“I instantly fell in love with the dogs and felt that I needed to do anything I could to bring them back to the US with me. Luckily, my friend Robin Macdonald was in Russia with me and he was able to deal with the process of bringing them home,” explains Kenworthy. “A lot of the dogs that were rescued were brought back by members of the media, staff, spectators and coaches in addition to the athletes. The Sochi strays got a ton of attention because the whole ordeal was taking place during the Olympic Games. I would definitely encourage anybody to rescue an animal whenever they get an opportunity, whether that’s while their traveling , or just rescuing a pet from their local shelter.”
Macdonald while working in Sochi felt a huge responsibility towards the Sochi strays. “I made it a goal to take the whole family including the mother out of Russia. The other dogs I brought back were ones I came across during my struggle there, and I thought they would be in eminent danger.”
To a dog lover the appeal of rescuing a dog is obvious. “I think more than anything social media has helped raise awareness to the stray dog problem, not only in Russia, but in their own home countries. Some people got upset that I would spend so much time and money to bring back dogs from across the world when we have our own stray dog problems here in the US, but I think it’s good that people fueled that fire, because hopefully it will encourage more people to adopt locally. I didn’t go to Russia with the plan of bringing back a dog, but I saw that there was an issue and after falling in love with the dogs I met, I knew I couldn’t return home empty handed. As for a favorite though, I could never choose,” adds Kenworthy. “It was more so just a movement by visitors to the Games, rather than a movement by the athletes.”
For Kenworthy, a typical day in Sochi included training on the course for a few hours each day, eating with his teammates, and then heading down to the gondola to meet up with Robin and visit the dogs. “We’d usually hang out with them for a few hours, feed them and give them water, and then when it started to get dark I’d head back up to the Athlete Village for the night.”
Traveling across the world for competitions, Kenworthy has never forgotton the importance of giving back. “One big thing is that I would urge people to adopt dogs from places that have a lot of dogs needing a better home, which may very likely be your own country. If you are traveling though, and you’re looking to bring back an animal with you, I would make sure you are familiar with both the rules of the country that you’re in, as well as the country the dogs are being brought back to, so that there aren’t any issues when it comes time to travel home,” Kenworthy adds. “ Our process included getting them cleared by the Russian government so that they could leave the country. It was a lot of red tape, but I didn’t really have any part of that process. Robin Macdonald dealt with all the politics , and he stayed behind in Russia an extra month to wrap things up and bring the dogs home. The Humane Society International also helped out by booking flights for Robin and the dogs, and providing medical care once they arrived back in the US.”
Macdonald says that he would love to see a government or private campaign in Russia pushing citizens to adopt from shelters such as Povoshelter. “Also monetary donations always help these organizations function,” adds Macdonald. He recommends doing your research and making sure that you understand what their practices are. “If you adopt an animal from any country make sure it has vaccines for all the local health concerns, and give the animal some time to get healthy before travel. There are a lot of stray dogs everywhere, the main issue in Russia and other places is that the local people do not want stray dogs. One promising factor in Russia is that a lot of people do have money to look after dogs and they do love purebred dogs, so a campaign to make locals aware and educate them on the situation would make international adoption useless. What I would recommend is contacting any family or friends in Russia telling them how rewarding a rescue dog can be. I have had so much outpour from Russia saying how great the ‘Sochi Pups’ are. I know where there are thousands more of these great dogs; Sochi, Moscow, and many other places in Russia.”
With the recent arrival of the Sochi rescues in the US, it is clear that Kenworthy and Macdonald have made the right decision. “ When you fall in love with an animal, there is almost nothing that can be done to break that bond. Robin and I both fell in love with the dogs in Russia, and so I knew that we would do whatever it took to bring them back with us,” says Kenworthy.
Today the two share more than just a friendship, they both share their homes with a few Sochi furry friends. “The mom dog is the most interesting because she had a more difficult life, and it is always a work in progress. The pups are just normal pups, spoiled normal pups. They love driving in the car and sleeping on the bed, this was something that came very naturally and they love it,” explains Macdonald. He’s a proud pet parent to Lilly, a one year old Jack Russell, Emma, eight year old Aussie Shepherd, and two Sochi pups.
Kenworthy and Macdonald have both become role models both inside and outside of Olympic sports. “I would love to continue to encourage people to adopt pets rather than buy them. Every animal I’ve owned has been a rescue pet, and they’ve all been incredibly affectionate and loyal. Obviously, I’m still going to be skiing, and hopefully I will be able to make it to the next Olympic Games in South Korea. I am not shutting the doors on adopting more pets, but at the moment with Jake and Mishka, I certainly have my hands full,” says Kenworthy.
Image Credit: Gus Kenworthy
Image Credit: Humane Society International
Image Credit: Humane Society International
Povodog: Sochi Dog Rescue
It’s easier than ever before to adopt homeless pets from abroad.Just visit povodog.com/en/about/ Nadya Mayboroda to search for adoptable Sochi dogs.
Home to more than 200 dogs, PovoDog is a private dog shelter opened in late 2013 by Volnoe Delo Oleg Deripaska Foundation, one of Russia’s largest private charitable funds. Dogs range from puppies to adults, and most of the dogs are mutts. The shelter’s mission is to rehome the animals and find loving owners for them in Russia and abroad.
When Amanda Bird, a press officer for the US Olympic bobsled and skeleton team came across Sochi, a German Shepherd mix puppy, it was love at first sight. After visiting the Povodog shelter, she didn’t have any idea what kind of dog she was going to adopt. That’s when she met Nadya Mayboroda, who has been rescuing the Sochi dogs, and giving them a second chance.
“I walked by the cage of this puppy and he stuck his paw out. I shook it, then kept walking. He followed me until his cage ended, then gave me the most imploring look of all. I walked around before coming back.When I visited him, he immediately crawled into my lap and plopped onto his back. I didn’t choose Sochi, he chose me. I was immediately surrounded by dogs begging for attention, rolling onto their backs hoping to get a belly scratch or licking my arm and sometimes stealing a kiss to my cheek when I wasn’t paying attention. I wandered around, feeling a happy heartbreak,” explains Bird.
“It was heartbreaking to know that so many dogs didn’t have the good fortune of getting picked up in time and taken to the shelter, but happy to see so many dogs that were saved and given a chance. They were all so incredibly eager to be loved,” says Bird. For more on this article, visit: Fido Friendly.
Sochi Dog Rescue Links
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