Labrador retrievers and other big dogs joyfully plunged into the pool in Crafton Park and took long, sure strokes to swim endless laps in the deep end at the first Doggie Paddle last Sunday.
A miniature poodle named Lucy daintily waded into the shallow end, wagged her tail and walked around, greeting and meeting other dogs and their people. After a rather brief dip, she got out, dried off and donned a peachy-orange sweater with brown trim.
For the next two hours Lucy sedately trotted around on the paved pool deck and the grassy beach area. The 9-pound dog was not the least bit intimidated by the 105 other dogs whose owners paid $10 for their dogs to swim, run and raise money for renovations to the 60-year-old pool.
Although she's not much of a swimmer, Lucy has come a long way from a horrific beginning. In February 2010, she was one of 30 dogs rescued from a small unheated trailer in Greene County. Some dogs had wounds from fighting each other, and others had died. The dogs were rescued by the Humane Society of Greene County, and Animal Friends took 12 of them to their Ohio Township shelter.
On Feb. 20, 2010, Pam Palchowski of Crafton and her daughter, Angela, then 15, went to Animal Friends looking for a little dog that would enjoy cuddling with them. A shy little poodle that volunteers had named Taquitos was brought out to meet them. Because her long apricot hair had been a solid matted mess when she was taken out of the trailer, the dog was basically bald, A complete shave-down was the only thing a groomer could do to make her look and feel better. Shelter workers thought she was 9 or 10 years old.
Taquitos snuggled into Angela's lap, who gave her a new name, Lucy. The adoption was approved after a successful meeting with her father, Steve, and the family's Chow-Chow/shepherd mix, Biscuit.
Rescuers warned that the "trailer dogs" might have psychological problems that could never be overcome, but Lucy settled in quickly. With love and patient socialization, she overcame years of poor care and neglect.
Some dogs don't enjoy gatherings of large numbers of dogs and people -- even ones that have been loved and well cared for all of their lives. But Lucy clearly enjoyed it all and romped like a dog much younger.
"Why is she wearing Cleveland Browns colors?" a friend asked.
"It complements her apricot color and brings out her eyes," Mrs. Palchowski joked.
For the record, Lucy has a Steelers jersey and many sweaters and outfits; she needs them to stay warm.
Dog lovers who have never seen large numbers of dogs swimming in public pools should mark their calendars for the next ones, including Labor Day swims at Dormont Pool and Mineral Beach in Finleyville. A number of people always show up without dogs because it's so much fun to watch. The Crafton Paddle will be held next year, perhaps on the weekend after Labor Day, said Jamie Beechey, director of borough services.
A black Labrador retriever took a break from swimming and trotted over to the concession stand where volunteer Joanne Beechey was selling hot dogs and soft drinks for people and Milk Bones for dogs. The Lab put his paws on the counter like he belonged there, made eye contact with Mrs. Beechey and wagged his tail. When he didn't score a free treat, he politely returned to the pool.
Dozens of pink, yellow and purple balls floated in the water, and dogs cheerfully shared them. Labs and goldens and other retrievers looked totally blissed out as they swam with balls in their mouths, returning them so they could retrieve them again.
Miss Sarah, 6, enthusiastically retrieved balls for Ed Hanke of Robinson. A Boykin spaniel -- the breed resembles a cocker spaniel -- she's also a therapy dog and visits VA hospitals.
Gladys Carlen walked from her house next door to the pool with Harley, 2, a red miniature dachshund. Although Harley's still in therapy dog training, she already visits hospice patients. After a brief wade in the baby pool, Ms. Carlen put a form-fitting T-shirt on the smooth-haired dog to keep her warm while they socialized.
Walk for the animals
The fourth annual Tails on the Trails Dog Walk is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Saturday at the Harrison Hills Park, Laurel and Broken Branch groves. The event benefits Animal Protectors.
The $30 registration fee covers a person and dog in a 1.2-mile walk or a 2-mile walk. Walkers are encouraged to collect pledges from friends and family. Money will also be raised by local vendors, food from Holy Smoke, pet portraits, microchipping and nail clipping. Go to www.animalprotectors.net for more information.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.