Meet Kirby, our Texans Pup

Puppy Bowl XVIII streams exclusively on discovery+ and airs on Animal Planet Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022

Service Dog In-Training Kirby on Team Fluff

Everyone’s favorite other game is back in action for the ultimate woof-a-thon. The original call-to-adoption television event and cutest sports competition, PUPPY BOWL, returns for its 18th year, highlighting more shelters, more incredible stories, and the most puppies ever featured in PUPPY BOWL history. Get ready to cheer on the adoptable puppy players of TEAM RUFF and TEAM FLUFF as they give it their all to catch air-speed and take home this year’s CHEWY “Lombarky” trophy. Catch all the action in the GEICO ‘stadium within a stadium’ that takes this game to the next level. Between ear pulls, tail tugs, sloppy kisses, incredible interceptions, puppy penalties and hard-won touchdowns, this is the game you don’t want to miss! Tune in to PUPPY BOWL XVIII, the 3-hour spectacular event that can be streamed on discovery+, the definitive non-fiction, real life subscription streaming service, and Animal Planet on Sunday, February 13 at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT.

PUPPY BOWL celebrates adoptable pups in all their cuteness and showcases the incredible shelters and rescues, as well as their staffers, who dedicate their lives to helping animals find their fur-ever loving homes. This year an astounding 67 shelters and rescues from 33 states bring 118 incredible adoptable puppy players out to sport their TEAM RUFF ‘Tail Mary Tangerine’ and TEAM FLUFF ‘Bark Blue’ bandana colors. Each pup player is coming to strut their paws and show off their uniqueness, and with the help of the Wisdom Panel™ dog DNA test, we’ll find out what’s beyond those bandanas and luscious fur, and how each dog’s breed mix might give them a leg-up on the field. And on top of these hidden traits which may be revealed, these players will give it their all to chase, fetch, guard, heel, and sprint to the CHEWY end zone pylons for the ultimate touchdowns and score game catching field goals on THE HOME DEPOT goal posts. 

Thanks to our returning and notoriously entertaining slo-mo cam, fans will get to see these canines’ devotion to the game as they put their tricks to the test to score a touchdown and a possible chase of the tail. While showing off their tricks and shakes, audiences will get the pawesome views from the water bowl cam which will catch our furry friends in a PEDIGREE® timeout to re-energize their quirky selves and quench their thirst. For the ultimate top-notch aerial view, the TEMPTATIONS™ Kitty Sky Box will also be featured throughout the game so fans can feel as if they’re in the center of all the puppy madness.

The PUPPY BOWL XVIII Pre-Game Show begins exclusively on discovery+ and Animal Planet at 1PM ET/ 10AM PT where fan-favorite PUPPY BOWL sportscasters Rodt Weiler, Sheena Inu, James Hound, and field reports Mini Pinscher and Greta Dane provide the inside scoop on this year’s Puppy Bowl Draft ahead of the big game. The pre-game show spotlights exclusive interviews with coaches and players, a look at the adorable pups warming up and running their favorite routes during CHEWY’s ‘Play of the Day.’ In addition, audiences will get a first-look tease at the purr-fect halftime show through the ARM & HAMMER™ Clump & Seal™ Kitty Halftime Report. We’ll also get puppy DNA analysis from Wisdom Panel™ dog DNA test Players Report and catch up with several special puppy players past and present including Chunky Monkey, who won the hearts of many during Puppy Bowl XVII and Marshall, who was declared victorious as the winner of the Puppy Bowl XVII ‘Pupularity Playoff”. Those who tune-in will meet Biscuit, the Washington Capitals service pup who is training with America’s VetDogs, and see a special look at the BISSELL Pet FoundationTM and their rescue efforts of transporting cats and dogs out of the Hurricane Ida danger zone to safety at Animal Welfare League in Alexandria, VA.

