SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — While over 100 million people are set to watch the Super Bowl next month, there will also be millions of people who will be watching Animal Planet’s version of its Big Game.
Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XX will premiere a few days before the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 11, and will include a familiar puppy from Central New York.
The Puppy Bowl is an annual television event that highlights animals in rescues and shelters across the country who are looking for their forever homes.
This year, 73 shelters and rescues from 36 states are bringing 131 adoptable puppy players out to represent Team Ruff and Team Fluff.
Representing Central New York on Team Ruff is Willie, a seven-month-old Bloodhound and Redbone Coonhound puppy from Helping Hounds Dog Rescue in Syracuse.
According to Nathan Ouderkirk, operations manager of Helping Hounds Dog Rescue, Willie was born on June 20, 2023, along with his siblings Birdie and Waylon, and was surrendered to the SPCA of Texas, assumed as part of an accidental litter.
He and his siblings then came to Helping Hounds three months later on Sep. 23, 2023, through one of its rescue partners called Humane Tomorrow in Texas.
It was that very same day that Willie met his “furever family.” However, because he was not neutered yet, he was able to stay with his family on a foster basis before his neuter and was officially adopted on Nov. 20, 2023.
According to Ouderkirk, Helping Hounds and Willie got involved in the Puppy Bowl by a bit of serendipity.
“We had a visit from Robin Pressnall, the executive director of Small Paws Animal Rescue, while she was here. She received a call inquiring if she had a puppy to participate this year, and she was kind enough to pass along our information and that we would have a puppy that could participate,” said Ouderkirk.
Willie has caught the eye of people all over CNY because of his cuteness and his floppy ears.
“He was a great dog to take to the Puppy Bowl, he was great in the car, he didn’t mess up the hotel room, and, of course, he represented Helping Hounds like a pro in the Puppy Bowl,” said Ouderkirk.
Willie will be featured in Team Ruff’s starting lineup along with Farin, Flaxo and Shadow from the Buffalo area.
Anyone can watch Puppy Bowl XX airing on Animal Planet, Discovery, TBS, TruTV, Discovery + and Max on Sunday, Feb. 11.