KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Amanda Bird already was missing her Australian shepherd puppy Sammy when she arrived for the Sochi Olympics.
Then her first sight stepping out of the airport was of one of the many stray dogs around the Olympic Park in Adler and even here in the mountains whose safety has become a cause among animal rights supporters and some athletes such as American ski slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy.
Kenworthy is arranging for a litter of four puppies to return with him to the United States for adoption. Bird, U.S. press officer for bobsled/skeleton and former athlete in those sports, also plans to adopt a dog, sparing it from exterminators hired by the government to rid the Olympic area of pets left behind when families were forced to move for construction and a population swelled by lack of spaying and neutering.
Bird first read about the plight of the dogs in the New York Times then made contact with a dog shelter attempting to save as many animals as possible.
"I got in touch with them, and they've been wonderful to work with," Bird said. "They are just very excited to have someone inquire about it, and they're willing to work with me through the process. I plan on going on Monday to the shelter and bringing one of my co-workers with me because I'm sure it's going to be really difficult to walk in and see 100 dogs and be like which one.
"I'd like to take an older dog because those are the dogs that usually aren't adopted. Everyone up here will adopt a puppy. Right now I'm running into some issues because I can't take the dog on the charter flight so I need to figure out how to get the dog to Munich. When I get to Munich, I can check the dog in with me or carry it on."
Bird, who also has a cat at her home in Clarksville, Tenn., ran the idea of adopting a dog to her husband Jason Hartman by e-mailing him the New York Times story with "souvenir" in the subject line. Hartman is a trainer for skeleton slider Noelle Pikus-Pace.
"He responded and said we'll name her Sochi," Bird said. "Right then I was like alright, he's in."
Bird is so passionate about animals that she cried over leaving Sammy behind to come here. When she is on Skype with her husband, she wants to see her dog to know how she's doing and growing.
"I'm not trying to make a statement, I just want to bring a dog home," she said. "I've been amazed how much people have been coming up to me and asking me about it.
"I need a billionaire who has a plane who's willing to let me take 100 dogs on the flight with me back to the U.S. When the lottery gets above $50 million, we play. I always tell my husband if I ever hit the lottery, we're going to buy acres of land and we're going to save horses, save dogs. I don't care where they're from. I'm just one of those ridiculous people."