Bills safety Jaquan Johnson’s pants had ‘CAUTION’ in large letters down the leg below a picture of a fierce-looking dog. The real dog sitting right in front of him provided a contrast.
Bernedoodle, 10 months, from Johnson, Yoda, was well-behaved, friendly and fluffy, and he sat down to greet people as they walked through the door of the brewery.
“Yoda is here, Yoda is such a good dog,” linebacker Tyler Matakevich said.
Yoda sat in the doorway of an event led by Matakevich and long snapper Reid Ferguson.
Show Your Soft Side, an organization aiming to end animal abuse, teamed up with First Line Brewing in Orchard Park for a dog-friendly “Yappy Hour” on Tuesday. Proceeds from the event benefited Nickel City Canine Rescue, an Erie County-based nonprofit.
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Thanks to the rescue, there were approximately eight dogs available for adoption at the event.
Each guest received dog treats shaped like either Matakevich or Ferguson’s jersey, and there was a costume contest to find the Best Dressed Bills mob dog. The night was meant to raise funds, give people the opportunity to adopt and spend time with dogs for everyone.
“Tonight was fantastic,” Ferguson said. “The yappy hour was a resounding success.”
Matakevich has worked with the organization since he was in Pittsburgh. He adopted two dogs, Bailey and Cash. He met both through his work with Show Your Soft Side.
“It’s such a great organization, just trying to bring more awareness to abused and foster dogs,” Matakevich said.
When he arrived in Buffalo, Matakevich stayed involved and recruited teammates. Ferguson was first and kicker Tyler Bass was next.
“And then we had T. Bass,” Matakevich said. “T. Bass loves cats. He has a bunch of cats, so we got him.
Johnson followed soon after. Punter Sam Martin was involved with the organization while in Detroit, so it was an easy transition when he joined the Bills’ special teams unit. All five were at First Line Brewing on Tuesday.
Sande Riesett, president of Show Your Soft Side, has spent the most time working with Matakevich and Ferguson, and she thinks they’re great ambassadors for the cause.
“I think they embody everything we want to convey, which is that you can be the toughest, the best at what you do – the most serious, have the most heart, the most passion — and you can still be a total softy for a dog or a cat,” Riesett said. “And I think these two guys really embody that.”
The organization hosts photo shoots with different athletes and animals, reinforcing the message that even the most ruthless competitors can be kind to animals.
Matakevich had already done a photo shoot with his dogs. On Tuesday, before yappy time, Ferguson, Bass, Johnson and Martin also posed with pets.
“I brought my two dogs,” said Ferguson, who has doodles named Buck and Luna. “One was the show of the show, the other was just interested in the treats. But we had fun. »
The images are part of ongoing marketing campaigns to prevent animal abuse. But the group is also involved in adoptions and funding grants for animals in need. Riesett said it’s important to work with local groups like Nickel City Canine Rescue to get pets adopted in every city.
“Our stuff isn’t just about the whole educational side, it’s helping rescues and shelters across the country and getting more animals adopted and cared for,” she said.
The event sold out and the Bills players had plenty of time to talk to people and their dogs.
“It’s really nice to see, and it’s nice to see the guys interacting with all these dogs and fans and people,” Riesett said.
Ferguson said he loved the chance to play with so many dogs and seeing the outpouring of support was humbling.
“I’m almost speechless, just because to me and Tyler it means so much, and these guys showed up to support us,” Ferguson said. “The Buffalo community is fantastic. People want to support players, they want to be part of something special, and to have people show up like that, in abundance on a Tuesday night, is fantastic.