Post-holiday depression got you down? Looking for some excitement in your life? I have three words, my friends: Puppy hot tub.
Yep, Puppy Bowl IX on Animal Planet is a mere two weeks off, and there's a hot tub involved this year. That also means that you have precious little time remaining to send out your Puppy Bowl party invitations. It's hard to believe that the Puppy Bowl is turning 9, or 63 in dog years. It's rising in popularity - last year Puppy Bowl VIII ranked No. 2 overall for social television behind the Super Bowl with just under 10 million viewers, and more than 200,000 Puppy Bowl-related tweets, according to AnimalPlanet.com.
Once again it will be shown on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3, prior to the big game between San Francisco and New England (oops ... forgot the spoiler alert!). But there are big changes this year.
Of course among those will be stricter enforcement of roughing the ball carrier - there is just no room in sports for the kind of brutality seen in a typical Puppy Bowl. The things those puppies do to the fleece squirrel are just shocking.
From The Wrap TV: "The latest incarnation of the animal kingdom's most-anticipated sporting event is receiving a few tweaks this year. In a first for the nine-year-old Puppy Bowl, new Puppy Cam technology will put viewers on the field with 'in-your-face' shots of snouts, tails and paws, while an off-field camera will capture substitutes warming up for the game in a special puppy hot tub."
I see no way that can end badly.
The really big news, however, is that Animal Planet is employing hedgehog cheerleaders for the big game. This replaces last year's cheerleaders: piglets, and the year before that, I believe, we had chickens.
This has caused much controversy for some reason. I mentioned the addition of hedgehogs over at my NBCSports.com blog, Off the Bench, and the response was immediate. Many readers were concerned. Excerpts:
"Does this not seem dangerous?!?!"
"Hedgehogs are wild animals - they may harm the puppies!"
But the hedgehogs had their defenders as well.
"Why would it be dangerous? Hedgehogs are not aggressive by nature. They are not like porcupines (their quills do not detach or stick into anything, nor are they barbed), and they are kept safely apart from the puppies. I have two dogs and five hedgehogs, and while I don't allow them to interact unsupervised, they get along famously during cuddle time."
This last comment was posted by "pigwidgeon57," who in my opinion should be closely watched.
Hedgehog facts: there are 17 species, none of them native to the Americas. In fact, it is illegal to own a hedgehog as a pet in some U.S. states and some Canadian municipalities, according to http://hedgehogs.org/facts-about-british-hedgehog.
So I'm hoping that "pigwidgeon57" lives outside of the U.S. or Canada, because otherwise those doggie-hedgehog cuddle parties he's supervising are against the law. And I'd hate to see one of my readers go to the Big House for something like that.
- Rick Chandler is a columnist
for NBCSports.com, and author of
the NBC Sports blog Off the Bench. Contact him at RickChand@gmail.com.