Michael Pierce watched numerous YouTube videos on dog breeds before making a decision.
He had no doubt he'd be getting a puppy – especially after navigating lockdown life early in the COVID-19 pandemic. But just what type of puppy, Pierce hadn't quite decided.
The Vikings defensive end did ample research and ultimately decided on a standard poodle.
Pierce cited the breed's intelligence as one of the primary draws.
"They're super smart dogs, super trainable," Pierce noted. "And he does well in the cold, thank God."
Minnesota signed Pierce as a free agent in the spring of 2020, but he opted out of that season due to coronavirus concerns. Because of his history of asthma, Pierce took the utmost precautions prior to vaccines being available – which meant he spent a lot of time isolated away from friends and family.
"I wanted a companion. It was just me in a new house by myself," Pierce said. "I needed a best friend, and he's been more than a best friend to me. Kept me company, kept me active, and I love him to death. He's like a child.
"He brought a lot of love to my life. It gets boring and lonely watching Vikings football at home alone," said Pierce, who added that his parents lived four hours away. "Just to have him there, sitting on the couch – even tearing stuff up, as that was sometimes the case when he was a puppy – he just gave me a lot of love and a lot to do. A lot of stuff to teach him."
This dog-loving Vikings writer had to know: Aside from the alliterative way "Princeton Pierce" rolls off the tongue, was there anything else behind choosing the name?
"They're a British breed, so that's where the name came from," he explained.
He added with a smile, though: "I also like the double-P, so I normally call him that."
View photos of Vikings DT Michael Pierce and his poodle, Princeton, in this edition of Purple Pups.
Princeton has been a great partner for Pierce in more ways than one. Pierce explained that Princeton recently completed service dog training, meaning the pup can be by Pierce's side during air travel.
"I have a little bit of anxiety," Pierce said. "Planes kind of get me rowdy, a little erratic sometimes. So just to be able to travel with him – I do travel a lot, not only for football but just for life – and being able to have him on the plane with me [is helpful]. Being able to have him there with me, and being able to keep my eyes on him and know he's going to be well-behaved and not have any issues is ideal for me and my lifestyle. That was very important for me."
Princeton is well-trained and responds to a number of commands that ask him to sit, lie down, shake, jump up or lay his head in Pierce's lap.
But to be fair, he did just turn 1 on Oct. 26, so Princeton occasionally falls back into those puppy behaviors – especially when it comes to socks or to the temptation of people food.
Consequently, Princeton earned a new nickname last spring. When Pierce went to Minnesota for Organized Team Activities in May, he asked his parents to dog-sit Princeton until he found a more permanent home in the Twin Cities.
"He loves to steal stuff off the counters. And he's a sock machine," Pierce said. "He goes in my laundry. He went in my travel bag recently and stole some socks. And he loves human food. I think he ate, like, 12 muffins once.
"You leave food on the counter, we're working on breaking him of that habit, but as of right now, that'll get stolen," Pierce added. "So my mom and dad know him as 'Pirate.' "
Princeton may sometimes steal snacks, but he also steals plenty of hearts through his Instagram page, @princeton\_the\_poodle.
Pierce started the social media account shortly after he got Princeton in January 2021. And while he hasn't posted as much as he'd like during the craziness of an NFL season, he promises there is quality content coming down the pike.
"We've got some stuff we'll post soon," he assured.
Pierce has enjoyed getting acclimated to a new city with Princeton by his side, and the two have thoroughly enjoyed life in Minnesota. The duo regularly takes walks through Minneapolis, and they often stop for some playtime on The Commons, with beautiful U.S. Bank Stadium soaring behind as a natural backdrop.
"It's just being able to have parks right here. I live right down the street and walk him, let him run, all that stuff. It's super, super clean, and that's something that's very unique to here," Pierce said. "I've lived in Baltimore, I've been to D.C., a lot of different cities, and you don't always see [this cleanliness]. People pick up after their dogs [here] and all that kind of stuff, so you don't have to worry about them eating different things off the ground.
"It's a very walkable city, which is great, and it's very dog-friendly," he added. "It's probably the perfect place to have a dog, really."