The 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:
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.
Many dogs hang out near construction zones, like this Rottweiler in Olympic Park, because many workers feed them.
Soaking up the rays in the Chistye Prudy hotel complex.
Posing outside Fisht Olympic Stadium.
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.
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.
One of the cutest puppies I have ever seen in my life.
One of the shelters was funded by a Russian billionaire, another by an animal activist, and the third by the Russian government.
Jenya heads through the cages during feeding time.
More feeding time.
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.
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.