By Susan Spisak
Before the Super Bowl Sunday football game kicks off from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ on February 12th, the much-anticipated Puppy Bowl XIX airs at 2PM ET on discovery+ and Animal Planet. For Mainers, there’s a reason to be proud—this year, pups Betty and Higgins from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, aka ARLGP, will hit the gridiron for Team Ruff, competing for the coveted Lombarky Trophy against Team Fluff.
The goal of the Bowl is to celebrate the thousands of adoptable pets needing loving homes. The hardworking staffers in shelters and rescues will be highlighted, and throughout the three-hour match up, inspiring adoption stories will be shared. The audience will also learn more about each player’s breed mix and other unique traits from Wisdom Panel™ dog DNA test.
Kyra Hunsicker, Marketing Coordinator for ARLGP, explained that they became involved with the Puppy Bowl in 2018 after Jeana Roth, their Director of Community Engagement, connected with Animal Planet, and they were invited to submit possible contestants. (As a result, they’ve had pups participating in the showdown every year since. Jeana recently left ARLGP after many years of dedicated service, and now is an Executive Director for a Midwest shelter.)
Kyra said this year, as in the past, ARLGP responded to the “casting call” email. They presented pups who hit the personality and age range criteria to the Puppy Bowl panel. Their first contender was social, happy-go-lucky Betty, who warmed everyone’s hearts. She came to them from a GA rescue partner, and while in foster care, she visited ARLGP, and the staff heard stories of the little dog’s spunk and ongoing antics.
Little boy Higgins was born at ARLGP with six littermates. (His mom had been relinquished by a local family.) Since this adorable guy was used to being part of a pack from birth, his temperament was a perfect fit for tumbling with pups on the field. The staff was right in their assessment of their canine footballers—Betty and Higgins were chosen and will compete along with over one hundred shelter/rescue dogs.
BETTY PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DOGIST
HIGGINS PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DOGIST
The Puppy Bowl was pre-recorded last fall in NY. Two ARLGP long time volunteers, Jen M. and Allyson W., had the pleasure of escorting the pups. It was an exciting road trip for the duo, and they stayed in a pet-friendly hotel. Kyra laughed and said they’ve always stepped up for the fun assignment and they’re known as “The Puppy Bowl Squad.” Kyra added they’re not sure if either pup will be in the starting lineup but should see playing time.
Although one purpose of the Bowl is to facilitate shelter adoptions, that wasn’t necessary for Betty and Higgins. They both found their forever homes thanks to ARLGP’s enthusiastic adoption process. Betty’s new mom, Julia, saw the dog’s picture on October 20th and practically ran to the shelter, “The Animal Refuge League posted a picture of her, and I was ‘door to door’ in twenty minutes.” Julia said she’s a ball of playful energy and gets along fine with her sib, Harriet. She said it’s fun to watch Betty, now 7 months old, experience everything. “It snowed last week, and boy is she just having a blast digging and playing in this, to her, new strange land. Taking her to do new things has been a real joy.”
Higgins’ new family couldn’t adopt just one. “We rescued both Higgins and his mom, Harley,” said Lori. They have a terrific bond, like to play together, and watch the world go by at the window. Higgins, now 6 months old, is a wonderful boy, friendly, and a bit of a “Velcro” pup, “He doesn’t miss a trick and loves to know where we are and what we are doing.”
Lori indicated adopting the two is cohesive with the Puppy Bowl’s goals: “Higgins and his mom, Harley, have definitely changed our lives for the better. We had gone almost six years without a dog and now wish we had adopted them sooner. They have brought a lot of smiles and laughs for us, and they are great for our mental health. Especially for all the time spent outside for walks, sitting with them in the yard on nicer days, plus all the cuddling with them inside.”
Lori can’t wait for the game, “We are very excited for his big TV debut. We tell [Higgins] he’s our little superstar and that he’s famous and doesn’t even know it.” Betty’s family agreed. “We've got a gaggle of friends and family cheerleaders ready for the big game,” said Julia. You can follow Betty on Instagram at @puppybowlbetty. For more information on the Puppy Bowl, discovery.com/shows/puppy-bowl.