Prepare for some "ruff" competition at this year’s most anticipated sporting event: Puppy Bowl XIII.
As 78 rescue puppies face off in an epic game of Team Fluff vs. Team Ruff in the hours before the Super Bowl, three all-star players with disabilities, Doobert, Lucky and Winston, are making this year’s championship one of the most inclusive yet.
“The amount of energy and drive on that field – this is the best Puppy Bowl I’ve ever seen,” said referee Dan Schachner, who has been calling the shots at the beloved games for the last six years.
Among the pups is Doobert. The deaf 14-week-old English pointer is ready to bring his A-game to the Puppy Bowl.
Doobert, a 15-week old deaf English pointer, is preparing to play for Team Ruff. (Animal Planet)
“Watch out, because if you sneak up on him, you’ll probably startle him,” his owner Tom Ireton told InsideEdition.com, but “he has no problems with getting in there.”
Tom and Diane Ireton from Richmond, Virginia, brought the pup into their home just a week before the big game. Doobert was born deaf, they said.
“It happens a lot in dogs that are primarily all white and have a very light pigment,” Tom explained. “He’s got a lot of pink to him. The lack of pigment prevents the eardrums from properly developing.”
Instead of giving Doobert spoken commands like the Iretons do with their four other rescued pups, they communicate with Doobert by using a version of American Sign Language, modified for dogs.
“He knows ‘sit’ very well, and ‘good dog’ is a thumbs up,” Diane explained. “We reinforce that with treats.”
Despite his disability, the Iretons said the pup has quickly become a regular member of their household.
“His big brothers and sisters roll him around quite a bit,” Tom said. “It should be a nice life for him.”
Another competitor, Lucky, may only have three legs, but her caretaker Tiffany Galion of Tennessee expects her to sweep away the competition.
Lucky, a 16-week-old terrier mix with only three legs, is preparing to play for Team Fluff. (Animal Planet)
“I think she’s going to dominate,” Tiffany said. “She has a pit bull in her foster home, and she by far dominates him.”
She explained that Lucky, a 15-week-old terrier puppy, and her brother were rescued after a homeowner reported hearing the puppies hiding under his deck. It was 110 degrees, and he said he heard them crying for at least two days.
Weeks later at her foster home, Lucky was playing in her crate when she got her foot stuck and broke her leg. Veterinarians had to amputate.
“She acts like it’s not a big deal,” Tiffany said. “The first two days, she kind of milked it, wanting to be carried and all that. But after, she runs around, she plays with the big dogs.”
Despite playing on only three legs, Lucky is sure she’ll do well on the field — in fact, she didn’t bother wasting time on extra training for the big event.
“She’s too awesome for that,” Tiffany joked. “Look at her, do you not want her to be MVP?”
Lucky and Doobert were joined by Winston, an Australian shepherd that is hearing and sight impaired.
Winston, a 14-week-old Australian shepherd who is hearing and sight impaired, is preparing to play for Team Fluff. (Animal Planet)
Sweet Corn, while not disabled, seems to also be one of the top contenders in this year’s game.
Sweet Corn, a 15-week-old doxie-jack russell terrier mix, is preparing to play for Team Fluff. (Animal Planet)
“She has been resting a lot this morning, but last night, we were up ‘til all hours of the night running and running and running, trying to get her muscles built up for the big day,” her caretaker Amy Heinz told InsideEdition.com. “She’s been practicing endlessly, just trying to beat the other dogs.”
Heinz explained the 10-week-old pup was found in an Iowa cornfield a day before their local sweet corn festival.
But after her rescue, the pup soon moved from a diet of corn to one of lean protein in preparation for the big event. “She does eat a lot of chicken, and she likes scrambled eggs for breakfast,” Heinz said.
Tune in to Animal Planet on Sunday February 5 at 3 p.m. to see if the training regimen paid off.
“I would probably bet on Team Ruff,” referee Schachner joked, “but you didn’t hear it from me.”