Puppy Bowl fans heartbroken to learn Sweetpea, littlest contestant ever, has died — rest in peace

The Super Bowl may have gotten all the attention this weekend, but for many animal lovers the true “big game” was the Puppy Bowl, the annual Animal Planet special featuring rescue and shelter puppies playfully competing in a mock football game.

Sadly, this year’s event also came with some sad news, after it was announced one of the dogs featured on the show, Sweetpea, had passed away.

Sweetpea, the tiniest dog ever featured on the Puppy Bowl, had battled health issues her entire life. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Poodle mix was born with hydrocephalus, a neurological disorder caused by a buildup of fluid in the brain, and had a hole in her heart, according to USA Today.

She was taken in by Bosley’s Place, a nonprofit rescue specializing in helping special needs puppies.

“She arrived to our rescue on her deathbed,” Jennifer Siegel, the rescue’s animal director, told USA Today. “We knew when she came to our rescue, she was going to be a medical nightmare. We made sure she was taken care of well and gave her the best life possible with her short life expectancy.”

Sweetpea received constant medical testing and care, and underwent several hospital stays. Despite the odds against her, Sweepea pulled through — and in September, she was selected to participate in the Puppy Bowl. At just 1.7 pounds, the little dog made history as the Bowl’s tiniest-ever participant.

Many people who watched Puppy Bowl XX on Sunday quickly fell in love with little Sweetpea, and cheered her on throughout the game — but were left heartbroken when it was announced that Sweetpea had died.

The game was dedicated in her memory, and Animal Planet confirmed that Sweetpea had passed away in a tweet that “she was unable to overcome her health issues.”

It turns out that Sweetpea had passed away in November, weeks after the Puppy Bowl was recorded but months before it aired.

According to USA Today, Sweetpea died suddenly on the way to a veterinary check-up. An autopsy later revealed that she died due to deformed kidneys.

Siegel said she watched Sweetpea’s big moment at the Puppy Bowl in private, calling it “heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.”

While it is sad that little Sweetpea’s life was cut so short, she still overcame many obstacles and delighted and inspired so many people during her time on earth.

“Sweetpea lived a charming life. She was very loving. Everyone loved Sweetpea,” Siegel told USA Today.

“She should be looked at as a legacy for rescue,” she added. “Sweetpea had a great life and brought a smile to thousands of people’s faces.”

Rest in peace to the beautiful Sweetpea, who inspired so many people in her short life ❤️💔

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