The doggie paddle never goes out of style. Like most things, it gets better with age.
Norwalk Park and Recreation Department and several local sponsors gave the four-legged friends control of the Ernsthausen Community Center outdoor pool Sunday for three hours of good, clean, wet fun.
Taking part in the sixth annual Norwalk Pool Pooch Competition, dogs and their owners signed-up, gladly accepted complimentary bags of dog food and camped out in lounge chairs around the sparkling blue water.
Waiting for their turns, several of the mixed and full breeds danced around their owners, barked greetings and chased multi-colored tennis balls across the sun-heated concrete.
“Mommy, he wants to swim,” Taylor Jensen, 5, said pointing to a black Labrador retriever dipping its paw in the cool water.
“We were swimming inside and saw the commotion outside,” the girl’s mother, Darlene, said. “Once we saw it was dogs and heard they’d be swimming, she wanted to give up her own swim time to watch.”
Canines were divided into three groups — small, medium and large — based on their weights.
The first round involved the owner throwing a tennis ball across half the length of the pool and the dog being timed on how quickly it swam to and brought back the ball.
While the majority of the animals and owners were glad to splash around, Cooper the poodle decided he’d pass on the bath.
Blazer, a black German shepherd and last year’s “Top Dog,” dove in and gave his owner a friendly, wet shake when he finished his race, scoring a time less than 30 seconds.
Even Dolly the pug, clad with a camouflage-print life jacket, swam in after her owner threw a treat.
After shaking off the first round of events off, pooches were even more challenged with the distance jump.
Owners stood at the deepest end of the pool and threw the tennis balls in the water.
Dogs were judged on how far they jumped in, measured by where their front paws touched first.
The majority of canines, small and large, refused to jump in, but rather sat on the edge, paws in the water, beckoning the fuzzy balls to come to them.
Once the slow moving waves brought the ball in, the dogs leaned over and patiently snatched them up.
Ozzy, an 11 month year old Border collie mix, wasn’t afraid to get his paws, or his body, wet.
The black and white blur was one of a handful of dogs to jump in and hand the ball to its owner.
“He likes to swim,” said Paige Espvik, 11, patting the dog’s wet muzzle. “We can’t keep him from getting in our pool.”
Roxy, a 4-year-old black Lab, decided to alter the event, stirring up the competition.
Her owner, Greg Smith, threw the ball while wife Dianne called her into the pool.
Instead of jumping straight in, Roxy ran to the other side of the pool, where she assumed the ball was closest to, and jumped in.
Rather than jump out of the pool into the arms of her owners and the afternoon heat, Roxy swam around the length of the pool and emerged from the shallow end.
“Too bad we don’t have a prize for distance swimming,” aquatics director Niki Cross said laughing.
Because she jumped in at an angle, judges were unable to measure Roxy’s distance and gave her another shot.
The Lab jumped straight in this time, clearing 9 feet.
Her owners were more than just a little proud, patting and praising her enough to make her tail wag rapidly.
Near the end of the pooch pool time owners and their friends were invited to swim together while judges tallied results.
This time, you couldn’t keep the pooches out of the water, or from licking hello to every child in sight.