Comfort Corner, Remembering Judy Fridono and Ricochet
Like pebbles thrown into still water, Pawsitive Teams’ dogs spread comfort—ripples in a pond. In each newsletter we share one of their stories
In all my years associated with Pawsitive Teams, I have never seen a more extraordinary human/dog partnership than Judy Fridono and Ricochet. In the last few months, the world has lost both of them, but their impact was so far-reaching that Judy’s message can still help many.
Judy learned from Ricochet that humans should listen to their dogs, not always the other way around. Ricochet loved balancing on water boards, which led eventually to competitive surfing competitions, then to a friendship with a Pawsitive Teams service dog recipient, Patrick Ivison, who was active in competitive adaptive surfing. One day, Ricochet and Patrick were riding their waves in on separate boards when Ricochet jumped off her board and onto Patrick’s. Judy often said that was the moment she really listened to Ricochet and acknowledged what Ricochet wanted to do. From then on, Judy interpreted as Ricochet helped and healed hundreds of vulnerable people by surfing with them and intuitively looking out for them. She was even featured in an international IMAX movie, Superpower Dogs.
Judy and Ricochet were key participants in Pawsitive Teams’ CICR program (Canine Inspired Community Reintegration), where active-duty sailors and marines who suffer from PTSD, TBI’s, and more, spend time with and handle therapy dogs in settings that offer them greater independence and comfort in the outside world. Judy always acknowledged Ricochet’s behavior in sensitive situations, knowing that what may look like a misbehaving dog is often something much more. Our dogs can say, in their way, “You’re not okay, even if you can’t see it.” For instance, often Ricochet would stop and plant her feet to prevent a service member from going down a particular store aisle, where, as the service member would confess, there were too many people. Ricochet intuitively mirrored her handlers’ emotions, causing them to understand themselves better if they would but take notice.
Once, in a CICR debriefing session after an outing to Old Town, I listened to Judy comment that Ricochet had prevented her and the service member they were with from going down the stairs to the train station, but had had no trouble leading them up the stairs. At that moment, the service member said, “I have to confess that I have a deep fear of falling down stairs, which I haven’t talked about with anyone.” Judy just shrugged, not surprised that Ricochet had picked up on the woman’s discomfort and mirrored that in her own seemingly inappropriate refusal to move forward. Judy knew to listen.
That’s what Judy wanted us all to do: listen to our dogs and interpret the messages they try to send us to make us okay. It’s what she taught to others right up to the week of her death. And what she wanted to pass on to the world.
Pass it along.