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Stray Dogs Of Sochi

Posted on 2/25/2014 by Ali Meza in dog rescue fitness politics international

The 2014 Winter Olympics was held in Sochi this month, amidst social and political controversy, lukewarm interest, and even lukewarm-er weather, requiring a LOT of fake snow to be blown during the unusually balmy weather. While I sincerely admire anyone who can be the best in the world at their particular sport, I didn’t really plan on watching the games, and I still couldn’t name you a single gold medalist this year. Russia’s anti-gay policies, among other human rights abuses, didn’t help to romanticize the locale. But when news broke a couple weeks before the opening ceremony that the local government had contracted with a local pest-control company to round up and kill as many stray dogs as possible, my ears really perked up.

And I wasn’t alone. I was thrilled to read that a U.S. Slope skier, Gus Kenworthy, had been feeding stray dogs near the Athlete’s Village, and he even delayed his return from Sochi to get some puppies vaccinated so he could take them home to Colorado. Cute, right? The dogs ain't bad either.


Source: Gus Kenworthy Twitter

Other U.S. Olympians, including the men's hockey team, also took Sochi stray dogs home with them. But most of the credit goes to Russian Billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has funded Povodog, a dog shelter built in just 2 weeks, and a second location, built in just 8 days, that can house up to 250 dogs. 


This type of mobilization is incredible and inspiring, in spite of Deripaska’s conservative leanings in support of Vladimir Putin. But for myself and countless others, the stray dog issue overshadowed the existing human rights issues in Russia, and even the Olympic Games themselves! This raises the question: Are human rights less important than animal rights? 2 dog shelters were built during the span of the Olympic games in Sochi, while Pussy Riot are repeatedly being detained for nonviolent protests, and you don’t see me blogging about that.


I think there are a couple reasons why I responded this way. First of all, no one could deny that helping animals is the right thing to do. But also, a problem like the Sochi stray dogs facilitates a straightforward solution. If you’re a billionaire, build some shelters. If you aren’t, just rescue one dog, or spread the word. It is an easier problem to solve than the human tragedies like war, poverty, corruption, trafficking, etc. While helping animals isn’t EASILY solvable on a global scale, there aren’t as many geo-political and legal hurdles. I know how to rescue a sick and starving dog from the streets. I don’t know how to rescue a child in the same scenario. Animal rescue leaves me feeling confident and righteous, while complex human rights issues often do just the opposite. 


I don’t presume to have any answers. I recognize that this issue is far greater than the scope of this blog. There is a cause for everyone, and I commend the brave ones who advocate on behalf of humans and animals across the globe.


Fitness and dog rescue happen to resonate the most with me right now, so I will continue to pour my heart into those efforts. Now pour it in a coffee cup, and you DEFNITELY have my attention.