Joe Hnatko is a leader in the Columbia dog lover scene. A project manager for the State Treasurer's Office, Hnatko spends much of his free time as the "Barkmaster" or leader of two clubs for canines and their owners, Doodle Dogs and the Sesqui Dog Park Buddies.
A doodle is a poodle mixed with another breed of dog. Hnatko says it is hard for this club to get together since many are from out- of- state.
When the pet lovers and their doodles show up, a good time is had by all. Hnatko and others held an event for doodles, "Doodle Romp," November 2, 2006, and another is being planned.
Unlike the Doodle Dogs club, the Sesqui Dog Park Buddies meet regularly. The buddies are a loose collection of Midlands residents who use Hnatko's site, www.columbiadoodledogs. com, to showcase their canine companions.
Hnatko believes the Sesqui Dog Park Buddies formed because they wanted to spend time with other like- minded dog lovers.
"There was a desire to be a group," Hnatko said.
"There's a deeper aspiration than the dogs getting together," Hnatko said. "Many of our members have been through traumatic events, and the club provides a healing place to move on."
Hnatko visits Sesqui's Dog Park, the Sesqui Dog Park Buddies' unofficial meeting place, three or four times a week.
Hnatko's partner on these excursions to Sesqui is Boscoe, a golden retriever poodle mix, more commonly called a golden doodle. Boscoe is an energetic, friendly doodle, and the inspiration for starting the clubs.
Hnatko owned several dogs, including two mutts and one sheep dog, but Boscoe holds a special place in his heart. "Of all the dogs I've owned, he is the best," Hnatko said.
Hnatko got Boscoe in October 2005 and tells of an interesting Christmas he spent with the pooch.
According to Hnatko, Boscoe would often ring the family's Christmas bells. This went on for a while, and soon the family discovered Boscoe rang the bells whenever he wanted to go outside.
Hnatko and Boscoe will have plenty of work to do for their club in the coming months. On October 20, the Sesqui Dog Park Buddies will be hosting a "Bark- O- Ween" party from noon until they run out of food.
Dogs and owners are encouraged to dress in costume. Hnatko also says he and the Dog Park Buddies are planning a fundraiser for spring 2008 to help make improvements to the dog park and help animal shelters in the Columbia area.
For more information, email barkmaster- @columbiadoodledogs.com.