By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Monday night was one of the first where you could believe, without making a massive leap of faith, that summer is ending.
It was cool and clear. The Beach was closing its outdoor pools for the final time this season, but there was still one last set of guests to accommodate. Dogs and their owners started lining up early for the annual Dog Paddle.
The event is in its fifth or sixth year now, according to Leila Kirkhart and Darla Jackson. They were on hand to represent the Heartland Humane Society, which receives donations as an entry fee. One bag of dog food purchased up to two hours of splashing.
"We usually have at least a pickup load," Kirkhart said.
One of the early arrivals was Sandra Clark, who brought her grandson, Jordan, along with "Victor," a chihuahua mix. Victor wasn't entirely used to seeing so many other dogs, but his curiosity outweighed his skittishness.
"We haven't been here for two years," Clark explained. "We were here once before, but he was really shy and bashful. So we gave him time to grow up."
Lynette Baker was a few feet away with "Daisy," a pug-beagle mix. Daisy didn't seem to mind waiting, as long as she could put her paws up on your thigh for a scratch behind the ears.
Baker wasn't sure how Daisy would like the water. She was familiar with smaller pools, but the one at The Beach was a new level.
As the food piled up and more people arrived, Jackson couldn't help but have some fun. A dog in a bikini became the talk of the evening, while others brought the feel of a reunion.
"We meet so many dogs that were adopted from Heartland," she said.
The Beach's outdoor areas would close for the season in just a couple hours, but there was one last party to enjoy first.