Southside pup looks to score for Animal Planet

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

 By Sharon Johnson 

The K-V Dispatch 

This Sunday, Lunenburg residents will have the chance to see a local rookie take home a major championship in a high-stakes game that is sure to be a fight to the finish.

Of course, millions of eyes will be glued to the matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs for Super Bowl LVIII, but we’re talking about an event even more puptacular: Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XX.

Southside SPCA, a small, no-kill animal welfare organization, was chosen to participate in the furtastic event. The organization’s very own Flea Flicker, a 10-month-old chihuahua miniature pinscher mix, will show down against more than 100 other puppies from rescue shelters across the country in the cutest competition on television. This year, the bowl will feature 131 puppies from 73 shelters and rescues..

“I think Flea Flicker is a real representative of a rescue dog. She truly was an abandoned dog who had an opportunity to showcase a real dog and rescue situation,” said Francee Schuma, the Assistant Director of Southside SPCA. “I love that she’s going to be a voice for other animals in need.”

The organization found Flea Flicker among a litter of other abandoned puppies several months ago. Schuma, who trained and traveled with Flea Flicker to the Puppy Bowl taping, said the dog ended up being the perfect pick to represent Southside SPCA.

“She just walked with an air of confidence, like she knew she had a job to do. I couldn’t be prouder of her. She just seemed to know that she had a role to play.”

It’s not easy raising a puppy, and it’s even harder getting one ready for a televised sporting event. This is the first year Southside SPCA has been invited to the Puppy Bowl.

“Our first thing was socialization. Get her out into the world and get her exposed to a lot of different situations, which we did and which we had fosters to do that,” Schuma said. 

PREPARING FOR THE PUPPY BOWL

Puppy Bowl

Flea Flicker’s foster mom, Vicky Lindsay, poses with the football star on the way to the big game. In the back is her sibling, Fumble.

Flea Flicker, who got her name from a football trick, also learned basic obedience commands, attended sporting events and went out into public spaces often.

“I don’t think you can ever truly be 100 percent prepared for something like the Puppy Bowl because they’re puppies and they’re going to choose what they decide to do,” Schuma said.

The objective of the Puppy Bowl is for the canines to bring a toy across any goal line. The puppies on Team Ruff and Team Fluff can get penalized for relieving themselves on the field, howling, or even “unnecessary ruffness”.

According to Schuma, Flea Flicker was ready for the challenge. The pup withstood a car ride from Virginia to Upstate New York where the Puppy Bowl is filmed. The taping day was 12 hours long. Schuma said Flea Flicker seemed nervous at first, but by midday, she was “all in”. 

“I watched them try to get photographs of other dogs, and it would take them 15, 20 minutes,” said Schuma. “I put her right down on the table. They made one noise. She looked at it. Snap, and she was done.”

ANNOUNCEMENT HELPS ADOPTIONS

Since Southside SPCA announced Flea Flicker’s participation in the 20th Annual Puppy Bowl, it has seen an increase in adoptions.

“It’s great exposure. It kind of further puts us on the map,” said Southside SPCA Fundraising Coordinator Steve Smelcer. 

Schuma said there have been more volunteers at the shelter preparing the animals for adoption due to the uptick. 

“It brings recognition to our shelter that is rurally located and otherwise might not have the exposure that a platform like this can give us,” said Schuma. “It’s our goal to save as many animals as we can, and if this allows us to have more adoptions, to have more funding, to help us save more animals in need, that’s the end game.”

Whether Flea Flicker’s team wins or loses, she already has a happy ending. The superstar furball player has not only become a local celebrity, but she has also found a furever home. A family adopted the pup before they found out she was a puppy bowl participant.

“They’re a very sports-minded family. When they adopted her, they actually named her Wrigley after Wrigley Field, so that tells you that they’re sports people,” said Schuma.

WHEN WILL IT AIR?

The 20th Puppy Bowl will be airing Sunday, Feb. 11 at 2pm ET on Animal Planet. The Southside SPCA will be holding watch parties at The Old Pig in Farmville and O’Tooles Restaurant in Midlothian, waiting to see if Flea Flicker is voted ‘Most Puplar’, and hoping for her team to be declared the victor.