Last year's Super Bowl brought in an audience of 111.3 million viewers. Sound impressive? Not when you consider the world population just passed 7 billion. So what are the other 6.889 billion people watching? The Puppy Bowl, naturally!
For the last nine years, Animal Planet has been counter-programming the biggest football game of the year with the cutest football game of the year. If you've not seen it, the premise is simple: Build a miniature stadium and fill it with puppies and chew-toys. Turn on the cameras and watch a panoply of adorbs unfold. Outside the finale of Twin Peaks, it's quite possibly the most bizarre moment on broadcast television that you will ever see.
But half of the fun of a Super Bowl party — or any football party — is the tailgating experience. (Nope. NOT making a TAILgating joke. Nuh-uh.) You know, the food, the fun, the zaniness! But how, exactly, does one tailgate for the Puppy Bowl? Let's find out together!
CostumesThere's always one weirdo who shows up for a football game in a clown wig and face and/or body paint, so why should your pets be exempt from all the dress-up hilarity that we seem to equate with cheering on our team? We won't suggest painting your dog (it'll probably be a nightmare to clean out of its fur), but costumes are equally as fun. In fact, this Cheerleader Dog Costume ($5 with in-store pickup, a low by $9) is also harmless on your wallet.
If you want your dog to exude a "tougher" image, this Anit Accessories Football Uniform (from $16.51 with $8.99 s&h, a low by $10) might be a better fit. Though, after staring at it for a while, we're not sure dressing up your dog in any costume will make the poor thing look any tougher.
You can also choose to break gender stereotypes and dress your male dog as the cheerleader and a female dog as the football player. You'll not only be enjoying the game, but striking a blow for equality ... somehow!
You probably want to avoid dressing your dog in this Anit Accesories Football Costume ($18.99 with $8.99 s&h), however, especially if there are real football fans around — ones who might have been drinking and enjoying the Super Bowl. A rush of excitement might see little Spot get accidentally punted into the neighbor's yard.
FoodServe all your human Super Bowl food in dog bowls to add an extra level of "doggy-ness" to the day. What? You say that's gross?! How is that gross? You make your dog eat — and drink — from one every day of the year, the least you could do is comisserate this one time!
But what will you be serving? You can't just start grilling up real hot dogs and sausages for your pets, since they'll get notions above their station. Feed them a hotdog straight from the grill once, and the next thing you know, they'll be begging for food directly from your dinner table ... and then they're answering the phone and pretending they're you, maybe even dressing up in your clothes and hitting on your wife. That won't do, but you can still treat them; for a tailgating party, we suggest you stock up on foods that almost, but not quite, resemble tailgating fare.
Might we suggest you pick up a mess 'o Snausages Beef & Cheese Flavor Dog Treats 25-oz. Bag ($4.46 with in-store pickup, a low by $8)? Those should be "close enough for jazz" — especially if "Jazz" is the name of your pooch. As for drinks, instead of a margarita (don't deny it, we've seen you sports-types tote along a car-adapted margarita machine to the game), get your pup some Mr. Barksmith's Cool Treats Smoothies ($5.59 with $5.99 s&h, a low by $3). Yes: DOG SMOOTHIES. Just don't "spike" them with tequila, unless you want a) PETA coming down on you like a ton of bricks, or b) a dead pet. Harsh realities. Oh, and take our word for it that they do not taste anything like the real things, OK?
Sports ParaphernaliaWe're told that during a real tailgate party, folks usually bring a football or frisbee to toss around. The revelers get to throw the 'ole pigskin amongst themselves and pretend that they are [insert famous player's name here]. We'll bet that your dog would also like to mess around with a football-shaped object before the Puppy Bowl, pretending they are [insert name of famous dog football player here].
Of course, instead of catching it and spiking it to the ground, your dog will: catch it, throttle it a bit, possibly mangle it, then either drop it yards away from you (forcing you to go get it so you can repeat the process), or he'll bring it back to you but refuse to hand it over, causing a tug-of war and resulting in a ruined football and drool everywhere. (Man, why do we like dogs? They sound like such jerks!)
So we'd recommend just getting the cheapest football-shaped object you can, like this Westminster Pet 20037 Vinyl Dog Toy ($1.99 with $2.11 s&h, a low by $1). Sure it looks more like a Katamari head than a sports implement, but due to the reasons outlined above, it doesn't really matter.
Lastly, you'll want to make sure that you have a second TV, so you can tune in to the "real" ball game that's on at the same time. Switch back and forth? Right! You just try and take the remote away from your 80-lb. pitbull who's way into the game!
Note that this feature has been updated since it was originally published last winter.