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Surf dog Ricochet catches the waves with Italian water rescue dog trainers


Ricochet’s protégé, Cori also worked with them to make her canine-assisted
swimming program for kids with special needs the best it can be & save lives

Two trainers from the renowned Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs, Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio (SICS) traveled all the way from Italy and caught waves with Surf Dog Ricochet in San Diego, CA. In addition, they taught Ricochet’s protégé, Aqua Dog Cori, their water rescue techniques to use in her canine-assisted swimming program for kids with autism, special needs, fears or other challenges.

SICS dogs are the only ones in the world that dive into water from helicopters, hovering over the water while providing aid to people in distress.

The trainers, Valentina Pilenga and Simone Galbiata spent five days teaching their water rescue methods to Cori, her handler, Judy Fridono and swim instructor Jodi Powell from Special Fishies Aquatic Freedom and Education.

Although Valentina and Simone spend a great deal of time in the water, they had never surfed.

So Ricochet gave them a lesson, and they hit the waves!

Then it was back to water rescue. Although Cori didn’t jump out of a helicopter (yet), the trainers were impressed with her courage and quick learning capacity.

Cori started showing an instinct for water rescue when she was 9 months old which prompted the canine-assisted swimming program.

Four out of the five days of training was held in a swimming pool where the SICS trainers acted as “victims”. During water rescues in Italy, the dog and human are a team. In situations where the “victim” is unable to swim back to shore, the human part of the team holds their face above water as the dog tows both of them back.

In the SICS exercise below, Cori is towing three individuals, the human part of her team, a “crisis victim”, and another less critical “victim” who is holding onto her vest.

In the SICS exercise below, Cori is towing three individuals, the human part of her team, a “crisis victim”, and another less critical “victim” who is holding onto her vest.

Cori’s canine-assisted swimming is part of Ricochet’s Waves of Empowerment program, and a collaboration with Special Fishies: Aquatic Freedom and Education. Cori provides an expeditious conduit that breaks through barriers much faster than her human counter-parts.

What can take months or years with traditional lessons can often be accomplished in one miraculous session! Click here to watch a video of three year old, Caiden who was anxious and crying until Cori joined his lesson.

Drowning, although preventable, is the leading cause of death for children ages one to four, and the third leading cause of death in children 19 and under. However, the danger of drowning is much higher for children with special needs. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of death for kids with autism.

Here, the swim instructor and SICS trainer collaborated on methods for back floating with canine assistance.

“There is no other program like ours”, said Judy Fridono. “We want to be the best we can be, which is why I reached out to SICS. Our objective is to utilize creative tools that only a dog can provide as kids learn about water safety-- and how to swim, which will ultimately save lives.”

Cori, Ricochet, Judy and Jodi all received certificates for their SICS training, but the biggest honor was the endorsement of their canine-assisted swimming program from SICS founder and president, Ferruccio Pilenga, and his dog Mas.

This is only the beginning of a partnership between Italy and America... united in saving lives!

The 350 canine units of SICS possess a license recognized by the General Command of the Port Authorities and are operational on the Italian beaches. More than thirty people are saved annually. In addition, the value and seriousness of the program are validated via the cooperation of the Coast Guard, the Ministry of Transport, Fire Brigades, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Military Aircraft Search and Rescue.

This is the reason why the SICS is viewed as an excellent organization worldwide. In fact, The National Geographic “And Man Created Dog” documentary, and many other specials on television and in media have featured SICS. A new International Course is one of many future projects of the School.

Additionally, their International commitment has increased considerably thanks to the interest of foreign entities that have the desire and capability to embrace their unique characteristics. In fact, several of their SICS instructors have been to the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Azores, Greece and Canaries. Such an International commitment is strengthened with important collaborative efforts, as is currently happening with Cori’s canine-assisted swimming program.


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