Moneyish went behind the scenes at Animal Planet’s Super Bowl sideshow, where a pack of dog lovers keep the fur from flying with plenty of TLC – and wee-wee pads.
These men and women should take a bow(wow).
Puppy Bowl XIV is Animal Planet’s biggest mutt match-up yet, with more than 140 dogs tearing up the field this year, including: 92 adoptable rescue puppies from 51 shelters across 26 states, and their first international pup from Mexico; a few dozen adult rescues for the first-ever Dog Bowl; and six special needs canines, including a blind cocker spaniel, a deaf Dalmatian and a three-legged golden doodle.
The gridiron sideshow to the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 also boasts a menagerie of adorable distractions, including: A cheering squad of ducklings, piglets and bunnies shaking their pom-poms, a chicken pecking “The Star-Spangled Banner” on a piano; a sloth named Shirley serving as the referee’s assistant; and the Kitty Half-Time show featuring some fabulous feline rescues from the ASPCA.
And it’s thank to hundreds handlers, vets, production assistants and volunteers that the fur didn’t fly when Puppy Bowl was taped in Manhattan last October.
“One of the more interesting and surprising aspects of Puppy Bowl is the amount of manpower and womanpower that goes into producing the show,” seven-time Puppy Bowl “rufferee” Dan Schachner told Moneyish. “I mean, it looks like it’s just this cute little tiny set with some dogs running around. But there are literally hundreds of people that make this happen. We have to make sure these guys are safe. They’re still puppies, after all.”
And these men and women have got four-legged logistics down to a science. The shoot was split into morning and afternoon sessions at a Hells Kitchen studio over two days last fall, so the critters didn’t have to spend too long on set. And every Fido got a quick physical with a licensed vet before being cleared to play.
As only 10 or 12 pups were filmed in the bone-shaped stadium at a time, the rest of the pack waited with their handles in dozens of playpens set up in a couple of holding rooms. The floors were lined with black garbage bags and wee-wee pads to minimize the mess, and there was plenty of fresh water and chew toys to go around.
In the studio, handlers and volunteers from shelters including the Humane Society watched the game from the wings, stepping in to separate pups who playing too ruff, or to rescue any doggos overstimulated by the lights and cameras. One handler scooped up a tiny gray Pomeranian named Morris who was getting tackled too much, for instance, and the pooch promptly passed out in her arms.
“There’s different ways that they can tell you they’re uncomfortable without being able to speak to you,” Sophie Samul, a handler from Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia, told Moneyish. She was watching the mixed-breed Hinesville for signs of distress, such as giving a lot of side-eye (a.k.a. “whale-eyeing”), getting low or tensing up.
“There’s little corners where you can be alone. So just take them over there, help them reset, talk gently to them. The way that you would to a person,” she said.
Diego Camblor, 8, was taking special care of Mango, Puppy Bowl’s first-ever international player, who was rescued in Mexico last year. He and his mom Christi often foster animals with their rescue organization Compassion Without Borders based in Santa Rosa, Calif.
“He gets very tired,” Diego explained, cradling the 4-month-old pooch that was once covered in mange and scabs, who’s now a happy and healthy pet. “He got very nervous [during the Puppy Bowl game] and we needed to switch him out, but we switched him back in.”
It’s just very fun to see that Mango is finally a superstar, and to be with a whole ton of cute adorable puppies,” he added. “I think that he’s proud.”
Puppy Bowl kicks off at 3 p.m. on Feb. 4, Super Bowl Sunday, on Animal Planet. And perhaps the most tail-wagging part is that these dogs are all up for adoption.
This year’s game features puppies rescued from areas that were devastated by hurricanes and other natural disasters in 2017, including Houston, Puerto Rico and Florida. The ASPCA estimates that approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year – and tragically, 1.5 million are euthanized. So visit AnimalPlanet.com/PuppyBowl for more information about the adorable lineup and their shelters, which are housing even more animals still looking for forever homes.
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