Thursday, November 30, 2023

Two Hampton Roads pups set to compete in annual ‘Puppy Bowl’

While football fans around the country get ready for the Super Bowl on Sunday, a select lucky pups are gearing up for their own competition that same day.

Puppies from 61 shelters and animal sanctuaries across the country will compete in Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl and this year locals will see two familiar faces.

Maverick and Sparkle will compete as puppies from the Virginia Beach SPCA for “Team Ruff” and “Team Fluff” in an attempt to win the “Lombarky Trophy” sponsored by CHEWY.

Maverick, a miniature longhair Dachshund and Pekingese mix, was rescued from a puppy mill, said Sydney Monduy, spokeswoman for the Virginia Beach SPCA. He was rescued alongside 54 other Dachshunds but quickly stole the hearts of SPCA staff with his social demeanor.

In Animal Planet’s official lineup, he is listed as being 20 weeks old and studying to be a “bark-itect.”

Sparkle, who Monduy describes as a mixed breed dog, is not listed on the starting lineup but will also be competing in the event. She was rescued from a hoarding situation along with five other dogs — when she came to the Virginia Beach SPCA, her fur was matted and she was covered in ticks and fleas.

Sparkle is now living her best life. The SPCA described her as a sassy puppy that was born for bigger things. In her spare time, she loves rolling around in piles of toys and soft beds.

This is the third year in a row that the Virginia Beach SPCA will have dogs featured in the national event, said Kate Baldwin, chief communications and community relations officer. In the first year, a dog from the shelter known as “Bear” was selected as the MVP of the game.

Baldwin said the shelter submitted six puppies to the competition this year and three were selected.

However, one of the puppies grew too fast and ended up being too big for the event.

But Sparkle and Maverick still have a chance to shine.

“It’s really great for shelter animals to be seen in such a positive light,” Baldwin said. “The animal welfare world has been trying to improve the reputation of shelters and have people recognize that you can get great dogs and all kinds of breeds through adoption.”

Baldwin said the program is a great opportunity not only to showcase the dogs at the shelter but also to get people interested in other animals. She said when people come in after the Puppy Bowl, or throughout the year, they have to walk through the selection of small animals and cats in the shelter before getting to the dogs and sometimes other animals catch their eye along the way.

Baldwin said there are very strict guidelines in the Puppy Bowl regarding age and size when submitting a puppy, and Sparkle and Maverick happened to fit those guidelines.

After having been selected, each year the dogs are taken to New York City with Virginia Beach SPCA staff where they get to compete in the Puppy Bowl.

While Sparkle and Maverick have already been adopted, Baldwin said, that doesn’t mean people can’t fall in love with the other puppies still in the shelter.

Fans of the Puppy Bowl or those looking to adopt can learn more at the Virginia Beach SPCA’s tailgate on at 2 p.m. Sunday at Smartmouth Brewing Company in Virginia Beach. Maverick will make an appearance and guests can watch the Puppy Bowl and pre-game show on a screen at the brewery.

The Puppy Bowl can also be enjoyed at home starting at 3 p.m. on the Animal Planet.

To see the starting lineup for Puppy Bowl XVI, click here.

To learn more about the Virginia Beach SPCA, click here.

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