Puppy Bowl IX: America’s Super Bowl of cute (VIDEO)

Puppy Bowl IX is brilliant TV counter-programming built for serious fun while also sending a message about shelter and rescue pet adoption. Photo: Puppy Bowl IX / Discovery.com

SAN DIEGO, Feb 1, 2013 –  What’s more American than football? Puppies. 

Yes, bone crushingly cute puppies, so cute they’ll knock you over faster than Ray Lewis on a rampage.

We’re a nation that loves a wagging tail more than a tailgate party. Nearly 40 percent of all American households have a dog, over 78 milion dogs total according to the Humane Society of the U.S. So what has become an improbable pop culture hit for the Animal Planet cable network really isn’t so surprising in retrospect.  

“Puppy Bowl IX” airs on Animal Planet starting at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, February 3, and is repeated through the day. It won’t challenge the ratings of Super Bowl XLVII, but it’s a smashing success for Animal Planet and in raising awareness of shelter and rescue pet adoption across the United States. 

It reportedly started as a goof by Animal Planet network executives talking about putting something no-brainer on the air during the Super Bowl, the Animal Planet version of the Christmas Eve “yule log.” Maybe an endless loop of cute puppy videos. Puppy videos + football = Puppy Bowl.

Today, the Puppy Bowl gets big pre-game buildup, with more media coverage than ever including a special visit by NBC News anchor Brian Williams and appearances on most network morning news and daytime talk shows. Animal Planet staff and puppies got to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on Thursday.

Companies eager to sponsor Puppy Bowl IX

Smart sponsors have gotten in on the fun. Geico, which has never advertised in the actual Super Bowl, secured “naming rights” to the Puppy Bowl Geico Stadium. Bissell sponsors the Kitty Halftime show. No lip syncing here. Hamsters pilot the Ice Breakers Mints blimp for aerial shots. Pedigree Food for Dogs, Subaru, and Universal Pictures are also on board.

New this year: the ultra slow motion “Cute Cam,” and hedgehog cheerleaders.

Laughs aside, the game offers a nationwide platform for a heartfelt message about the shockingly large number of adoptable pets at shelters and rescue organizations nationwide. Eight to ten million animals end up in America’s shelter and rescue system each year, and as many as four million are euthanized. All of the puppies, kittens, and other pets participating in the Puppy Bowl broadcasts were among these animals waiting for adoption into “furever homes.”

The casting process begins in July. For the ninth straight year, Animal Planet worked with the online adoption resource Petfinder.com and invites rescue groups to send headshots of prospective players from nine to 18 weeks old. Producers whittled the candidates down to 63 pups, with 20 chosen for the “starting lineup” featured in online profiles. Producers say it’s hard not to say yes to every entrant.

This year’s starting lineup includes puppies from Wayside Waifs Animal Rescue (Missouri), Tails of Love Animal Rescue (New York), Pitter Patter Animal Rescue (Wisconsin), Big Fluffy Dog Rescue (Massachusetts), and Angel City Pit Bulls (California).

Elias is one of this year’s starters in Puppy Bowl IX, a pit bull pup from Los Angeles rescue organization Angel City Pit Bulls. Photo: Discovery.com

Rescue group thrilled to have starting lineup star

Angel City was thrilled to have one of its alums, “Elias,” chosen for the game. Angel City COO Robin Purcell says the group submitted photos of a litter born to a stray that came to the Los Angeles rescue organization. Three of the pups were selected, but only Elias could make the trip, traveling with ACPB founders Brian Jett and Katie Larkin from Los Angeles to New York for the shoot.

Purcell says her organization is excited about the opportunity to educate the public about rescue and about the pit bull breed. “Pit bulls have such a bad reputation. People that know them love them. People who don’t know them have heard so many negative things. We hope the mass audience sees Elias and sees pit bulls as just another dog. Elias is so lovely, so sweet, an amazing “ambassadog.”

“Our mission is education about responsible dog ownership. Hopefully it will shed light on our organization, and hopefully encourage more people to adopt,” said Purcell.

Purcell is a volunteer like most rescuers, working as a kindergarten teacher in Los Angeles. She told her students Friday about Elias being in the Puppy Bowl. Elias was renamed “Carter” after being adopted by owner Edward Ferguson of Los Angeles, who joked on Angel City’s Facebook page that he has to be reminded the dog lounging on the couch is a “football star.”

All of this year’s puppies have been adopted since Puppy Bowl IX’s production, but participating shelter and rescue groups like Angel City Pit Bulls emphasize there are many more wonderful puppies, kitties, and adult dogs, both purebreds and mixed breeds waiting for homes currently in their care and at sister organizations across the country. Using Petfinder.com is a convenient, effective way to find just the right adoptable pet for you.

The puppies are let loose into a play area 19 feet by 10 feet designed to resemble (loosely) a football field with artificial turf and end zones. Puppies are rotated in and out in 20-minute shifts. Nearly 100 people work on the production, and shoot about 70 hours of video with six cameras to get the final two hours of “game time” play. One of the game’s most popular features is the Water Bowl Cam, which provides a view looking up through water dishes sunk into the ground in each end zone.

The Bissell MVP - Most Valuable Puppy – is chosen at the end of each game. The real MVPs are the many people, both staff and volunteers, who work hard 365 days a year to rescue, foster, care for and place adoptable animals in homes.

Puppy Bowl IX will air repeatedly over 12 hours starting at 3 p.m. Eastern Time (12 noon Pacific), so if you’re a football fan and a dog lover, you’ll have time to see both or set your DVR/Tivo. My rescued boxer Mario likes boxing a lot better than football, but he’s all about the Puppy Bowl.  

Behind the Scenes of Puppy Bowl IX 

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

Copyright 2013 by Falcon Valley Group

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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