By LIZ HARTNETT
Dogs and dog owners had a splash at the third annual Pooch Plunge at Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center on Tuesday night, Sept. 7.
“It’s super fun — I’m glad Parks and Recreations does it,” said Alan Loshbaugh, who was there with his beloved pair of mutts, Annie and Remington.
The nationwide event began in Normal, Ill., said Janel Twehous, who helped run the Columbia event. Dog owners are encouraged to bring their pets to their local pool to enjoy some fun in the water and the company of other dogs.
In Columbia, this special occasion for furry friends takes place the day after Labor Day every year so that afterward, Columbia Parks and Recreations can drain the pool and close it for the season. The pool, which closes to the general public after Labor Day, gets no chemical treatment prior to the event, making it safe for the dogs to swim.
This year, 75 dogs and their owners attended. “It seems to be very popular,” said Twehous, recreation supervisor at the Activity and Recreation Center who admitted dogs at the gate. “Pet owners are very pleased with it.”
The smell of wet dog was unavoidable as dogs paddled in the main pool and in the children’s area of the aquatic center. Goody bags were handed out to each attendee, filled with treats, a dog toy and coupons to various pet stores. Those squishy dog togs were put to immediate use as the owners tossed them into the water and the dogs retrieved them — even though not all of them were retrievers.
Loshbaugh, who was attending the event for the third time, also goes to the Pooch Plunge in Jefferson City. “All the dogs are friendly at both places and all the people are friendly at both places,” he said.
Jenny Hecker, owner of 8-month-old Koala, a stormy-eyed Australian Shepherd, was a first-time attendee and has decided to make it a tradition. “We’re going every year,” Hecker said. “We’re hooked.”