For an ordinary puppy from Starkville, Mississippi, being drafted for Animal Planet’s starting lineup in Puppy Bowl XIII is a doggie dream come true. Starkville is a long way from New York City (1,100 miles, to be exact) and it’s where three-month-old Precious and her eight siblings began their 16-hour sojourn to the Big Apple.
The puppies were transported in September aboard the ASPCA’s Nancy Silverman Rescue Ride, a program launched in 2015 that relocates dogs from the Southeast to the Northeast to give them better chances of adoption. Precious, her siblings and four additional dogs were first-time transfers to the ASPCA from Mississippi’s Oktibbeha County Humane Society.
Around that time, the ASPCA and Animal Planet – long-time collaborators who regularly co-host fee-waived adoption events and national campaigns highlighting the importance of pet adoption– were reviewing potential canine competitors for Puppy Bowl XIII. The ASPCA adoptions team enthusiastically recommended Precious as well as her eight siblings. In late September, Animal Planet announced they had drafted Precious.
After the game was taped in early October, Precious and her siblings were made available for adoption. That’s when Manhattan residents Yeliany Toledo, her husband Edwin Ramirez and their daughter, Delany, visited the ASPCA. On October 14, Yeliany’s birthday, they met Precious for the first time.
“We couldn’t even see Precious in the pile of puppies because her brothers and sisters were stepping all over her,” Yeliany remembers. “We had actually chosen another dog who was already spoken for, but then we saw Precious and knew we had to have her.” Yeliany even delayed a trip to Atlantic City so she could be present when the family adopted Precious, whom she calls “the best birthday gift ever.”
On Sunday, February 5, as many were focused on the big game in Houston, Edwin and Delany tuned in to Animal Planet to watch their pooch, who represented Team Fluff. For her part, Precious darted onto the field in the third quarter, briefly hiding behind the goal post before scrambling toward her squad and scoring a field goal with the flick of a paw. Her play helped Team Fluff break a two-year losing streak and crush Team Ruff 93-38—the highest score in Puppy Bowl history!
Away from the gridiron, Precious, now renamed Luna, takes puppy behavior classes. Delany likes to demonstrate how Luna has learned to sit and lie down. “She also sleeps through the night,” says Delany proudly. On weekdays, Edwin and Luna walk Delany, 10, to school. Luna goes out again in the afternoon and evening.
“Everywhere we take her, people go crazy,” says Yeliany, who regularly takes Luna to a nearby dog park. “She plays well with other dogs and is the life of the dog run!”
Now a stout 41 lbs., seven-month-old Luna may have put her Puppy Bowl appearance, as well as her early homelessness behind her. But to Yeliany, Edwin and Delany, those experiences will always make their new pet precious.
To help the ASPCA and Animal Planet continue their efforts to promote pet adoption, sign the pledge to adopt your own MVP.