CRANBERRY TWP — While air at the Community Waterpark is normally filled with the smell of chlorine and the sounds of children splashing, on Saturday those sensations were supplanted by the smell of wet dog and lots of barking.
But it wasn't unpleasant or a pack of wild animals invading the pool — instead, it was the 15th Puppy Plunge.
A bit fewer than 100 canines — and their families — attended the first session, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, while nearly another 100 were present at the 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. session, both planned by the Cranberry K9 Connection.
With the water untreated and plenty of chew toys and tennis balls floating through the water to be nabbed by playful dogs, Nancy Hans of the K9 Connection said the event shows that Cranberry Township has transformed into a place accepting of dogs.
“We are a dog-friendly community,” she said. “The culture has changed a bit over the years.”
While the group typically works behind the scenes, lobbying the municipal government to make more public spaces dog-friendly — currently, only three areas in the township, such as the Brush Creek Trail Extension, some trails in North Boundary Park and the dog park in Community Park, accept dogs — this was a public-facing event that welcomed canines and provided them a time and place to get some unusual exercise.
Carol Schweitzer of Cranberry Township said her dog Lizzie, a 3-year-old Lab mix, had a blast in the water during their first visit, and the waterpark provided an easy and convenient way to get her there.
“She'd do this all day long if we let her,” Schweitzer said.
Paul Havey of Cranberry Township, who visited with two Golden Retrievers, a 2-year-old named Tucker and 1-year-old Daisy, said this was his second time at a puppy plunge, and he planned on attending the Sunday dog-swimming event at Alameda Park in Butler.
Proof of a valid rabies inoculation was requisite for dogs in attendance, and while the focus was on the pool, much fun was to be had on land.
Dogs were playing with toys in the grass or on the concrete around the pool, and many dogs were enthralled by the potential attention they could get from human guests.
Despite the hazards — dogs shaking off water nearby is rarely a pleasant experience — both the animals and the humans, who watched their anthropomorphized pets have a giant play date, were enthused by the exercise.