Last year we wrote a blog post about dog surfing competitions in the USA. Dog surfers are canines who can surf with the best of them. Competitions are equal parts entertaining and altruistic. Surf dog competitions raise money for important causes. For example, past competitions have raised money for the San Diego Humane Society and the Big Dog Ranch Rescue, to name a few. Additionally, one veteran competitor, Surf Dog Ricochet, is lending a helping paw to COVID-19 first responders.
Surf Dog Ricochet is an integral member of the first group of San Diego Surf Dogs. This group was responsible for putting dog surfing competitions on the map starting in 2006 in Imperial Beach, CA. In addition to surfing, Ricochet uses her certification in Goal-Directed Pet Therapy to help heal veterans with PTSD and children with autism. Ricochet works with Pawsitive Teams and the animal-assisted therapy program at the Naval Medical Center San Diego.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a goal-directed therapy that utilizes certified animals as an integral part of therapeutic interventions. Handlers in goal-directed pet therapy come up with activities to work on with the animal’s assistance in order to achieve goals set forth by the professionals. AAT improves the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional function of those in need. Additionally, AAT is directed by health or human service providers in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers.
Being a certified pet therapy dog, Ricochet works primarily with veterans with PTSD and children with autism in therapeutic settings while also assisting them in their day-to-day tasks. For example, Ricochet has accompanied veterans with PTSD in running errands at potentially triggering establishments. While assisting veterans, Ricochet can sense when a triggering situation may arise. In these instances, Ricochet immediately sits down to communicate to her handler to assess the situation and regroup. Additionally, Ricochet’s work with children with autism has proven to be vastly beneficial. For example, Ricochet was assigned to assist a young girl in an educational setting. She communicated solely through an application on her Ipad. In a short amount of time, Ricochet adapted to her style of communication and began following cues from the application.
COVID-19 Outbreak Poses Future Stress on First Responders
The COVID-19 outbreak has imposed physical, emotional, and psychological strain on first responders throughout the world. As a result, many first responders will likely need treatment for anxiety, depression, trauma, and PTSD as a result of the COIVD-19 outbreak.
Virtual Canine Therapy to Reduce Stress of First Responders of COVID-19 Outbreak
In a recent study conducted at Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center, it was determined that eye contact with a dog stimulates the release of oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes positive feelings. Thus, the release of oxytocin reduces stress and anxiety. Virtual canine therapy derived from this research into canines’ effect on the release of oxytocin. As a result, Ricochet and her fellow canines at Pawsitive Teams have taken their therapeutic services online as well. Pawsitive Teams is offering virtual canine therapy for healthcare and essential workers as well as those directly effected by COVID-19. Virtual sessions are conducted on FaceTime and Zoom in order to alleviate stress and to lower symptoms of anxiety and depression. Surf dog Ricochet has already helped countless first responders during the COVID-19 outbreak.