|2013 Puppy Bowl's Starting Lineup|
|By CHRISTINA NG (@ChristinaNg27)||Jan 29, 2013, 9:54 AM|
Biscuit and Butterscotch were born on a Puerto Rican beach for abandoned and abused dogs known as Dead Dog Beach. They were rescued by an American organization and are both competing in this year's Puppy Bowl.
"When I see these two little puppies, if you look at the dynamic, they were set up to fail," Sato Project founder Chrissy Beckles told ABCNews.com. "They were born on a beach, their father got killed, their mother didn't want to be caught. We managed to get them all and now Biscuit is up for potential MVP."
Biscuit and Butterscotch will be in the starting lineups of the Puppy Bowl on Superbowl Sunday, a yearly Animal Planet event that features 63 rescue dogs playing football in a mini arena complete with hedgehog cheerleaders and a kitten halftime show.
The purpose of the 3 p.m. Puppy Bowl is to give national exposure to the rescue organizations and animal shelters that provide the participants. This is its ninth year.
Being in the limelight on Superbowl Sunday is a long way from Dead Dog Beach for the dogs as well as Beckles.
Beckles, 40, was visiting her movie stuntman husband in Puerto Rico seven years ago when she was first exposed to Puerto Rico's widespread problem of abandoned dogs.
She had an "Oprah moment," as she calls it, on the plane ride home and realized she needed to help.
"I need to do something about this. I can't just leave and not do anything," she recalls thinking.
She spent almost four years volunteering for rescue groups and traveling often to Puerto Rico from her home in New York and job as a consultant for Estee Lauder when she decided to make a change.
"I said, 'You know what, this is my calling. I need to do this full-time,' and came back to New York and quit a six-figure-a-year job and started rescuing full time," Beckles said.
Last year, she founded the Sato Project, a non-profit dedicated to rescuing abandoned and abused animals from Puerto Rico. "Sato" is Puerto Rican slang for a street dog or mutt.
The organization focused its attention on Dead Dog Beach, a place Beckles calls "a horror story."
When she and her volunteers started working there, there were over 300 dogs roaming the beach with new dogs being dumped there daily. She said people would leave dogs there to die and sometimes come there to torture dogs or practice fight dogs.
Beckles has volunteers who patrol the beach every day and the town's mayor is supporting the Sato Project by saying he will fully enforce the fact that abusing and abandoning dogs is a crime punishable by law.
Now, the beach only has between five and ten dogs on it. The organization has rescued and adopted about 400 dogs to date and while all the dogs are special to them, there are a few that really stand out.
One of these was a beautiful red-haired dog who was dumped on Dead Dog Beach in June 2012. The rescuers named her Julia Roberts and spent five months unsuccessfully trying to catch her and her cohorts.
"Julia was in a pack with a beautiful golden labrador who we named Bo and this little white chihuahua, which we called Martha Stewart," Beckles said.
"Martha ran the pack," she added with a laugh.
At one point, Beckles got Julia Roberts under a trailer and managed to get a leash on her, but Julia big through the leash and took off.
The rescuers soon realized that Julia was pregnant and managed to rescue her and her two pups, Biscuit and Butterscotch, about three months ago.
The Sato Project often posts pets that are up for adoption on Petfinder.com, a website for adopting animals. It was there that the Puppy Bowl spotted the Sato Project dogs.
Beckles sent the Puppy Bowl recruiters photos of a bunch of her dogs. Four were selected for the Puppy Bowl, including Biscuit and Butterscotch who are on the starting lineup.
Puppy Bowl Newest Players
Julia Roberts, Biscuit and Butterscotch have all been adopted.
People looking to adopt from the Sato Project go through a rigorous application process that includes a five-page application, personal and professional references and a home check.
"These dogs have been through so much already. I'm not putting them in anything less than a perfect home," Beckles said.
The project spends an average of $600-$800 in veterinary services for each dog before putting it on a plane. Some have had health costs up to $10,000.
"I will never make a decision about a dog's health based on money," Beckles said. "I figure, that's what American Express is for."
The British-born Beckles has two of her own dogs, including a Puerto Rican rescue named Boom Boom, which is also her nickname in her second career as a competitive boxer. The Sato Project's office is in the famed boxing gym Gleason's in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Beckles knows she gave up a comfortable New York job for a passion that comes with both triumph and heartbreak, but knows she made the right decision.
"You're only here once, as far as I know, and nothing makes me happier than doing this," she said. "Some of the things I see break me, but I'll always bo back for the next dog and when I see dogs like Butterscotch and Biscuit and I know what their life could have been like or how it is now, it inspires me that every dog should be given that chance."