[Editor's note: This is one of three honorable mention winners in the Pets+ essay contest. Pet-industry professionals submitted essays in response to the prompt, “Tell us the story of your single greatest day in business.”]

Picture a morning, late in the summer with blue sky and large fluffy white clouds. You are at a park with a swimming pool and a long line of eager participants stretch from a gate to the parking lot. 

None of these anxious guests are wearing swimwear, or any wear for that matter. They are with family who are carrying towels and coffee cups, yet once the gate opens, you will have no idea who belongs with whom.

It’s time! The gate opens, and chaos begins. By that I mean big, small, medium, dark, light, furry, hairless, chubby, scrawny, quiet, loud dogs race into the pool area with total disregard for where their place in line was a few seconds ago.

Sorry Mom, Pop and kids, these dogs are on their own now, as they leap into the water. Some run in the grass or greet strangers first and then walk, jump or stand in the pool.

Movement doesn’t stop the entire time they are present. They can’t seem to make up their mind if they want to swim or run around the pool and say hi to everyone. Some roam in newly formed packs, while others are sophisticated loners, standing ankle deep at the pool’s edge.

Now, if you will, imagine a snack bar with frozen yogurt and to top it off, turkey, beef and sardines. Bees are congregating among the meat, though our furry friends could care less.

None of these anxious guests are wearing swimwear, or any wear for that matter.

What? You thought the dogs would wait patiently on the front side of the table for their turn? On the contrary, pooches butted servers out of their way as they entered from behind and grabbed what they could on the fly. An unspecified number of guests did approach from the front appearing mannerly, until two wet front paws landed on the table, as snouts searched for their preferred protein.

You are advised that there will be one yogurt cup given out per dog, but try telling that to dine-and-dash sneakers. Did that black Lab just get a treat, or was it one of the other 30 that look like him?

Notice a photo shoot going on in a corner of the mayhem. Family members lucky enough to retrieve their fur baby, kneel down with Hawaiian leis around their necks, beach balls nearby, and an ocean background. You totally expected photo-bombing, right?

Remember, these dogs are on the loose and feeling entitled. The photographer doesn’t have to say “smile,” because everyone, furry or not, has a grin plastered on his face.

Now, can you imagine getting paid to hand out treats and take pictures at this joyful event? When I saw the signup to get out of the store and work here for a day, I thought everyone would want this gig, and there’s no way I would be so lucky.

Thank you Mud Bay. I had a blast! If you need me again next year ...


Anita Smith is a retired teacher and has been working for Mud Bay in Puyallup, WA, for a year and a half. The store is part of a Washington and Oregon chain that specializes in natural foods for dogs and cats. Smith walks her dog daily, volunteers with seniors and dabbles in writing and painting watercolors.

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