ARIZONA, USA — The Cardinals may not be playing in the Super Bowl this year, but Arizona will be represented in the 19th Annual Puppy Bowl.
The Puppy Bowl is much like the Big Game but with adorable puppies from shelters across the country instead of pro football players.
This year, puppy players from Team Ruff and Team Fluff will take to the gridiron to win the treasured “Lombarky” trophy.
This year’s competition will not only include sloppy kisses and puppy penalties but will highlight the work of rescue and shelter workers who dedicate their lives to helping animals find their forever homes.
Meet the contenders
Phoenix is a Cairn Terrier mix and a proud alumnus of the Arizona Humane Society. Phoenix will represent Team Fluff on the big day as she shows off her “bigger than life” personality.
AHS officials said this is the second time the rescue has been represented in the big game. In 2016, AHS had not one, but two pets represented in a Pup Close & Personal segment during the Puppy Bowl. Roxy, a Chihuahua mix, and her best friend, Oscar, the kitten. Roxy was shy with the cameras and received a penalty for being a “wallflower.” The two were eventually adopted together.
This cute chihuahua terrier mix is also playing in the big game. Inya comes from the Nagi Foundation, a nonprofit shelter that supports Native American communities by providing animal health services, educational programs and behavioral health resources.
Sheila Iyengar, the founder of the Nagi Foundation, told 12News that when the organization was selected for this year's Puppy Bowl, they were "ecstatic."
Iyengar said this is the first time a Native American organization (and its pup) was selected to participate in the event, and they could not have been more thrilled.
Iyengar said when a Salt River Pima-Maricopa Animal Control officer let the group know about two small pups that were found abandoned in a cemetery, she saw there was something special about these little survivors and knew they had their Puppy Bowl candidates. One of the two pups, Inya, won the judge's hearts and was selected to play for Team Fluff.
The foundation said Inya did not receive any formal type of training specifically for Puppy Bowl. She did go through exercises to help her gain confidence. She also learned some basic obedience, housebreaking, and manners, and most importantly, she learned how to play and navigate the world confidently.
"I think Inya is a great representation of the resilience of our Native Animals. There are many misconceptions about the animals on Tribal Land. Inya, like so many that come to our clinics, were someone's pets that have been dumped in the Community by outside people. The majority of animals that utilize our services have been taken in by our Community members after people have abandoned them in Salt River," said Iyengar.
The Nagi Foundation said they offer services such as spay/neuter/vaccines/microchipping/health testing, prevention and lifesaving opportunities for these homeless animals that have been taken in.
What channel is Puppy Bowl on?
The canine competition, the original and longest-running call-to-adoption TV event, returns for its 19th year on Animal Planet and streams on discovery+.
What time does Puppy Bowl start?
The show will begin at noon MST (2 p.m. Eastern Time, 11 a.m. Pacific Time) on Sunday, Feb. 12. This year's Puppy Bowl will feature 122 puppies and 67 shelters and rescues across 34 states.
While Phoenix and Inya have been adopted into loving homes, the Arizona Humane Society, the Nagi Foundation and other local pet shelters have many loving pets up for adoption.
And when you're done watching the Puppy Bowl, head to 12News.com/superbowl for the latest, greatest and most up-to-date Super Bowl LVII coverage.
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