2016-02-04 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Bring out the sardine salsa and chips. It’s time for the Hallmark Channel’s “Kitten Bowl III,” broadcast this Sun., Feb. 7 starting at noon, hours before that other big football game. Our home team – the Last Hope Lions – will be taking the field again during “Kitten Bowl III.”

The “Last Hope Lions” are roaring on the tiny TV gridiron again. During the Hallmark Feb. 7 broadcast of “Kitten Bowl III,” Last Hope is inviting you to a football-festive Open House at our Adoption Center located at 3300 Beltagh Avenue in Wantagh (across the street from Wantagh High School). The free event is from 12-4 p.m., and a lot closer than flying to San Francisco to watch a game.

Adoptable cats and kittens will be playing in our decorated stadium and tailgate party room while the Hallmark Channel show streams. Adoptable dogs will be the cheering squad. There will be refreshments, raffles and fun for all fans. All of the 2016 Last Hope Lion teammates have been adopted, but some may stop by to give autographs.

Referee has a stern talk with a Last Hope Lion. Referee has a stern talk with a Last Hope Lion. When the Last Hope Lions return as cat contenders on national television, red collars will be our Wantagh home-team uniform. Kitty players have their own sports trading cards. After the inaugural “Kitten Bowl” in 2014, our tabby tackle “Mr. Whiskers” was inducted into the Feline Hall of Fame. Our Last Hope Lion “Shortcake” is described as “bigger than his bite,” while the home team’s attack back “Lucky” brags: “These other cats are all talk and no action”.

“Kitten Bowl III” (http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/kitten-bowl) promises to be a TV showdown of feline football feistiness. Filming took place last October at a NYC studio during a three-day meow marathon of kitty draft picks. Last Hope Vice President Milda Darzinskis and other volunteers accompanied our tiny team during these long days of scrimmages. The tiny fur ball fullbacks punted, passed and tackled on a miniature field. “Like” the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Kitten- Bowl) and get the latest updates and purring previews. You can also create a football trading card featuring your own cat.

Trading card for Last Hope Lion “Montee Hairball” Trading card for Last Hope Lion “Montee Hairball” Celebrities offer the commentary. Beth Stern hosts the “Kitten Bowl” again, while John Sterling, the official radio voice of the NY Yankees, along with sportscaster Mary Carillo, deliver the play by play. NFL All Star Boomer Esiason is the commissioner of the new feline league. Messages about responsible pet care, including the importance of spaying and neutering your cats, are interspersed between quarters.

(Last year during the broadcast of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, I sat on the TV platform so I could hand announcer David Frei each Best of Breed sheet as the dog enters the ring. Mary Carillo is David’s co-host so we spent time discussing the Kitten Bowl during Westminster breaks.)

The Kitten Bowl football field is like a miniature village with a stadium, locker room, goal posts and parking lot built to scale of seven-to-eight-week old kittens. The human referees look like Gulliver when bending over the players to blow the whistle when they break the rules. And, yes, kittens get so carried away. In their world there are no rules. This year the Hallmark Channel director wanted to add a barroom scene where a fat, sassy adult cat sat and watched the game on a tiny TV. He’d be a bar stool sports critic like Norm on the classic TV show “Cheers.”

Last Hope has the perfect cat to cast in the barroom scene. At least, we thought we did. Alexander the unofficial mayor of Last Hope, has been at the Wantagh Adoption Center close to five years, after being discarded in a diaper box hidden in the bushes. He’s a large tabby with the uncanny ability to get into any package in five seconds flat. He has many fans but also many moods. Alexander went to the filming with his best fan and agent – volunteer Laura Lang. During the filming, the bar setting was hollow, and Alexander preferred to hide inside the bar for over an hour.

No director was going to tell the cat mayor what to do. Instead, he was filmed with the Kitten Bowl hostess Beth Stern to show the national TV audience there are many adult cats waiting for homes. No one expected him to be such a gentleman in Beth’s arms, yet he was like butter. “I held my breath until Beth handed Alex back to me,” said Laura.

During the “Kitten Bowl III” broadcast on Feb. 7, fur will fly! Although a formidable force to be reckoned with, the Last Hope Lions are the “underdogs” pitted against North Shore Animal League, the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization. Tune in to cheer the Last Hope Lions on. Better yet, attend the Last Hope Open House and cheer from their home shelter territory. Go Red!

Last Hope is so grateful to the

Hallmark Channel and CEO Bill Abbott, a steadfast advocate of feline rescue, for including our all-volunteer rescue and “ordinary” kitties in such a terrific TV event, and for showcasing the plight of homeless shelter pets throughout the US. “Kitten Bowl III” will help to find many cats homes, and that in itself scores a touchdown plus the extra point.

For Adoption at Last Hope (631-671-2588), 3300 Beltagh Ave, Wantagh: “Alexander” the TV star tabby celebrated his birthday (actually anniversary of coming to Last Hope) on Sunday. He’s about seven years old, comical, feisty and best suited for a cat-savvy person. Alexander is very smart. “Otis” is a 13-week-old gray and white kitten who just arrived from Babylon Shelter in time for “Kitten Bowl III.”

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