And of course, Dan Schachner, PUPPY BOWL’s official and favorite Ruff-eree is returning for his 11th year of calling the puppy penalties, ruffs stumbles & tumbles, and awesome touchdowns for a game unlike any other. Dan is ready for the ultimate puppy showdown and fans will hear all these calls and more from returning commentators Steve Levy and Taylor Rooks as they give us the play-by-play coverage of the rambunctious pups of Team Fluff and Team Ruff as they frolic, jump, dive, and occasionally snooze their way to victory. In addition to seeing these puppy players on the field, audiences will also see the return of the SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC. Pup Close and Personal segments that shine a light on adorable star athletes including one special Senior Spotlight story which showcases that age is just a number and senior dogs are ultimately puppies at heart.

This year’s Pup Close and Personal features various segments including:

  • A special profile on Orange Twins Rescue, started by Ariana Grande and her choreographers and creative directors’, twins Scott & Brian, who accompany a pair of bonded Siberian Husky/ Chihuahua mix puppy sisters, Bimini & Tayce to Farm Animal Refuge in San Diego where they meet baby goats and cows.
  • Kirby, a very special Labrador Retriever who is the Houston Texans’ service pup in-training in partnership with America’s VetDogs, who visits NRG Stadium for a service practice session with Texans player Justin Reid
  • Hoku, a American Staffordshire Terrier/ Catahoula Leopard Mix; and Puppy Bowl’s first ever Hawaiian pup, from Maui Humane Society, who as a participant of the rescue’s ‘Buddies’ program, embarks on a special field trip to a hike in Maui’s National Parks where we learn about the legend of the ‘Poi’ dogs of ancient Polynesian culture
  • Birch, a Chihuahua / Toy Fox Terrier mix who is cared for by a special foster under Ninna’s Road to Rescue foster program and is coached for the big game by Puppy Bowl XVI alum, Darcy
  • Benny, a special needs Labradoodle, who is living his best life with a foster from Bosley’s Place where he spends his days practicing laps on the lush property with his fellow dog companions
  • A special look at The Dogist (Elias Weiss Friedman) who teams up with Pilots to the Rescue, to bring one incredible Dalmatian puppy, Pongo, on a flight from a Virginia shelter to New York City for PUPPY BOWL XVIII

In addition to these incredible Pup Close stories, PUPPY BOWL XVIII will also feature an unforgettable senior spotlight story featuring Mr. Lee Asher from the upcoming discovery+ series, My Pack Life, as he hosts Sharkey, a Greyhound Mix from Family Dogs New Life shelter at his own rural sanctuary, The Asher House, in Oregon where Sharkey will not have a day full of adventure but will have a chance of finding a forever home. 

During the game, audiences will also meet nine fuzzball special needs players that are looking forward to finding their forever home; including Benny, a wheelchair bound Labradoodle featured in one of this year’s Pup Close stories; Forrest, a one-eyed Neapolitan Mastiff/Cane Corso Mix; Rocket, a deaf Chihuahua/Dachshund: Pongo, a deaf Dalmatian; Ridley, a deaf and vision impaired Border Collie; Bunny, a deaf American Staffordshire Terrier/Labrador Retriever Mix; Moby, a French Bulldog with a cleft palate; Bimini, a vision impaired Siberian Husky/Chihuahua Mix; and Irwin, a three-legged American Pit Bull Terrier/Chihuahua Mix.

This year’s big game will feature the return of two special PUPPY BOWL moments– First, TEAM RUFF and TEAM FLUFF players will be cheered by adorable, adoptable puppy cheerleaders who will root and howl for their favorite players from the sidelines. This year, the new cheer squad will bring-it from their own special sideline setup to shake their pom poms, run a few cheer-formations, and amp up the volume with an overload of cuteness as PUPPY BOWL XVIII players make their way down the field. Next, audiences will again see Puppy Bowl’s ‘Adoptable Pup’ segments, hosted by Dan Schachner and sponsored by CHEWY. Sprinkled throughout the program, 11 shelters from around the country will feature one of their puppies (and 3 shelters with kittens during KITTY HALF-TIME) that are all up for adoption during the game!

