A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

The Dogs of Sochi

sochi stray dog 020614At least if you’re a human visiting the Sochi Olympics (and despite what we’ve heard about toothpaste bombs, toxic yellow water, and homophobia), you’ll probably make it home alive. The same is not the case for the dogs who live on the streets there.

City officials had planned to kill 2,000 homeless dogs last summer – until an international outcry gave them pause. But the dogs only got a few months grace. Now the city has hired a pest control company that describes homeless dogs as “biological trash.”

Sochi Olympic representative Sergei Krivonosov explained that they have to kill the dogs because putting them in shelters would be too time-consuming. (How long would it have taken if they’d started last summer?) Other reports say they’ve in fact been killing 300 dogs a month since October.

Humane groups are struggling to save as many as possible. The Boston Globe follows Vlada Provotorova, a local dentist, and a small group of friends as they struggle to rescue as many dogs as possible and place them in backyard shelters.

In an equally touching report, the New York Times follows Olga Melnikova, who works for the humane organization Volnoe Delo (Good Will) and is supported by a Russian billionaire oligarch.

A spokesperson for President Putin offers a whole new kind of explanation as to where the stray dogs come from:

“The explanation is quite simple. When a big construction project is underway, dogs and puppies always appear whom the builders feed. Now the builders have left, but unfortunately, the dogs remain.”

Nadezhda Mayboroda, who works at the shelter takes a different view:

“Everybody here wants a shepherd or a pit bull. Nobody wants just a mixed dog.”

And while Russians are often known as great animal lovers, there are few spay/neuter and adoption programs.

Other animals haven’t been faring too well, either. A dolphin found herself pressed into service to carry the Olympic Torch. And the local aquarium was planning to have two orcas on display to tourists. But after more protests, the pair are reportedly staying in their tanks in Moscow, where a new SeaWorld-type marine circus is being built.