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When it comes to rescue pets, Kristen Bell isn't content just to cheer from the sidelines.
The actress and activist has been a longtime champion of adopting and fostering dogs. She currently has two: Frank, 3, a rescue from The Dog Cafe in Los Angeles; and Whiskey, 2, a recent addition to the family who lost one of his legs after getting hit by a truck.
"I adore dogs. I think they're nature's antidepressants," Bell says. "When I'm responsible for caring for an animal, it gives me a lot of self-esteem. I gravitate towards dogs so much, I think because they're nonverbal, and sometimes I feel I can't always find the words."
That love is on full display during Sunday's "Puppy Bowl XVII," a ruff-and-tumble football "game" airing on Animal Planet and new streaming platform Discovery+ (2 p.m. EST/11 PST). Bell is featured in one of the special's "Pup Close and Personal" segments, which spotlight puppy athletes and other adoptable pooches nationwide. For a day late last summer, the "Good Place" star took in a 3-month-old "coffee pup" named Java, who was found abandoned in a box with his mom and siblings in the California desert.
"He was the tiniest one, but also the most rambunctious," says Dr. J.J. Rawlinson of Annenberg PetSpace, which rescued Java's family and found them homes. "He was a really good candidate to spend the day with Kristen and get to explore a completely new space."
Bell, 40, shared adoption advice and more with USA TODAY:
Question: What was the best part about your day with Java?
Kristen Bell: Learning his new little personality. Frank was very wary of Java stealing his spotlight, because Frank loves to be in the spotlight. Java loved to cuddle up, and had that rambunctious puppy energy and delicious puppy breath that I love so much.
Q: When you lost your dog, Barbara Biscuit, last year, you spoke about the importance of adopting older pets. For people who might be reluctant to adopt senior dogs, why should they reconsider?
Bell: Puppies are a lot of work; they can keep you as busy as having a newborn. I will foster puppies, but when I adopt, they tend to be older dogs, especially seniors, because I feel I have the ability to care for a senior who might have a special need.
The one question I get from my friends is, "How are you able to adopt seniors when you know you won't have them forever?" For me, knowing I can provide comfort for an old guy or gal that would otherwise be in a shelter or possibly get put down, it just makes me feel good. I desperately want to promote happiness and reduce suffering, and allowing these seniors to live in my house and just sit on their dog bed all day and once in a while mosey on over to the food, it's a pretty easy way to provide comfort.
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Q: Do your kids help take care of the dogs? (Bell and husband Dax Shepard have two daughters: Lincoln, 7, and Delta, 6.)
Bell: They do, especially Frank because he's a parkour champion in our house. He bounces off all the furniture and they love to play with him at the end of the day when I'm too tired. After many discussions about what responsibility means, my 7-year-old has taken it upon herself to feed them every morning. She gets up the earliest, so it kind of made sense. And I think I'm seeing the same things in her as I feel myself. She gets a lot of self-esteem from taking care of them.
Q: Dax is also allergic to dogs. How does he handle having so many around?
Bell: When I first met Dax, I came with three dogs, one of which was the oldest dog rescued from (Hurricane) Katrina. She was 12 years old and this old black lab named Sadie, and I thought, "I can let Sadie live out her final six months at my house." Cut to 5½ years (later), she passed when she was 17. But Dax did not have any pets growing up, so when they would run through the living room, he would be visibly startled, as if squirrels were running through the (house). He still doesn't understand why we cohabitate with animals, but I don't need him to understand it. I just need to get hypoallergenic dogs so that I don't asphyxiate my husband.
Q: How have you and your family been spending time at home this past year?
Bell: I've been doing a lot of puzzles. I knit a sweater, which I'm incomprehensibly proud of. I never thought I'd be so proud of something in my life. I've only knit scarves and beanies before, which is a very different ballgame. I never thought I'd have the time and effort to put into actually knitting a sweater, and now I'm starting my second one.
Dax and I just finished the show "Happy Valley" and we're watching "Search Party." But as far as what we can do with the kids, we love anything David Attenborough. Any animal documentary I find to be calming: not just in the evening, but for my nerves in general, given the state of the world.
Q: What does Super Bowl Sunday look like in your house?
Bell: I'm here for the commercials because I don't usually watch football, but my husband and the guys in our pod will definitely be watching together. My favorite part about Super Bowl Sunday is the morning after, when I make what I invented – my signature recipe – Pizza Eggs. It's where you take all the leftover pizza, scrape off all the cheese and toppings, and toss (them) in a giant pan of eggs or egg whites. It's delicious. Seven or eight years ago, the morning after the Super Bowl, it occurred to me that pizza toppings would go great in eggs. I haven't patented it yet, but I'm sure if I thought about it, I could come up with a better name.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kristen Bell: What allergic Dax Shepard thinks of her rescue dogs