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Winners on Super Sunday are cute athletes in local Puppy Bowl

Sanctuary Brewing co-owner Lisa McDonald kisses one of the Puppy Bowl contestants. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

People packed the new uniquely pet-friendly craft brewery at 147 First Ave. E. in Downtown Hendersonville, for its first annual Puppy Bowl. Owners Joe Dinan and Lisa McDonald patterned the fun competition after an annual pre-Super Bowl event televised on the Animal Planet network. The local one was held in mid-afternoon, well ahead of the big game.

Carolina lost 24-10, trailing throughout, as linebacker Von Miller was all over quarterback Cam Newton.

Similarly, Triumph a 10-week-old female pup, was all over bigger but older (five-month-old) and more sedate rivals with her tomfoolery. Puppies often playfully fought for a tiny football or other toys. Seven points went for each “touchdown,” when a puppy ran across the small field and crossed the goal line while carrying a toy in its mouth. They made many water-bowl breaks.

Joe Dinan and Lisa McDonald are in their Sanctuary Brewing Co. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Eight of 12 puppies showcased were adopted, with one more pending as of Monday morning, McDonald said. It helped the pups that they showed energetic playfulness, and either assertiveness or passive cooperation that a prospective owner prefers.

Dogs were persistent in the football game. They fluctuated between hyper and idle — much like Newton’s erratic play. Unlike him, they did not sulk after defeat and storm off (from the press conference.)

There were three separate heats of dogs from Blue Ridge Human Society (BRHS). More medium-sized dogs, larger then smallest puppies each competed against each other. In each heat, they split into two teams. They wore neck bandanas that foes tugged on. Team Gruff wore red; Team Tuff wore blue. Kittens from Brother Wolf Animal Shelter in Asheville took a more nervous turn in the pen.

The first heat had frisky 10-month-old, terrier-mix litter siblings. Red won 28-7. An all-black pup had the longest and swiftest TD run. A speckled-forehead pup leaped over its siblings, was friskiest and earned a bonding tryout with Molly McGowan-Gorsuch. She held the pup a while, considering to adopt it. She has a kitten at home, but no dog yet. McDonald said while some people adopt on the spot, many consult spouses and think it over.

This was the lone group to return, for a second stint. The smallest dogs were two Jack Russell terriers, and a white chihuahua named Chewy who looked more like a Yoda with his bald scalp and huge ears.

Bar manager Barbara Dunkin was busy as referee, keeping an eye on the dogs and her three-year-old daughter Scottie. Like mommy, Scottie wore a referee’s shirt. She was more of a puppy greeter and play pal. Lisa’s shaggy sheepdog T-Bone also wore a ref shirt.


Chewy the chihuahua carries a ball in scampering for a score, in the Puppy Bowl. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Tending to the adoptable pets were shelter volunteers, such as BRHS’ Alli Conrod. She cradled Triumph, who was amazingly calm with her familiar human friend after going into hyper-drive in the pen.

The enclosed pen was near Sanctuary Brewing’s entrance. Its big garage door from days as an auto repair shop is often fully open on warmer days. Sunny Sunday felt warmer than the 50-ish temperature, thanks to the Southern exposure.

Many patrons said they like that open feel at the historic 1902 building, and distinctive sour and other beer flavors. Specialties include artisanal ales, stouts and IPAs with a new recipe emerging. Their Carolina Panther is a chocolate porter, with strong after-taste. Standards are the tart Hendo Weisse (“wheat”), Weekend Joe Coffee Stout, and Bobby Beer Jr. — a light crisp Kolsch ale. They opened Aug. 20, and debuted their own beers in late December.

Patrons also like singer-songwriters live such as Sean Bendula, who has brought his own rescued dog. They like that they can bring in their leashed pets. Amy Clyde was impressed in her visit there, by the open feel and welcoming for pets. She plans to return with Rem, her shepherd-collie mix.

There are many events to showcase pets for adoption. One, a monthly Pup Crawl, has people walk their dogs between Sanctuary and the first brewery in town, Southern Appalachian, nearly a half-mile away. The next one is tentatively Feb. 27. Six dogs were adopted at the last crawl.

Every Saturday is Yoga with Cats. It is 10:30-11:45 a.m. — right before the tap room opens at noon. People do yoga, and can check out about 30 cats for adoption. Two found homes last week. “A cat might lay on your lap, or start playing as you do a downward dog pose on the mat,” Joe said.

The Massachusetts native notes it is very “therapeutic” to be around animals. Some come to the brewery for that, as they are not allowed pets by landlords. “They might have a puppy sit on their lap.” He has seen a few dogs get treated by their owners to some brew.

Lisa and Joe are animal lovers. They have 14 adopted-rescued animals at their three-acre farmhouse in Flat Rock. There are four cats including “mouser” Suds, two dogs, six chickens, a bunny and 150-pound mini pig Oliver. They might add a goat, and another pig. “We have a big garden, and a bunch of animals,” Joe said. They foster-cared for a blind Jack Russell for three months, before BRHS found an owner.

“When i was a kid, I cried at ‘Grizzly Adams’” on TV, Lisa McDonald said. “I was always bringing home strays. I loved snakes and hamsters, as much as goldfish.”

Sanctuary’s menu is vegan. “I stopped eating animals” eventually, Lisa said. The Chicago native left “high-stress” corporate legal software engineering and consulting. “I’m inspired to do something grander with my life, to help creatures that don’t have a voice.” She added this “coincides with Joe getting incredibly talented and artistic in brewing.”

For more on Sanctuary Brewing and its animal-related, music and other events, call 595-9956 or check sanctuarybrewco.com.

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