Dog Helps Girl with Autism Surf

Gina Gill, a 9-year-old girl with autism from San Diego, has struggled with socializing and self-confidence for most of her life.

Fortunately, Gina has been able to boost her self esteem by learning how to surf: her teacher being a 5-year-old golden retriever name Ricochet.

Ricochet is part of a program called “Puppy Prodigies,” which provides ocean-based therapy for individuals with disabilities including autism. Since she surfs with people who have disabilities, Ricochet is called a SURFice dog.

“I think she has a lot of trouble with everything in life, socializing and school, things can be really hard for her. She’s kind of a loner and it’s hard to make friends,” Gina’s mother Gail said. “I think this is building her confidence enormously.”

Gina’s canine partner Ricochet has even become a bit of a local celebrity, winning surf contests, posing with the Laker Girls and “throwing” out the first pitch at a Padres game. Ricochet “is the only dog in the world that surfs with children with special needs, people with disabilities and wounded warriors as an assistive aid and SURFice dog.”

Puppy Prodigies hosted a New Year’s Eve event in Del Mar, California, where people with disabilities as well as members of the military suffering for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, could surf tandem with Ricochet. This was Gina’s third time surfing with the golden retriever.

Ricochet also surfed tandem with Randy Dexter, an army veteran with PTSD, for the New Year’s event.

“It’s given me a new lease on life,” says Dexter.  “Now my relationship with my wife and family has gotten so much better.”

For more information on animal therapy in New York, read here:

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