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Pets & Animals

Sochi Olympians' rescue dogs are all grown up, completely adorable

More than a year has passed since several American Olympians adopted stray dogs that were saved from the streets of Sochi, Russia — and it appears the canine companions are happier and healthier than ever.

Posted online Thursday, a new Sports Illustrated video highlights the dogs at home with Olympic hockey players Derek Stepan and Kelli Stack, and snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis. Stepan — who plays for the New York Rangers — looks after a pooch named Jake; Stack cares for a pup named Shayba; and Jacobellis named her dog after Sochi.

Stepan said his Olympic teammate David Backes, and Backes' wife, Kelly, inspired him and his wife, Stephanie, to adopt Jake.

"We actually ran into Jake going through security on our last day, on the way home," Stepan told Sports Illustrated. "That's when my wife and I fell in love with him. Thirty days later, he went from Sochi streets to a New York City apartment."

Silver-medalist Gus Kenworthy, a skier who wound up adopting two stray dogs he encountered in Sochi, also campaigned for the cause on social media — inspiring fellow members of Team USA to do the same.

"After I saw [Kenworthy's campaign], I tried to figure out a way that I could do it, too," Stack told Sports Illustrated.

Just days after the Olympics in Sochi wrapped in late February 2014, Kenworthy appeared on TODAY, where he told Matt Lauer and Tamron Hall about his "incredible" experience. "It feels so nice to have them home," Kenworthy said. "These dogs have traveled thousands of miles, and it's been many, many weeks of this whole process kind of coming to an end."

Months later, Kenworthy updated TODAY.com on his two "awesome" Sochi dogs, Jake and Mishka. "They’re both very affectionate, but Jake is definitely more independent," he said. "He does his own thing. He’ll pick through a basket of toys to find what he likes. And Mishka? He wants whatever toy Jake has. If you’re sitting down and go to the kitchen, Mishka gets up and follows you. If you get up to go to the bathroom, he goes and lies down by the door. If you do anything, he’s right there. We call him Shadow sometimes, because he’s right there, behind you. But they’re cute. They’re very affectionate. They’ve very close with each other. They nap together, curled up. They eat together and play together. They’re attached, for sure."

All three athletes featured in SI's video had good news to report, not only about the health of their dogs, but on the way the dogs have improved their lives.

"Sochi was there when things were hard for me," Jacobellis told the magazine. "That's a great connection, and I couldn't just leave him there after he had given me so much."

Follow TODAY.com writer Chris Serico on Twitter.

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