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Evanston RoundTable, August 29, 2013

Several dozen doggies got in the swim of things at the McGaw YMCA on Aug. 24 at the Y’s first canine swim-in, a fundraiser for Evanston Swims! and Wagging Hearts.

“Dog Day at the Y,” as it was called, came about because the Y’s two pools were being readied for their annual fortnightly cleaning, explained Lori Siegel, senior director of Youth Development and associate operating officer. “That gave us the idea to host the dog fundraiser, since the pool was scheduled to be completely drained and acid-washed right afterwards anyway,” she said.

Evanston Swims! is a community-based program to provide free swimming and water safety lessons to Evanston residents. It’s part of the Evanston 150 celebration, an offshoot of the “Water Water Everywhere” initiative to ensure that every Evanston child can swim. Wagging Hearts is a two-year-old pet rescue organization that finds foster and “forever” homes for shelter dogs and cats. Their slogan, “The love of a pet is one of life’s greatest gifts,” is displayed prominently on the organization’s web site.

Ms. Siegel said Evanston Swims! and Wagging Hearts each received about $250 from the $10-per-dog suggested donation. Some 40 dogs and 60 to 70 people participated.

The scene at the 6-lane pool, where the event was held, was doggone surreal. Dogs of all breeds and sizes loped around the perimeter and splashed in the pool. More reluctant dogs got a gentle push into the water from their owners. Happy people shouts and doggie barks caromed across the water and bounced off the walls.

While the four-legged swimmers were fairly mute on the experience, their owners were anything but. Asked to comment on how her dog Smoke enjoyed the swim, Joan Daye said, “it was cool.” Her sister, Ava, holding her dog Robin, chimed in with “awesome.”

“It’s good fundraiser and a terrific community event,” added Jillana Enteen, who participated with her dog Askar.

“This is great,” said Cathy Pechar, who came all the way from Westmont with her husband Steve and dog Charley. “It’s much cleaner than the beach. And I like that the money goes to charity.”

Martha King, a board member for Wagging Hearts, was even more effusive. “This is a wonderful event and a great day,” she said. “We’ve gotten fabulous feedback, plus lots of adoption applications and interested prospective volunteers. We really appreciate that the Y is doing this.”

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