While most people were rooting for Eagles or Chiefs on Super Bowl Sunday, many animal lovers were rooting for two of Bossier Parish’s own in a very different bowl game.
Two puppies from Benton-based Ninna’s Road to Rescue were featured in the 18th annual Puppy Bowl on Feb. 12, 2023.
The Puppy Bowl is a television event featuring a squad of puppies playing a football game, complete with commentary, broadcast on Animal Planet.
A supporter who knew a producer of the Puppy Bowl suggested the rescue in 2019 and they’ve been a part of the invite-only event ever since. The production is a huge event with roughly 100 crew members that do everything from direct the talent, set stages, and take photos to scoop poop.
“The Puppy Bowl is such a wonderful experience for us and for the pups attending. It brings our rescue tons of exposure on a global level. Missing out is not an option,” said Ninna Lopez, founder, president, treasurer, and director of Ninna’s Road to Rescue.
Gilbert, a Great White, and Button, a shih tzu, were two of 110 puppies in attendance. A nationwide audience cooing over them is a long way from their past – when the dogs were dumped in July 2022 at a thrift store in Springhill, Louisiana.
“We had several interested parties in Gilbert, but he has already been adopted to a couple in Tennessee. Button was adopted by one of the animal-safety crew members. He’s how living it up with his new mom, dad, and furbrother in Wilmington, Ohio,” said Ninna.
The Puppy Bowl is a great marketing opportunity for Ninna’s Road to Rescue and marketing is extremely important in animal rescue.
“Seeing our puppies on the big screen is an experience like none other for our group and our cheerleaders in the local community,” said Ninna. “For example, during one Puppy Bowl year, we fell on the radar of a wealthy business owner in another state who has supported us generously since then. Donations and people are what run our rescue.”
While Ninna’s Road to Rescue helps re-home strays who would otherwise end up in crowded animal shelters or back on the street, they are as equally as dedicated to helping humans as much as animals.
“That means removing the burden of new pet ownership from a grieving family who has lost a loved-one, who owned those pets, to adopting out a dog to a lonely elderly person,” Ninna said.
While Ninna has had a lifelong soft spot for the “under dogs” of society, she didn’t get her start in animal rescue until she began volunteering at a local no-kill shelter nearly 16 years ago. She then managed it for five years before going out on her own in 2012.
“In 2007, I found an emaciated, and I mean EMACIATED, dog on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I went to my appointment but told myself that if she was still there on my way back I was going to stop,” Ninna revealed. “I stopped again on the drive back and she came up to me again, so I loaded her up and that is what started me on volunteering in animal rescue.”
Ninna noted that while animal rescue is made up of volunteers putting in 24/7 hard, stressful, emotionally draining work, it has a wonderful payoff symbolized by Button and Glibert’s time in the Puppy Bowl.
“To see a little dog go from broken to happy is our reward, our payday,” she said.