If you love puppies and want to get into the spirit of the Super Bowl, get ready for the annual Puppy Bowl XX.
The premise is simple: a bunch of adorable puppies in every breed and size from around the country compete in a fun, entertaining showdown on a small football field. Animal Planet’s three-hour Puppy Bowl, starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11.
And from Connecticut, a member of Team Ruff is Greyson, an Australian shepherd who comes from Pack Leaders Rescue of CT, a nonprofit rescue in East Hartford that’s dedicated to helping abused, abandoned, or neglected dogs and cats get out of kill shelters and into loving homes.
“This is our sixth year participating. It’s awesome,” said Victoria Cateni of Pack Leaders. “Greyson is so cute and he loves to be active and play. His breed is known for being very smart.”
Greyson was rescued from Arkansas.
“He was in a box with his four other siblings and dumped at Walmart. A rescue partner down there called us and we brought them here to find their forever home,” Cateni said.
Cateni said she became a volunteer for a local rescue after rescuing a blind dog.
“At the time, I had no idea about the rescue world or the need of rescue dogs,” she said.
After learning more about rescuing and wanting to help animals in need, she opened her home as a safe haven for dogs and cats in need, both local and out of state, she said.
Fast forward 12 years later and Cateni helped to open a facility in East Hartford, developed a foster program, and cultivated a relationship with contacts down south who needed an outlet for stray animals — and she began a transport service.
“It’s been awesome. Our mission at Pack Leaders is to save the lives of dogs and cats both locally, and from the South, that have been abandoned, abused, or neglected, and to give them a forever home,” she said.
“We have so many people looking for dogs and there are so many amazing rescues out there,” said Cateni, who has five rescue dogs.
To date, the rescue has saved over 6,500 animals, she said.
Pack Leaders Rescue offers rescue, transport service, and behavioral training.
“We travel every week to rescue animals from Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana. There’s a massive need down there. Most times it’s between 50 to 100 animals, both cats and dogs,” said Cateni.
The rescue uses their own transport RV that offers a safe, clean environment with an on-site animal attendant. It also takes in local owner surrenders and works with animal control officers in the area.
Cateni said she appreciates the mission of the Puppy Bowl.
“It brings awareness to the importance of rescuing a dog and puts rescuing on the map so more people will consider it if they’re looking to add a dog to the family,” said Cateni. “We get an influx once people see the Puppy Bowl.”
According to Animal Planet, every puppy featured on prior Puppy Bowls has found a home since its first show in 2005.
The East Hartford’s rescue’s veterinarians and behaviorists evaluate each animal to make sure they’re ready for their new home. Basic puppy training classes and behavioral training also are available.
“We support the adopters and foster parents. Socializing a dog takes time. We’re here to help you,” Cateni said.
In addition to Pack Leaders Rescue, participants in Puppy Bowl include American Lab Rescue, Connecticut Rescue, Connecticut Humane Society, Danbury Animal Welfare Society, Dog Star Rescue, Lucky Dog Refuge, and Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue.
Throughout the Puppy Bowl show fans will learn about each player’s breed mix and other unique traits; “Pup Close and Personal” and “Adoptable Pup” segments; and adoption stories that highlight the work of rescues and shelters, according to Warner Bros. Discovery.
Thirteen puppies, members of Team Ruff and Team Fluff, comprise the starting line-up. The show features a player tunnel, fog machine, a water bowl and slo-mo cam, and other activities. It also includes play-by-play commentary and a referee calling penalties and touchdowns. It airs on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, TBS, truTV, discovery +, and Max.
According to Warner Bros. Discovery, the matchup will be the biggest yet, featuring 131 pups and 73 shelters and rescues across 36 states and territories.
Although Greyson is already adopted, Cateni encourages people to visit the website at packleadersrescue.com to see more adoptable dogs. The rescue is partners with PetSmart in Manchester and every Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. holds adoption events at its 1520 Pleasant Valley Road location. Those interested in a dog on the show can visit AnimalPlanet.com to view the dog’s profile and be connected to the shelter or rescue center from where it originates.
“Rescuing is important. There are so many amazing rescues out there,” said Cateni. “As long as people rescue and save the animals, that’s most important.”