Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Virtual therapy dog visits, shoe collection­s for homeless animals

- By Linda Wilson Fuoco Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.org or 412-263-3064 or at PG Pets on Facebook.

Gaze into the eyes of this golden retriever. Ricochet is a certified therapy dog who loves her volunteer work, and she and her handler are sad to be sidelined by the coronaviru­s shutdowns.

“Gazing into a dog’s eyes stimulates the release of oxytocin — a hormone associated with positive, happy feelings,” says Judy Fridono of San Diego, the handler and partner of Ricochet, 12. Ms. Fridono says she and her dog and a military veteran with PTSD confirmed this fact, working with a research scientist at Duke University.

The golden retriever is rather famous on social media, where she is known as Surf Dog Ricochet. Ms. Fridono says her unusual dog “pioneered” the concept of therapy dog surfing. It started in 2009 when Ricochet jumped on a surf board with a 14year-old who was paralyzed. Since then she has surfed with hundreds of people with medical and psychologi­cal issues, including military veterans with PTSD.

Ricochet has raised $650,000 for many causes and nonprofits that help people and animals. The dog and Ms. Fridino also work with the nonprofit Puppy Prodigies, which trains service dogs for people with disabiliti­es.

The California beaches are closed, so Ricochet can’t surf. She can’t visit hospitals, nursing homes or schools, either.

So, Ricochet and 10 dogs with the Pawsitive Teams animal-assisted therapy are offering online virtual therapy dog visits. It’s all about the eyes.

Ms. Fridono sent me eight photos of Ricochet gazing soulfully into the camera. Look at each one. Did it help? It didn’t hurt, right?

Go to www.facebook.com/SurfDogRic­ochet to see the slideshow/virtual therapy dog visit with background music. Ricochet is there with 10 other dogs involved in the Pawsitive Teams animal assisted therapy. Old shoes save animals

Cleaning out closets, cupboards and cellars? Round up those new and used shoes no one is wearing and donate to a new rescue, Struggles to Snuggles Animal Rescue Inc. If the rescue in Greensburg can collect 2,500 pairs of shoes, another nonprofit will give it $1,000.

Every Saturday from May 2 through May 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., drop off the shoes at the Struggles adoption center, 225

South Maple Ave., Greensburg 15601.

Donated shoes will be picked up by Funds2Orgs, based in Orlando, Fla. That organizati­on ships shoes to Haiti and other developing countries, where people are taught to be entreprene­urs to sell the shoes to people who need them.

Another local group that helps animals, Nittany Greyhounds, has had successful shoe drives with Funds2Orgs in past years.

Since the Struggles to Snuggles started in January, it has found homes for four cats, one rabbit and seven guinea pigs, said Tara Wills of Greensburg. The vice president is Audra Kelly, also of Greensburg.

Both women are nurses, working through the pandemic. They work in the office of a staffing agency that places nurses all over the country.

Currently, there are 18 animals in four foster homes, including several litters of kittens.

“The person who brought in a rabbit didn’t tell us she is pregnant, so there will be babies soon,” Ms. Wills said.

With little advance publicity, Struggles has already collected 87 pairs of shoes.

“We had planned garage sales and other events, and then the virus happened,” Ms. Wills said. The rescue has had a lot of calls from housebound people “who are cleaning and purging and looking for ways to help others.”

 ?? Judy Fridono photos ?? Surf Dog Ricochet's special brand of therapy is surfing with people with special needs — including children and military veterans. With California beaches all closed, owner/trainer Judy Fridono is offering virtual visits from Ricochet, 12, a golden retriever.
Judy Fridono photos Surf Dog Ricochet's special brand of therapy is surfing with people with special needs — including children and military veterans. With California beaches all closed, owner/trainer Judy Fridono is offering virtual visits from Ricochet, 12, a golden retriever.
 ??  ?? Ricochet has joined 10 other dogs for online virtual therapy dog visits.
Ricochet has joined 10 other dogs for online virtual therapy dog visits.
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