Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=214942
Story Retrieval Date: 6/20/2013 6:39:24 AM CST
They don’t play tight defense or even wear helmets. They are rookies but, thanks in part to their appearances in the big game, they have bright futures.
The 63 puppies playing in the Puppy Bowl on Sunday, the same day as the Super Bowl, have all been adopted or have adoptions pending.
For the past nine years, the Puppy Bowl, which airs on Animal Planet, scores wins for its over-the-top cuteness. But, unbeknownst to many, the event also seeks to get canine players all over the country out of shelters and into homes.
According to the Humane Society, approximately 6-8 million dogs and cats are placed in shelters every year. About half are euthanized. The other half get adopted.
Together with petfinder.com, a website that aggregates many of the adoptable pets across the country, Animal Planet found puppies from shelters in Missouri, California, New York, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.
“Our goal is for the animals,” said Jamie Genender, the president of Silver Lake, Wis.-based Pitter Patter Animal Rescue. Pitter Patter successfully drafted three of its puppies to participate in the Puppy Bowl and those three now have adoptions pending. “We thought it’d be a good exposure for them, to promote rescuing.”
The three puppies from Pitter Patter — pit bull mixes Tyson, Daphne and Sacha — prepped for their big game by playing with a stuffed football and chasing it across the room, Genender said.
Lucky for them, the Puppy Bowl isn’t as competitive as the Super Bowl. There are no teams, said Animal Planet spokesman Jared Albert, but there is an MVP — Most Valuable Puppy — award.
The “game” works like this: A variety of breeds of puppies run around a 10-by-19 foot field, chasing after toys and each other, while a squad of hedgehogs cheers them on. A chorus of kittens performs the halftime show.
There is a kiss cam, a water bowl cam (to catch adorable slurping) and special cameras for slow-motion replays. The back-up players stay warm in a sideline puppy hot tub.
“It’s a feel-good thing,” said Megan Mowry, 23, an intern at a Chicago architecture firm and a “huge fan” of the Puppy Bowl. Unlike the Super Bowl, Mowry said, the dog version is "aggressive but in a way that makes you feel happy and bubbly inside.”
“There’s something mesmerizing about it, and I think it has to do with the animal-human bond,” said Froma Walsh, a co-director of the Chicago Center for Family Health and a professor emerita at the University of Chicago. “Some people claim that we want to make humans out of dogs, but I think we love dogs for their doggy-ness. They are in the moment, fully participating in whatever is expecting their attention.”
Walsh referenced the myriad studies that have found a link between pet ownership and better health. While watching puppies on television is different than petting them in person, Walsh said the Puppy Bowl, as a supplement or an alternative to the Super Bowl, is a good thing.
“There’s such innocence,” she said. “Nobody gets hurt.”
The pre-taped Puppy Bowl will run on Animal Planet on Sunday, Feb. 3 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (CST) and will loop on the channel the rest of the day.
There are many shelters and rescues in the Chicago area that offer adoption services. Here is a sampling:
• PAWS Chicago
• The Animal Welfare League
• Tree House Hume Society
• Chicago Canine Rescue
• Orphans of the Storm