Fans can also access even more furry fun and exclusive content by downloading discovery+. Leading up to PUPPY BOWL XVIII, discovery+ and Animal Planet GO users will find exclusive in-app original programming, including the PUPPY BOWL midform series “Pupclose & Personal” featuring Ariana Grande’s best friends and choreographers, Scott and Brian Nicholson, who founded Orange Twins Rescue, a non-profit organization that rehabilitates and rescue animals in need. Plus, we’ll also see Dan the Ref take us down memory lane, highlighting the very best and firsts of Puppy Bowl’s 17-year history. Additionally, fans are also invited to Tweet along with game day commentator Meep The Bird and vote in real time, for the winner of the Most Valuable Puppy award. Results will be revealed during the epic program.

For more information about the shelters, rescues and organizations that participated in PUPPY BOWL XVIII, Animal Planet audiences can visit

PUPPY BOWL XVIII is produced for discovery+ and Animal Planet by Bright Spot Content, an All3Media America company. Simon Morris is executive producer and showrunner with Suzanne Rauscher and Sandy Varo Jarrell also serving as executive producers. For Animal Planet, Erin Wanner is executive producer, Pat Dempsey is supervising producer, and Marissa Donovan is production coordinator.

America's VetDogs Partners with Houston Texans and Kroger to Raise Future Service Dog

Trained puppy will be placed with a disabled veteran or first-responder with disabilities

HOUSTON – The Houston Texans, in partnership with Kroger, today announced a joint collaboration with America’s VetDogs to name and train a future service dog that will be placed with a veteran or first-responder with disabilities. 

The Texans’ pup is a 10-week old male, yellow Labrador Retriever, who will undergo basic training and socialization with Texans staff, players and fans during the next 16-18 months. The Texans and Kroger will host the puppy at community events, meet and greets, and select home games to assist in raising and socializing him to become a future service dog. Fans will be able to follow the pup on Instagram at @TexansPup, on Twitter at @TexansPup, and on TikTok at @TexansPup to stay up-to-date on his training and scheduled local appearances.
Texans fans will have a chance to help name the new puppy by submitting a suggested new name for the Labrador Retriever starting July 23. Those who do so will have an opportunity to win a Texans Pup prize pack, courtesy of the Texans and Kroger. Voting will run until July 29 with a final fan vote taking place Friday, July 30. Contest details are available at

Following his early training, the puppy will be returned back to the America’s VetDogs campus in Smithtown, N.Y. to begin his formal service-dog training. At the conclusion of his training, the Labrador Retriever will be matched, at no cost, with a veteran or first-responder with disabilities. VetDogs’ assistance dog programs were created to provide enhanced mobility and renewed independence to veterans, active-duty service members, and first-responders with disabilities. 

America’s VetDogs, a New York-based nonprofit, provides service dogs to veterans and first-responders who have experienced physical injuries, PTSD, hearing and vision loss, and seizures. It is the same organization that trained and placed service dog Sully H.W. Bush with President George H.W. Bush.

Typically, it costs more than $50,000 to breed, raise, train and place an assistance dog, however, all of America’s VetDogs services are provided at no charge to the individual.  Funding comes from the generosity of individual donors, corporations, and service and fraternal clubs.

Outlets interested in coordinating media appearances with the puppy should contact Sam Fristachi of the Texans’ PR department at

About VetDogs 
Since 2003, America’s VetDogs ( has trained and placed guide and service dogs to provide independence, enhanced mobility and companionship to veterans with disabilities from all eras. In 2015, VetDogs opened its programs to first-responders, including fire, police and emergency medical personnel. America's VetDogs is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation, and it serves clients from across the United States. VetDogs relies on contributions from generous individuals, corporations, service clubs and foundations to fund its mission to help those who have served our country live with dignity and independence. It costs more than $50,000 to breed, raise, train and place an assistance dog, but America’s VetDogs provides its services completely free of charge to the individual. America’s VetDogs has been accredited by both the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International. 

