Bradley Pinion punts save Bucs while changing lives of vets one shelter dog at a time

TAMPA – Bradley Pinion is summoned whenever there are problems. As a Bucs bettor, his job is to hit the reset button, change the point of view and allow his team to start from scratch.

He also loves dogs and three of his four pets have been adopted from an animal shelter.

When these two passions merged, there was a purpose.

Pinion and his wife, Kaeleigh, started Puppy punts two years ago. For every punt shot inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, the Pinions sponsor the adoption of a dog into the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. This year they have partnered with Sierra delta, which sponsors the adoption of dogs for veterans in the United States

“They have what they call life buddies, because often these veterans come back from the war and they are mentally disturbed, and sometimes having something to look after or to help them get along on a bad day is what. brings them to life, ”said Pinion.

“Studies show that dogs leaving shelters are 70% more anxious in shelters than anywhere else. Everything comes together. You have humans who need dogs and dogs who need humans, and you sort of bring them together and it works just fine.

Find a goal

BJ Ganem, CEO / President of Sierra Delta, which places service dogs for veterans, is pictured with his dog, Loki. [ Courtesy of B.J. Ganem ]

BJ Ganem is a decorated Marine combat veteran who launched Sierra Delta: Service Dogs for Veterans in 2018. Ganem knows firsthand how the dog company can change or save lives.

He saved his.

Ganem lost one of his legs in 2004 during the fighting in Iraq. A few years later, he went through one of his darkest times. He was facing divorce, drunk driving charges and bankruptcy that forced him to consider selling his home short.

“When I was about to do the most desperate thing a human could do, I didn’t do it because of this old English Bulldog who had no training and no special talents other than drooled in places you thought was physically impossible to get drool and clean a room with his farts or eat hot pizza on a table that was supposed to be my dinner, ”Ganem said.

“He had no talent. But I knew if I left – and I have good friends and family and I love my children; there was no reason for me to be in this situation – but it was this dog that i knew if i did this, no one would. He would end up in a shelter and he would die. It was enough for me to get my own head out of my butt and figure it all out. This is what we all need to do.

While Pinion’s Punts for Pups initiative covers adoption costs, Sierra Delta’s initiative Life Companion Program provides professional dog training grants to veterans and monitors engagement through app gamification and encourages interaction with a variety of rewards.

Get Joy, a dog food company, has teamed up with Seirra Delta to donate $ 500 for every Pinion kicking nail inside the 20-yard line for dog training and his owner.

“It’s like the Starbucks app,” Ganem said. “They walk their dog, they get points. With their points we are talking to other companies, you have all these veteran discounts. We said, well, let’s let them win with what they can do with their dog.

Pinion came up with the idea from former Bills goaltender Stephen Hauschka, who sponsored the adoption of a dog for every basket made at home.

“It’s just a way to spread the joy, honestly,” Pinion said. “That’s all I’m trying to do. I believe in Christ tremendously and I think part of my mission as a football player is to give back. This is why God put me in the position he put me in. I affect dogs, which I love, and I affect humans. I feel like it’s a great combination. You can’t be sad when you come home and have four tails moving in front of your face.

Heal each other

Pinion’s first dog is a purebred Labrador Retriever, and the others are lab mixes. The smallest weighs just 70 pounds and has only three legs. “He started with four and had a tragic accident,” said Pinion. “We don’t know what happened, but we got him when he had three.

“And his first year of life, he was put under nine times for different surgeries, just because he had part of his femur left and it ended up breaking. If he had four (legs), we wouldn’t be able to keep up. He is full of energy.

That’s the thing with these dogs. Very often they are in need of healing as much as their new owners.

Ganem says his new puppy, Loki, was locked in a crate for a year and arrived home with great anxiety.

“Naturally, it takes time and effort for confidence to develop,” Ganem said. “We go through the three day, three week and three month routine to help the dog and his owner understand that he is a dog forever.”

Create a link

A friend got Molly, a Golden Retriever mix from Hoovers Hause All Dog Rescue.  She had been abandoned after giving birth to a litter of puppies that were taken from her shortly after birth.
A friend got Molly, a Golden Retriever mix from Hoovers Hause All Dog Rescue. She had been abandoned after giving birth to a litter of puppies that were taken from her shortly after birth. [ Photo from video (YouTube/Sierra Delta) ]

Mark Friend, 45, left the Marines in 1999 and was unaware that as a vet he was eligible for a Life Buddy. His injuries occurred long after his military service.

He was throwing trash in a garbage truck in Ixonia, Wisconsin on January 5, 2013. A young woman who hadn’t scratched her windshield well enough that morning took a turn and the sun was in her eyes . She didn’t see Friend or the garbage truck until her car cornered her, cutting her left leg just above the knee.

“My right leg is a trash can. When I have my prosthesis, my prosthesis is basically my good leg, ”Friend said. “My right leg is here for the show. I have to wear a brace and prosthesis to be able to walk. I have had 40 surgeries in the past eight years.

“I was dead for 15 minutes. They said when the medical flight reached the top of the hospital, I coded. It took me 15 minutes for my heart to beat again. So they cut me armpit to armpit and put a catheter in it, because I was losing so much blood.

Mark Friend spent 68 days in hospital and lost his left leg above the knee after a woman drove her car in her garbage truck, pinning him against the vehicle and cutting his left leg, in 2013.
Mark Friend spent 68 days in hospital and lost his left leg above the knee after a woman drove her car in her garbage truck, pinning him against the vehicle and cutting his left leg, in 2013. [ Photo from video (YouTube/Sierra Delta) ]

Ami spent 68 days in the hospital. He met Ganem when they went to the same prosthetist.

Years passed, but Friend realized he needed help. “I wasn’t paying as much attention to what I needed for myself,” he said. “As time went on and I got older it just got weirder and I developed anxiety and depression and stuff like that. That’s when I reached out to BJ and said, “What’s the story with that? Is this something I can get involved in? ‘ He’s like, ‘Absolutely.’ ”

A friend had Molly, a Golden Retriever mix from Hoovers Hause Rescue for all dogs. She had been abandoned after giving birth to a litter of puppies that were taken from her shortly after birth. Half of her adoption fees were paid by Pinion and Punts for Pups.

A grant from Punts for Pups helped pay for Mark Friend's adoption of Molly, a 2-year-old Golden Retriever mix.  Friend's sons Bryce and Jacob are also pictured.
A grant from Punts for Pups helped pay for Mark Friend’s adoption of Molly, a 2-year-old Golden Retriever mix. Friend’s sons Bryce and Jacob are also pictured. [ Photo from video (YouTube/Sierra Delta) ]

The two are still bonding. A friend says Molly couldn’t play. She couldn’t go look. There was a lot to teach him.

“We both have broken pasts,” Friend said. “Like, me and Molly, it’s always kind of a chess match between the two of us. You are not going to make this link the right way. That takes time. It all depends on how you do it, and at the end of the day dogs only want one thing to do and that is to make their owner happy.

A friend says he still has phantom pain in the limb he lost in the accident. Maybe that’s when he appreciates Molly the most.

“You can bite your tongue, smile and put up with it, scream as loud as you can or cry,” he said. “It’s like setting your leg on fire, putting it in a bear trap, freezing it and stabbing it with a bunch of needles at the same time.

“One day I started to scream. I was like, ‘Owie !, Owie!’ Maybe it sounded like ‘Molly. ‘ But whatever, she came to see me and she did her best. She tried to stick her nose in it and comfort me.

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