Gus Kenworthy has got himself a lot of Valentines love this year by rounding up stray puppies in Sochi. The Silver medal winner from Team USA is spreading the puppy love as he saves as many of Sochi’s shaggy sweethearts as he can.
The 22 year old animal lover is hoping to send a mother dog and her four pups home to the US when the games are over. Gus has got his own eye on one of the adorable little mutts, but his family members are already calling shots on the other four.
One of the many aspects of the Sochi winter games which caused international protest was the proposed plan by officials to round up and kill all the stray dogs. It caused widespread outrage. A twitter campaign #sochistrays has been running hot. Kenworthy has been tweeting excitedly about his new doggy family since he found them in the Olympic village and decided to adopt them. He has promised his followers that he has already sourced kennels and booked in vaccination appointments for when he finally frees them, and they start their new life stateside. “Puppy love is real to puppies” he has tweeted, alongside a tear-jerking picture of him with an armload of his newfound furry friends.
Gus Kenworthy hails from Telluride in Colorado, and as a freeskier he has competed and won silver for his country in slopestyle.
As an animal activist he is also winning many plaudits. Saving these puppies from extermination is an Olympian mission in itself.
Gus says he has spent his life around animals and that seeing so many dogs roaming around in the mountains and in the streets was “hard to watch.” Making arrangements to have them imported back into America will not be easy, nor without its costs, but he is determined to save at least a few. Getting the mother dog back will the hardest logistical challenge, as she is an adult. Kenworthy is not prepared to give up, “I’m trying” he said “I’m doing what I can.”
Although the popular consensus of opinion is on Kenworthy’s side, the Russians certainly had a problem on their hands with the vast numbers of stray dogs in Sochi. When some foreign journalists started to arrive there, they even found them wandering loose among the hotel rooms. The main concern was the prospect of someone getting bitten by a rabid dog. The official solution, to round them up and destroy them, in a mass cull, was met with intense hostility.
Tension heightened when a homeless dog wandered into a rehearsal for the opening ceremony and mingled among the performers. The organizers were terrified that such an incident might occur at the actual opening, and cause them worldwide embarressment. The director of the dog cull then made matters worse by describing them as “biological trash.”
Some locals have responded to the crisis by taking in dogs to their homes, and at last some temporary shelters have been established. A Russian oligarch also stepped into the furore, with Oleg Deripaska promising to set up a shelter. The billionaire had already helped finance the Olympics, reportedly to the tune of $1.38 billion. He built the Sochi airport with his massive contribution, which may now be the gateway to freedom for Kenworthy’s puppies.
This Valentines Day in Sochi there is a lot of puppy love in the air, and most if it is directed at silver medal winner, Gus Kenworthy, and his cute canine companions.
By Kate Henderson