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Therapy Dogs Go Virtual

May 14, 2020

The touch and feel of a dog, its warmth and comfort, is what makes our pets such perfect calming creatures to ease anxiety and help to melt away stress.

We’ve brought you countless stories of therapy dogs making huge impacts on the lives of those who have suffered or been injured, but in this day and age, the fluffy companions aren’t able to visit those in need.

As COVID-19 spreads in Hampton Roads, people are scared, sad and even anxious. With social distancing efforts in place, even therapy dogs visits have been sidelined.

Judy Fridon has been finding creative ways for her therapy dog, Ricochet, to comfort people through the computer screen.

“That’s the thing, in every other crisis, dogs are there,” she said. “This is the time when dogs are needed the most and we can’t be there.”

Ricochet gained fame as a surfer dog that helped wounded warriors, and has been a therapy dog for 11 years now. To keep her at work, just like we’ve seen time and again the past few months, Fridon evaluated the situation and improvised.

Both Judy and Ricochet knew they could be of help if they found a way to connect with people, especially since they had past experience helping those with PTSD.

“My first thought went to those doctors and nurses on the front line, what they’re going through, what they’re seeing, all the death and despair – that they could end up with PTSD,” Fridon said. “I wanted to do something to help them.”

Fridon encouraged writing a letter to Ricochet that you could later read aloud to the dog, helping to sort through any feelings of stress.

“It’s really cathartic. First, for writing it, and then saying it out loud… being able to share whatever feelings you have with a dog that is not judgmental, that can then help them if they’re angry,” Fridon said. “If it is something they couldn’t say to their spouse or their friend, they can say it to a dog.”

Fridon and Ricochet have also expanded their outreach to kids who are out of school.

“We started working with kids, where they can read to her,” Fridon explained. “She has coloring pages so they can color with her. They can give commands through the computer to do tricks, and she will do a trick.”

Bentley and I gave that a try ourselves.

“Ricochet, can you turn?” we asked. She immediately spun with joy.

If you’re looking for some puppy love in this time of uncertainty and you’ve been directly impacted by this crisis, Fridon said she and Ricochet are here for you.

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