5 dogs from western Connecticut shelters on Puppy Bowl roster

Whether you're a football fan or not, we can all agree on one thing: puppies are adorable. And there's no place to see more of them than the most paws-itive game on the gridiron: the Puppy Bowl. Now in its 19th year, Team Ruff faces Team Fluff in what's not just a cute contest but a promotion for pet adoption. The tail-wagging good time features rescues from across the country, including western Connecticut. Five dogs from three local rescues are on the roster, one of which is a rookie—Lucky Dog Refuge in Stamford.
"The Puppy Bowl has been so exciting for us. We are just so thrilled. We didn't even imagine as a new rescue that this was something that would be possible for us," said Lucky Dog Refuge CEO and co-founder Kirstin Mende.
Mende started the rescue in 2020 with a focus on medical cases and dogs that are hard to place. They recently passed 700 adoptions.
Among them, Team Fluff star Twinkle--a Huskie, cattle dog, Alaskan malamute, German Shepherd mix. Originally from Mississippi, she's since been adopted by Mende's mom, who co-founded the rescue. Twinkle now lives in Darien with a pack of siblings, which the competition surely helped prepare her for.
"Twinkle was very excited. It was a huge, huge adventure for her," Mende recalled. "She had a tendency to fall asleep during film time because it was a nice warm room, but she would wake up to get on the field and get playing and even in the holding room outside, she just loved meeting all the other dogs."
Also suiting up for Team Fluff is Stardust, a poodle-Australian shepherd mix with one eye from DAWS in Bethel. Stardust is one of eleven special-needs puppy players in the game this year.
"She was very outgoing while she was at the Puppy Bowl," explained DAWS Shelter Director Katie Mothersele.
DAWS also fields a player for Team Ruff. Dakota is a German shepherd-pit bull mix born in West Virginia who now calls Bethel home.
"She was very shy when she went to the Puppy Bowl, but she had a wonderful time and started to come out of her shell," Mothersele told News 12. "It's a fun experience for us, and we think that it's great to advocate for the animals that are in the shelter environment and remind people, you know, adopt, don't shop."
This was DAWS' fifth year in the canine competition, but it's not the only local veteran in the lineup.
ROAR in Ridgefield is also back with two players. Pauly is a playful black-and-tan hound mix from Georgia on Team Ruff. His Team Fluff competitor is Schnitzel, a husky-boxer mix. He's smart, sweet, happy, and high energy, so it's no surprise he had a ball on the field. He's also still at ROAR, the only local Puppy Bowl dog without a forever home.
Who will win the coveted "Vince Lombarky" trophy? Puppy Bowl XIX airs on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and TBS from 2-5 p.m. with a one-hour pre-game show beforehand. You can also stream it on HBO Max or Discovery+.