Puppy Bowl XVIII puts Virginia pooches with unique qualities and special needs in the spotlight.

(WFXR) – People across the country tuned in Sunday afternoon to watch more than 100 dogs – at least five of which are from Virginia – hit the grill in a furry showdown between Team Fluff and Team Ruff during Puppy Bowl XVIII .

The event which aired on Animal Planet and streamed on Discovery+ featured 118 amazing puppy players from a total of 67 animal shelters and rescue organizations from 33 states. Each team was represented with designated bandanas – Team Ruff in “Tail Mary Tangerine” and Team Fluff in “Bark Blue”.

Of those pooches chosen to get their paws dirty in the 2022 Puppy Bowl, at least five currently live in Virginia, including one in the Roanoke Valley.

Carey Frost-Perdue volunteers for Big Fluffy Dog Rescue — a nonprofit animal rescue near Nashville, Tennessee — who lives in Roanoke. Frost-Perdue says she handles the screening of applications to ensure the organization’s special dogs go to happy, healthy homes.

One day, a special litter of puppies was dropped off to the rescue and taken to a foster home after their mother died during childbirth. From these puppies emerged a quirky little American Pit Bull Terrier/Weimaraner mix named Odin.

“He caught my eye right away, and growing up he had such a funny personality. He was the first to the food bowl, he was the big bully on the playground and he was such a silly person,” said Frost-Perdue “He makes those noises when he’s harassing you…Even though I didn’t have him in my home for the first eight weeks of his life, I was still a part of it.”

Odin also caught the attention of Puppy Bowl organizers. Frost-Perdue told WFXR News that Big Fluffy Dog Rescue sends photos of their most unique litters to the organization.

A few weeks after Frost-Perdue brought Odin to her home, one of Big Fluffy Dog Rescue’s foster families reached out, saying Puppy Bowl organizers wanted to draft Odin for Team Ruff for the big event in New York. York.

“My Odin was remarkable in color and layout,” Frost-Perdue said. “That’s technical jargon for – he’s a sassy jerk.”

According to Frost-Perdue, Odin was a showboat, a ham, and a goof while taking photos and videos before the Puppy Bowl, but when it was game day, Odin seemed a little lost. He was either trying to run out of the arena or sit by the wall of the arena, looking for his owner. However, he quickly warmed up to the other dogs in his clumsy, “pure Odin” way.

Frost-Perdue told WFXR News ahead of the furry showdown that she can’t wait for Odin to represent Roanoke in the Puppy Bowl.

(Photos courtesy: Discovery+/Animal Planet, Carey Frost-Perdue via Instagram)

“I think with a lot of bad stuff you hear about in the news and not enough good stuff, people don’t get to smile or be happy with life as often as we would like, and I think having a goof like Odin in the Puppy Bowl, strutting around and representing Roanoke, you know, some people may never even have heard of Roanoke, and it will stick in their memory that that’s where ‘it happens,’ Frost-Perdue said.

Odin wasn’t the only Virginia pup to claim the limelight. WFXR News also spoke with Erika Proctor, director and animal behavior specialist at Green Dogs Unleashed in Fluvanna County.

This rescue and therapy dog ​​organization for animals with special needs specializes in the training and placement of deaf and deaf/blind dogs. Plus, the nonprofit takes in dogs and cats with other differences that make them special — like three legs — making sure they’re trained and rehabilitated so they’re well-adjusted. and ready to live with families when adopted.

Over the years, Green Dogs Unleashed has sent a number of dogs – especially dogs with special needs – to the Puppy Bowl, including last year’s Puppy Bowl MVP and “Most Popular Player”, a deaf dog from Salem named Marshall.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our dogs, both for socialization purposes – they have to go up in October to New York and see other puppies and see new people and take a little road trip and stay in a hotel – but it’s also really a great experience for our organization because they really bring awareness to the world for animals with special needs,” Proctor explained.

According to Proctor, the following four pooches from Green Dogs Unleashed had their chance to shine on the playing field:

  • Glaze is an Alaskan Malamute/Chow Chow mix from Team Fluff who was abandoned, along with his mother, just two days old by their family when they moved house. However, a volunteer discovered it and brought them to the shelter.
    • Glaze, now known as Mazie, was adopted at Lake Monticello just before Puppy Bowl filming began, but she was still allowed to compete.
  • Pongo is a deaf Dalmatian from Team Ruff who was airlifted to Green Dogs Unleashed — along with his littermates — after his breeder in Alaska discovered he was deaf.
    • Pongo, now Finn, was adopted in Charlottesville right after he returned from filming the Puppy Bowl.
  • Ridley is a deaf and visually impaired border collie from Team Ruff who came to Green Dogs Unleashed after his breeder Nathalie admitted he was deaf due to the color of his fur.
    • He ended up competing in the Puppy Bowl when he was only about 12 weeks old.
    • Proctor described Ridley as “super high energy, high drive, in everything, but very very smart”.
    • While Ridley, now six months old, is technically still available for adoption, Proctor says she has a feeling he won’t be leaving Green Dogs Unleashed because he’s related to his 9-year-old.
  • Bunny is a deaf American Pit Bull Terrier / American Staffordshire Terrier on Team Fluff who came from a shelter in Florida who contacted Green Dogs Unleashed after finding out she was deaf.
    • Bunny, now named Izzy, was adopted just outside of Richmond a few weeks after returning from filming the Puppy Bowl.

“Five years ago, 10 years ago, these dogs wouldn’t have had a chance, they would have been euthanized,” Proctor said. “It was sort of the accepted norm to euthanize a dog that’s deaf or blind or both, and now I really attribute that in part to Puppy Bowl because there’s so much awareness, and Puppy Bowl presents our animals with special needs so regularly now that breeders contact us. »

Seventeen years after Puppy Bowl debuted, this challenging game features adoptable puppies as they play on a miniature football field – and take occasional naps – along with their feline counterparts during Kitty’s halftime show beach themed. .

However, it also highlights the shelters and rescues that care for these animals, as well as the staff members, who dedicate their lives to helping furry friends find their forever homes.

As for the winners of Puppy Bowl XVIII, after a game filled with fumbles, touchdowns, chasing, recovering and tail-wagging cuteness, Team Fluff emerged as this year’s game champion.

Meanwhile, the results of the so-called Pupularity Playoffs – where Ridley and Pongo were knocked out in the first round – were announced on Friday February 11, with Benny, a Georgia Poodle on Team Fluff with just two working legs, beating Ted D. Bear, a Florida goldendoodle on Team Ruff.

The Puppy Bowl XVIII MVP title went to Kirby, a Team Fluff Labrador Retriever who was with the American Vetdogs in New York before crossing the country to become the Houston Texans’ puppy-in-training.

Follow these links to learn more about other players and the safe havens they can be adopted from, as well as to view post-game photos and post-game highlights.