It all started with slopestyle skiing silver medalist Gus Kenworthy, who discovered a mom and her four pups living under a security tent at the Olympic media center. He was not allowed to bring the dogs into the Athletes' Village, but visited them every day. Gus said that the animals were a welcome distraction leading up to his competition.
Gus knew that these dogs would have nowhere to go once the security tent came down and could not bear leave them behind. So Gus postponed his return home and got the necessary paperwork to take the pups back with him. Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, the man backing the pre-Olympic rescue effort, is helping Gus get the puppies on a plane this week. Oleg is also planning to unveil a new shelter on Friday that can accommodate 250 dogs.
Now multiple athletes are following suit and adopting Sochi strays they've met on the Olympic grounds. Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis didn't medal at the Games, but is ecstatic to be taking home an adorable pup she named Sochi (judging from what other athletes are calling their pups, Lindsey's dog won't be the only Sochi coming back to the U.S.!).
Other adopters include U.S. hockey team members, Ryan Miller, David Backes, and Kevin Shattenkirk, skiier Brita Sigourney, and bobsled and skeleton press officer Amanda Bird. Amanda has said she'd like to adopt an older dog, since the puppies are more likely to find homes.
For David Backes and his wife Kelly, adopting a Sochi stray was second nature. They already do a lot of rescue work through their charity, Athletes for Animals.
I'm happy to see so many athletes taking back Sochi strays, but I'm equally happy with how much publicity this has created for adoption in general. I hope people watching the Games will be inspired by the Olympians and think about visiting the animal shelter to save a dog close to home.