Puppy Bowl IX: The Cuteness Championship

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One of the story lines in this weekend's Super Bowl involves San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was lovingly raised by adoptive parents. It turns out some of the stars of Sunday's other big game have similar back stories.

Dachshund Harry and his sister, Sally, spend their days playing and napping. But, life wasn't always easy for these two stars of Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl IX. Born prematurely to a mother who had to be euthanized, they were the only survivors of a litter of six, bottle-fed every two hours by Furever Dachshund Rescue Chair Laura Coulombe and her daughter, Mary.

“It's crazy, it's crazy amazing,” Mary Coulombe said. “We went from bottle feeding and hoping their weight would go up to them going to the Puppy Bowl and everybody's like, your puppies are gorgeous. It was a long trip. A loooong trip, hah?”

It's been a long trip for the producers of the Puppy Bowl, too. The show began nine years ago on a lark. Last year, the 12-hour marathon attracted 8.7 million unique total viewers and another 5.5 million page views on Animal Planet's website. Those numbers pale in comparison to the 177 million fans who tuned in for at least a few minutes of last year's Super Bowl, but they were enough to attract Washington Post Features Writer Maura Judkis.

“I went to my editor, I told her I wanted to go to the Puppy Bowl and she said, ‘Great! I want to go, too,’" Judkis said.

Judkis and her editor were joined by reporters from the New Yorker, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, and the Associated Press, among others. Judkis said the appeal of the game is, well, simple.

“The great thing about the Puppy Bowl is that no matter who you cheer for, the puppies always win,” Judkis said. “The winner is always going to be puppies.

Max Brumby was the Key Production Assistant for Puppy Bowl IX, which basically meant he did a lot of paperwork and odd jobs.

“It sort of makes you step back and realize the absurdity of the scale that the Super Bowl has reached,” Brumby said. “It's so big that even the idea of putting something on TV to counterprogram against it seems absurd.”

Other networks have tried — and failed. Even the pay-per-view Lingerie Bowl lasted only three seasons. But, the Puppy Bowl will celebrate a decade on the air next year, in part thanks to ultra-cute puppies, the kitten halftime show, and hamsters operating a blimp above the stadium. You might think this is all a joke, and... well, it is.

“There's a bit of a wink and a nod going on,” said Puppy Bowl Executive Producer Melinda Toporoff. “As producers we kind of are in on the joke and know how absolutely absurd this is, but we love it and obviously our viewers do too.”

Toporoff said her title elicits the same response from pretty much everyone:

"'Ahhh, you're so lucky. You have the best job on the planet.' And I say yes,” Toporoff said. “But behind all that silliness there is an adoption message that we're trying to get out there — that all these animals that are actually on the special are available for adoption.”

The Puppy Bowl was filmed in November, and most of its stars have already been adopted. But, Harry, Sally, and their fellow Puppy Bowl star Copper are among the more than 60 dogs currently available in Furever Dachshund Rescue's nationwide system. Laura Coulombe says finding homes for all of them will get just a little easier after this weekend's big game.

This segment aired on February 2, 2013.

Karen Given Executive Producer/Interim Host, Only A Game
Karen is the executive producer for WBUR's Only A Game.



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