RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia puppy rescued from the Envigo breeding facility is ready for her close-up on this year’s “Puppy Bowl.”
June, a feisty, spunky and adorable beagle that was rescued from the Cumberland breeding facility, will be competing on Team Fluff in this year’s Puppy Bowl, airing on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. on Animal Planet.
Green Dogs Unleashed, a nonprofit rescue based in Troy, took in 11 rescue beagles from the Envigo breeding facility, including 10 puppies.
June, who was originally called Allison, was “a go-getter from day one,” Erika Proctor, the executive director of Green Dogs, said. “She was smart, got into lots of mischief…and everyone fell in love with her on sight.”
Price White and her Charlottesville family ended up adopting June in October, after June had already filmed the Puppy Bowl in New York.
“The kids love her so much. She’s been such a joy,” White said. “We have two boys, 6 and 9, and they are in love with her.”
June loves to play fetch in the backyard; she can catch Frisbees or balls, and she loves sniffing around the yard.
She also loves a “good snuggle session,” White said. “She likes to sleep in our bed under the covers down in the crook of our knees. She’s a really smart dog. She’s easy to train; she loves food, that’s a good incentive. She’s full of energy. We just love her.”
Green Dogs Unleashed has provided puppies for the Puppy Bowl for the past nine or 10 years, Proctor said. Green Dogs specializes in special needs dogs or dogs with behavioral problems.
Green Dogs has five puppies competing in this year’s Puppy Bowl, all of which have since been adopted, including June (aka Allison on the Puppy Bowl).
The other puppies include deaf Dalmatian Julius, who’s been adopted by a family in Chesapeake; Kayden, a deaf Great Pyrenees mix who’s been adopted by a family in Columbia, Maryland; Velma, a great Dane puppy that’s found a home in Palmyra and Pepper, a mini Australian shepherd, who’s since found a home in Richmond.
Meghan and Chris Vandette, who live in the Museum District, were surprised when they came across Pepper on a rescue site.
“We’re both big advocates of ‘adopt don’t shop,’” Meghan Vandette said. “We were surprised to find a purebred mini Aussie as a rescue.” Purebred puppies like Pepper often can only be found through a breeder. “Then we realized, she’s deaf,” Vandette said.
The Vandettes were looking for a companion for their dog Finn, a 2-year-old black lab mix who has a lot of energy.
“We talked about (having a special needs dog) a lot before we adopted her. Are we comfortable with the extra work and training?” Vandette said. “But it’s not that different from having a hearing dog. The main thing is to make sure that she is paying attention to us so we can give her hand signals if needed.”
They went through some training at Green Dogs – “it was probably more for us than for her,” Vandette said. “They teach you how to communicate better with a deaf dog and how to rely on hand signals.”
Pepper quickly became friends with her brother Finn.
“Finn loves to be chased and Pepper loves to herd, so it works out really well,” Vandette said. “And we learned she’s not completely deaf. She can hear her name.”
“We treat them like any other dog,” Proctor said. “We teach them not to startle when bumped from behind. We teach them hand signals.”
Proctor said that Green Dogs enjoys working with the Puppy Bowl every year because “it brings national attention to special needs organizations. The whole country gets to see how wonderful and capable special needs dogs are.”
“We knew right away she would make a great contender for the Puppy Bowl,” Proctor added. Pepper – who competes as her original name, Cheeky Tinder – will be competing on Team Ruff in the Puppy Bowl.
The Vandettes brought Pepper home at the end of October. When Animal Planet announced the Puppy Bowl contenders in early January, they were surprised to learn that Pepper was on Team Ruff.
“We’d been living with a celebrity for two months and had no idea,” Vandette joked.
The Vandettes are planning to enjoy a Puppy Bowl watch party at the Ruff Canine Club in Scott’s Addition where Pepper and their dog Finn are members and have many dog friends.
“We have no idea what to expect on the Puppy Bowl,” Vandette said. “But she’s staying down to earth, which is nice. She hasn’t let the fame go to her head yet,” she joked.