"I'm not really a fan of football," he said, adding that he has renamed Fumble to Toby. "He fits the name Toby. He is so cute. I like the name Fumble, but I pictured someone dropping the ball. He wasn't a Fumble," Wright said.
Each year, recruiting for the show is a logistical challenge for Kent and her crew of 80-plus. This year's show was particularly worrisome because taping was scheduled for October 2012 — just after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast.
"We worried about the puppies, kittens and hedgehogs that may have been directly impacted or unable to travel due to Sandy," Kent said.
The New York studio where the game was supposed to be taped lost power, but the taping couldn't be postponed for too long given how quickly puppies grow. Another studio further uptown that had both power and space was found, and "amazingly, the crew was able to reschedule the shoot for only a week later and all the animals were still able to attend," Kent said.
Bernstein said they try to find rambunctious, energetic puppies to enter in the bowl though even if a dog falls asleep on its way to the end zone, it can be funny. Puppies chosen for the show have to be between 10 and 15 weeks old, healthy and sturdy enough to be on the field with playmates. All breeds are considered because "we try to reflect what's out there in the adoption world. A lot of those breeds are mixed," Toporoff said.
Producers also were trying to find ways to incorporate older animals into the show, since shelters have more trouble finding homes for them than they do puppies and kittens, Toporoff said.
As with all reality TV shows, the behind-the-scenes casting can lead to problems. Viewers often come in seeking a dog just like one on the show, and "then the lawyer brain kicks in, and you have to make sure you let everybody know not every dog plays football," said Bernstein, who is also an attorney. "People will adopt the kind of dog they see in the movie and they'll expect their Dalmatian to know how to use a word processor and not understand that was a cartoon."
"Some dogs like to play more than others. But don't come in thinking every Chihuahua can play football," she said.
The "Puppy Bowl" airs on Feb. 3 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in all time zones and will keep repeating until 3 a.m. The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 p.m. ET and 3:30 p.m. PT.