R.B. pooch brings athletic prowess to the Puppy Bowl this weekend

Look for Giuseppe, AKA Dallas, in annual Animal Planet game this weekend
February 7, 2024 at 10:06 p.m.
A few weeks after Giuseppe, an 8-month-old terrier mixed-breed, was adopted from the SPCA Westchester by the de Moraes Luccas family of Rye Brook, he was recruited to play in Animal Planet’s 2024 Puppy Bowl. The game, annually watched by millions of viewers, will premiere on Sunday, Feb. 11.
A few weeks after Giuseppe, an 8-month-old terrier mixed-breed, was adopted from the SPCA Westchester by the de Moraes Luccas family of Rye Brook, he was recruited to play in Animal Planet’s 2024 Puppy Bowl. The game, annually watched by millions of viewers, will premiere on Sunday, Feb. 11. (Sarah Wolpoff/Westmore News)

By SARAH WOLPOFF | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
Assistant Editor

An eager host, Giuseppe was the first to the door when the knock came. Offering a warm greeting of delightfully perky exuberance, he’s keen on making his guests comfortable as they enter his Kings Park home.

While he’s still learning the etiquette of not jumping during his greetings—it’s his attempt at getting face-level for a good licking—it does little harm when he does yield to the urge, given his physique. He’s just a 20-something-pound terrier-mix, per the estimation of his family, the de Moraes Luccas (it’s been a few months since he’s been to the vet for a checkup, and he’s certainly grown since then).

    A natural cuddler, Giuseppe clings tight to one of his owners, Blind Brook Middle School eighth-grader Manuela de Moraes Lucca, in their Kings Park living room.
 By Sarah Wolpoff 

“He’s cute, he really is,” Mariana, the de Moraes Luccas mother, said while calming Giuseppe down in her living room on Friday, Feb. 2. “Everybody loves him. He loves to be around people and kids, he loves to play. He has a lot of energy.”

As an athlete, Giuseppe knows the key to harboring great prowess is a good night’s sleep, which is why he shares a bed with Manuela every night. It’s a sacrifice for the Blind Brook Middle School eighth-grader, who finds herself getting pushed nearly off the edges of her mattress at various points throughout the night.

But the burden is well worth it. The pup is, objectively, very cute, with an amber-blonde scruffy face and notable underbite. And that charm is likely why he was chosen to compete in the big game.

While the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 11, has no underdog to root for—the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are in the matchup, teams that have both won the big game numerous times—there will be plenty of pooches to see that day in the popular adjacent programming: The Puppy Bowl.

An Animal Planet tradition that’s aired since 2005, the Puppy Bowl is an annual program always hosted on the same day as the Super Bowl—a cute “athletic” alternative for animal lovers that mimics the football game by casting, obviously, puppies. The program features footage of young pooches playing in a model stadium, with sports-like announcers commenting on their actions and “tactics.”

The program intends to promote pet adoptions by featuring puppies from shelters across the U.S. This year, Puppy Bowl XX will have 131 dogs from 73 rescue organizations from 36 different states. It premieres on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. and can be watched on the Animal Planet, Discovery and TBS channels along with some subscription-based streaming platforms.

While typically the dogs featured are up for adoption, that’s not the case for at least one of the contestants in this year’s Puppy Bowl XX. Giuseppe is in the lineup for “Team Ruff” and is ready for the millions of viewers who tune in every year to feast their eyes on his cuteness. And the 8-month-old pooch also has plans to watch on Sunday from the comfort of his Rye Brook home, surrounded by friends and family.

Notably, he’ll be playing under the pseudonym Dallas at Sunday’s event.

“That’s actually part of the story. We adopted him from the SPCA Westchester, where his name was Dallas. Then, a few weeks after we brought him home, they called and said, ‘when he was up for adoption, we registered him for the Puppy Bowl and he was chosen,’” Al, Giuseppe’s father, explained. “They asked if we’d be OK with him going, and we’re like ‘of course we’re OK with it.’ But at that point they couldn’t change the name; he was already registered.”

Initially, the de Moraes Lucca family didn’t know what they were signing up for. As Brazilians who just moved to the U.S. in 2013, they don’t have much interest in football, nor do they follow the associated culture around it.

    A natural athlete, Giuseppe, who will be featured in the Puppy Bowl under the name Dallas, shows off his ball control.
 By Sarah Wolpoff 

“It was funny because she called me to say he was chosen for it, and I had no idea what the Puppy Bowl was,” Mariana laughed. “But because she was so excited about it, I was thinking maybe this was a big thing.”

Giuseppe came into the lives of the de Moraes Lucca family—Mariana and Al, along with their 13- and 9-year-old daughters Manuela and Nicole—on Aug. 24, 2023.

They were in the market for a pet, as in March of that year their Jack Russell Terrier Apple died after a long, multicultural life. She had moved to the U.S. from Brazil with them and their since-deceased terrier Jack, living by their side in White Plains for a few years before settling into their permanent home in the Rye Brook portion of Kings Park in 2015.

After Apple’s death, as dog people, getting another pet was inevitable. But they wanted a few months to process the grief that comes with losing a beloved companion.

“Jack and Apple were father and daughter, it was a real loss,” Al said. “But we always had dogs. Before we had kids, we had dogs. So, we knew we’d be getting another, after taking a little break.”

During that time, in May 2023, Giuseppe was born as an Arizonian. For a short while he was fostered in a Mississippi home before making his way to SPCA Westchester in Briarcliff Manor.

“(Mariana) saw that he was coming to the shelter because she follows them on Instagram and they had posted pictures of all these puppies that were coming soon,” Al said. “They fell in love with him just from the picture.”

The family was willing to fight for that dog. Because others had been commenting on the Instagram post expressing similar interest in “Dallas,” they arrived at the shelter close to an hour before it opened that day, ensuring they’d be the first ones there to meet him.

And within hours, Giuseppe joined their pack.

The family has no information about Giuseppe’s performance in the upcoming Puppy Bowl. Though the filming went down in the Fall, it was a secretive process, and their pup has been tight-lipped about his trip to the studio.

Though they’ll be spectating his strategy and play at the same time as everyone else, they’re confident about his capabilities on the field. When he was enlisted for his athletic skills and aesthetic charm, the pup was ready to go.

He already loves to play with balls and sticks (particularly ones that are too big for his mouth). Just about any toy he can get his mouth on, Al said, he’s bound to destroy within the hour.

Essentially, he had been training for the game his whole life—all four months of puppyhood shenanigans.


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