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posted: 2/2/2014 5:30 AM

10 things to love about 'Puppy Bowl'

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  • Suri, a Siberian husky, is one of the starters in "Puppy Bowl X," airing at 2 p.m. Sunday on Animal Planet.

    Suri, a Siberian husky, is one of the starters in "Puppy Bowl X," airing at 2 p.m. Sunday on Animal Planet.

  • Bach is a that will be one of the starters in Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl X" airing Sunday.

    Bach is a that will be one of the starters in Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl X" airing Sunday.

  • This Dalmatian, Aurora, will hit the puppy field Sunday in Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl X."

    This Dalmatian, Aurora, will hit the puppy field Sunday in Animal Planet's "Puppy Bowl X."

By Maura Judkis
The Washington Post

This year, the "Puppy Bowl" has become an institution. Animal Planet's annual cute-overload counterprogramming to the Super Bowl has reached it milestone 10-year anniversary. And it's pulling out all the stops: Penguins! Keyboard Cat! A live Times Square experience! And it had better, because for the first time, the show has competition in the form of the copycat (heh) "Kitten Bowl" on the Hallmark Channel and a "Fish Bowl" on Nat Geo Wild.

So what can you expect from Sunday's big game? There will be puppies doing puppy things (playing, barking, chewing) in a football field-shaped box. The ref, Dan Schachner, will manage the chaos on the field by calling fouls for things like "excessive cuteness." And you will sit at home, squeeeeing your way through the broadcast, squeezing a pillow to provide an outlet for your cute aggression. Remember: No matter whom you root for, the puppies always win.

Prep for the big game with these 10 highlights:

1. Lil Bub

The perma-kitten is one of the Internet-famous pets that emerged a few years after the "Puppy Bowl" got its start, and this year, she's a special guest on the show. Bub's appearance is caused by a genetic mutation, and one of its symptoms is that she's not able to keep her tongue in her mouth, much like a certain former Disney starlet. But her role will be to check in throughout the game with color commentary.

2. Penguins

Last year's cheerleaders were some rather uninterested hedgehogs, so we'll see if this year's penguins can muster up some team spirit or if they'll just wander skittishly among the megaphones and giant ice cubes on the field.

3. Fantasy teams

In a new interactive feature from Animal Planet, you can draft puppies onto your fantasy all-star team. But honestly: True "Puppy Bowl" fans would draft all the puppies -- who could bear to leave one out? This year, the puppies will be awarded points for activities like tackles and take-aways, not just touchdowns. So, inasmuch as there are Puppy Bowl rules -- said the ref last year: "The only hard-and-fast rule is that the chew toy needs to be dragged into the end zone. That's it. It doesn't matter what direction. It doesn't matter how it's dragged there. It could even be by accident. That's a touchdown." -- your fantasy team could triumph depending on how many times its members steal football-shaped chew toys from other pups.

4. Keyboard Cat

OK, so it's not really Keyboard Cat. The original play-'em-off feline, Fatso, passed away decades ago (the popular YouTube video came from footage taken in the '80s). But there will be a cat, wearing a shirt and playing a keyboard for the halftime performance -- except the cat will be playing a Bruno Mars song with considerably less charm than the meme's original ditty. Close enough? Poor Fatso is probably spinning in his grave.

5. A parachuting kitten

The big stunts aren't just for the Super Bowl. This year's halftime show will also parachute a kitten onto the field. An early video preview of this moment reveals that the kitten seems annoyed to be strapped into its safety harness but gamely tolerates being lowered gently onto the field before booking it over to the scratching post with the rest of his pals. And remember, folks: Last year, we discovered the doping scandal of the "Puppy Bowl" world -- there's catnip on that field.

6. The snacks

Can't decide what to serve for your "Puppy Bowl" party? Georgetown Cupcake has you covered. And since your pet can't eat chocolate, there are plenty of websites offering recipes for Rover and Mister Tickles to enjoy.

7. Puppy selfies

Submit yours on Instagram using the hashtag #puppybowl, and you might find your pup on TV.

8. The "Too Cute" cam

One of last year's additions to the "Puppy Bowl" was a super-high-speed camera that created slow-motion shots of the puppies romping. It's been branded as the "Too Cute" camera now, and it's the best way to see all of those wagging tails and floppy ears. Expect to see it used to great effect throughout the show (and to be the source of the most GIF-worthy material of the night).

9. Puppy fun facts

The Animal Planet website has some extra material for "Puppy Bowl" superfans, including some witty puppy bios. Cody, a spaniel, "Thinks fatherhood has mellowed Kanye." Max, a Shih Tzu, "Wants One Direction and The Wanted to just get along." Tyga, a pit bull, "knows what the fox says."

10. Ginger

Bound to be this year's most entertaining player, the Richard Sherman of the "Puppy Bowl." The Old English Sheepdog mix is in the water bowl, she's biting the ref's socks, she's all over the place.

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