Although there’s no New York team in Super Bowl XLVIII, Long Islanders can root for one of their own in this year’s "Puppy Bowl."
Lily, a 6-month-old basset hound who lives in Sayville, is in the starting lineup for Animal Planet’s "Puppy Bowl X," which will premiere Sunday from 3-5 p.m. and air replays consecutively until 5 a.m. Monday morning. But like many great athletes, Lily had to overcome adversity to make it to the big game.
Born with a defect in her right front paw, the dog was purchased by a young couple in New Jersey, said Cathy Larsen, a board member of Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue.
Larsen, 59, of Sayville, said she was coming home from a trip to Pennsylvania on Sept. 15 when she received a call from another volunteer with the rescue group, asking her to stop in New Jersey. She said the couple who had purchased Lily realized that they wouldn’t be able to care for her anymore, given her medical condition, so they surrendered the puppy to Larsen.
“These people were heartbroken that they had to give her up,” Larsen said.
While fostering Lily inside her home, Larsen submitted an application for her to appear in the "Puppy Bowl." To recruit pooches for the program, Animal Planet reaches out to rescue groups and shelters across the country. Dogs must be between 12 and 21 weeks old to participate.
“This was the first time we had a puppy that was the appropriate age,” Larsen said.
Lily was 13 weeks old when the "Puppy Bowl" was filmed in early October in a Manhattan studio. Larsen watched the action play out on a monitor inside a separate room.
“It was hysterical,” she said. “They put peanut butter by the camera, so she spent quite a bit of time licking the lens.”
Although Lily walks with a substantial limp due to her paw, Larsen said it didn’t stop her from romping around the field.
“She runs like there’s no tomorrow,” she added.
Still, Larsen is hoping an orthopedic specialist will be able to fix Lily’s paw. Her sister, Ronnie Lynch, 57, of Sayville, who lives with Larsen and has since adopted Lily, is spending $2,600 on corrective surgery, which the dog will undergo on Feb. 4.
Meanwhile, Larsen has stayed in contact with Lily’s original owners. She said they will be tuning in Sunday to watch her, and voting for her to win the coveted Most Valuable Puppy title. For each replay, live voting will take place, so a different pup can be crowned for each airing.
This year, Animal Planet has also added penguin cheerleaders to the program, and is inviting viewers to post photos of their "Puppy Bowl" parties to Instagram for a chance to be featured on-screen, said network spokeswoman Melissa Berry.
She said, “There’s not a whole lot that’s cuter, more fun and brings a smile to people’s faces than adorable puppies running around, just being puppies.”
Larsen added, “Expect nothing but cuteness.”