Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Well-Heeled Roster

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Well-Heeled Roster

Article excerpt

OAKLAND — The borough will have two dogs in the race Saturday, when they appear in Animal Planet's first-ever Dog Bowl.

Lexi (Team Tails) and Kody (Team Paws) from the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge will be among 50 senior players competing in the football-themed event, which airs at 8 p.m. Saturday. The special is a prequel to the popular Puppy Bowl, which takes its 14th bark at 3 p.m. Sunday before the Super Bowl.

Where the Puppy Bowl features younger dogs, the Dog Bowl aims to raise awareness of and encourage people to adopt older pooches.

Ramapo-Bergen's Frannie Laurita said the group was contacted for recruits by the Grey Muzzle Organization, which was initially contacted by Animal Planet looking to draft experienced players.

"They were looking for our most social and friendly animals, and they picked from that," said Laurita.

Kody, a 7-year-old German shepherd mix, and Lexi, a 10-year-old cocker spaniel, were among those who made the cut.

Another pooch, Sasha, appears in a commercial for the special but did not suit up for the big game.

Laurita said the dogs were sorted into teams according to which animals got along, and were filmed in a see-through panel area at a Manhattan soundstage. The dogs were not assigned positions because ... well, it's a dog-eat-dog competition.

"Lexi was the mayor of the show, greeting every dog as they came through the door," said Laurita. "Kody could see us, and kept jumping over the camera people to get to me, so he needed a timeout."

On her way to being a doggy star, Lexi's fate very nearly took a tragic turn.

With her right eye infected, her former owner gave her up to the shelter.

"They said she was sick and old, and brought her in to be euthanized," said Laurita.

But it turns out Lexi's challenges were part of her charm for the Zindels of West Milford, who adopted her in August just before her television debut.

The Zindels had lost their two Shih Tzus, who died within a short period of time.

"She felt a void in her life," George Zindel said of his wife, Judi. When she spotted Lexi, who wound up losing the eye, he said she jumped at the chance to bring her home. …

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