By Katy Savage
Before the Bengals and Rams take the field for Superbowl LVI on Feb. 13, puppies will compete in the 18th annual Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet and this year, two local dogs have made the cut.
Dumpling and Pudding, two Labrador mixes from the Rutland County Humane Society, are in this year’s Puppy Bowl, alongside 118 puppies for the chance to score touchdowns and take home this year’s Chewy Lombarky trophy.
RCHS is one of 67 shelters from 33 states that will be in the Puppy Bowl, a call-to-adoption event. Puppy Bowl highlights dogs and cats in need of a home, including special needs dogs, such as those with deafness, blindness and other disabilities.
Puppy Bowl is featuring more dogs and more shelters this year than ever. The dogs will be split into two teams — Team Ruff, led by rapper Snoop Dogg and Team Fluff, led by Martha Stewart.
RCHS Executive Director Beth Saradarian drove Dumpling and Pudding to film the event in Glens Falls, New York in October.
“They played and played the entire time,” Saradarian said. “They’re very outgoing, very friendly.”
Pudding and Dumpling were part of a surprise litter.
RCHS said their mother, Banana, came to RCHS as a rescue from Texas. She was pregnant and unexpectedly delivered nine puppies.
“Suddenly she got really big, we were like ‘she’s fat!’” Saradarian said. “I was surprised we were going to have puppies, but there they were.”
The timing was perfect for Puppy Bowl.
Saradarian had a relationship with the producers of Puppy Bowl after participating in a feature at a pet-friendly inn in Manchester last year. Saradarian said she got an email last August asking if she had any puppies that could compete in Puppy Bowl.
Saradarian submitted a short video of the dogs with a description of their personalities. “It was a combination of personalities and coloring,” Saradarian said.
RCHS volunteer coordinator Carolyn Weiter said Dumpling, a yellow lab mix, is active and nosy.
“He’s constantly wanting to see what everyone is up to,” Weiter said. “He likes the outdoors, likes the snow.”
Dumpling, a chocolate lab mix, is more interested in being around people than other dogs. “She’s very calm, very submissive,” Weiter said.
Both Pudding and Dumpling have since been adopted and live within an hour of Rutland.
Dumpling, who is now named Bodhi, is almost 8 months old and lives in Hinesburg with his owner Pete Cahn and family.
“I’m not sure if I’m more excited for the Super Bowl or the Puppy Bowl,” said Cahn.
He’s also not sure if Bodhi will be playful or “a menace on the field.”
Cahn first met Bodhi where he works, at Keewaydin Camp, over the summer.
Cahn said an admin assistant at Keewaydin fosters dogs for RCHS and brought Bodhi to camp one day.
“I picked him up and he melted in my arms,” Cahn said. “It just felt right.”
Cahn sent his wife a text message. By that afternoon, they agreed to adopt the dog.
“Finally we both said ‘yes’ and it was done,” Cahn said.
Cahn fostered to adopt until filming for the Puppy Bowl was done.
Meanwhile, Pudding is now named Oakley and lives close by.
Cahn said Bodhi left for filming at 6 a.m. and didn’t get home until 7 p.m.
“I think he was absolutely exhausted,” Cahn said. “It was a long day.”
The dogs will wear blue or orange bananas to represent their team. Elmo from Sesame Street will be at Puppy Bowl with his rescue dog Tango to gather the starting line-up.
Actor Dan Schachner is returning for his 11th season to be the “ruff-eree,” calling out puppy penalties.There will be puppy cheerleaders and a kitty halftime show, featuring kittens available to adopt. ESPN sportscaster Steve Levy and broadcaster Taylor Rooks will give play-by-play coverage as puppies “frolic, jump, dive, and occasionally snooze their way to victory,” according to a press release. A most valuable puppy award will be announced.
Puppy Bowl airs on Animal Planet Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. There will be a pre-game show of interviews with coaches and players and a look at the pups warming up at 1 p.m. on Discovery+.