Houston pups Papaya (left) and Strudel (right) will compete in Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl XVI.

With the Texans done for the season, you might be looking for a TV alternative to Super Bowl Sunday. Well, we’ve got the perfect (and most definitely the cutest) show for you. The Bayou City is once again represented on football’s furriest stage as two Houstonian hounds compete in this year’s Puppy Bowl XVI.

Papaya of Shaggy Dog Rescue and Strudel from Citizens for Animal Protection will both take the field at 3 p.m. Feb 2 on Animal Planet to vie for the Lombarky Trophy—and a place in our hearts. Sadly (for us), both puppers featured in the game have already found their furever homes. But don’t let your ears droop! There’s plenty of rescues in the Houston area filled with four-legged friends in need of love, and some, including CAP, are even hosting special tailgating adaption events this weekend.

 Keep reading to learn about this year’s canine competitors.

Papaya

Miniature schnauzer mix, 17 weeks

Team Fluff

Described as an “all-puppy puppy,” Papaya is a ball of energy, dashing after fellow dogs and toys alike, says his former foster mom, Ann Brookes. “He was always in constant motion, except when he wasn’t,” she says. It’s a skill that could put the furry fella in the run for this year’s MVP (Most Valuable Puppy). 

A lover of adventure, Papaya is also something of a mischief maker. “He managed to open up a 30-pound bag of dog food and find his way into it,” Brookes says. “I looked in the pantry, and all I saw was a tail sticking out.” Apparently, Papaya brought that same impishness to the Puppy Bowl field, stealing the ref’s flag at one point and then trying to end a scolding with kisses, she says. “It charmed everybody.”

FURRY FACTS

  • Ideal item for fetching: Fetch? It’s all about the tug-of-war for Papaya.
  • Chew of Preference (apparel round): “Thankfully none of my shoes were sacrificed in the raising of this superstar. Slippers: They were in the margin of error, though,” Brookes says.
  • Who he’s rooting for in Superbowl LIV: “If only Team Fluff were playing,” barks Papaya.

 

Strudel (center) 

Strudel

Miniature pinscher/poodle, 18 weeks

Team Ruff

Nicknamed “kangaroo,” Strudel makes it a habit of jumping over of anything that stands in her way. The furry fiend had a habit of jumping over baby gates and into the arms of unsuspecting passersby,” says Emily Albright, whose family fostered the puppy. “She has springs in her legs,” Albright adds.  

Strudel also got some personal coaching from the Albrights’ Great Pyrenees, Wesley, to prepare for the big game. And apparently the training’s paid off. Strudel is now a speed demon, able to keep up with her 100-pound coach when running laps in the backyard.

FURRY FACTS

  • Toy of choice: A squeaky toy fish. She carries it around with her and cuddles with it too. “It’s the size of a big fish,” Albright says. “I thought there’s no way this little, tiny thing can carry it, but no, she put that in her mouth and was off like a bullet.” Sources also say the pup will fight you if you try to take away her finned friend.
  • Chew of preference (apparel round): Luckily, Strudel isn’t a slipper chewer, but she is a thief. Her loot of choice? Socks, Albright says. “I think we’re still finding socks hidden in different areas.”
  • Who she’s rooting for In Superbowl LIV: “Who’s playing?” Strudel woofs with a head tilt.

And the extra point …  

Rhubarb sleeps in the Puppy Bowl locker room.

Papaya’s sister Rhubarb (yes, the entire litter was named after fruit) is also competing in this year’s Puppy Bowl. However, she is representing Ohio’s Rescue Road Trips, which works with Shaggy Dog Rescue to take puppies to their out-of-state foster homes. Unlike her brother, Rhu played a different kind of game on the field, falling asleep on the 15-yard line. The snoozing didn’t stop there. She also took on a nap in the locker room, says Adella Mahle, who manages the rescue.

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