Stardust, a poodle and Aussie mix who lost her right eye, is just one example.
black and white puppy Stardust lays on ground
Credit: Discovery

At Puppy Bowl XIX, more than 120 puppies and several kittens will romp, roll, and play on a miniature football field for three hours. You'll soon notice some of the pups are different

Joey is missing his front legs. Clover has a fused front leg. Mykonos has a cleft palate. Stardust lost her right eye. Several puppies have lost their hearing. In all, 11 Puppy Bowl participants have special needs. 

"We love that there's a whole part of the event that focuses on special-needs puppies," says Alice Meenan, director of development and marketing at Danbury Animal Welfare Society in Connecticut. "They are just as loving." 

Stardust and another pup, Dakota, are representing the Danbury organization at this year's Puppy Bowl, which was recorded in the fall but will appear on Animal Planet on Sunday at 2 p.m. eastern time. (Yeah, we wish it was live, too.) The bowl occurred a few months after Stardust arrived at DAWS from West Virginia.

She and other members of her litter were "severely injured," and she needed her eye removed while still in West Virginia. Meenan says it's unknown how the dogs were hurt, but one puppy sadly died. 

Stardust thankfully recovered while in a foster home, and the DAWS veterinarian removed her stitches. What she lacks in vision she makes up for with spunk—Meenan hinted we might see the playful pup's more "competitive" side on Sunday. 

Competitive streak aside, she's adjusted well to only having one eye. She was adopted back in August and lives with her family in Wallkill, N.Y. The 7-month-old poodle and Australian shepherd mix is now named Mazie.  

"There's nothing about her that makes her stand out any different than any other puppy," Meenan says. 

Obviously, not every special-needs dog is like Mazie. Dogs who need wheels or carts to get around will require more patience and labor. But if your living situation is compatible, those dogs can be your forever friends. 

"You benefit just as much as they do," Meenan says.