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Park Forest Pool Opens Up For Dog Day of Summer

by on September 07, 2014 3:21 PM

Okuma, a two-year-old American bulldog, hesitated by the shallow end of the Park Forest Pool, resisting the efforts of her owner to lure her into the water.

Jess Lichty of Howard, Pa. tried her best to coax her into the pool, speaking in a softly reassuring voice and pulling on Okuma’s leash – to no avail. Behind her, dogs of all kinds – from tiny corgis to bounding Labradors – chased tennis balls, chased each other and leapt without fear into the pool.

Okuma – a rescue dog recently adopted by Lichty and her boyfriend Lonny Selego – whimpered and continued to resist.

“Come on, I promise you’ll be able to stand,” Lichty said as she lifted Okuma and brought her into the kiddie pool. She stood there, seemingly unsure of what to do next, and crawled back out of the water.

Selego, who owns three other dogs and three cats, says Okuma loves swimming in the Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir near their house, but realizes Sunday’s excursion to the Park Forest Pool was a new experience for her.

“She was unsocialized when we got her,” Selego says. “Her previous owner was elderly, and she only really knew waking up, eating and going back to bed later.”

Lichty says she was glad for the chance to introduce Okuma to new dogs. Though she was hesitant when other canines approached her, she seemed to grow more comfortable as she watched Fiji – whom Selego calls the unofficial leader of their dogs – swim and run around.

“We’re very luck to live so close to a lake, but this a very nice chance for other dogs who don’t have that opportunity to swim and have fun,” Litchty says.

Other dogs – like Sota, a five year old chocolate lab – had no such reservations. She bounded into the pool after a tennis ball thrown by her owner, then immediately abandonded the first ball for a second after she couldn’t fit both of them in her mouth.

That didn’t hold her attention for long, though. She soon pulled herself out of the water to go chasing after a group of dogs playing on the pool lawn, yelping and barking with excited joy.

Issac Poole, 7, of State College says he loves having Sota in his life. A fan of hiking and swimming, Poole says that Sota – named after his home state of Minnesota – has boundless energy.

“I love that she’s always ready to play,” he says. “She never gets tried.”

Todd Roth, aquatic supervisor with the Centre Region Parks and Recreation Authority, says this is the second year they’ve opened up the Park Forest Pool to man’s best friend. After only being open for 45 minutes, they already had more furry friends than last year’s entire event.

“Dog swims like this are becoming more and more popular all over the country, and State College is a very dog friendly town,” Roth says. “We’re very excited to be able to have a great community event like this.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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