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While everybody else's Barbies were getting married, Amy Heinz's were adopting dogs — in the form of stuffed animals, of course.

"I've always loved animals and my dream for a long time was to be a vet," Heinz said.

Heinz, 50, never went to vet school (she's an operational risk consultant at Wells Fargo), but in 2008 she started her own animal rescue organization, AHeinz57, which provides adoption and transportation services for animals abandoned or harmed by their owners.

A little outfit in De Soto, AHeinz's profile has risen in recent years due to a string of appearances on the second most-watched football event every February: the "Puppy Bowl."

For the past four years, Heinz provided the popular Animal Planet show with puppies.

The "Puppy Bowl," which films in October in New York and airs the same night as the "Super Bowl," features puppies scoring "touchdowns" by carrying toys over goal lines.

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"We list our puppies on PetFinder.com and one day four years ago a producer from Animal Planet called and asked us if we'd be willing to put our puppies into the 'Puppy Bowl,'" Heinz said. "I said, 'Of course!'"

She sent photos of a bunch of puppies and three were chosen for their close-up.

The rest, as they say, is history. Now, producers call every year to see if Heinz wants to return to the "Puppy Bowl."

And even though flying to and staying in New York can be (very) expensive, Heinz said the publicity she —and shelter dogs in general — get from the yearly event is worth every penny.

"Animal Planet always credits where the dogs came from and they put their 'puppy profiles' on the website," Heinz said. "The exposure this is giving to dogs in shelters, dogs that really need homes, is just great.

"We'll do it any year they ask."

For more...

AHeinz57 Pet Rescue & Transport, Inc: 109 Guthrie (Hwy 169), De Soto, aheinz57.com.

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