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Behind the scenes of Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XIII

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Dan Schachner, referee for Puppy Bowl XIII, introduces a couple of the players. Dan Schachner, referee for Puppy Bowl XIII, introduces a couple of the players. (Photo courtesy of Animal Planet)

As football fans get ready for Sunday’s ginormous meeting between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, many millions of TV viewers will be watching Animal Planet for one of the cutest counter-programming moves in television history – Puppy Bowl XIII.

Referee Dan Schachner says that this year’s edition of the Puppy Bowl will have a special emphasis on shelter dogs. Each of the 78 canines taking part in Puppy Bowl XIII will be a pet up for adoption from 34 different animal shelters and rescue organizations from 22 states.

Sunday’s epic match-up will see #TeamRuff take on #TeamFluff for three hours of romping fun, beginning with a pre-game show at 2 p.m. and the “game” beginning at 3 p.m. Puppy Bowl XIII will air continuously until the early hours of Monday morning. Last year, more than nine million viewers made it the most-watched cable broadcast of the day.

Referee Dan Schachner checked in with The Maine Edge to take us behind the scenes of Puppy Bowl XIII.

TME: This year, you’ll have 78 puppy players from various animal shelters. It is so awesome to spotlight these shelter dogs. When you were filming this year’s show, it must have been very difficult not to bring them all home with you.

Schachner: That happens every year. In one respect, it’s harder this time because the dogs get more adorable every year and this year, there’s more of them. But in another respect it gets easier - because I’ve been doing this for so long, I’m able to resist the temptation to put a toy poodle in my pocket and walk off the set.

TME: During the pre-game show, will we be introduced to the puppies and get some background on them?

Schachner: Absolutely. We give you the backstory on the dogs along with their stats. People actually do track these dogs and create fantasy football teams around them – it’s amazing.

TME: How long does it take to film each edition of Puppy Bowl?

Schachner: All together, Puppy Bowl takes about three days to shoot. With 78 dogs, we really want to showcase as many different breeds, sizes and shelters as possible. We then try to whittle those three days down to create the most exciting game possible. We get in as many touchdowns and penalties as possible.

TME: Three dogs with special needs will be playing this year. Could you tell me about them?

Schachner: The thing that we’ve kind of realized over the years is that puppies that are three to six months of age aren’t generally going to have a problem getting adopted. They’re not languishing in shelters. The ones who have a hard time finding a home are older dogs, senior dogs and dogs with special needs. This year, we have three of them. Lucky is a three-legged dog. Sadly, I think one of his legs was amputated because it was caught in a crate door. He runs down the field toward the end zone better than most of the dogs who have four legs. We have a deaf dog named Doobert and a hearing and sight-impaired dog named Winston.

They all did great. The idea is to let people watching at home know that they should also consider adopting a special-needs dog because, number one, they’re going to be grateful for a home. Number two, sometimes, their temperament is just right. If you have a family with a child who needs a sweet quiet dog or an older retired person who needs a companion, sometimes the dogs with special needs can really make a difference in a family.

TME: As an animal lover, I’ve been covered in almost every animal emission imaginable. In the all of the years that you’ve been refereeing Puppy Bowl, how many times have you been peed on?

Schachner: Ha. I’ve lost count but here’s a fun stat on that topic. We started counting our supplies used at every puppy bowl and we made up this little list that I love. During this year’s shooting, we went through 1,500 wee-wee pads, 250 dog toys, 15 pounds of food and 20 pounds of cat litter. It takes a lot of supplies and a lot of people to put this together.

TME: How many people are involved in the production?

Schachner: We have a crew of over a hundred people. You can imagine, with 78 dogs, we need handlers and other people helping out. When nature calls, we’ve got a crew that swoops in there to do clean-up faster than NASCAR can change a tire.

TME: Cat lovers are not left out of Puppy Bowl. Tell me about the cats that will be part of the show on Sunday.

Schachner: You’ll see more than 20 cats, also from rescue organizations. Each of these cats is looking for a home and they are adorable. They’ll be performing during our halftime show which is always a variation on what the human football component is doing this year. Since Lady Gaga is going to perform this year, our half-time entertainment will be “Kitty Gaga.” She is a Lady Gaga impersonator in the form of a cat. She does an amazing job. Some of Lady Gaga’s hits will be parodied on the show. There’s backup dancers and lights. We had a really good time doing it. Don’t change the channel after the second quarter. Stay with us. You’re going to like this show.

TME: I understand that, in your private life, you also foster homeless dogs to get them ready for adoption. When the time comes to let them go their new home, it must be difficult.

Schachner: It is. However, I would also submit that you should try working with 78 adorable dogs and 20 cats for three days, getting down on the floor with them, hugging them, cuddling them and then giving them up. I do it every single year and it’s tough. Fostering one dog at a time is a piece of cake. It’s great. It allows me to connect with my local shelter and do some good in my community and my kids love it.

TME: I’d like you to settle something. I love the smell of puppy breath. In fact, I wish there was a Yankee Candle puppy breath scent. I would buy one every week. Some people are repulsed by it, I love it. There is no person better qualified to settle this. Puppy breath – yea or nay?

Schachner: These puppies don’t listen to someone five feet above them. They are doing their own thing so I get down there with them. I’m throwing my flag down, blowing my whistle. I’m in their face. Puppy breath is no longer puppy breath. It is just the air I breathe. That’s the best way I can describe it. I do love it. I agree with you. A puppy-breath-scented candle would be incredible and I suggest you trademark it immediately (laughs).

Last modified on Wednesday, 01 February 2017 14:42

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