One team in Sunday’s big game should be a local favorite.

The New England Patriots might be taking the field in the Super Bowl, but Team Fluff has drafted a Mainer to play in Animal Planet’s 15th annual Puppy Bowl. Flora, an American Staffordshire terrier and boxer mix, will be featured in a television special on the cable channel to air before the primetime football game.

This is the second year that Animal Planet has signed a puppy from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland for the event. Last year, a local rescue named Juniper competed on the other side for Team Ruff. The team that scores the greatest number of touchdowns – earned by carrying a toy into the end zone – wins the Lombarky Trophy.

The 93 competitors came from more than 50 animal shelters across the country. All of the puppies go big and then go home to their new owners. But Portland couple Brendan McKay and Katrina Vaughan loved Flora before they even knew she was a sports star.

McKay, who works at Allagash Brewing Co., saw a notice posted at work about the brown-and-white puppy available for adoption.

“I remember when I saw the photo, it was just pretty immediate,” McKay, 29, said. “That was the dog for us.”

“We’d never even talked about adopting a dog,” Vaughan, 30, added.

They went to meet Flora, who was living with a local foster family. She was calm – “the chillest puppy,” Mc- Kay said – and well-trained. Vaughan double-checked to make sure Flora didn’t have a taste for shoes, and when they left the visit, they made their decision before even turning the key in the ignition. They adopted Flora three months ago. They aren’t sure of her age, but they estimate she is 9 months old.

“She’s very at home at this point,” Vaughan said.

Flora gives Katrina Vaughan a lick, while snuggling with her and Brendan McKay on Friday in Portland. Flora can be fierce, so her prospects on the playing field sound good. Toys “last maybe 24 hours,” Vaughan said. “She will find a weakness and disassemble them immediately.”

Their two cats are still getting used to their new family member, but Flora isn’t shy. She loves people so much that she is more curious about the other humans at the dog park than she is about her fellow canines. She likes to be close to her owners in the house, whether that means she is underfoot in the kitchen or curled up with them on the couch.

Filming for the Puppy Bowl took place in the fall before Flora moved into her new home, so Mc- Kay and Vaughan will be in suspense this weekend like the rest of her fans. They are planning to bring her to a watch party Sunday afternoon at the Little Tap House in Portland. They have learned she can be fierce, so her prospects on the playing field sound good.

“She destroys toys,” McKay said.

“They last maybe 24 hours,” Vaughan said. “She will find a weakness and disassemble them immediately.”


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