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Calling all dogs! Lawrence’s Pooch Plunge to return

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Go dogs, go! To the pool, to the pool! Why? Will they work there? Will they play there? What is waiting for them at the outdoor public pool? 

A dog party. A big dog party! Big dogs, little dogs, red dogs, brown dogs, black dogs, white dogs and all dogs are all invited to a dog party. 

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The dog party — known as the Pooch Plunge — is a beloved Lawrence tradition with a 20-year history, and it’s scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15 at the Outdoor Aquatic Center, 727 Kentucky St. 

Lisa Hughes, an administrative support director for the aquatic center, has worked the event for 20 years and has never once grown tired of it. 

“It’s the greatest event of the year,” Hughes says. “Everybody is happy, the dogs are happy, everyone is so nice, and we’ve never — knock on wood — had an issue with any dog.” 

There will be gates positioned around the pool to keep drippy dogs from eloping. It’s $5 per dog to attend (humans enter free), and though you can pre-register for the event, most people prefer to pay at the door, Hughes says. They’ve never had to turn an interested dog away because of capacity issues. Owners must provide proof at the door that their dogs are up-to-date on vaccinations, however. 

City of Lawrence/Courtesy Photo A happy pup leaps into the water in this photo from a previous year’s Pooch Plunge at Lawrence’s Outdoor Aquatic Center.

As many as 398 dogs have come to swim in years past — though the dogs weren’t all there at the same time. Most dogs tend to swim for half-hour bursts, then climb out with sodden snouts and soggy tails, and bound back to their owners.

“People come and go, the dogs get wet, they play for a little bit, and their owners usually recognize when they’ve had enough,” Hughes says. 

Lawrence resident Sheree Miller says the event is exciting and dynamic. A couple years ago she took her English bulldog, Nola, now 5. She has since added an English bulldog named Ruby to her family, and she will take them both this year. The dogs love the water and have been jet skiing, boating and kayaking.  

“(The Pooch Plunge is) hectic but very hilarious,” Miller says. “So many different breeds and sizes. Some love the water and some aren’t into it at all. You’re trying to pet other people’s dogs and keep an eye on your own.”

Miller owns and operates Lawrence Pet Friends, a local pet-sitting service. She will have a table set up offering treats, toys and information about her business.  

“We will have treats, leashes, poop bags, stickers and general promo swag, information handouts and we will do a drawing for a gift basket (for the dogs),” she says. 

City of Lawrence/Courtesy Photo Dogs get ready to go for a swim in this photo from a previous year’s Pooch Plunge at the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center.

Some other businesses tabling at the event include Woof’s Play and Stay, Earthwise Pet Supply and Grooming, and Lawrence Veterinary Hospital.  

Although fun, the event is messy, Hughes says, and some of the money earned will be used for cleanup.

To be clear: no humans are allowed in the pool during the Pooch Plunge. The last day for humans to swim is Saturday, Aug. 13. When the pool closes at 6 p.m. that day, employees will shut off the pumps and chlorinators to get the water ready for the dog party.

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Chansi Long (she/her), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, has a bachelor of science in mass media from Baker University and a master’s in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. She’s been published in the Washington Post, River Teeth and Brevity. She was honored to be named Kansas Writer of the Year by the Winfield Arts and Humanities Council in 2016 for her essay “Lovesick.”

Read more of her work for the Times here.

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