When Dogs Surf: Animal Intelligence on a Beach in San Diego

Update: Just received a great email from Judy Fridono, Ricochet’s owner. Ricochet has already helped raise over $10,000 for Patrick through their tandem surfing. You can learn more about their work at www.ripcurlricki.com. For more information on the program Ricochet was born into, visit Puppy Prodigies, which is  “neo-natal and early learning program focusing on puppies between 8 to 12 weeks of age.” This was where Ricochet developed her great balance.

Patrick Ivison is a 15 year old quadriplegic as a result of a car accident that happened when he was just over a year old. Ricochet is a nearly two year old Golden Retriever who was rejected from being a service dog because she was too unruly, specifically he had a love of chasing birds. Together, they surf off the coast of San Diego and raise money for Patrick’s treatment:

Ricochet had worked with a boogie board in the puppy pool during service dog training and developed remarkable balance. So she was spayed and Rip Curl Ricki – her surfer girl nickname – was born. She entered her first surfing contest in June, then Fridono set up “Surfin’ for Paws-abilities,” the fundraising drive.

Ivison had been surfing adaptively for about seven years, so it seemed natural that they would meet and team up. He said he couldn’t ride the adaptive surfboard, which is built for two people, without Ricochet.

“She acts as that second person. She knows how to balance, too. She leans back and turns the board and it’s pretty cool to watch.”

The two started surfing together in August. During dozens of rides, they have wiped out just a few times, Fridono said. Ivison never surfs alone – a support team of family and friends keeps him from getting in trouble in the water. And Ricochet never leaves his side when they topple. (source)

Often we underestimate ways that animals and humans can have interrelated goals. It reminds me of Joshua Klein’s TED talk about the intelligence of Crows, where he suggests that this creature’s role in the world (which so many people find annoying) could be maximised by its special set of gifts. Instead of trying to master the animal kingdom, Klein posits there are ways to work with it to tangibly meet our shared needs.

Other very cool animal skills from the Behavioral Ecology Research Group from Oxford’s Department of Zoology include:

The woodpecker finch of the Galapagos Islands uses a cactus spine to spear insects. Pigeons have been known to recognize humans and letters of alphabet. Parrots, though, appear to be at the top of the pecking order. Alex, an African gray parrot, hit the headlines in the 1980s. The bird had a vocabulary of 100 English words and was able to ask questions and make requests.” (source)

Amy Thibodeau

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Amy Thibodeau is originally from the Canadian Prairies, spent the last few years in one of the world's greatest cities, London, UK and is spending the next year traveling around the world. She is interested in everything, but lately is mostly fixated on art, politics, creative writing, cuddly animals and experimenting with different kinds of photography. You can find her on her personal blog Making Strange, posting to her photography project Lost and Looking, on Twitter @amythibodeau, or working as a freelance content strategist via Contentini.