Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book Review: Ricochet (dogs, autism/PTSD, surfing, kids with special needs)

Ricochet: Riding a Wave of Hope with the Dog who Inspires Millions, by Judy Fridono (author) and Kay Pfaltz (writer) (Health Communications, 2014, 274 pages, $18.95)

Who doesn’t Know and Love Ricochet, That California Canine Surfin’ Dude?

Who hasn’t seen Ricochet, the golden retriever, surfing with special needs kids to raise funds ($380,000 to date) for therapy and for service dogs? Ricochet is also a friend of wounded warriors, kids who are bullied, and Oprah.

Who hasn’t watched the YouTube videos again and again, perhaps with tears in your eyes at the profound calming effect Ricochet creates, as if she somehow knows just who needs her, approaches that person gently (perhaps to surf with him or her), and absorbs their anxieties?

Pink is Her Color but She is More than a Live ”Barbie Dog”

Ricochet is a dark red, golden retriever who wears a pink wetsuit-life preserver and often surfs on a pink surfboard (she is a girl dog, after all), but she is so much more than just a live “Barbie dog.” She has an uncanny canine ability to sense the one who needs her and to bring that person into the here and now, even to take on his or her pain, if only for a little while, but the good memories remain, as well as new confidence and hope for the future.

The Rest of the Story

Yes, we know that Ricochet is a surfin’ dog but how did she become such a gentle athlete?

Ricochet was born into a new, small service dog organization and received early training, including balance exercises and boogie board games which serve her well on a surfboard as she adjusts her position with the waves to balance her precious human cargo.

Ricochet started out life as a puppy service-dog-in-training, smart at a whip, sometimes learning a skill after only one trial. Yet, suddenly she lost interest. Was becoming a service dog not her dream job after all, not what she was meant to be? Perhaps she was meant to help millions of people, not just one person as a service dog.

Judy Fridono, Rico’s trainer, became more and more frustrated until one day at the beach, Rico showed her stuff (Rico was not the first surfing dog: competitions exist by the dozens, many of them soon to be won by this gentle golden.) and Judy finally listened to her dog.

Then came the brilliant idea to have Rico surf on a board next to young Patrick on his board. After one trial, the dog jumped onto Patrick’s board and a new ‘sport’ was founded – tandem adaptive surfing with Ricochet still being the sole SURFice dog.

Ricochet is now well-known, just like the two wonderful service-dog-in-training-drop-outs of author Dean Koontz, who has been owned by two wonderful service-dog-in-training drop-out authors, Trixie and Anna, also golden retrievers.

But Sometimes Less is More

Again, it’s another book that is so much about the author and Fridono does anthropomorphize Rico a bit much. The book is long and round-about: the author opens with a tragic accident, then spends a long chapter on her own childhood. Both these chapters finally come together but it takes perhaps too long for this reviewer.

In addition, references to coincidences and the same anecdotes abound and are referred to over and over. Ricochet, the book, would be more effective as a shorter version about a spiritual lesson for living.

The author has her own service dog, Rina, who has a lovely story herself, but, for another book. Ricochet takes too long to get to Ricochet and then leaves Rina in her wake.

Ricochet is available in your local neighborhood bookstore and will hopefully soon be followed by a children’s book.

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