Barker Days in Parker, Colorado
Story and photos by Kendle Frank, age 16
Ending the summer off with a bang isn’t just for the humans in Parker, Colorado, it’s also for all our four-legged friends! At the end of the swimming season the town’s community pool closes for the people and opens up for all the canines for an annual one-day event called, Barker Days.
The pool and ballpark become fair game for dogs and dog lovers alike.
Dogs can take a dip into the big pools, the playground pool area, or the kiddy pools. Aquatic toys, tennis balls, and other chewy treasures sprinkle the water, to spark any dog’s interest.
It is hilarious to watch dogs of all ages, shapes, sizes, and breeds joyfully splashing around with their new canine pals.
Water-loving breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands dive into the pool, sending huge waves splashing onto the pavement and onlookers. Big dogs such as Great Danes and Bernese Mountain Dogs stretch their long legs and swim elegantly in the water, weaving through the crowd of canines. The occasional Bulldog and Dachshund take a swim as well, despite their reputation for being water wary, paddling vigorously in circles to stay afloat. Petite dogs like the Chihuahua or Maltese will sometimes confidently swim around the bigger dogs, but they usually stick to the kiddy pools. Other dogs who would rather not fully submerge themselves but still want one of the water toys, will stand on the edge of the pool and reach as far as they can with their paws to attempt to grab one of the playthings.
Some owners dress their dogs in miniature pool floaties or doggy life jackets for protection, but the result is downright hilarious! Others strap a GoPro camera on the back of their pooch and gather some epic aquatic footage.
Michael Schaffer, annual Barker Days visitor and owner of Jazz, a Puggle (Pug and Beagle mix), and Archie, a Pugamo (Pug and Husky mix), said he would recommend the event “for anybody, even if they don’t think their dog really likes water, sometimes they do when there’s 100 dogs there. Everybody should go!”
If dogs don’t care to cool off in the pools they can frolic in the ballpark, which is adjacent to the pool area. Frisbees, balls, and throwing toys are scattered in the field for their entertainment. There are also racing competitions, obstacle courses, and other activities for dogs who want to take a break from swimming and enjoy fun in the sun!
The Barker Days crew goes to great lengths to ensure the safety of each and every dog and human at the event. Owners must present proof of ID and an up-to-date rabies tag before they can enter.
Volunteers and workers often run a couple tests such as petting the dog or lightly pulling their tail to look for any signs of problem behavior. It’s up to the owners, however, to leave aggressive dogs home and to be able to read the body language of their pooch. Lifeguards stand beside the specially neutralized pool to keep on the lookout for dogs struggling to get in and out of the water. Workers and event guests help heave the dogs out of the pool by lightly pulling on the scruff of their necks because most dogs can’t get out of the water by themselves. Safety is an important factor to make sure everyone involved has a blast!
Owners and dog lovers get tossed a bone as well. While they supervise their fur babies they can enjoy the items in their swag bags, play with pups, talk to other owners, and walk around all the dog-themed vendors. Companies such as Camp Bow Wow, Bowser Beer for Dogs, and Heritage Pet were just a few notable businesses at the 2017 event. Vendors usually give out items to keep in the swag bags such as dog treats, t-shirts, and toys. Companies and organizations that run the booths such as the Parker police K-9 unit, local veterinarians, and Harley’s Dream, an organization trying to end puppy mills, are there to educate attendees. Other booths run games, treat dogs to such luxuries as pup-massages, or sell products that benefit man’s best friends and their owners. You don’t even need to own a dog to have fun!
Barker Days is an exciting annual event that allows dogs and people to make new friends and share a fun summer day together. Karrie Hawkes, owner of Ryder, the Alaskan Malamute and Australian Cattle dog mix, loves how much fun the pool is for her pooch. She also thinks that every dog should attend, “as long as they’re a dog that can handle all the excitement because it’s very stimulating.”
Citizens of Parker, Colorado look forward to the tail-waggin’ good time that is Barker Days every year!