Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl returns with an exciting change.

Championship-caliber football is fun.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.


Halftime shows and mind-bogglingly expensive commercials have their place at the Super Bowl.

Your Super Bowl 50 halftime show performer, Chris Martin (and presumably the other guys in Coldplay). Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

But can we all just admit that this Super Bowl weekend, we're most excited about the puppies?

"I'm just here so I won't get fined." Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery Communications.

This Sunday is Puppy Bowl XII (that's 12 for those of you who don't speak football).

Puppy Bowl is Animal Planet's annual competition celebrating the agility, quickness, and strength of adolescent dogs. Alliances are formed and tested as "quarter-barks" and "wide-retreivers" leave it all on the gridiron for this, their one shot at glory.

I'm kidding, of course.

It's two glorious hours of puppies in bandanas playing with assorted squeaky toys.

Photo via Discovery/Animal Planet, used with permission.

The Puppy Bowl is the very definition of carefree fun.

Photo via Discovery/Animal Planet, used with permission.

No ego, no poor sportsmanship, just lots of fierce competition.

Photo via Discovery/Animal Planet, used with permission.

There are even cameras under the water dish and so you don't have to miss a moment of the action.

GIF via Puppy Bowl/Animal Planet.

Speaking of action, don't sleep through the kitten halftime show. Or the chicken cheerleaders.

Those little guys are ready for their 15 minutes of fame too.

Photo via Discovery/Animal Planet, used with permission.

I know what you're thinking: "But what about egregious puppy-related fouls?"

Don't worry, the Puppy Bowl has a "rufferee." He's human, but don't hold that against him.

His name is Dan Schachner and this is his fifth time officiating the game. According to his official Puppy Bowl biography (I know, this whole thing keeps getting better), Schachner's favorite penalties to call include“Ineligible Retriever Downfield,” "Paws Interference," and "Illegal Napping."

Dan Schachner hard at work on the best job ever. Photo via Discovery/Animal Planet, used with permission.

While Puppy Bowl is a carefree (and non-CTE-causing) way to enjoy the Super Bowl, it also supports pets in need of homes.

While the event is a fun and adorable tradition, first and foremost, it's a big adoption campaign.

The dogs and cats you'll see on Sunday come from 44 animal shelters across 25 different states and Puerto Rico. The dogs are all eligible for adoption, and given their athletic prowess (and major adorability), they should have no problem finding forever homes.

Photo via Discovery/Animal Planet, used with permission.

This year, for the first time, the Puppy Bowl is lending a paw to the Puppy Bowl Hall of Famers — adult dogs who need homes.

Puppies, with their sleepy faces and chubby little legs, are highly desirable candidates for adoption. Adult and senior dogs, on the other hand, often end up under the care of shelters when their caretaker moves, passes away, or can no longer afford medical care.

Older dogs have a more challenging time getting adopted, and many end up languishing in shelters, where their health often suffers.

"People shy away from adopting senior dogs due to worries about additional medical costs that sometimes occur with an older pet," Zina Goodin, president and co-founder of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, told Upworthy.


An elderly dog takes a break at a pet store. Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images.

Puppy Bowl teamed up with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to encourage people to consider adopting these "veteran" dogs.

Think there aren't many perks to adopting an older dog? Think again.

"Some people think of senior dogs as lethargic and too set in their ways," Goodin said. "On the contrary, senior dogs do everything that younger dogs do, without the drama."

Photo by Michelle Tribe/Flickr.

"Adult and senior dogs are past the chewing phase," she said. And "adult and senior dogs sleep when you sleep, they won’t keep you up all night. Many are already trained and housebroken, and they're usually a little bit calmer than their younger counterparts."

With those factors in mind, adult and senior pets are actually a better fit than puppies for many individuals and families. All they need is a moment in the spotlight, which a few lucky dogs will get this Sunday.

So this weekend, save your loudest cheers (and a little bit of that bean dip) for a few deserving dogs.

Because when animals in need find a safe place to call home, everybody wins.

Photo via Discovery/Animal Planet, used with permission.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via The Walt Disney Company / Flickr

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Of course, there's a healthy way to approach such a potentially dangerous topic.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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