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Meet Dogs and Birds Who Surf, Tell Jokes and Save Lives

Roll over! Fetch! Speak! These are nice tricks for the average house pet to know, but some animals are capable of doing much more. These gifted dogs—and birds!—can surf, tell jokes and help keep your health in check. Here are five incredible animals that give their humans a new lease on life.

Surfing dog Ricochet takes a solo ride. (Dale Porter/

Surf’s Up

Ricochet, a 9-year-old golden retriever, has learned to roll with the tide—and help others do it, too.

After dropping out of service-dog training—the San Diego, California, pup wanted to chase everything—the four-legged YouTube sensation now encourages veterans and kids with disabilities to step outside their comfort zone atop a surfboard. Ricochet helps counterbalance the surfboard, standing on the back to keep it steady or serving as a handle for her partner, says owner and trainer Judy Fridono.

The transformations after just one surfing session can be astounding. “That is sometimes the first time ever the kids have been completely independent,” says Fridono. “It’s a very empowering thing.”

Surfing dog Ricochet takes a solo ride. Even off the water, the dog’s therapy work continues, calming kids like Hunter Pochop, who has spina bifida. (Barbara McKown)

Ricochet is helping kids like West Butner, 11, who has autism and a speech disorder called apraxia. When West first met Ricochet, he was afraid of dogs and water and preferred spending his time alone in his bedroom. But the pair developed an immediate bond, and now West is confident enough to be interviewed on camera for an ESPN segment on Ricochet’s work with kids and veterans.

“Here’s this kid with such a severe diagnosis, who couldn’t speak,” says his mother Lauren Chavez. “He’s completely changed because of Ricochet.”

Owner Fridono discovered Ricochet’s ability when the dog climbed onto a boogie board in a kiddie pool at just 8 weeks old. Amazed at the canine’s calming effect on both kids and…

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