Three-year-old Bailey suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a medical condition that affects the spinal cord’s motor nerve cells. As a result, she is unable to sit, stand, crawl, or walk on her own. She also can’t swallow food efficiently or breathe without the help of a machine. But thanks to Surf Dog Ricochet (and some human volunteers), Bailey and a few other kids suffering from SMA recently did what most children their age only dream of — go surfing!
The surfing expedition took place on San Diego’s beautiful beaches on August 19 at the Cure SMA event held to raise awareness and research funds for the disease, which currently has no cure. The young surfers, many of whom cannot even hold their head up, were placed on a specially-made bath chair that was attached to the surfboard. Then, with Surf Dog extraordinaire Ricochet by their side, the kids set off on an adventure like none other they had experienced in their young lives.
While kids like Bailey who has the most severe Type I SMA were kept closer to shore, those with more mobility were allowed to venture out further into the sea under the watchful eyes of Ricochet and a human volunteer. Among them were Logan, Amy, and Bailey’s sister, Riley. These five-year-olds all suffer from the slightly milder, Type II SMA.
Not every surfer that day was a child. 23-year-old Robin, who has Type II SMA and is too weak to hold her head up, was accompanied on the surfboard by her brother, who appeared to enjoy the event as much as she did.
Ricochet, or Rip Curl Riki, as she is often called, began training to be a service dog when she was just a puppy. But while the golden retriever was a natural at learning then necessary skills, it soon became apparent that she wasn’t quite cut out for a career as a service dog. That’s because Ricochet loves to chase birds and other small animals, almost as much as she likes helping humans. Fortunately, her owner, Judi Fridono, discovered Ricochet’s natural talent for surfing and decided to use it to help disabled people.
Ricochet's first surfer buddy was quadriplegic surfer Patrick Ivison. The initial plan was to have the two surf alongside each other. However, Ricochet abandoned her board and jumped on Patrick’s for some tandem surfing. This turned out to be a good idea given that it not only reassured Ivison, but also provided much-needed counterbalance on the board. Since then, SURFice dog Ricochet has introduced hundreds of physically challenged kids to the joy of surfing and also helped fundraise thousands of dollar for several worthy causes!