Return engagement: Surfdog Ricochet grants dying Denver sisters' wish
Published - 08/12/15 - 09:31 AM | 11842 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ricochet smiles the smile of a true champion. COURTESY PHOTO
Ricochet smiles the smile of a true champion. COURTESY PHOTO
The beauty behind Savannah and Bellamy Arterburn's smiles is about as hard-won as it gets. The loss of their mother to breast cancer in 2009 is a marker for their own likely shortened futures: Both Denver residents suffer from Friedreich's ataxia, a progressive, degenerative neuromuscular disorder with no treatment or cure (their sister Skylar is also afflicted with the disease). Savannah is 17, Bellamy 19. The lifespan of Friedreich's patients is 30 to 40 years, and heart disease is the most frequent cause of death.

But dreams are made to be lived – and at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, August 12, that lofty concept played out at La Jolla Shores' lifeguard station 33, at 8200 Camino del Oro. Surfdog Ricochet, known nationwide for her skills on the board and her deep empathy with sick and injured children and wounded warriors, hung 20 with the Arterburn sisters in fulfillment of the girls' wish to surf with their object of altered states.

Ricochet, subject of a book by her Escondido owner Judy Fridono and a onetime inveterate bird-chaser, uses surfing to fuel her connectedness with humans and to inspire people's beliefs in themselves. Last October, she surfed the Shores with two 19-year-old men in need of heart transplants. At that time, Fridono said Ricochet, a 7-year-old golden retriever, was “supposed to be a service dog but likes to chase critters.” Ricochet, Fridono said, instead found her calling with the physically compromised.

“Now, she surfs with people who are disabled, counterbalances the board. She raises a lot of awareness.”

The latest installment might not have materialized due to lack of funding – but one day made all the difference. A recent Facebook fundraiser and donations of frequent flyer miles and a Del Mar hotel room meant a dream come true for the Arterburn sisters – such is Ricochet's clout with philanthropy's human side. The girls echo Ricochet's sense of purpose in a video even as the odds are in their disfavor.

“Most of my friends are... able-bodied,” Savannah said, “and they can do a lot, and I want to be able to do the same. If there's something I can't do, I want to do it.”

Brittany added that “Surfing is like snowboarding on the ocean, and I love snowboarding... Even though I'm sick and dying, I don't let (the disease) stop me from living my life.”

That life aspires to a Ph.D. in sociology or psychology, while Savannah has spent the last several years learning technical theater at the Denver School of the Arts. The sisters' time off the water is well-spent, fueling the climate of empowerment Ricochet is known to create.

“Dogs are so cool,” Savannah said. “It's cool to meet one that can do a human thing.”

And when Ricochet's involved, that ”human thing” extends beyond La Jolla Shores.

For more information on Ricochet, please contact Fridono at (707) 228-0678 or at

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