These Sisters With Same Terminal Illness Hit the Waves With a Surfing Dog

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Most people with terminal illness often give up on life and don’t want to keep on living anymore, especially if they are well aware that their sickness cannot be cured. For them, every day is the last time they can say “I love you,” share appreciation, and to make amends when necessary.

Take seventeen-year-old Savannah and nineteen-year-old Bellamy Arterburn as an example, they are siblings who have the same terminal illness, Friedreich’s ataxia, a debilitating and degenerative neuromuscular disorder that has no known cure.

Despite their illness, they are still thankful they lived a happy life with their family and friends, and they want to enjoy this lifetime to the fullest. That’s when they heard about Ricochet, a 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. News about the surf dog had them dream to surf with her. The only thing that’s stopping them from surfing with Ricochet is money; because of all the hardships this family has endured, they couldn’t afford a trip to San Diego.

Bellamy and Savannah’s terminal illness made them lose their ability to move and learned to live life with a failing heart. They had several spine surgeries and lost their mother to breast cancer, yet they still have the courage to smile.

In the last few years, their life has been a tragedy, but they still remain strong despite everything they’ve been through.

Ricochet’s water handler, Dave came up with this brilliant idea of hosting a fundraiser to bring the girls to San Diego. Ricochet has a Facebook fanpage, and that’s where Dave posted the fundraiser;and fortunately, two of Ricochet’s Facebook fans Scott and Sharon Brandstadt, donated 100,000 Southwest Airline miles. Hotel Indigo Del Mar also donated a room, and Ricochet’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram fans sent in cash donations to cover attractions, activities, and dining.

Savannah and Bellamy couldn’t contain their excitement when they heard they would now be able to meet Ricochet and got even more thrilled upon arriving on the beach.

They arrived on the beach in wheelchairs and took a turn being helped from their chair into the ocean and onto the surfboard by Ricochet’s team of water helpers.



This is Savannah and Bellamy’s first time to surf, so the experienced and skilled water team helped to keep them safe.

The sisters had no body strength or muscle control, so Ricochet positioned herself behind them to counterbalance the board and keep it afloat.

They traveled to San Diego to catch some waves with their favorite canine, as well as experience her paws-on healing. Bellamy is on the left, while Savannah is on the right. Ricochet gave them a chance to forget about their illness as they glided through the waves.

“Even though I’m sick and dying, I don’t let it stop me from living my life.” —Bellamy

“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 faces were filled with happiness and joy. They were accompanied by their father, Donovan.

Savannah fell in the water once and said,  “That was so cool. It was actually really exciting.”

Donovan had a huge smile on his face when 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!”

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.

The sisters both felt a sense of hope when they experienced firsthand Ricochet’s paws-on healing.



The girls had the time of their lives as they surfed with Ricochet and thanked Dave for making it happen. Their dad was so happy seeing his girls smile and had that healing energy where it was most needed.

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 people she surfs with.

This surf session was the epitome of the healing power of the ocean . . . and the healing power of a dog! Ricochet was honored to make Bellamy and Savannah’s dream come true while raising awareness of Friedreich’s ataxia.


Watch a video right here about their stories.

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