Pets & Animals

Meet the adorable special-needs dogs who steal the show in this year's Puppy Bowl

Doobert is a happy-go-lucky dog, who happens to be deaf. He lost his first home because his owners didn't feel equipped to take care of a hearing-impaired pup.

So Doobert was taken in by Green Dogs Unleashed, an Virginia-based animal rescue group that focuses on blind and deaf dogs. From there he got adopted into a great home, with a family that loves him to bits (and four dog siblings to show him the ropes).

And now Doobert will share his cuteness with the world, as one of three special-needs dogs who'll be tearing up the turf in this year's Puppy Bowl.

Yes, it's time once again for the singular event that unifies Americans of all stripes.

Dianne Ireton
When he's not charming Puppy Bowl viewers, Doobert likes spooning with his big brother Willie at home in Virginia.

As always, Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl XIIIairing Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5 — is aimed at promoting pet adoption. Seventy-eight pups from 34 animal shelters and rescue groups will play in this adorable pitting of Team Ruff against Team Fluff.

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There's an extra paw-sitive focus on special-needs dogs this year, to boot, aimed at increasing awareness about how great these pups are, and hopefully getting them into more homes.

"Special-needs dogs make amazing companions," Green Dogs Unleashed founder Erika Proctor told TODAY. "For me, they are much easier to train. After all, deaf and blind dogs hear and see with their hearts."

Doobert is joined by a sight- and hearing-impaired dog named Winston who was adopted through Double J Dog Ranch in Idaho, and by a three-legged pooch named Lucky, from Operation Education Rescue in Tennessee.

These three dogs are spoken for, and their people are so excited to share their pups with an adoring world.

Animal Planet
This year's Puppy Bowl has an extra focus on special-needs dogs.

Justin Jones sounds like a proud papa, describing his Winston as the "sweetest, friendliest dog on the planet."

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Lucky charmed her way into staying with Megan Church, after she and her brother were found under a deck on a broiling hot day last summer. Church fostered the two, intending to eventually adopt them out to other permanent families. But when Lucky needed her leg amputated, Church grew too attached, while helping her heal, to go through with the original plan. (She also renamed her Lacy.)

Justin Jones
Winston is pretty comfortable at home in Los Angeles

"I just couldn't let her go," said Church, who expects Puppy Bowl viewers will feel equally smitten.

Dianne Ireton says she, too, is excited to draw attention to her "playful, funny" Doobert at this year's big event.

"We know him as being special anyway, just because he's who he is," said Ireton. "It's nice to be able to show people."

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