This year’s Pooch Pool Party was packed.
A record 360 dogs showed up with their owners Saturday at the annual end-of-summer dog swim, turning Tacoma’s Stewart Heights Pool into a frenzy of four-legged fun.
Great Danes, Chihuahuas, poodles, Papillons and everything in between spent the day dog-paddling after tennis balls, lunging through the Lazy River and barking, while their owners urged them on and snapped pictures.
“This is the most dogs we’ve ever had,” said Aaron Canfield, the aquatic program coordinator at Metro Parks, watching the bedlam from a position near a lifeguard stand.
“And they’re all having a good time,” he said. “Every year I’ve half-expected to see a dog fight, but we’ve never had one.”
Canfield came up with the idea for the dog swim four years ago.
“Basically, I was just looking for something to do with the pool at the end of the season,” he said. “We’re going to drain it anyway, so I thought, why not offer something unique?”
Canfield said pool staffers turned off chemicals after the Labor Day weekend, when the pool closed for humans, to keep the chlorine from irritating the dogs. Owners were cautioned to bring only “well-socialized” dogs to the event and were supposed to have their pets on leashes when not in the water, a rule generally ignored as impractical.
A yellow Lab named Jorja was a sensation at the deep end, making great running leaps into the air and landing in a canine version of a cannonball.
“She’s eight now, so she’s slowing down a little,” said her owner, Jennifer Skenfield of Tacoma’s North End. “You should have seen her when she was four and in her prime.”
Most other dogs preferred the shallow, gradually sloped side of the pool. A few were reluctant to get wet at all.
A little brown-and-white dog named Tripper was one of them. Tripper, who stands about 7 inches tall and, according to her owner, Anita Catalinich of Tacoma, is “part Chihuahua, part Papillon and part jackalope,” could not be enticed into the water.
“If I was in the pool, she would swim out to me,” Catalinich said, “but she won’t go in by herself. I think she’s a little overwhelmed in the crowd.”
• PHOTO GALLERY: Tacoma pool goes to the dogs