updated 02/19/2010 AT 11:58 AM ET
•originally published 01/13/2010 AT 7:45 AM ET
When Judy Fridono’s precocious puppy lost interest in her service dog training, and instead showed an impulse for chasing birds, Fridono could only focus on her own disappointment as she relieved the dog from its job. She had been training Ricochet to be a service dog since the pup was just 13 days old.
Yet, she couldn’t ignore her golden retriever’s innate potential, and decided to give something else a try. So she introduced the dog to Patrick Ivison, a 15-year-old quadriplegic who loved to ride the California waves.
“When Ricochet was with Patrick on the surfboard, she was so completely focused on the task at hand that that was all she wanted to do,” Fridono tells PEOPLEPets.com of her now 2-year-old dog. “She kept running back in the water and back on the board with him. It was like she was born for that day.”
Through Ricochet, Fridono, who herself has a disability, was able to raise $10,000 for Ivison’s physical therapy, and Fridono’s video of Ricochet’s journey has gotten 1.3 million views on YouTube (and climbing). Ricochet and Fridono have since led other fundraising efforts, including a toy drive that brought in more than $3,500.
Ricochet’s latest project is helping Ian McFarland, a 6-year-old boy who is suffering severe brain trauma and lost both his parents in a car accident. Collections for McFarland have already passed the $3,000 mark, and Ricochet may eventually be paired in the water with the boy, who used to surf with his father.
“Once I let go of who I wanted Ricochet to be and let her just be, she completely flourished and amazing things started happening,” Fridono says. “My goal for her was to help one person as a service dog, and she has helped many, many more than what my goal was for her. It’s taught me to accept people and beings for who they are, and when you do, something even more magical can happen.”
Meet other incredible animals on PEOPLEPets.com:
A Career Change Helps Chuckie and Chester Reach Their Full Potential as Therapy Dogs
Former Michael Vick Pit Bull Enjoying New Life As Therapy Dog