Therapy dogs.

What a precious dog this one is.

Margaret down in Tasmania recently sent me a link to a story about a surfing dog. It was remarkable and I am going to share it with you. (I hope that I am allowed to!)

The link was to a website called Goodness-Exchange.

Here is the story.


The Surfing Therapy Dog Helping Those with PTSD and Autism

It’s no secret that dogs are capable of extraordinary things. We’ve seen them predict seizuresdetect cancersniff out buried truffles, and assist in the conservation of some of our world’s most precious ecosystems. But can a canine heal a wounded soul? Grab your surfboard (and maybe some tissues) because we are about to introduce a dog named Ricochet who is sure to melt your heart and bring on the happy tears. This sweet golden retriever has multiple championship surfing titles under her collar, but it’s the way she uses her unique talents to help others that truly makes her so special. 

As many remarkable stories do, Ricochet the Surf Dog’s story began where another journey ended. She was just a lil’ pup when she began training to become a service dog, where part of her training was balancing on a boogie board in a kiddie pool. In 2009 she took her first steps into the ocean, and just a short time later that year she won third place in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge Surfing Dogs Competition!

Alas, the temptation to chase critters was too great for Ricochet to become a service dog, but her owner Judy decided to focus on what she could do instead.

Courtesy of Judy and Surf Dog Ricochet

The “Aha Moment” that decided Ricochet’s destiny. 

2009 was a big year for Ricochet, as this was the year she made it clear to the rest of us what her purpose really was. One day out in the water, she decided to jump aboard the board of quadriplegic surfer Patrick Ivison, and it was at this moment that her owners discovered Ricochet’s true potential.

Surfing has been at the forefront of Ricochet’s work, but her true magic lies in the way that she intuitively adapts with each individual she interacts with. According to her owner,

“…It’s her mystifying ability to make immediate, heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul connections with strangers both in and out of the water.”

Ricochet makes deep connections with all types of people, but she is most sensitive to those with PTSD who have served in the military, and children with autism. In the video we’re about to watch by the Smithsonian Channel, you can see for yourself how Ricochet has an instant calming effect on Audrey Estrada, a military veteran who suffers from PTSD and an intense fear of the ocean.

I get by with a little help from man’s best friend.

Many of us suffer from invisible threats that intrude on our mental well-being. In the U.S. alone, 6% of the population have PTSD, that’s approximately 15 million adults each year. 2

It’s a condition that is often hard to explain to other humans, so it makes total sense that a dog would make the perfect confidant. They don’t judge you, they don’t talk back or tell your secrets, they simply feel you. And in turn, carrying the weight of it all feels less heavy.

Ricochet has had such a profound impact on people’s mental health, it’s enough to make one want to ask the doctor to prescribe an empathetic dog with a pink vest. But in addition to being an adorable floof of empathy and innocence, as of 2015, Ricochet is a certified therapy dog and level II Reiki healer!

The story has only just begun.

Our wish for anything pure and good like Ricochet’s story, is that it will continue to fan out over humanity in the best way possible. And in this case, it really has.

Ricochet’s owner Judy started a non-profit called Puppy Prodigies that offers swimming lessons, canine assisted water rescue, dog training, and adaptive surfing! Click here to meet Aqua Dog Cori, a super cute female golden lab who was donated to the group and now uses her natural instinct to perform trained water rescues!

In addition to these programs, Puppy Prodigies also tackles the root of the problem that they see in many of the people they help by creating awareness for PTSD, anti-bullying campaigns, and mentorship programs. Learn more about these branches of their mission and learn how you can contribute by checking out their website here.

Catch a wave and ride that baby for as long as you can!

I hope you found this story as wonder-filled and inspiring as I did. It really made me think about the journeys that we find ourselves traveling, and the people we can help along the way if we look at our abilities through a lens of opportunity. 

If you find yourself failing at something, or your plans didn’t turn out the way you had hoped, remember Ricochet. If a golden retriever can find it’s true purpose and have such a life-changing impact on others, I have full confidence that you can, too. 

And when you do find it, stand sturdy and ride that wave of goodness!


What a fantastic video that was. But there are many videos about Ricochet so if you want to stay with him then YouTube is as good as place to start as any.

But as we all know when it comes to dogs each dog is an individual with their own likes and dislikes. Their ability to understand us humans is magical as well. I swear that many of our dogs here at home can understand words spoken by Jean and me. Whether they interpret the words directly or associate the tones expressed with each phrase, rather like a musical sound, is beyond me. I am sure someone knows and if anyone has a link to the researcher who has discovered this about dogs then please let me know.

10 thoughts on “Therapy dogs.

  1. As the owner of two therapy dogs, this statement really resonated with me and so aptly describes the whole pet therapy description: “…It’s her mystifying ability to make immediate, heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul connections with strangers both in and out of the water.”
    This description is just about perfect. Those soul-to-soul connections are unmistakable. You definitely know it when you see it. My Sam instinctively knew what people needed but new therapy dog Norman is beginning to make those kinds of connections-just like I know he would once he became familiar with the routine of hospital work.


    1. Hello Monika. Do you have any idea how dogs do this? They must read something in us, something tangible, such as a change in the tone of our voices, or a change in our behaviour, or a change in our facial expression? With our Oliver, who is not a trained therapy dog, but is ultra sensitive, I think it is the way he looks at my face. Such an intense scan, especially my eyes, and I can communicate with him by the subtlest changes in the way I look back at him. But I would love to know for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know Paul, I don’t. Some dogs just seem to have a sixth sense about what them. It’s quite remarkable. Sam would always visit each person in a patient’s room but he always went to the person he thought needed him the most first especially at hospice. It blew me and the staff away.


      2. Presumably, that was before Sam saw that person? If so, that is incredible, Monika. Somehow, somewhere science has got to the bottom of this? Must try researching it when I have a little more time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Paul, just came across an article that might shed some light on how dogs are able to sense our needs. It seems pretty spot on from my experience and a reasonable way to put it, the second paragraph in particular. This applies to therapy dogs as well as regular companion pets. Whole article can be found here:
    “Jill Haley Rose, a professional dog trainer who is also a certified dog behavior consultant and separation anxiety trainer out of western Massachusetts, said dogs are tuned into to our internal emotions.

    “Dogs are adept at observation and reading subtle changes in body language,” she said. “That’s the primary way they communicate with other dogs. So, we, as humans, do act differently when we are stressed and anxious. Dogs notice these changes, even subtle ones, and may respond to it in a variety of ways.”

    In addition to benefiting mental health, studies have proven that pet ownership can also benefit physical health, too; in fact, “dog ownership is associated with reduced all-cause mortality possibly driven by a reduction in cardiovascular mortality,” according to the findings of an American Heart Association (AHA) Journal.”


  3. Now had time to read that article, Monika. Yes, I think you have put your finger on the way that dogs communicate between themselves and also read us humans. I will do further research and possibly write up a post for the blog.


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