Former Puppy Bowl MVP is a Star at Home

A tradition for many in January is Puppy Bowl. Probably, like many of you, I have wondered over the years what has become of those game day puppies.

Puppy Bowl Publicity shot
Toby (aka “Fumble”) in Puppy Bowl VIII, 2012, Publicity Shot

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….A tradition for many in January is Puppy Bowl (there’s that other bowl game, too, but we know which one in better). Everyone seems to love ooooohhhing and aaaaahhhing over the adorable little bits of fluff having the game day of their lives (thus far).  Probably, like many of you, I have wondered over the years what has become of those game day puppies.  The messaging during the event is great, reminding people to adopt don’t shop, punctuated with the cutest little wags and barks ever.  I became further intrigued when my friend, Michael Wright, posted on Facebook that his puppy, the former “Fumble,” 2012 Puppy Bowl MVP (Most Valuable Puppy, of course) was going to be featured in a “Where Are They Now,” segment.  Although it has been close to 4 years since that follow-up was conducted, I thought it would be interesting to see how things were going for Michael and Toby, these days, and to get Michael’s thoughts on pet adoption, Puppy Bowl, and living with an MVP.

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LifeWithDogs:         When you were first thinking about getting a pet, what were your thoughts? Were you looking to adopt a specific kind of pet?  Were you looking to adopt from a specific place?
Michael Wright:     I have had dogs my entire life. In 2012, my then current dog, Parker was almost 14 and had developed 2 types of cancer. I knew that it was time to start thinking about adopting not only a companion for Parker, but a new friend to help ease with the inevitable loss I would be going through in the coming months. I was open to adopting any kind of dog (although I am partial to larger dogs), however as long  as there was a good connection between the new pup and myself it didn’t matter. I’ve always listened to my heart when adopting and I’ve always made the right choices.
during Puppy Bowl filming
Toby waiting for his turn to get into the big game during Puppy Bowl filming

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LWD:        How did you settle on where you were going to get your new pet?
MW:          I had gone to several shelters in New York City before coming upon a non-profit, no-kill adoption center called Bideawee. The staff was amazingly helpful. I didn’t feel rushed while visiting with all of dogs and I was allowed to spend as much time with each potential dog as I needed to. I was also impressed by the care I observed being given to each animal as well as the care that was put into the actual facility.
On the flight to NYC to shoot the Puppy Bowl
On the way to NYC to shoot the Puppy Bowl

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LWD:        What did you feel when you saw your puppy for the first time?
MW:          When I first saw Toby (although his name at the time was Fumble), I knew he was the one for me. He was 9 weeks old and the tiniest, sweetest and clumsiest puppy I’d ever seen. He wasn’t shy at all. When he came right over to me and started kissing my face, it was love at first sight. To top it off, he grabbed a toy and started playing tug with me. I knew right then I wanted to adopt him. I changed his name to Toby. I felt it suited him more.
Puppy Bowl press pic
Toby’s Puppy Bowl headshot

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LWD:        Now, I know he was in the Puppy Bowl, so had you adopted him prior to that or after that?  How did that work?  And didn’t he win an award?
MW:          Toby (as Fumble in the event) was featured in Puppy Bowl VIII in 2012. During Toby’s adoption process, I was informed Toby had been one of the contestants involved in the Puppy Bowl. He had been entered by the ASPCA in Los Angeles and was chosen to be a contestant. He and a representative from the ASPCA flew to NYC for the filming at Chelsea Piers. This was in October of 2012. When filming was finished he was given to Bideawee to be put up for adoption. I adopted him less than a week after he was put up for adoption. At that time, I had no idea what the Puppy Bowl was. The staff at Bideawee told me what the show was all about. At that time, no one knew the outcome of the show since it would not be aired for a few months later. So all I knew at that point was that he was one of the contestants. The show aired on Super Bowl Sunday on Animal Planet and I was so excited to sit down and watch. Toby was getting a lot of air time during the show and I, of course, thought he was the cutest puppy on the show. I was so excited when he actually won Most Valuable Puppy!

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LWD:        What sort of notoriety did they two of you receive following Puppy Bowl?
MW:          Not much happened after he won. I got a call from the rep, Anna, from ASPCA in Los Angeles, (his chaperone during the filming) who was as excited and proud as I was. I posted all over social media about my famous little boy!

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LWD:        You were both part of a special follow-up to Puppy Bowl the following year, correct? Can you tell me how that came about?
MW:          About a year after Toby won, I got a call from the Associated Press asking me if they could do a story. They were doing a “Where Are They Now” feature on past Puppy Bowl winners. I did a telephone interview and they sent a photographer out to my apartment to do a photo shoot with Toby and me. I was very, very excited. Not too long after that, I got word that the article was starting to appear in newspapers all over the country with pictures of Toby and I!!
Puppy Bowl card
Puppy Bowl line-up card. Toby is far right, 4th from the top, with the look of a champion
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LWD:        So how has life been since then?
MW:          Life has been great. Toby remains the playful, sweet, crazy and loving puppy he’s always been.
Toby and the Ref
Toby following a touchdown with Puppy Bowl Referee

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LWD:        So what happened with Parker for whom Toby was as companion?
MW:          Parker passed a few months after Toby turned 1. I really wanted him to have a canine companion, so after I felt emotionally ready to adopt again, I started looking. I checked adoption sites daily online.  My dream had always been to adopt a golden retriever, but I knew it would be rare to find a golden in a shelter. One day I happened to check Bideawee’s website, and there was Bella! My golden! I literally raced down to the center because I knew she wouldn’t be there long. She was still up for adoption! The staff explained her owner had passed away and the family was unable to take care of her. Unfortunately when she was surrendered to Bideawee she had a rather large benign tumor on her paw and she was not spade. So when I met her, she was just a few days out of surgery and had a huge cone on her head. That didn’t stop her. It was love at first sight. She wouldn’t leave my side. She was 5 years old. Bideawee would not allow me to adopt her until their dog behaviorist assessed Toby and Bella together to make sure they were compatible. I went home, got Toby and brought him back to Bideawee. The staff remembered him and it was a very happy reunion for them and their little Puppy Bowl winner. The two of them fell in love and the behaviorist gave them his blessing. I picked Bella up a few days later after she was medically cleared to go home.
Toby today
Toby today, happy at home

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LWD:        What is the one thing you would encourage people to do if they are looking for a new pet?
MW:          First I would say make sure you are truly ready for a pet. It sounds really fun and exciting, and it IS, but it’s still a lot of work and you have to remember it could be up to a 12-15 year relationship. I get really angry when I hear of people adopting and then returning their pet because it was too much work.  Go with your heart. You’ll know when it’s right. ADOPT. ADOPT. ADOPT!! That’s what I have to say about that.
Toby and his current sister, Bella
Toby and Bella, the best of friends

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