As the most important day in football approaches, one D.C. dog is gearing up for a different kind of competition.
Sally, a treeing walker coonhound recently adopted from City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties, will appear in the Puppy Bowl XIV, hosted by Animal Planet, this Sunday. The local rescue in Dupont Circle, which runs with the support of private donations and the help of volunteers, receives a request each year to submit puppies for the program to review.
The 13-week-old puppy is playing for Team Fluff and will be fighting for touchdowns and the chance to be crowned Most Valuable Puppy, otherwise known as MVP.
The Puppy Bowl is a pre-recorded television program hosted by Animal Planet and features a starting lineup of 39 puppies from across the country competing in a mock football game. The game uses dog toys as the ball and airs on Feb. 4 at 3 p.m., aligning with Superbowl Sunday.
As Sally’s television debut approaches, her owners Dan Hylton and Chuck Tarleton said their family is focusing on preparations for the viewing party.
Tarleton said the four-day shoot took place in October in New York City and provided more than 100 hours of footage, which is then cut to become the two-hour special that airs before the Superbowl. He said he has personally been watching the event for a few years and now understands what goes on behind the scenes, including herding all the dogs to cooperate.
“I think when you have puppies, where the average age is something around 20 weeks or so, puppies are naturally inquisitive and they are, at that point, very playful,” he said.
Sally was rescued along with the rest of her litter of 10 from a home in rural West Virginia and brought to City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties in D.C. She has since been adopted by Hylton and Tarleton.
Tarleton said they first got involved with the rescue because their other dog, Kelsey, attended the daycare service there. Hylton and Tarleton later began working with the shelter to find another rescue that worked with their family.
Sally was the perfect match, he said.
“We wanted to introduce a brother or a sister into the family so that she had the opportunity to have a playmate,” Tarleton said. “It’s like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, she’s just the perfect fit.”
Sally isn’t the only puppy from the DMV area. Alvin, a 17-week-old German shorthaired pointer Rottweiler, is also on Team Fluff and is from Operation Paws for Home in Alexandria, Va. Another three puppies participated from Green Dogs Unleashed in Troy, Va.
Not only is the Puppy Bowl a playful, light-hearted break from a day full of cutthroat competition, the event also aims to raise awareness for animal rescues all over the country.
Patricia Kennedy, the executive director of City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties, said the rescue gets requests each year to submit dogs to be considered as players for the annual event. She said the show’s management looks for outgoing and playful dogs to keep the action going and requires they are up-to-date on shots and pass a health check before they take the field.
Kennedy said the publicity furthers their goal of getting people “adopting, not shopping” for pets.
“They recruit from not only all-breed rescues like City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties, but breed-specific rescues,” she said. “This helps dispel the myth that breeds can’t be found through rescue and hopefully deters potential dog parents from purchasing puppies through a pet store that purchases from puppy mills.”