By Zephyr Strosnider
Originally from Colorado, Gus Kenworthy, an Olympic silver-medalist freeskier, has been receiving attention lately for his adoption of puppies from Russia while competing at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. He reportedly came across a litter of strays while walking the streets in Sochi and vowed to take them home and give them a better life.
The story is especially heartwarming because of how Russian authorities have been handling their stray dog problem. According to CNN reports, there were many protests by animal rights activists right before the winter games came to Sochi. Apparently, many stray canines were poisoned by employees of an animal shelter founded right before the games to take care of the issue.
A story similar to Kensworthy’s that hits a little more close to home is the story of current Peace Corps volunteer Rachel King, who graduated from North Springs in 2008. She recently adopted a dog from Azerbaijan who she met during her Peace Corps pre-service training.
His name is Rafiki. “Rafig is an Azerbaijani name, but culturally it is offensive to give a dog a human name so I changed it to make it more appropriate,” said King. “‘Rafiki’ is a Swahili word that means ‘friend.’ In the summer of 2011, I lived in Kenya and used the word a lot.”
The growing problem of animal abuse and mistreatment is what really pushed King to adopt this lovable pet. “The severity of the deformity of one of the puppy’s hind legs where it was extremely difficult for him to get around led me to choose that one,” says King, “Being so close to a very busy road and the likely mistreatment he would get from people, I knew this physical disability would very likely cause him to be harmed.” Rafiki now lives at home in Sandy Springs with the King family, including current Spartan junior and football player, Steve King.
Rafiki is not the only animal Rachel has adopted from Azerbaijan. One day while on a walk, she found a box holding a litter of kittens . They were very sick and unfortunately only one of them survived. “There is an issue with street animal overpopulation in Azerbaijan and the only safe facilities to have pets spayed and neutered are in Baku, which is five hours from my site,” said King.
Her experiences with these animals have inspired King to try to facilitate a class to train veterinarians at the local vet school in which students will learn how to treat small animals.