By: Song E.
Two years ago, several Americans competing in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics adopted stray dogs in Russia and brought them back to the United States. This erupted in the U.S. in both positive and negative ways, thus creating a huge controversy.
But before we get into both sides of this controversial issue, here’s a little more on the heart touching stories of the Olympians who rescued dogs in Russia.
Olympic Silver Medalist Gus Kenworthy with rescued puppies.
In the summer prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Russian government decided to eliminate 2,000 dogs from the streets to clear the streets and prepare for the winter games. In fall of 2013, 4,000 stray dogs were killed. But in Russia, most people have cats for pets and dogs are dog typically “pets,” they are street animals.
Lindsey Jacobellis, a snowboarder competing in the Olympic games, saw a dog outside her hotel room everyday in Rosa Khutor. The dog she would soon appropriately name “Sochi” jumped into her bag one day as she was wheeling it to her door, and that was it. She adopted Sochi and a Chihuahua, Nazzy, and kept them in her bathroom while in Russia. The hotel staff brought the two dogs to the vet for her while she was competing, and soon she brought them back to the U.S. to their new homes.
Kelli Stack, who played on the women’s national hockey team, adopted a German Shepherd she saw in a shelter. She named the dog Shayba, after the ice rink where she competed at in Russia. Shayba was taken care of by a vet while in quarantine in Russia before coming to the states.
Amanda Bird, the Director of Marketing for the bobsled team, also found her dog, Sochi, at a shelter; the dog rolled over immediately and she knew he was the one. An E! News reporter took the puppy, who was severely ill, back to L.A. while Bird was still in Russia. Actress Katherine Heigl pick Sochi up and ended up spending $20,000 for his 2 month stay in the hospital, where he would make a full recovery.
The most notable athlete who rescued dogs in Russia was Gus Kenworthy, a skier and silver medalist. Everyday, Kenworthy and his boyfriend at the time, Robin Macdonald (who is also a photographer), saw a mother and her four pups by a security tent everyday. The ended up feeding them hot dogs everyday because there wasn’t any dog food around, and soon they decided to adopt the five dogs; but Russian officials wouldn’t let them go that easy. The dogs were taken to a government facility and would not be released because they said the dogs had too much attention. Eventually, the government released the dogs to Macdonald, but sadly one of the dogs, Rosa, had died; it’s suspected that this was a reason for why they released the dogs. When Kenworthy came back home to the U.S., Macdonald stayed in Russia for an extra month so he could escort the pups and their mother to New York City. Humane Society International gave the dogs medical attention and shots. Before going to their new homes, unfortunately another one of the other pups, Sochi, had passed away. Kenworthy took two of the pups, Jake and Mishka (named after the mascot beat at the 1980 Moscow Olympics), to his home in Denver. They now live in Vancouver with Robin due to Kenworthy’s busy schedule. The third pup went to the humane society, and the mother of the pups was adopted by Kenworthy’s mother.
These stories touched America and many became aware of rescue dogs and started adopting rescue pets. Others brought up a different point:
Why are we adopting dogs from foreign countries when there are dogs in our own country that are on death row?
Many posed this question because we weren’t giving enough attention to dogs that needed to be rescued in the United States; they are seen as our “American family” and it is our duty to take care of them first. Also, rescuing dogs in foreign countries can be very expensive; the dogs could have diseases and money has to be spent on medical treatment and travel. Another reason this side is taken is because taking one stray dog off the streets is not addressing the cause or changing the overall picture. And in some views, life of a street dog is not necessarily “bad.”
On the other hand, all dogs are dogs, and we shouldn’t see animals separated by countries because they are all important. And seeing an ill dog experience tough conditions in person allows us to empathize, and we want to do something about it right away. Gus Kenworthy mentioned that it is just easy to get connected; in his defense, he did not intend to adopt a dog but he wasn’t going to leave the dogs he found in Russia because he really felt connected to them. Although saving one dog isn’t going to fix the problem, saving one dog makes a difference, because you can make a difference in that one dog’s life.
I understand why people believe we should put the dogs in our country first, but I also believe that feeling affection for an animal is unconditional and changing one animal’s life can be worth while.
What do you think?