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Special Needs Stars of the Puppy Bowl
This year’s canine event will include a diverse group of dogs.

For those of us who don’t care about football, there’s another event we look forward to on Super Bowl Sunday—the Puppy Bowl. This year, 78 young dogs will be “competing,” representing 34 rescue organizations across 22 states. Animal Planet will be organizing this event for the 13th time this year and this Sunday’s “game” features the largest representation of dogs with disabilities to date. Among the canine players will be Lucky, an amputee, Doobert, a deaf pup, and Winston a visually and hearing impaired double merle Australian Shepherd.

15-week old Lucky was found on the side of the road with her brother, Ricky, and had to have her right front leg amputated after it was slammed in a crate door. Because of her past, Lucky has a little more anxiety than the other dogs, but was able to participate comfortably with her brother running on the field alongside her.

“We would've liked to have seen a little more action, maybe for her to score touchdowns or get involved in some plays,” said Puppy Bowl referee Dan Schachner during a film break, ”but just the fact that Lucky was on the field was a success.”

Doobert came to the Puppy Bowl filming with his new family, Tom and Dianne Ireton, who adopted him from Green Dogs Unleashed in Troy, Virginia. Since Doobert is deaf, the Iretons are in the process of training him to understand hand signals around the house.

“Doobert is very visually focused, always looking to us and the other dogs for cues," said Dianne. "We just want to give Dobbert the best opportunities that we can, because he deserves it. Other than not hearing, everything else is normal.”

Winston has learned to live with both a visual and hearing impairment. He traveled to the Puppy Bowl from a sanctuary for special needs dogs called Double J Dog Ranch in Hauser Lake, Idaho and requires special monitoring by handlers due to his dual disability. According to Double J founder Christine Justus, Winston gets around very well even though he mainly relies on his nose. She believes he will smell the toys and score many touchdowns during the Puppy Bowl.

To see these three amazing and adorable puppies, tune into Animal Planet this Sunday, February 5th at 2 p.m. ET.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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