono wishes to share with everyone. An important concept Ricochet illustrated, despite how much we attempt to control our lives, we don't have any control. Fridono had attempted to "control" Ricochet by trying to make her into something she wasn't, a service dog. However, once Fridono accepted Ricochet for who she truly was, "so much good came out of it," as Fridono "wanted [Ricochet] to help one person, Ricochet wanted to help millions," such as teaching people to not only embrace individuality, but to also fight for that individuality, as it allows us the opportunity to discover the things we are capable of, things that we never could have imagined.
I consider myself incredibly lucky, not only to have been able to speak with Ms. Fridono and retired-Staff Sergeant Dexter, but to also have had the opportunity to learn and write about these incredible people, whom Ricochet has been able to help, whether overcoming adversity, or simply giving that person what he or she needed. Although Ms. Fridono's original goal for Ricochet was to help one person, Ricochet has touched the hearts of millions of people, including me. In reading the book, it felt as if I was revisiting familiar friends, "an extended family," all sharing an interconnectedness to a singular, little "SurFUR girl," a light of positivity, continuing her journey in inspiring limitless discoveries.
To purchase Ricochet: Riding a Wave of Hope with the Dog Who Inspired Millions, please visit: www.surfdogricochet.com