Sawyer, a 2-year old Portuguese water dog, whimpered at the edge of a diving board as his family coaxed him with tennis balls to jump.
Gina Mazza, of State College, gently nudged Sawyer from behind, and Courtney Stachowski, Mazza’s daughter, put her arms out as if to catch the pooch in the water. Sure enough, Sawyer crouched down and leaped off the board and into the water next to Stachowski.
“He wouldn’t have done it if she wasn’t there,” Mazza said.
Sawyer was the only dog out of about 120 to jump off of Park Forest Community Swimming Pool’s diving board during the second annual Aqua-Dog Day — a day in which the dogs got their turn to swim before the pool is closed until next spring. Todd Roth, aquatics supervisor for the Centre Region Parks and Recreation Authority, said the event nearly doubled in size, as 65 dogs played in the pool last year.
Roth said proceeds from the event will go toward purchasing and planting trees at Oak Hall Regional Park.
Bethany Carpenter played with her 2-year old black Labrador in the pool just feet away from the diving board. She said that though her dog Levi loved the water, he wasn’t used to getting in and out of a pool.
“Some other dogs are jumping in, but he’s kind of sloping in real easy, because he’s not used to this,” Carpenter, of State College, said. “He loves getting the tennis balls. The most he’s gotten in his mouth is three.”
Other large dogs, like a 6-year old blue doberman named Bella, had to be pulled into the shallow children’s pool by their owners. Nicole Lee, of State College, could not get Bella into the water until she walked her down the kiddies pool slope.
“I wish I could have just picked her up,” Lee said.
Small dogs also enjoyed Aqua-Dog Day.
An 11-month-old Maltese named Chalky slept on the pool’s ledge after Kelise and Chloe Wellings, 8-year old twins from Philipsburg, chaperoned her in the pool. Nucky, a 1-year-old short-haired dachshund mix, wasn’t as brave and wouldn’t let the twins take him in the water and instead burned his energy chasing larger dogs in the grass.
Enzo, a 1-year old long-haired dachshund, fetched tennis balls in the water for more than two hours with his big brother, an 8-year old black Labrador named Fiji.
“Enzo wants to do everything Fiji does, so he’s always swam with him,” said the dogs’ owner, Jessica Lichty, of Howard. “I think he thinks he’s one of the big dogs, and he won’t stop until I make him stop.”
Aqua-Dog Day also served as a family reunion for at least two dogs.
Martie and June, 5-month old pit bull mixes, played around the children’s pool for hours, but didn’t get too wet. Martie’s owner, Carl Chindblom, of State College, said it was his first time attending Aqua-Dog Day and that he told Martie’s friends to come.
“They’re not quite into it yet,” Chindblom said. “I kind of threw her in there, and she seemed OK for the most part but got out pretty quick.”
Joe Ladrido brought his family to play with Mae, their 9-month old Brittany spaniel, at the pool.
“She’s got webbed feet, so she’s a pretty good swimmer,” Ladrido said. “She’s been in and out and all over the place, because there are so many other dogs to see here.”
Ladrido’s children, 5-year old twins Charlie and Luke, threw tennis balls for Mae and a pack of other dogs near the deep end of the pool.
“It’s really a lot fun for everyone here, so we’ll be back next year,” Ladrido said.