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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Tail’-gating at Puppy Bowl

    Rebecca Noble

    Puppy athletes get fouled for “unnecessary ruff ruff ruffness” on the practice field at CityScape Phoenix and the Puppy Bowl Cafe on Thursday. The Puppy Bowl Cafe was a charity event sponsored by Animal Planet and the Arizona Humane Society in anticipation for the nationally-televised Puppy Bowl XI on Sunday.

    Brutus, an 8-week-old plummeting ball of cuteness, jumps into the air, grabbing Cleo by the collarbone and bringing her to the ground on the 45-yard line. After a successful off-side defensive tackle, Brutus continues to wrestle his opponent for the ball. As the football tumbles to the side of them, the two continue to go at a ferocious, furry fracas. The “rufferee,” Tommy Gimler, blows his whistle, calling for “Unnecessary Ruff-ruff-ruffness.” The two tumble into the end zone and decide to take a break to drool over their squeaky toys. At the end of the third quarter, Team Fluff was two to one with opponent Team Ruff.

    Animal Planet teamed up with Uber and the Arizona Humane Society to facilitate the barking and excitement at the Puppy Bowl Cafe, which took place Thursday through Sunday at CityScape, normally called the Corner during off-season, in downtown Phoenix.

    Bretta Nelson, a spokesperson and public relations manager for the Arizona Humane Society, said that most days at work don’t look so much like center field.

    “A man walked into our facility with a box and said he was driving through a field and almost ran over [it],” Nelson said. “When he got out of his car to see what was in it, or really just to remove it, there were these six puppies.”

    Nelson said the puppies’ lives have been completely transformed thanks to the society’s 1,900 volunteers and the people of Animal Planet who gave their time and effort into the event. She also said Animal Planet would be covering a portion of the adoption fees for all the athletes who played in the Puppy Bowl Cafe this weekend.

    Now, tumbling into the end zones — and scoring more toys on the field than touchdowns — the puppies are stronger and healthier than ever before.

    “These pups show no fear!” said Gimler, who mentioned he had done other marketing events for Animal Planet, such as dressing up as a shark to host a Shark Week promotion event in Huntington Beach, Calif., last summer.

    Dan Schachner is the “rufferee” for the Puppy Bowl XI, which aired on Sunday on Animal Planet.

    Matt Windsor, the senior publicist for Animal Planet, explained that the show had auditions where hopeful referees had to send in a video of them giving a pep talk to puppies. The show thought Schachner gave the puppies the most inspiration.

    Gimler said refereeing the Puppy Bowl is no joke.

    “I make sure all the balls have their squeaker toys, and make sure there is a lot of action and that their balls are ‘deflated’ to the right level,” Gimler said.

    Though there is no flag for excessive cuteness, which most players use as a defensive skill to get points, there are times when the puppies get flagged for no longer being cute.

    “Every now and then, a puppy will make a puppy mess, and then another one will come in and think it’s a snack,” Gimler said. “At that point, it’s every flag you got!”

    The puppies weren’t the only famous athletes at the cafe this week. The Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII champion Arthur Jones, who signed a contract last March to become a defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts, attended the event. Since Jones’ brother plays for the Patriots, Jones said he was rooting for him in the Super Bowl, but that he was “Team Ruff, for sure,” in regards to the Puppy Bowl.

    Super Bowl, but that he was “Team Ruff, for sure,” in regards to the Puppy Bowl.

    Later at the Grand Opening of the Puppy Bowl Cafe, Jaime Edmondson, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, said that she and her fiancé Evan Longoria, who plays for the Tampa Bay Rays, frequently take part in animal activism. With the help of a few sponsors, they have been able to donate hundreds of dollars to the Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St. Petersburg, Fla.

    “Three years ago, we started a program called Home Runs for Homeless Pets,” Edmondson said. “Every time Evan hits a home run, we get $500 donated to that shelter.”

    Last season, she claims they ended up with $1,700 in donations to the shelter. Her inspiration to give back to an animal shelter came from her dog, a South African Boerboel, who was adopted from Arizona.

    Whether it’s touchdowns or taking over downtown Phoenix, the Puppy Bowl Cafe is a culmination of fans, celebrities and volunteers who have devoted their time to help animals one paw at a time. Though the puppies may not be as successful in making touchdowns, for them, the real championship prize is the success of finding a forever home.


    Follow Victoria Teplitz on Twitter.

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