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US slopestyle skier aims to rescue stray dogs in Sochi

11:09 PM, Feb 13, 2014   |    comments
  • Gus Kenworthy (Photo by Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports image)
  • 11Alive's Jaye Watson captured this photo of a stray dog in Sochi.
    
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(TODAY Show/USA TODAY) U.S. slopestyle skier Gus Kenworthy is not only hoping to take home a medal from Sochi; he also hopes to bring back some adorable new friends.

On Tuesday, Kenworthy, 22, tweeted two photos of himself holding puppies he said were some of the many strays that have been seen wandering in packs around Sochi during the Games. He followed up with a tweet on Wednesday noting that he is looking into kennels and vaccinations for the dogs in order to take them home.

On his Facebook page, under a montage of photos of himself with the puppies, Kenworthy wrote: "Spent all afternoon playing with a gang of stray puppies here in Sochi! Looking into finding a way to bring them home with me but also don't want to take them away from their mama because she was being super cute and protective over them. I bought them some food and I'll go visit them again tomorrow."

RELATED | Humane Society reports on stray dogs of Sochi

A dog lover his whole life, the 22-year-old Coloradan saw the family and decided he needed to help.

"The puppies are adorable," he said after the semifinal of the slopestyle competition at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Thursday.

Kenworthy has already arranged for kennels and is trying to get them vaccinated on Monday. Getting the puppies on a plane is not difficult, he said, because he can put two to a kennel. Bringing their mother might be harder because of different requirements for adult dogs.

"I'm trying," he said. "I'm doing what I can."

If he can get everything in order, he says he's already heard from friends and family who will take the puppies. His brother has already said he'd like to adopt one of the puppies, and Kenworthy plans to keep another.

"I've gotten a lot of messages from friends and family that would happily take them, including the mom," Kenworthy said.

Kenworthy first learned of this litter of puppies when a friend who had been doing some work at the media center texted him a photo with a warning to Kenworthy that the skier was "going to freak out."

Indeed, Kenworthy was so captivated by the four young dogs that he took the gondola from the athlete's village to the Rosa Khutor village, where he caught a bus to the media center. He found the litter and their mother in their "home" beneath a security tent outside of the main entrance.

That was it. Kenworthy was in love.

"They are like the cutest thing ever," Kenworthy said.

He's returned nearly every day to visit the pups and bring them some food. He even visited them on Wednesday on the eve of the biggest competition of his life. He won the silver medal Thursday afternoon, part of an American sweep of the first-ever slopestyle competition.

Whichever puppy Kenworthy decides to keep will be his first dog since his buddy Mack died last year. Mack was a large mixed breed dog whom Kenworthy picked out a Colorado humane society as a present for his 11th birthday.

"I've been a dog lover my whole life, and to find just the cutest family of strays ever, here at the Olympics, was just a fairytale way to have that go down," Kenworthy said.

While Kenworthy is doing his small part to help the strays, Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has created a dog shelter to help save the animals from potential death. The sudden disappearance of many dogs from the streets last week as the Games got underway had animal activists worried that they were being rounded up and exterminated, according to NBC News.

"We were told, 'Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,' " Olga Melnikova, who is coordinating the rescue effort on behalf of Deripaska's charity, told The New York Times on Feb. 5.

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