Saturday morning the gate to the Great Bend Wetlands Waterpark opened for the final time this season, admitting kids, parents...and dogs. They were there for the seventh annual Bark in the Waterpark, a fundraiser dedicated to the maintenance and improvement of the dog park at Veterans Memorial Park.
As of noon, 75 dogs had taken the plunge, according to water park manager Megan Hammeke.
“Today is a beautiful day to be at the pool with your dog,” she said. “A couple years ago we had really bad weather that fell on the day.”
Inside, the wagging tales and wide eyes indicated the dogs were having a wonderful time chasing tails and chasing balls, on and off the leash. Some stayed close to owners, others made fast friends with their four-legged companions. For many, it was a first time experience.
Titus, a five month-old black German Shepherd Dog stayed close to his owner, identified only as Nate. While he was willing to get in the water and swim, he was more interested in interacting with other people and dogs than chasing toys.
Bella, a three-year-old golden retriever mix, was there for her first time ever, too. With a little coaxing she would jump into the pool with owner Melanie Tiede.
Dennis Neeland was there with one-year-old Hazel, a chocolate Labrador Retriever. Alert at the sight of a ball, she was quick to jump into the water and made a quick trip back to deliver the ball before rushing off to check out a nearby friend.
Little dogs were well represented too, though most of the “fur babies” were happy to be held in the water or wade in the zero-entry pool.
Hammeke said she doesn’t have trouble finding lifeguards to cover the three-hour event each year.
“I don’t have to work too hard,” Hammeke said. “There’s usually a couple who enjoy coming out here to watch all the fun.”