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The Stray Dogs of Sochi

When I returned from my trip to Sochi, my visit to watch the Winter Paralympic Games left me with much to say about Russia. While a lot of it has to do with the local citizens, as well as the handling of the games themselves, I thought I’d start off with the subject nearest to many people’s hearts: dogs.

Sochi has quite the stray-dog problem. There are almost no dog shelters anywhere in the city. Until the Olympic games, the strays weren’t seen as a of problem. However, the government wanted to get rid them in an attempt to make their city seem more prestigious. The government tried to get the dogs off the street, but they did not by put them in homes. Instead, they left poisoned food out for the dogs to eat. This is obviously terrible, and should never happen again.

But why even get the dogs off the street at all? Why not let them run around? Why are stray dogs even considered a problem?

What if its not the dog’s we should be worried about?

At first, the idea of stray dogs wandering around the city seems rather third-wordly. The idea invokes thoughts of poor, destitute canines wandering the streets in search of food and a family to love them.

But the strays of Sochi I met seemed quite happy, and quite well-fed. They were all very approachable, friendly, and willing to have their bellies scratched. One of the more adorable dogs had set up semi-permanent camp outside my hotel. My father named the dog “boots,” and my sister-in law named her “Dana.” I’m sure she’s had hundreds of names over the years.

While it seems barbaric for Dana/Boots to live outside, alone, you have to ask yourself the question: “Would this dog be better off in Canada?” Sure, we like to think that back home, she’d get adopted by a nice family, who would set up a comfy bed by the fireplace for her to sleep in. In reality, however, she’d likely get thrown into a shelter. She’d get assigned to a cramped, flooded kennel, with dry dog food, where she’d live for a week, maximum. Maybe in that week, the ideal family would come adopt her; but what’s more likely is that she’d be put down because the shelter can only hold a stray for so long before their money runs out. (Don’t fool yourself, lots of animals are put down every year.)


Bringing the Strays into the community

In reflection, it seems to be a much better solution to have strays running around as “Community Pets,” rather than simply putting them down. You can feed them, scratch them, bask in their affection for as long as you stay with them. And when you’re done? They’ll traipse off to find someone else who needs them.

It’s quite the system.

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