By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY It’s the sort of story that explains why people get involved with no-kill animal shelters in the United States.
Folks at the Sullivan County SPCA received a notice from PetFinder.com last year that the site’s parent company, the Discovery Channel, was casting for the 2012 Puppy Bowl, the Animal Planet event that airs every year on Super Bowl Sunday. Applications were free they just needed cute, adoptable puppies from a reputable shelter that could make it to New York City for taping.
And the Sullivan County SPCA had some that fit the bill. Australian shepherd mixes Aberdeen and Abilene were rescued from a kill-shelter in Tennessee and ended up in the Sullivan County SPCA. They were sweet, adorable, and lively, and they needed homes.
So they sent in the pictures, along with a photo of one other pup. And out of 3,500 submissions, the two littermates from Sullivan County got the call. It was just the type of national exposure a small town shelter could use, Sullivan County SPCA Board President Manon Fortier said. They were so excited to say yes, there may have been some slobbering involved by the puppies, of course!
Of course, by this time Abilene had found her forever home with an adoptive family. But her people parents agreed to give up their pup for the day. So Shelter Manager Debbie Dittert packed the pups up and traveled to New York City for a long, long, looong day of having the animals photographed pointing this way and pointing that way, taped roughhousing with other canines and pushing around the pigskin.
And Aberdeen won the whole thing. A dog who just months ago was set to be put down was named Most Valuable Puppy for Puppy Bowl VIII in front of the entire nation.
“It was a very gratifying experience for us,” Fortier said, “that one of our babies made it all the way to MVP. It’s indicative for the work we’ve been doing here in the past few years.”
Once an embattled SPCA, the site in Rock Hill finished a renovation project that expanded the facility significantly late last year. The cages that housed cats were gone, replaced with a room where the felines roam as they would in a real home, preparing them for adoption. It’s been repainted and cleaned.
And thanks to a TV show seen by millions on the biggest TV-watching day in the nation, the Sullivan County SPCA workers spent the rest of February answering call after call from up and down the eastern seaboard from potential adoptive families. Abilene, of course, already had a home, and because taping happened last October, Aberdeen was long gone, too. But the workers were able to suggest other animals for the callers, and dogs made their way out of the SPCA, leaving the rare open slots in a shelter in a bad economy.
“It was frantic there after the Puppy Bowl. The phone was ringing off the hook, but it’s a good problem for a shelter to have!” Fortier related with a laugh.
Animal Planet maintains a link to the Sullivan County SPCA website on its own site at least for now and Fortier hopes the national exposure will continue to benefit the animals in Rock Hill. With new puppies at the shelter, even talking about those bowl champs weeks after the game is over can serve to help a dog.