Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, dog shelters and rescues struggled to meet demand.
A boom in pet adoption happened in the age of lockdown, when many families started staying home for longer periods of time.
People who wanted to adopt or foster dogs joined long waiting lists, and understaffed facilities and rescue groups worked to keep up.
Then came the inevitable.
“It completely dropped off,” says Rosemary Petriello, founder and president of JerseyGirls Animal Rescue in South Plainfield.
As some people returned to offices or ceded newfound home time to work routines, they became less available to dogs, Petriello says.
The group doesn’t have a shelter, and like many other rescues, relies on individual people and households across the state to foster dogs.
“It’s so difficult to get people to foster,” Petriello tells NJ Advance Media. “Without foster homes, we can’t rescue dogs and place them to be adopted. That is a challenge. We’re kind of fighting our way back up the hill again. The animals make it worth it.”
Two dogs will represent JerseyGirls Animal Rescue at the 2022 Puppy Bowl, where seven New Jersey pups number among the 118 rescue dogs.
Sisters Faye and Minnie, German shepherd-border collie mixes, will have their big moment in the spotlight at Puppy Bowl XVIII, set to air Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 13, on Animal Planet and Discovery Plus.
Yes, that’s 18 years of puppy mischief — the dog lovers’ event debuted in 2005.
Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart return as celebrity coaches and hosts of the event. Snoop, who is also performing at the Super Bowl halftime show, will lead Team Fluff (blue), and Nutley’s own Stewart is heading Team Ruff (orange).
Faye and Minnie may be family, but they’ll face off against each other on teams Ruff and Fluff, respectively.
The dogs were found in dangerous conditions last summer — a blazing hot July day in Arkansas.
“It was like 100 degrees,” Petriello says. “Someone found nine puppies with no mom in the sweltering heat. I think they were in the bed of a pickup truck.”
She got a text about the puppies, then had them taken to the rescue’s vet over the state border in Memphis, Tennessee. About 98% of JerseyGirls Animal Rescue’s dogs come from Southern states.
After COVID-19 hit New York, the Puppy Bowl — normally filmed in the city each October — relocated to Glens Falls in upstate New York. At the time of the filming, Faye was already adopted, and now Minnie is, too.
JerseyGirls, which Petriello started in 2012, started sending dogs to the Puppy Bowl in 2015.
“The exposure is always beneficial for us. It does encourage people to adopt,” Petriello says. “More people seem to want to foster or donate, so it definitely helps. It’s so wonderful for promoting rescue and adoption versus buying puppies.”
While Faye and Minnie now have homes, Petriello wants everyone watching the Puppy Bowl to know that two dogs in particular are in need.
Fred and Ethel, a brother and sister pair of 8-year-old pit bull-shepherd mixes, are currently in boarding because they don’t have foster homes, she says. One thing that may have made them a tougher sell is that they need to be housed together since they’re a bonded pair, meaning they’ve lived together all their lives, and would do better living without other pets.
They aren’t Puppy Bowl players, but they’re friendly and enjoy playing fetch.
“They’re awesome,” Petriello says. “They love people.”
A blue pit bull named Gracie from JerseyGirls also needs a home. The dog, between 5 and 6 years old, could benefit from care by an experienced pit bull owner who has plenty of room and doesn’t have another pet, Petriello says.
Three other puppies at Puppy Bowl 2022 — a 10-month-old blue heeler (also known as an Australian cattle dog) named Ocean (Team Ruff); and 10-month-old terrier siblings Scotty (Team Ruff) and Tucker (Team Fluff) found with their mother in Texas as part of a litter of six — come from Marlton-based Match Dog Rescue.
The foster group, which just opened a new facility in Atco, rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in the Rio Grande Valley at the Texas-Mexico border.
“We are their last chance,” volunteer Julie Norton says of the dogs, who have often been abandoned, abused and had tough lives, however brief. People in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania adopt dogs from the rescue group.
Match Dog started in 2017 with five dogs each month. Now the group works to rescue 100 a month. The transport of dogs from Texas is a major volunteer undertaking.
“We have all-hands-on-deck day where the dogs are here in a trailer and we get them cleaned, we get them fed and into their new homes all in one day,” says Norton, who accompanied the rescue dogs to the Puppy Bowl filming. “It takes a village.”
Scotty, Tucker and Ocean were all adopted before the Puppy Bowl filmed last fall.
Also vying for the Lombarky Trophy at the Puppy Bowl will be Dinozzo, a basset hound mix who serves as captain of Team Fluff (Snoop Dogg’s team).
Dinozzo, who represents Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue, a foster group based in Deepwater, Salem County, will be joined by fellow basset hound Watson on Team Fluff.
Well, kind of — their current names are different. And in fact, Watson was never Watson.
A “Puppy Bowl” producer chose the name, says Julia Ellis, trustee on the board of the rescue. The dog’s actual name: Shelly. Dinozzo’s current name: Elvis.
Both puppies were adopted before filming the Super Bowl event, and their adopters were there to watch.
Elvis/Dinozzo, who hails from Louisiana, was adopted by a family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His mother, Maggie, had a litter of seven puppies, all male (Elvis’ father appeared to be a wirehaired breed). The rescue took them when they were 4 weeks old. All of the puppies have been adopted, as has Maggie.
This is the second time the basset hound rescue, founded in 1986, has been a part of the Puppy Bowl since 2014.
Watson was born in April after another rescue found his mother, Mollie, a pregnant stray, in Tennessee. Mollie was placed with a foster family in Alabama, where she gave birth to three female puppies and six males. Now Watson lives with an artist in Brooklyn.
“He’s become the studio mascot,” Ellis says.
The basset hound rescue group, which also does a lot of work in the South — including Mississippi and Alabama — appreciates the chance to get the word out about its rescue efforts.
“This is potentially being broadcast to millions of people that will see not only the beautiful long-eared floppy purebred basset that we have participating, but also the uniqueness and the sweetness of the basset mix,” Ellis says.
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