New England will be well represented Sunday in the big game, the one with the Roman numerals, the one seen in millions of homes across America.
No, the Patriots won’t be there. But Alanis will, and so will Abdiel, Artemis, Dee Dee, and Debbie. They’ll take the field for Puppy Bowl X on Animal Planet.
“I swear, most of the time, I’m not even the person to bring it up,’’ said Amanda Heglin, coordinator of sponsor services for the Red Sox, and new owner of Alanis, a 7-month-old black Lab mix who took part in the big game. “Someone around me will be like, ‘Oh Amanda’s puppy is in the Puppy Bowl.”
For the past decade, the Puppy Bowl has helped get out the message about pet adoption. Meanwhile, the dogs play their own brand of “football,” complete with ref, penalties, and blimp (flown by hamsters), while competing for the title of MVP — Most Valuable Puppy. This most inspired of counterprogramming will air in two-hour blocks from 3 p.m. Feb. 2 to 3 a.m. Feb. 3.
Nearly 12.5 million people tuned in for at least a portion of the Puppy Bowl in 2013, especially when the lights went out during the Super Bowl, which was held at the Superdome in New Orleans.
After three days of filming the Puppy Bowl in October, Alanis and her four friends were driven to The Sato Project sanctuary, located on a 200-acre estate in Dedham. Heglin met Alanis in November, right after the Red Sox’ World Series victory. She had no idea her new companion was a football star.
Any US shelter can provide puppies for the bowl, although only 60 dogs were selected. A total of eight puppies were provided by The Sato Project, which operates out of offices in Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn and is run by English amateur boxer Chrissy Beckles.
Beckles has focused her efforts on rescuing dogs from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, in an area known as Dead Dog Beach. She estimates the organization has saved 850 dogs over the last eight years.
“When we opened [the sanctuary], we felt like there was no greater place for our doggies to be,’’ said Beckles. “We call them ‘Boston Strong’ like the people of Boston. They’ve been through a lot in their lives as well.’’