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Columbia hedgehog to cheer on Puppy Bowl 2013

Baltimoreans will be cheering for their beloved Ravens during Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday, but you can cheer on another local celebrity earlier in the day during Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl. That’s when cheerleader Valkyrie will enjoy her big moment in the sporting spotlight, and she’ll be easy to spot--she’s a hedgehog.

Jennifer Smith of Columbia adopted her three-year-old, three-legged (Valkyrie lost a leg to an infection shortly before she was adopted) pet in October 2011 from Tru Chance Hedgehog Rescue & Rehab. She heard about Puppy Bowl from the Hedgehog Welfare Society, which had been contacted by Animal Planet about finding hedgie cheerleaders for the big game. Valkyrie is outgoing and willing to try new things, Smith says, so she applied.

Valkyrie and Jennifer traveled to New York in November along with two other hedgehogs -- Bella and Pokie -- whose owner wasn’t able to make the trip. Once on-set for filming, the hedgies were examined by a veterinarian and then sent to enjoy a playpen in a green room.

“The crew wanted the hedgehogs to wear tutus,” Smith says, “but they didn’t stay on too long.” Valkyrie made her preferences known during filming by immediately playing with a purple football; Smith says, “I joked that she’s obviously a Ravens fan.”

For her part, Pokie “tried to chase down one of the cameras sitting on the field. The camera person had to back up several times, but Pokie kept chasing after it. Finally, they want above her and she looked around trying to figure out where her friend want,” Smith says.

Hedgehogs, she says, are a great pet for families like hers where someone is allergic to fur. After the first, she was hooked, and the Smith household currently has five hedgies. “A friend has said they’re like potato chips,” she says. “It’s difficult to have just one.”

You can watch Valkyrie’s big cheerleading debut during Puppy Bowl IX, this Sunday at 3 p.m. on Animal Planet.

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