“Even though I’m sick and dying, I don’t let it stop me from living my life” – Bellamy.
Last Wednesday, my dog, Ricochet surfed with 17-year-old Savannah and 19-year-old Bellamy Arterburn from Denver, Colorado. They both have the same terminal illness, Friedreich’s ataxia, a debilitating and degenerative neuro-muscular disorder with no treatment or cure.
When they heard Ricochet is a SURFice dog® who surfs with people with disabilities, kids with special needs, wounded warriors and veterans with PTSD as an assistive aid and paws-on healer, it became their dream to surf with her. But, because of all the hardships this family has endured, they couldn’t afford a trip to San Diego. Ricochet’s water handler, Dave came up with the idea of Ricochet hosting a fundraiser to bring the girls to San Diego. Within 24 hours, the whole trip was funded! Ricochet’s Facebook fans, Scott and Sharon Brandstadt donated 100,000 Southwest Airline miles. Hotel Indigo, Del Mar donated a room. Ricochet’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram fans sent in cash donations to cover attractions, activities and dining.
They traveled to San Diego to catch some waves with their favorite canine, as well as experience her paws-on healing.
In the last few years, Bellamy and Savannah have begun losing the ability to move, had several spine surgeries, learned to live with a failing heart and tragically lost their mother to breast cancer
Despite everything they’ve been through, they stay strong, resilient and love everything about life
On the day of the surf session, Savannah and Bellamy arrived to the beach in wheelchairs. Their excitement was hard to contain
Each sister took a turn being helped from their chair into the ocean, and onto the surfboard by Ricochet’s team of big-hearted water helpers
This was the first time the girls ever surfed, so safety was the first priority. It was made possible by the experienced and skilled water team
Sisters have no body strength or muscle control
19 year old Bellamy is on the left, and 17 year old Savannah is on the right.
Ricochet positioned herself behind them to counter-balance the board and keep it afloat
She gave them a chance to forget about their illness as they glided through several waves
“I’ve always wanted to surf and then I found out about Ricochet and it made it more special. It just felt so good, like I was free”, Bellamy said
Their smiles, screams and laughter were filled with exhilaration.
Savannah fell in the water once, and exclaimed “that was so cool. It was actually really exciting”
Their father, Donovan had a huge smile on his face as he said “When Savannah fell off the board, I asked her if she needed to sit and rest, or did she want to go again. She said she was ready to go again!”
Then, Donovan took his turn surfing with Ricochet and stood up on his very first wave. It was the first time in a long time this single dad could leave his worries behind for a few moments
Bellamy and Savannah said they felt a sense of empowerment, and also experienced Ricochet’s paws-on healing
This surf session was the epitome of the healing power of the ocean… and the healing power of a dog!
It’s not the act of surfing that makes Ricochet’s interactions so life changing. It’s her powerful paws-on ability to make immediate, deep, heart-to-heart connections with the individuals she interacts with
She intuitively and empathically alerts to their emotional and physical changes, and then provides support and healing energy where it’s most needed.
Ricochet was honored to make Bellamy and Savannah’s dream come true while raising awareness of Friedreich’s ataxia
Now, we ask you to please get on board and join her by sharing this inspirational story of two sisters loving life in the face of adversity.