Dog News

Special-Needs Pups Will Feature Big in This Year’s Puppy Bowl!

by Amy Drew

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Whether you’re rooting for the Pats or the Falcons (or you have no idea who’s even playing in this year’s Super Bowl), most people can at least agree on one thing: puppies are awesome! And so in keeping with its annual tradition, Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XIII will be airing on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5.

As always, the program highlights an “adopt-don’t-shop” stance. Seventy-eight pups from 34 animal shelters and rescue groups will play in this adorable pitting of Team Ruff against Team Fluff.

This year, though, the show is putting an extra focus on special-needs dogs in the hope that increasing awareness of these wonderful animals will get more of them into forever homes.

“Special-needs dogs make amazing companions,” Green Dogs Unleashed founder Erika Proctor told TODAY. “For me, they are much easier to train. After all, deaf and blind dogs hear and see with their hearts.”


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Doobert likes to spoon with his big brother, Willie. Photo: Dianne Ireton



Doobert is a happy-go-lucky dog, who happens to be deaf. He lost his first home because his owners didn’t feel equipped to take care of a hearing-impaired pup, so the Virginia-based Green Dogs Unleashed found him a wonderful family (with four dog siblings) and all is now right in Doobert’s quiet world.

And even if he won’t hear the “ruff-eree’s” whistle, he’ll be sharing cuteness with the world, as one of three special-needs dogs who’ll be tearing up the turf in this year’s Puppy Bowl.

Doobert will be joined by a sight- and hearing-impaired dog named Winston, who was adopted through Double J Dog Ranch in Idaho, and by a three-legged pooch named Lucky, from Operation Education Rescue in Tennessee.


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Lacy, Winston and Doobert are three special-needs dogs Puppy Bowl fans will be seeing on the growly gridiron. Photo: Animal Planet


Though most of the pups on the show are available for adoption, these three are spoken for. Justin Jones describes his Winston as the “sweetest, friendliest dog on the planet.” And Lacy charmed her way into Megan Church’s home after she and her brother were found under a deck on a broiling hot day last summer.


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A smiling Winston snoozes in his Los Angeles home. Photo: Justin Jones


Church fostered the two, intending to eventually adopt them out to other permanent families. But when Lacy needed to have her leg amputated, Church grew too attached while helping her heal to go through with the original plan.

Dianne Ireton says she, too, is excited to draw attention to her “playful, funny” Doobert at this year’s big event.

“We know him as being special anyway, just because he’s who he is,” said Ireton. “It’s nice to be able to show people.”