Everywhere you go in Sochi--the media village, the Black Sea shore, Olympic Park, the train station--there are stray dogs of all shapes, sizes and colors. They're remarkably docile, even well-behaved. If you're sitting outdoors, they will sidle up to you, sit down at your feet and beg in the most effective manner possible: by giving you those big puppy-dog eyes.
The dogs apparently were left behind by construction workers who had come to Sochi to build Olympic sites and infrastructure. For a while, civil authorities were capturing and euthanizing them. Under pressure from animal-rights organizations--and just plain old animal lovers--it was announced last week that strays would be picked up and placed in shelters.
Now, lots of people want to adopt the dogs. American slopestyle skiier Gus Kenworthy, who won a silver medal Thursday, discovered a mother and four puppies living at one of the mountain venues. He plans to take them back to the U.S., keeping one for himself and finding homes for the others. "A lot of girls like Olympians and puppies,'' he said.
Minnesota athlete David Backes, a member of the U.S. men's hockey team, is promoting protection and adoption of the dogs, too. Backes, a Blaine native who plays for the St. Louis Blues, has begun an organization called Athletes for Animals. It is an association of professional athletes interested in helping homeless pets by spreading the word about shelters, adoption and responsible pet ownership.
Backes and his wife, Kelly, have been advocates for homeless pets since they adopted a cat together while attending Minnesota State, Mankato. They started AFA as part of their longtime commitment to animal welfare and adoption. The couple has recruited several athletes to join their mission, including Minnesota natives such as NHL player Erik Johnson, NFL player James Laurinaitis and Olympic curler Jessica Schultz.
You can learn more about Athletes for Animals at its web site, www.athletesforanimals.org If you want to adopt an Olympic dog or send a message to the International Olympic Committee protesting the euthanasia, you can find more information at www.hsi.org, the website of Humane Society International.
Here's one of the dogs who has taken up residence at Russkiy Dom, our media village. She is getting lots to eat from the reporters staying here.
And here are two of them working the folks strolling along the Black Sea boardwalk this morning.