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Fossil Park Pool's Dog Swim Day was a crowd-generating success

ST. PETERSBURG

Maya the border collie knew just what to do.

She walked to the edge of the diving board at Fossil Park Pool, oblivious to the crowd forming around her. The board wobbled a little, but the little dog's legs were steady.

As Maya got to the edge, her mom, 45-year-old Debbie Laneau of St. Petersburg, threw out a toy.

Maya soared, landing in 12 feet of water with a big splash. A round of ooohs and ahhhs rippled through the small crowd. A little girl laughed. Laneau's husband, Rick, stood off to the side, videocamera in hand.

"She loves to go in the water," Debbie Laneau said, grinning. "We've been working on the diving. I can't get her out of the pool at home."

The Laneaus were one of hundreds of families who showed up at Fossil Park on Saturday for the annual Dog Swim Day.

The event is held at the end of every swim season, just before city pools are closed and sterilized for the season. Dogs are allowed to use the pool in one of three 90-minute sessions. Humans aren't allowed in the water.

Most of the dogs, like Bruce Meligan's three giant Newfoundlands, had no problem jumping into the pool as soon as it opened.

"That's what they're bred for," said Meligan, 57, of Clearwater. "They have an instinct for water rescue."

That wasn't true for Nyah, the 7-month-old Rhodesian ridgeback. At about 75 pounds, Nyah was bigger than most of the dogs splashing in the kiddie pool, but she didn't want anything to do with the water.

It was her first time. Finally, Tino Montanez, 23, of St. Petersburg, scooped the pup up and put her in. She clung to the side.

"It's alright, it's okay," Montanez soothed, encouraging his dog to kick. "Good girl. You're fine."

The event seems to get bigger every year, said Paula Hahnert, a recreation specialist for the city of St. Petersburg.

In fact, it's become so popular that some people come just to watch.

That's what Cindy Byers and her 7-year-old daughter, Lily, were doing Saturday when they spotted Maya on the diving board.

"We've been thinking about getting a dog, but we're not ready yet," Byers said. "This is fun, though."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8643.

Fossil Park Pool's Dog Swim Day was a crowd-generating success 08/27/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 27, 2011 10:53pm]
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