SAN DIEGO -- An Escondido dog that surfs for charity is a finalist the "American Hero Dog'' award, the American Humane Society announced Monday.

Ricochet, a 3-year-old golden retriever, counterbalances the boards to keep special needs children and disabled adult surfers from falling off. He also makes fundraising appearances, and YouTube videos featuring the dog have gone viral.

After more than 300,000 public votes were cast online, Ricochet won a category called "Emerging Hero Dogs.''

His competition for the grand prize includes winners in the Law Enforcement and Arson Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs and Hearing Dogs divisions.

"Every dog nominated is a bona fide hero,'' said Robin Ganzert, president and chief executive officer of the American Humane Association. "Every day, across America, dogs protect, comfort and give their unconditional friendship and affection to the ill, the infirm, the wounded veteran and the frightened child.''

Voting for the American Hero Dog will be done by the public and a celebrity panel that includes Victoria Stilwell, Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, Kristin Chenoweth, Jillian Michaels and animal care experts such as Wendy Diamond.

The judging period will continue until Sept. 30th.

The winner will be announced at the Hero Dog Awards celebrity gala at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles on Oct. 1. The show will be televised and shown on the Hallmark Channel on Nov. 11.

Last September, Ricochet was one of five winners in the American Kennel Club's Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence.