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January 31, 2013

Puppy Bowl and the growth of online cute

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

"Congrats, Agatha! Small in stature, large in skill," Schachner mugs for the cameras.

The entire production is supervised by Sandi Buck, a representative from the Humane Society's film and television division, who ensures that the dogs, cats and hedgehogs are faring well. When the cats get too hyperactive or the puppies play too rough, she'll swoop in for a substitution, giving the animals a timeout.

Some will take their own timeout: Exhausted from their first plane ride and a day of playing, many of them tucker out halfway through the shoot and lay down on the field for a nap.

But at some point, when you're confronted by so much cuteness — two days of squishy faces and wagging tails and bellies to rub — cute becomes banal.

Especially to the woman who has to clean it up. Call a foul in the Puppy Bowl, and the ref has to stop the players from rolling in it.

"I don't know why, but everyone else refused to do this job," said Jessi Baden-Campbell, the unlucky line producer for Discovery Studios, as she stepped onto the 10-by-19-foot "field" with cleaning solution in hand. She may be the busiest person in the Puppy Bowl. In minutes her services are needed again.

"We've got a puker!" calls out a cameraman.

And again.

"Someone made a touchdown right here!" calls out another, using a euphemism for a moment you probably won't see on TV.

On Twitter, debates will break out about which player is cutest. There are dachshunds and basset-dachshund mixes that fall asleep on top of each other on the field. There is Elias, a pit bull from Los Angeles, who has a perfect spot over his right eye and big, clumsy paws that he has yet to grow into.

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