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Surf Dog Ricochet Tackles Bullying Problem
By Caroline Golon
A dog named Ricochet shot to stardom in 2009 when a video of her uncanny ability to surf the waves with disabled people went viral.
Today, with nearly 4 million video views and 63,000 Facebook fans, Ricochet uses her fame to raise money and awareness for various causes, including a serious issue plaguing American schools – bullying.
Ricochet and her owner, Judy Fridono of Escondido, Calif., visit local schools to talk with the students about bullying. They discuss what it is, why it’s bad and how kids can deal with bullies.
Then, Judy tells the students something that usually shocks them: Ricochet herself has been a victim of bullying.
“I don’t take her to dog parks anymore,” says Judy. “The other dogs don’t hurt her but it seems like they know that she’s a soft, gentle soul and they sometimes gang up on her.”
Judy says the students are surprised to think that even a dog could be bullied. She believes knowing this about Ricochet makes bullied kids not feel so alone, and hopefully gives them the courage to tell an adult what they’re going through.
“Kids seem to relate to dogs differently than they do to teachers or adults,” says Judy. “That’s why I think this program is so effective.”
Ricochet, who was born and trained to be a service dog, was unhappy with the direction Judy was pushing her. It wasn’t until Judy saw Ricochet happily jump onto a surfboard with a disabled boy that she realized she was trying to push Ricochet to be something she wasn’t.
“Once I let her be herself, everything changed,” Judy says.
Judy hopes the “be yourself” message gets through to the kids Ricochet meets. “It’s okay to be different, even if people don’t understand you,” Judy says. “I think Ricochet’s story shows that.”
In addition to her anti-bullying work, Ricochet continues to surf with disabled people, raises money for breast cancer research and has participated in a program designed to assist veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Ricochet’s message to these kids is to be true to yourself no matter what anyone says. That’s what Ricochet did and look what she’s accomplished!”
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