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Temple Terrace pooches' pool party is a hit

TEMPLE TERRACE - It was a picture-perfect Saturday with barely a cloud in the sky. Midday temperatures hovered in the 80s. On this Jan. 12, a quick swim in the pool would have hit the spot for most anyone following a morning's round of golf, a workout, carting kids or the completion of some weekend chores. But had you gone to Temple Terrace's Family Recreation Complex you would have been out of luck. That is unless you were a dog.
The leisure services department – under the umbrella of the city's Parks & Recreation Division – hosted its first Soggy Doggy Day, a pool party strictly for pooches. Some 70 dogs of various sizes and breeds turned out during the four-and-a-half-hour event, owners in tow. In true doggie-style fashion the majority of the bigger and bolder breeds fearlessly took to the center's Olympic-sized pool and competed in the fastest swimmer and fastest retriever contests. But for the most part the tinier and more timid puppies and pooches opted to stick closer to their protective masters, either near the edge or on the steps of the pool. During the course of the affair the city's recreation supervisor and event coordinator, Scott Andrews, also oversaw the selection of winners in some other canine competitions that included owner/dog lookalikes and best swimsuit. A few of the pet pooches even managed to involve their owners in a game of toss-and-fetch the tennis ball from the water. Annabelle, a 10-year-old English springer spaniel and her master Gail Anderson of Seminole were among them. In fact, the duo's back-and-forth fun lasted for the better part of an hour. "I just think this is a great thing for dogs," said Anderson, who'd read about the event in a local newspaper. "Unless you have a pool in the backyard they don't get this kind of opportunity very often." Maria Diaz of Tampa, whose daughters Emma, 4, and Elizabeth, 12, attend ballet classes at the center, agreed. They live in a residence where there is no such amenity. It was the first time Spot, the family's 2-year-old malitpoo, had ever put his petite paws in an outside pool of water with the exception of small puddles of the wet stuff he occasionally walks through. "It's wonderful and the girls were pretty excited about it," said Diaz. The only downside to the day for them was that they discovered their doggie had no interest in getting wet, much less swimming or playing pool games with the big boys. James Chambers, director of the city's parks and recreation division, was thrilled with the turnout, saying it was more than three times the number they'd anticipated. "But more importantly, it's how much fun they are having," he said. Andrews said the idea came about as rec center officials were in the midst of planning to drain the pool for what he called periodic maintenance. That includes thoroughly sanitizing it and giving it a fresh coat of paint. "I'm very pleased with it," Andrews said. "It's a great community event and a good experience for folks on two feet as well as four." The pool will re-open for people to enjoy on Jan. 28.

Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMckenzie@gmail.com.
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