By Stephanie Alderton, Staff Writer
There was plenty of running, splashing and roughhousing Saturday at the Ken-Caryl Ranch House pool, but the lifeguard didn’t seem to mind.
That’s because all 30 swimmers during each hour of the Ranch House’s ninth annual Doggie Dip Day were four-legged and furry. Although the pool had closed the week before, it opened Saturday for three one-hour sessions that gave dogs a chance to play and compete against one another in diving, fetching and swimming contests. Half the proceeds from the registration fees went to Foothills Animal Shelter.
KC Leniger, special events coordinator for the Ken-Caryl Ranch Metropolitan District, said registration for this year’s Doggie Dip was all but full, an improvement on the last chapter of cavorting canines.
“Last year we didn’t have quite as many,” she said. “They were signed up, but the weather was bad.”
This year, except for a few scattered rain clouds, the weather was warm and sunny. A loud crowd of dogs and their owners, mostly residents of the Ken-Caryl community, started filling the pool area even before the festivities began at noon.
The first dog to arrive was a black border collie-Lab mix named Tebow, there for the third time with his owner, Mark Philbrook.
“This time he’s a little bit more bold,” Philbrook said. “He was a lot more timid the last few times.”
Most of the dogs raced into the water as soon as they saw it, though some were more interested in playing with one another on relatively dry land. Dawn Olson, owner of the Ken-Caryl Pet Spa, and Tara Byrnes of Colorado Home Realty handed out free dog treats, along with advertisements for their businesses. Leniger announced each contest through a megaphone, played with the dogs, and mingled with their owners, smiling and laughing enough to match the pets’ excitement.
“This is definitely my favorite event,” she said several times.
It took a lot of coaxing to persuade many of the pooches to plunge off the diving board for the diving contest, but owners had less difficulty convincing them to fetch tennis balls in the water or to swim the length of the pool. Winners picked from an array of plush squeaky dog toys, shaped like giraffes, skunks and other animals.
Carrie Thornburgh’s dog Lina won a prize in the “doggie paddle,” or race across the pool. She said that this, her second Doggie Dip, went smoother than the last time.
“Last year (Lina) tried to drown another dog,” Thornburgh said. “Last time they did the relay, and someone threw a KONG Wubba a little late, and she sees it out of the corner of her eye, and she’s like, ‘I have to have it.’ So she goes and stands on the golden retriever’s head and tries to drown him.”
This year there were no attempted drownings. With the exception of one pup that tried to steal an unearned chew toy from the prize table, most of the dogs behaved well. Leniger said it’s not unusual for the pets to get along better at events like the Doggy Dip than they do at home.
“It’s so different! And I think it’s because they’re not on a leash,” she said. “For some reason, when they’re on a leash, they feel like they have to prove that they’re tough or something.”
Successfully retrieving a tennis ball for their owners might not have made the dogs feel tough, but it did put a smile on many human faces by the end of the day.