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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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