Tube Talk: Puppies take the field in Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl VI

By Paula Hendrickson

Contributing Writer

Everyone who knows me knows I love puppies. Dogs, too, for that matter. They also know I loathe sports. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that I love Animal Planet’s annual event, the Puppy Bowl.

The two-hour long special airs (multiple times) opposite some big, boring football game that nobody really watches unless their favorite team is playing. Right? No? Well, some people watch the game for the commercials, or so they claim. OK, OK…perhaps a few people actually enjoy football. I’m clearly not one of them.

But what’s not to love about cute, cuddly, playful little puppies running around a small, fake football field? (Cat lovers will like the Kitty Half-time Show.)

So, if you get tired of the game or don’t want to watch an instant replay or two, click over to Animal Planet and check out the Puppy Bowl. Even a minute or two will be worth it.

My favorite feature each year is the “water bowl cam”—a camera set under a clear-bottomed bowl that the playful pups tend to step in and splash in more often than they drink from it.

The Puppy Bowl even has a referee who is occasionally called in to break up some unnecessary roughness. More often than not, he’s calling time-outs so he can clean up the field. I think it was last year that one of the puppies fell asleep in the middle of play and had to be extricated.

As adorable as the Puppy Bowl is, it also serves an important purpose: raising awareness of how many homeless puppies—and kittens—are currently in shelters. All participants are either current shelter pets or recent adoptees who have been checked out by a veterinarian prior to the game.

Something I love is that it includes mostly mixed-breed puppies and shows viewers how unique—goofy or gorgeous—mutts can be.

My favorite in the “starting line-up” shown online is a 9-week-old husky mix named Bandit (he’s the third photo in the line-up). Again, people who know me won’t be surprised that I took a shine to a husky mix. My dog is husky-collie-keeshond, and my previous dog was a huge shepherd-husky mix. (I told dog snobs that he was a Siberian Shepherd.)

Animal Planet has plenty of fun Puppy Bowl content online. In addition to learning about the event and viewing the starting line-up, you can find tips about hosting a great “tail-gate” party, participate in a fan poll, try your hand at some puppy-related puzzles, and find pet adoption resources. So, even if you choose to watch overgrown men chase an inflated pigskin around a real stadium instead of the Puppy Bowl, you can still sneak in a puppy fix.

Sometimes I wonder what the initial reaction was when the idea was brought up to counter-program the Super Bowl with a bunch of puppies romping around a pretend football field. Silly as it sounds, it was sheer genius and has turned into one of Animal Planet’s highest-rated programs.

Programming note

Puppy Bowl VI airs Sunday, Feb. 7, from 2 to 4 p.m., and will repeat immediately following the first “game.”

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to

From the Feb. 3-9, 2010 issue.

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