Lifeguards stood ready to provide aid at the Palmetto Falls water park Aug. 24 and 25, but they weren't keeping a watchful eye on their usual clientele. They kept a close watch on "man's best friend" -- dogs. The end of the summer season at the park was celebrated by allowing dogs to take over the park for the final two days before it closed until next year.

"Everybody loves dog day," said Durrand Smith, a Palmetto Falls lifeguard. "I love dogs and love seeing them happy. If I can help with that process, it's not even work for me."

Squeals of children's laughter were replaced by howls of joy as dozens of breeds of dogs chased each other around the park for the annual Dog Days of Summer event. Tails wagged as the dogs jumped into the pools and raced across the shallow entrance to the lazy river.

Rain threatened the event in the morning hours, but as the gates opened, so did the sky offering a perfect environment for a special day at the water park. Pet owners were allowed to wade knee deep, and no further, in the water with their pets.

The park's treated water also offered pets and owners a certain amount of safety as well. Recent algae blooms and high levels of E.coli bacteria brought on by the intense summer heat closed most local lakes to not only humans but dogs as well.

"We don't have algae in the pools so it's a lot safer," said Spc. Bianca Kirby from Fort Jackson's Veterinarian Services. "We recommend keeping pets out of the water (from lakes and ponds). Yes, it's fun for them but is it worth the risk?"

Members of Fort Jackson's Veterinarian Services were on hand offering lots of information about vaccines and ways of keeping their pets safe. The veterinarian services techs offered pets nail trims and lots of treats during the event.

"Our dogs absolutely love the water," said 2nd Lt. Jessica Coop, 20th Air Wing at Shaw Air Force Base. "With all the bacteria at the lakes and beach this is the best and safest option for (our dogs).
They get to run around off-leash and meet other dogs. We are having a blast."

Coop spent the afternoon with her husband Tristan, new born daughter Kinleigh and her two dogs Cooper and Kenai. The two dogs jumped in and out of the pool under the water drop buckets attempting to catch the water as it fell.

As the event came to an end, the water park staff will begin the process of storing all the equipment and inflatable tubes. The water will be shut down and treated as it goes into hibernation status. The process will maintain the amount of bacteria levels within safe ranges in preparation for the next summer cycle to begin.

"I love this event," Coop said. "We will definitely be back next year and the year after that if we are still (stationed) here."