Local dogs have their play at ‘Puppy Bowl XI’

Staff Writer

 A puppy scores a touchdown during Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl,” which will air on Super Bowl Sunday.  PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANIMAL PLANET A puppy scores a touchdown during Animal Planet’s “Puppy Bowl,” which will air on Super Bowl Sunday. PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANIMAL PLANET Football fans across the country are going to have a “ruff” time choosing which team to root for on Super Bowl Sunday.

The competition, however, has nothing to do with the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks. The choice instead will be about who is cuter: Team Ruff or Team Fluff.

Animal Planet will air “Puppy Bowl XI” from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 1 and three more times throughout the night. The dogs will participate in a mock football game, complete with competitive scoring, goat cheerleaders, a Puppy Bowl fantasy game and the “Katty Furry” halftime show.

Three local puppies will star in the show. Freckles, Roscoe and Lola were rescued in October from a private home in North Carolina by Rosemary Petriello of Jersey Girls Animal Rescue in South Plainfield.

 A member of Team Ruff makes a block coming out of the gate during the matchup. A member of Team Ruff makes a block coming out of the gate during the matchup. Though three other littermates died after their birth on July 22, Petriello was able to save the remaining Labrador-hound-pit bull mixes and bring them to New Jersey on Oct. 10, just before the Animal Planet taping in New York.

Petriello received an email last year about joining the “Puppy Bowl” production, which is geared toward shelters and rescues, but she did not have any puppies that met the criteria. After learning in September that she would be receiving Freckles, Roscoe and Lola, she made sure they were properly vetted so they could attend this year’s taping.

Prerequisites included being at least 12 weeks old, having a playful personality and not being intimidated by a room full of people, Petriello said.

After submitting photos and videos of the dogs, she was informed that Roscoe and Lola had been chosen. Because she had no one to watch Freckles that day, he was granted permission to come along — and quickly became the star of the show.

“The windup is, Freckles is on the cover of the website,” Petriello said. She does not know why he was selected, though, because she did not witness the taping.

She has planned a viewing party for 1- 5:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at Gabrielle’s, 1351 Centennial Ave., Piscataway, complete with a red carpet for a “pawsonal” meet-and-greet with the celebrity dogs.

She said she drove to the restaurant “without thinking” on Jan. 5 after receiving a confirmation email that the puppies would be prominently featured.

“I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm, so I went to Gabrielle’s and said, ‘We’re going to have a party,’ ” she said.

The party will be a fundraiser for Jersey Girls Animal Rescue. The cost is $25 for adults, or $15 for children age 12 and under, plus sales tax and gratuity. The ticket includes Buffalo wings, pasta, chicken fingers, sandwiches, soft drinks, coffee, tea and dessert. Jersey girl to the rescue

Petriello began her rescue group in 2012 after losing her job. While unemployed, she saw a Facebook page dedicated to death row puppies, and within a few months she established a way to battle the euthanization of unwanted and abused pets. Since founding the organization, Petriello said she has rescued about 300 dogs and cats, with the help of volunteers. Most animals come from North Carolina, and some are from South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.

A paid transport company delivers the animals from North Carolina to New Jersey each Friday. However, sometimes Petriello does her own traveling. One time, she flew south in a four-seat plane to pick up two female dogs and their litters of eight and seven puppies. On another occasion, she flew down, rented an SUV and drove back with 17 cats and dogs.

“[The South] is overrun with unwanted animals. People down there don’t spay and neuter their pets like we do here,” she said.

The conditions are sometimes “pretty bad,” with pets being heartworm positive, underweight, infected with intestinal worms and fleas, and having mange, Petriello said.

“Every day of the year, we rescue animals,” she said, adding that a large population of pit bulls, hounds and Chihuahuas are brought to her attention.

Broadcast on a national network, the “Puppy Bowl” provides great exposure to rescues and shelters, she said.

“It helps other dogs — the rest of our dogs who are adoptable,” she said. “People hear the names and then they contact us.”

Petriello currently has 20 dogs waiting to be adopted. She usually posts pictures on her Facebook page, and then makes sure potential owners meet criteria such as personal and veterinarian references, and an evaluation of family life and housing.

Forever friends

Petriello is still fostering Roscoe, whom she described as a “mama’s boy,” playful, happy and laidback. He has bonded with her five other dogs.

“It’s very sad when they leave, but the key to that is being strong enough to do it because foster homes save lives,” she said.

Barbara Tomlinson of Piscataway has her eye on Roscoe, especially since she already adopted his sister Lola. Tomlinson had previously rescued a puppy from Petriello, and decided to add Lola, who she renamed Katie, to her house of two other dogs. She said Katie is intelligent and “loves looking at herself in the mirror.”

Danielle Leide of the Colonia section of Woodbridge wanted a companion for Asia, her German shepherd-Labrador mix, and saw Freckles on PetFinder.com. Freckles is now known as Duncan, because Danielle’s brother John said a full-grown dog of his size shouldn’t be known as Freckles.

At 48 pounds, 6-month-old Duncan is “cuddly,” but chews everything, according to Danielle.

For more information on “Puppy Bowl XI” visit AnimalPlanet.com/PuppyBowl.

To purchase tickets for the party at Gabriele’s, call Petriello at 908-816-0901 or Amanda at 732-300-6175, or email jerseygirlsanimalrescue@gmail.com.

To adopt or foster a dog or cat, email jerseygirlsanimalrescue@gmail.com or visit the Jersey Girls Animal Rescue page on Facebook. Fundraising opportunities are also available at BenefitWines.com and CharityWicks.com under the “Jersey Girls Animal Rescue” tab.