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Puppy Bowl turns 20: Meet the pups and the 'rufferee' making history

Scripps News caught up with the man who's been leading the game for 13 years as the only human on the field.
Puppy Bowl turns 20: Meet the pups and the 'rufferee' making history
Posted at 5:21 PM, Feb 09, 2024

Every year, he gets to spend hours with dozens of pups of all breeds. And yes, he's supposed to discipline them, but mostly he just has the time of his life. 

"If you've ever been around a puppy, you can multiply that by a hundred, and that's my job," said "rufferee" Dan Schachner, who is returning for his 13th straight year as the Puppy Bowl's only human on the field.

This year, America's cutest pre-game entertainment turns 20, and it's bigger than ever, with a record 131 puppies divided between Team Ruff and Team Fluff.

Schachner's job this year is made easier thanks to a new all-canine production team. 

"I'm talking from the coaches to the cheerleaders, backstage, paparazzi, dogs in the control room. And I have a doggie assistant ref, so it's kind of crazy," he told Scripps News.

Six special needs dogs will also be featured on Sunday, including Mr. Bean, who only has two back legs.

"If you ever want to watch something that will just inspire you, watch this two-legged dog hop around and play football," Schachner said.

The game, which is pre-recorded and includes pups of all breeds from 73 shelters, is meant to encourage adoptions.

"Before you go and think you should buy a dog, if you're even interested, consider connecting with your shelter. Even if you don't find the right dog the first day, you will eventually," Schachner said.

Schachner himself found the right dog this year: his new assistant ref, Whistle. After fostering over 40 dogs in the past 10 years, he fell in love with the pup on the job and gave her a furever home.

The rufferee refused to reveal too much about the outcome of the game, but he admitted that his new assistant, Whistle, needs more training.

"I had a hard time making any calls because every time I threw the penalty flag, she'd run after it and fetch it. We have to work on that for next year," he said.

The Puppy Bowl airs Sunday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. ET. You can catch it on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, TBS, truTV, Max and Discovery+.

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