LESLIE CRISS: Stray dogs of Sochi have grabbed hearts of athletes, others

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

Albert Schweitzer

“We need, in a special way, to work twice as hard to help people understand the animals are fellow creatures, that we must protect them and love them as we love ourselves.”

Cesar Chavez

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LESLIE CRISS

LESLIE CRISS

In years past I’ve followed closely the Olympics, and rooted reverently for America’s Olympians.

This year, not so much.

I’m caught parts of a few events, but because of the time difference between here and Russia, spoilers seem to shatter all elements of surprise.

Still, the Olympics always serve up more than sports. Beneath the surface are the stories, the ones about the contenders that make us all view them as much more than great athletes.

It should come as no shock to anyone who reads this column to hear the story that has most touched my heart during these Winter Olympics is about the dogs of Sochi.

Unless you’ve been in a total news blackout, you’ve heard at least a mention of them.

Hundreds of homeless, unloved strays that simply wander the streets of the city.

Apparently, an “exterminator” was hired to rid the city of many of the dogs before the Olympics, but his task was not successfully completed.

For those of us who love dogs, these stories have broken our hearts.

But the stories have lately become more uplifting as American athletes have not only pressed on in their quest for gold, silver and bronze. They have also fallen in love with the dogs of Sochi. And they have done much more than offer a treat or a pat on the head.

Many are adopting the strays and planning to bring them home to the United States after the games.

Silver medalist Gus Kenworthy has postponed his trip home in order to complete the paperwork required to adopt the puppies that have grabbed hold of his heart.

One would think if the dogs were going to be exterminated and belong to no one, there would be no need for bureaucratic reams of paperwork. Just one of many things I don’t understand about Russia.

Kenworthy is not alone in the quest to save these dogs. Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis has found a dog she hopes to adopts, and members of the U.S. men’s hockey team plan to leave Sochi with multiple furry, four-legged friends. And there are others.

Of course, there are plenty of pups here who already have their U.S. citizenship who need homes, too.

Still and yet, the plight of Sochi’s strays has touched the hearts of many American athletes, and, to me, the compassion they’ve shown is just as impressive as a bunch of medals.

leslie.criss@journalinc.com