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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Imagine a miniature football field, dozens of football toys, and puppies everywhere. It’s not a new concept, but it is new to the River Market’s most popular dog park and bar.

It’s called the Puppy Bowl.

“It’s one of my favorite events… during the Super Bowl, so it makes a lot of sense to make it a tradition here,” David Hensley, founding partner of Bar K, said.

Here’s how it works. Puppies are sorted into teams by colorful bandannas. Then, they have 15 minutes to score as many touchdowns as they can by picking up a football-shaped dog toy and carrying it into the end zone. Cuddling and goofing off is highly recommended. Cuteness is a given.

However, this event is about more than having a few beers and watching adorable puppies romp around on the turf.

“During the Super Bowl, I think dogs get left out a lot, they get left at home while people are going to Super Bowl parties,” Hensley said. “Especially this year with the Chiefs doing so well, I think everybody is going to be out at their friends houses for many hours, and we thought, ‘Let’s celebrate the dogs, let them have their day.'”

In addition to giving the animals the love they need, the Puppy Bowl is a way to get people adopting animals from shelters. Melissa’s Menagerie’s Second Chances, a new rescue in Shawnee Mission, partnered with Bar K to spread the word.

“Our mission is to save homeless pets, especially locally,” Kaitlin Thompson, with Melissa’s Menagerie’s Second Chances, said. “”We took 41 puppies in four days a couple of weeks ago. For a small rescue that only took 1,000 animals in 2019, that’s big intake, four days, so when we saw the Puppy Bowl, we thought that would be a really great opportunity for us to come get some of them adopted.”

Hensley said the reaction to the event has been one of pure joy.

“I actually saw, like, a little girl who was just in tears, she was so excited and happy,” he said with a smile. “I definitely think we’ll make this an annual event.”

Melissa’s Menagerie’s Second Chances is open 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Their animals are all micro-chipped, spayed and neutered and vaccinated. Anyone who adopts from a Bar K event gets a membership, worth $225, for free.