About the Houston Texans
The Houston Texans were introduced as the NFL’s 32nd franchise on Oct. 6, 1999 thanks to a city-wide effort spearheaded by franchise founder and late owner Robert C. McNair, and current Co-Founder and Senior Chair Janice McNair. The Texans have since evolved into Forbes Magazine’s 19th-most valuable professional sports franchise in the world, with an estimated value of $2.8 billion, and are annually ranked among the Houston Chronicle’s “Top 100 Places to Work in the City.” The Houston Texans are the only expansion team to have won their first game, defeating Dallas, 19-10, on Sept. 8, 2002. The team has sold out every preseason, regular season and postseason game in franchise history, and donated more than $35 million back to the community through the Houston Texans Foundation. The team won AFC South division titles in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. NRG Stadium, the NFL’s first retractable-roof stadium, is the home of the Texans.

About Kroger Houston
The Kroger Houston Division operates more than 100 stores in SE Texas and Louisiana and employs over 18,000 associates. Last year, Kroger Houston donated $1.9M to local non-profit organizations and schools, and donated 2.6M pounds of food to local food banks. We are committed to creating #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025. To learn more about us, visit our newsroom and investor relations site.

Howdy Texans fans!  I'm Kirby, the Texans Pup.

Howdy y'all. I’m so excited to spend the next 14-16 months with everyone in the Texans community.  I’ll be working hard, sometimes even doing two-a-days, learning more than you can shake a stick at to become an awesome service dog; and one day be paired with a veteran or first responder with disabilities. I can’t wait to strut my stuff at practices, home games, and other special team events.  I've already made a great friend with Toro! Be sure to catch me on my InstagramTwitter, and TikTok accounts.  I'm ready raring to go - see you soon. 

Birthday: May 2, 2021
Mom: Barbara (Black Labrador)
Dad: Gordon (Yellow Labrador)
Siblings: Four sisters also being raised as special assistance dogs.
Traits: This little yellow Labrador Retriever is confident, calm, and cool, but has a spunky personality and loves his toys and hanging out in his new custom Texans dog house! 

Meet MacKenzie Carroll

MacKenzie Carroll grew up in and around Sacramento County California, with both dogs and cats as family pets. In 2013, she left for college in Nebraska while the rest of her family relocated to Houston, Texas. After finishing her undergrad program in 2017, MacKenzie entered the Historic Preservation and Nonprofit Management graduate program at the University of Georgia.

It was at UGA that she was introduced puppy raising.  The school is home to one of the largest populations of volunteer puppy raisers for the Guide Dog Foundation (sister organization of America’s VetDogs); seeing puppies on campus and in classrooms as a part of their campus hosted volunteer puppy program. MacKenzie researched the organization and immediately signed up to become a volunteer puppy raiser. By March 2018, she was handed her first puppy, a female yellow Labrador retriever, who now lives in New York as a “dam” for the organization’s breeding program. “Puppy raising is like nothing I have experienced before, and I have every intention to continue being a volunteer for as long as I am able.”

As she was finishing her graduate program, MacKenzie made the decision to move to Houston to be closer to family. Despite the fact that her family has lived in the Houston area for eight years, she is new to the area and is excited for the opportunity to explore and bond with the community. She volunteered to be the Texans Pup raiser because she believe in America’s VetDogs’ mission and because she saw through their actions that the Houston Texans love their community. “It’s a once and a lifetime opportunity to help unite the missions of America’s VetDogs’, the Texans’, and Kroger into a program designed to help a  veteran or first responder and I am both humbled and honored to be the part of the program.”

Get your pup here!

Photo of a black and yellow plush Lab toy with an AVD vest.