Murphy, Sadie and Sophie Greenwood had a dream birthday party on a Sunday earlier this month. All of their friends came. There was cake and ice cream, and goody bags filled with treats, swimming and a lot of barking, because Murphy, Sadie and Sophie are dogs.
“I thought it’d be cool to have a birthday party for my dogs,” said Morgan Greenwood, the owner of all three canines. So when Greenwood, 22, of Perry Hall, saw on Facebook that someone had hosted a dog pool party, she was inspired.
Greenwood turned to Pet Depot in Timonium, which has a swimming pool for dogs in the back of the store. She asked if they do birthday parties, and they said yes.
“I’m that crazy person that, literally, I’m obsessed with my dogs,” Greenwood said. “My dogs are my kids. They love swimming 'cause they’re all labs. I was like, what more fun could it be than to have a birthday party?”
Tucker Lyons, son of Pet Depot owner Dan Lyons and a store manager, said the store had the dog swimming pool installed years ago when their Italian mastiff tore her ACL and a veterinarian recommended hydrotherapy.
“I remember driving around Maryland going hours away to these pools they recommended; these pools were so gross,” Lyons said. So the store owners decided to dig out a swimming pool in the back of Pet Depot.
Today, Pet Depot offers both hydrotherapy and recreational swimming, including pool parties for dogs.
The pool is 4 feet deep on all sides, with a ramp for dogs to enter. First-time canine swimmers are required to wear a life jacket.
According to the American Kennel Club, swimming has similar benefits for dogs as for humans. It is a low-impact exercise that is easy on joints, builds endurance and can help with healing and rehabilitation.
The pool can be booked individually in 15-minute increments, Lyons said. An individual swim costs between $20 and $25. No humans are allowed in – “no exceptions,” a sign says.
Julie Henn, a member of the Baltimore County Board of Education and a Perry Hall resident, was at Pet Depot on July 14 to take her dog, Toby, for a swim. She said the pool is a good option for when it is too hot for Toby, a cavalier King Charles, to run around outside.
The store also books pool parties like Greenwood’s on request for $125, and an extra $10 per dog after the first three dogs. Lyons said when the store started noticing groups of dogs coming in, they came up with the idea to promote pool parties, because “there’s no reason why we can’t.” Between five and 10 birthday parties are held each year, Lyons said.
“Most people don’t celebrate dogs’ birthdays too heavily,” Lyons said. “But when you have such a fun way to do it and the dogs love to swim, and love being around dogs and owners, it makes sense.”
Eight dogs and their owners came to Greenwood’s Sunday afternoon pool party, which she said was not specifically for any of her dogs but for all three of them. She wanted the opportunity to invite friends with dogs to gather, and she wanted a way to celebrate her three dogs, who range from 1 to 10 years old.
As the furry guests arrived in the gated obedience ring near the pool, their barks echoed throughout the store. Owners bent down to wrangle the overexcited dogs with both arms. “Where’s the open bar?” one woman joked.
When staff opened the gates to the pool, a burly black dog named Diesel bounded in with a splash.
“He just wants to swim,” said Diesel’s owner, Lauren Wenger. She said Diesel had come to Pet Depot before, and loves it so much that whenever they drive nearby on I-695 he starts whining.
One of the eight dogs was too stressed out by the crowd and had to be taken home. The other seven dogs gathered at the pool. They raced each other to fetch floating toys, ran laps around the edge and shook water off their coats, soaking the unfortunate humans nearby.
Ashley and Alex O’Bara brought their dog Raven to the birthday party. They said she tried to go for a swim, but the pool had “too many dogs for her.”
Greenwood’s 1-year-old puppy Murphy was especially excited about the ice cream, so excited he did not even bother to lick it out of the cardboard before chewing up the whole thing. He also had his eye on the human birthday cake, which had a picture of Greenwood’s three dogs painted in icing.
Raven probably had no idea that she was at a birthday party, but Alex O’Bara said Ashley had been “talking about it for months.” Raven got a treat out of it though: special ice cream for dogs, made of frozen yogurt.
Greenwood said the party was a success.
“I had such a blast with everyone, and I know the dogs had a great time,” Greenwood said. “Seeing them run around and swim with each other was just so awesome.”
Asked whether the party was for the dogs or the humans, Greenwood said it was “a little bit for both.”
“They’re literally my kids,” Greenwood said. “I do everything with these dogs.”