The Dogs of Sochi

dogs of sochi

Being a dog lover in Sochi can be painful. It hurts to see many beautiful animals just wandering the streets of this town, sometime still muddy and wet from last night’s rain, looking for the next meal. And it hurts to know that many of these dogs are being put down systematically by a company hired by the local government. This plan has definitely worked … I now see a fraction of the dogs that I did when I first arrived on Jan. 13.

The surprising thing to me about the dogs of Sochi is how amazingly well-behaved they are. But then again, their friendliness is perhaps what keeps them alive. After all, who would feed an angry dog? Many even have collars, however, they didn’t look like they have homes. I’ve heard that many of the strays are from the families who were forced to move as a result of Olympic construction.

The next few photos are ones I’ve taken in and around Olympic Park since my arrival:

140118_sochi_olympics-4Here is a pack of dogs that used to hang out just inside my hotel complex. They are no longer there.

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I can’t emphasize enough how well behaved almost every dog has been here in Sochi. This guy posed for me in a construction zone near the Black Sea.

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Many dogs hang out near construction zones, like this Rottweiler in Olympic Park, because many workers feed them.

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Soaking up the rays in the Chistye Prudy hotel complex.

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Posing outside Fisht Olympic Stadium.

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Dinnertime.

A bit of good news came for this story when we learned that three animal shelters had opened up just outside the city of Sochi (we are located near Adler, which is about 15-20 miles from Sochi proper). The New York Times did a piece on the shelters, and other media outlets, including the one I am working for (USA Today), followed suit. So myself, reporter Dan Wolken, and Elena, our translator for the Olympics, made the trip into the city.

After a 40-minute train ride, a taxi drove us up a winding, narrow road that then turned to rough gravel and ultimately led to the shelters. Just as we arrived, the man overseeing two of the three shelters, 25-year-old Jenya Popov, began his afternoon feeding routine. He went through the cages, one by one, feeding the barking and hungry animals.

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This guy was so amazing to me … I only wish I had more time to hang out with him and tell his story. Here he is grabbing some dog food out of his modest home, a small metal trailer right next to the dog shelters.

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One of the cutest puppies I have ever seen in my life.

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One of the shelters was funded by a Russian billionaire, another by an animal activist, and the third by the Russian government.

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Jenya heads through the cages during feeding time.

20140206-DM7T0683View of one of the shelters.

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More feeding time.

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Jenya said the shelter had only been in operation a week, which gives you an idea of how many stray dogs there are in this region.

20140206-DM7T0670This guy looks like a Basset Hound/shepherd mix.

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Jenya with a couple friends.

Though the shelter owners said the all of the dogs will be adopted out, I am afraid that that won’t be the case. Even in a country like the U.S., where dog adoption is much more common, many dogs are put down each year. Like one of the shelter operators here in Sochi said, it’s possible that these animals could be put down after the Olympics are over. Here is an excerpt from the USA Today story:

“The mayor made this shelter just to show that picture so that you could see and believe it like fools,” Gontareva Ekaterina, a retiree and animal activist, said through an interpreter. “It’s not going to change anything. They’re not doing this for the animals. People just want to eat and sleep good.”

Hopefully this story will have a happy ending.

You can read the full story that ran in USA Today by clicking here.

9 Comments

  1. Reply
    Pansy Paxson February 10, 2014

    That Rottweiler is beautiful!! I would not mind having him!!
    All of the dogs look so sweet! It is hard to think that they are being kind to them ONLY while the Olympics are going on!

  2. Reply
    Tammy February 10, 2014

    Awww….I love this Kevin, don’t you want to bring them all home!!!

  3. Reply
    Scott Coggins February 10, 2014

    Hi Kevin,
    Found you on FB when Jason, Steve or JP liked one of your posts!! Then clicked over to your website. I took the PRM workshop with those guys in Atlanta. Just caught up on all your blogs from the Olympics. Enjoyed the read and the pics too. Keep it up.
    Scott

  4. Reply
    Raynor Cathey February 11, 2014

    I continue to enjoy your photos and blogs! Seeing these close-ups of Russia makes me want to take a trip there! Take care.

  5. Reply
    Debbie February 11, 2014

    Wow, Kevin, great job. It is heartbreaking. I hope that what you are doing May save some of those precious babies. The photos are beautiful. Hope you are enjoying your time there. Told you I’d be checking in.

  6. Reply
    Patti February 11, 2014

    Thank you Kevin for such wonderful work to help the dogs of Sochi. This is more important to me than the Olympics and all that hoopla!! Poor dogs who were roaming the streets forever find themselves
    facing a slow, painful death all for the sake of greed.
    Please keep up your wonderful work and be careful and come home to Griffin safe and sound.
    Thanks, Patti

  7. Reply
    ElainaWilson February 11, 2014

    I know if you could you would bring them home with you!! I am the same way. Stay safe.

  8. Reply
    Dianne Perry February 14, 2014

    The story and the Pictures were GREAT!!!! Can’t wait to hear the whole story !!! Take Care !!!!

  9. Reply
    GF June 2, 2014

    Hi Kevin – I think the dog I adopted from Sochi is in one of your shots, the one captioned “One of the shelters was funded by a Russian billionaire, another by an animal activist, and the third by the Russian government.” – the faraway shot of all the dogs/houses. I think he’s the small black/white chested dog in the lower left. I know the short corgi/shepherd dog was there at the same time from some other photos I’ve found of him. We’ve chatted on Twitter, my dog’s @thesochistray. When I get my sites/info finalized on him, I’m certainly including your work. Thanks for your work on this story… the outcry, media and efforts around this added another dog to my life – and he’s great.

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