Waterfront: November 2006 - Arctic wolves chill in backyard poolscape; Phoenix goes summer without a child drowning

Wonderland For Wolves

Arctic wolves chill in backyard poolscape

Aq 1106 21pg 0001 Robert Richardson and his wife, Cynthia, have some unusual pets - three arctic wolves to be exact. The Alta Loma, Calif., couple recently remodeled their backyard so that man and beast could both enjoy a lovely poolscape yearound.

Dakota, the alpha male of the pack, has been part of the family for more than seven years, and his two winter-white female counterparts, Siku and Quanik, with names derived from Alaskan words meaning ice and snowflake, moved in a little over three years ago.

Scott Smith, corporate manager for the Upland office of California Pools, West Covina, Calif., oversaw the creation of the nearly $200,000 pool and backyard setting for the couple, but admitted it was a daunting task at first glance. "We got a phone call from the homeowner wanting to remodel his backyard," says Smith. "He had a pool back there that was in horrible shape. He has - as pets - three white wolves. They're very intimidating at first, but he's raised them from pups, and so they are pretty docile, really."

The homeowners wanted a tropical landscape to remind them of time spent on Maui, and to that end, had all of the stonework done in custom black lava-rock style. "Everything is artificial black lava rock on all the walls of the habitat. In the dog run area, we created a waterfall with a grotto-like cave that they could go back in and cool off. Between the waterfall and the rest of this side yard is this large palapa covered with a thatched roof, and that's all made out of bamboo."

As for the human side of the yard, there's a nine-person tiki hut and covered cabana area and of course a brand-new pool. What does owner Robert Richardson think of the project? "Oh, we love it," he says. "We've been kind of overwhelmed by the response to it; we weren't anticipating it, but it's exactly what we expected it to be." The wolves had no comment.

Good News Phoenix goes summer without a child drowning

How many times have you heard someone lament the lack of positive stories in the media? Murder, terrorism, war, abductions, disease, destruction and other miserable stories dominate the headlines and lead local and national newscasts almost every single day. People in the pool industry feel they're often victimized more than their fair share by such disaster-centric news coverage. If a pool or spa is in the news, chances are it's because a child drowned in one.

Well, here's a bit of good news about pools that the Associated Press reported this fall. For the first time in decades, not a single child drowned in a swimming pool in the entire Phoenix area this past summer. Not one. We're not talking Fargo or Grand Rapids, people, but Phoenix, Arizona, a sun-baked city of 3.6 million where backyard pools are nearly as common as patios.

To put that statistic into perspective, 22 children drowned in Phoenix in 2005, the majority during the summer, according to the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Central Arizona, a coalition of rescue workers and parents that's understandably thrilled by the city's summer of safe swimming.

"Knock on wood. It's fantastic," John Harrington, president of the group, told the AP. Harrington, who himself lost a child to an accidental drowning, cites a number of preventative measures such as Arizona's 15-year-old fencing laws, pool safety classes and CPR training programs. "Good fortune has to be part of it," Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan told the AP. "We've had a lot of pool submersions this year where people have gotten to them in time."

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