Cathy Larsen was on her way from Alabama to pick up a transport of rescue dogs when she met a puppy from West Virginia.
The dog, named Asiago, would soon become her latest “foster failure.”
“My daughter fell in love with him,” she says of the 11-month-old basset hound with searching eyes who came from a backyard breeder.
Asiago is one of six dogs from New Jersey rescue groups competing in Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl 2023, aka Puppy Bowl XIX, on Super Bowl Sunday.
Here’s an introduction to the hound and other Jersey pups playing for the Lombarky Trophy, along with information on how to tune in.
Larsen serves on the board of Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue in Deepwater, the group Asiago represents in the Puppy Bowl.
She’s owned basset hounds since 1996 and has been volunteering for years at the rescue, which is devoted to both basset hounds and basset hound mixes. She had another Tri-State rescue dog, Lily, in the Puppy Bowl eight years ago.
“They’re a great breed if anyone is looking for a family dog,” Larsen, transport coordinator for the rescue, tells NJ Advance Media. “They’re happy and silly. They are stubborn, but they are very loving.”
Asiago, who was about 7 months old when the Puppy Bowl was filmed in October in Glens Falls, New York, is playing for Team Fluff, designated by a blue handkerchief tied around his neck.
The dog lets out a deep, resounding bark.
“That’s him talking,” Larsen says.
Such distinct howling and barking are hallmarks of his breed, along with those droopy ears — inspiration for the classic MGM character Droopy.
All of this year’s Jersey rescues featured in the Puppy Bowl, which debuted on Animal Planet in 2005, have been adopted.
Asiago has the run of Larsen’s home outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, set on a farm with horses and chickens. Joining him are Larsen’s three other basset hounds (including Lily), all foster failures.
“We have 23 acres here,” she says.
She recently welcomed a pregnant basset hound from Tennessee to her home, where the dog gave birth to a litter of puppies.
Barnaby, Effie and Myrtle
Waterford Township’s MatchDog Rescue is participating in the Puppy Bowl for the third year.
At the 2023 Puppy Bowl, the rescue group will be represented by three dogs from Texas — Myrtle, Effie and Barnaby.
The event is “great publicity for us,” says MatchDog volunteer Nina Marcos.
“The bigger win overall is just for all rescues,” she says of the event, which only recruits rescue dogs to be players in the Super Bowl broadcast. “It’s just a great way to get out in general the positives of adopting from a rescue as opposed to a breeder.”
The three MatchDog puppies represent both teams Ruff and Fluff.
Myrtle, a Chihuahua mix, will wear orange for Team Ruff. She was one of eight puppies born in May to a 9-pound mother with a fractured pelvis.
“Unfortunately, five of the puppies died at birth, but Myrtle and her two siblings made it,” Marcos says.
These days, Myrtle — whose name is now Jessie — lives with her sister in New Jersey. Her owner is a MatchDog volunteer.
Barnaby, a Schnauzer mix playing for Team Fluff, was a Texas foster found on the street. Like Myrtle, he’s about 8 months old. Renamed Asher, the dog lives in Jennersville, Pennsylvania with a therapist who helps people with trauma. He accompanies her to work and lives alongside several non-human siblings and eight chickens.
Effie, another Team Ruff player, is a 7-month-old terrier mix who was surrendered to a high-kill Texas shelter and fostered in the state before she came to MatchDog.
Today she lives in New York City, where she frequents the dog park. One of Effie’s favorite pastimes is “sparring” with her neighbors.
Poe and Walker
The two dogs playing for A Second Chance for Ziva, a Chatham rescue, have had quite the journey together in their young lives.
Poe and Walker, pitbull-shepherd-Labrador mixes, come from a litter of 10 puppies in Oklahoma.
Their mother was rescued from a high-kill shelter, sending them on a path to survival and the Puppy Bowl. They played in the game — sporting orange together on Team Ruff — when they were 4 months old, says Erin Camporin, co-founder of A Second Chance for Ziva, who fostered one of their littermates.
It’s almost like The Force was involved.
Poe’s real name? Yoda.
For the purposes of the Puppy Bowl, he was temporarily renamed Poe. No brands or intellectual property allowed — “Star Wars” included. At the 2020 Puppy Bowl, a Jersey rescue dog named Sprite had to be renamed Spritz for the game.
But anything that can encourage people to stop buying and start rescuing is appreciated, Camporin says. Especially after the surge in pet adoption seen early in the pandemic steeply tapered off as many people returned to their pre-pandemic routines.
“We need to get those dogs adopted,” Camporin says.
Sadly, some rescue dogs were returned.
“Last year was a really tough year,” she says.
How to watch/stream Puppy Bowl 2023
Puppy Bowl 2023, aka Puppy Bowl XIX, airs Sunday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on Animal Planet.
The show, which runs three hours, will stream on Discovery+; see discovery.com/shows/puppy-bowl for a rundown of all of the puppies.
For more on the New Jersey dog rescues and dog adoption, visit tristatebassets.org, matchdogrescue.org and asecondchanceforziva.org.
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Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at @AmyKup on Twitter.