Updated: Jul 28, 2020
I have worked with thousands of dogs in shelters in several cities. And I have evaluated many therapy dogs and dogs in service-training. It is my personal belief that each dog has a unique purpose in life. The question is, are we tuned-in enough to know an individual dog's purpose. If you have been around many dogs in your life, you've probably noticed that each of their personalities are totally unique. Some have strong work ethics, some are just here to love and have fun -- and there is nothing wrong with that.
The point is, can we be alert enough to recognize a dog's unique purpose in this lifetime? I help pet parents who are interested in discovering their dog's specific purpose and it about really listening, from your heart. Uncovering a dog's true purpose leads to greater happiness for the dog and the person who shares his or her life.
For example, only a small percentage of dogs are destined and thus trainable to become service dogs. New MRI studies show that there are differences that can be detected on brain scans. But even if they "flunk" out of training, they may have a different -- and equally valuable life purpose. Ricochet is one example of a dog who was in service dog training -- and excelling -- until -- she and her owner discovered her true purpose.
Surfing-Service Dog - Ricochet
Judy Fidono had a Golden Retriever puppy named Ricochet. Fidono was a trainer of Service Dog puppies, and Ricochet was a prized “puppy prodigy” whose training literally began from the first day of birth. Ricochet excelled faster than any other dog she had ever trained – and Fidono was sure Ricochet was going to become an excellent service dog. But Ricochet had something else in mind.
At about the age of a year-and-a-half she suddenly stopped cooperating on all training exercises. Fidono doubled and tripled her training efforts, but Ricochet refused to do even the simplest commands she had been doing for months.
She was just about to give her up and adopt her out as a pet to another family when she decided to “listen” and observe what it was that Ricochet wanted to do. The result was that she discovered she had a great talent for surfing. And with almost no training, she became proficient at taking disabled children on a tandem surfboard. She was able to give paralyzed children the ride of their lives. Ricochet became a YouTube phenomenon, getting over a million hits, and helped raise over a hundred thousand dollars for treatment of disabled children.
If Ricochet hadn't "flunked" out of Service Dog Training, she would have never discovered her true purpose. For this reason, I use her story to talk to teens who may feel they don't fit into the system. When it comes to purpose, there is no "one-size fits all." This is as true for dogs and people-animals.
Sometimes you have to "flunk out" of one kind of version of training or belief about your identity, in order to discover your true path. And your true path is often infinitely more wonderful than the one you were chasing.
Ricochet is an inspiring example of the fact that we -- people and animals- have a unique purpose. Our job is to discover this and to ride this wave!
Genie Joseph, PhD
The Human-Animal Connection