Puppies paddle at annual fundraiser

Buddy, an 11-year-old English Labrador swims during the Puppy Paddle on Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Russell Sims Aquatic Center. Buddy attends the Puppy Paddle every year, his owner Jean Grout said. Evan Boggs/HERALD

Emma Austin

Over 100 dogs splashed and paddled together on Saturday at Russell Sims Aquatic Center for Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society’s annual fundraising event dubbed “Puppy Paddle.”

Once a year, typically after Labor Day weekend, the aquatic center welcomes dogs and their owners to swim in the pool before closing for the season. The center hosts the event at no charge to the humane society, allowing all donations and proceeds to go directly to the shelter.

“It’s a great chance to interact with so many different people, and let your dogs socialize,” Amanda Hays, operations manager of the humane society, said. “It’s an amazing experience to watch all the dogs be so happy.”

The fenced-in area allowed dogs to run off-leash in and around the pool, swimming and interacting with each other while songs like “Who Let the Dogs Out” and “Bingo Was His Name-O” played over loud speakers.

The dogs also had opportunities to compete against each other in contests, including “Final Fetch” and “Benji’s Best Trick.” The DJ offered the animals a chance to come participate in karaoke, which he eventually opened up to the humans after a lack of interest from the dogs.

The Bowling Green/Warren County Humane Society hosts several other fundraising events throughout the year for people with all kinds of pets, Hays said, including “Paws for a Cause,” an event hosted in October by Montana Grill, who donates an entire night of sales to the humane society.

“Events like [Puppy Paddle] are always so much fun,” Hays said. “Even if you don’t have a dog, it’s fun to watch everybody else’s interact.”

Rhonda Hagan, 54, came to Puppy Paddle on Saturday for the first time with her three dogs after hearing about it from her daughter. She said she had just taken her dogs to a similar event hosted by the shelter in Nelson County, and jumped at the chance to come to the one in Bowling Green.

“I feel like dogs aren’t viewed the same way they used to be,” Hagan said. “Now, they’re a part of the family, so people want to do things with their dogs that they can have fun at.”

Hagan, a volunteer at Barktown Rescue and the Humane Society of Nelson County, said she thinks it’s very important to support local rescues and humane societies. She said a growing sympathy for homeless animals contributes to the success of events like Puppy Paddle.

“Just watching [the dogs] is so much fun, I love it,” Hagan said.

The humane society partners with Dog’s Day Out, a doggie daycare and grooming facility in Bowling Green, to organize Puppy Paddle each year.

Pam Brown, owner of Dog’s Day Out and humane society volunteer of 15 years, said events like Puppy Paddle have an important role in raising funds to support the shelter.

“The adoption center runs solely on donations,” Brown said. “Without donations and events like this, it wouldn’t be able to function and stay open.”

In addition to paying for supplies and staffing to take care of the dogs, Brown said donations also pay for the dogs’ healthcare while at the adoption center. Many animals come into the facility with health issues, and are all fully vaccinated and spayed or neutered before joining their new family. Brown said donations and adoption fees go directly toward these costs.

“We do everything we can to keep them happy and socialized, and treated for anything they need to be treated for,” Hays said. “But we definitely couldn’t do it without the support of the community.”

Mark Thane, 68, came to Puppy Paddle for the fifth year in a row with his golden retriever, Bonnie, who he adopted from Taylor County Animal Shelter. Thane said he tells people they won’t know how fun the event is until they come out and experience it themselves.

He said he enjoys the chance to bring his dogs out and let them off the leash to swim and socialize with other dogs and people.

“I try to go to most of the fundraisers for the humane society,” Thane said. “They do a great job; they need every dollar they can get, really.”

“The more money they raise, the more they can do for local animal rescue,” volunteer Toni Capelli said. “It’s all about the animals, you know. Rescued should be the best breed.”

Reporter Emma Austin can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emmacaustin.