TODAY

TODAY   |  March 14, 2014

US Olympian reunites with rescued Sochi dogs

Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy joins TODAY to talk about finally reuniting with the street dogs of Sochi he fought to bring to the U.S., which inspired a puppy adoption mission.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the olympic winter games were filled with dramatic finishes and performances and there was one story not tied to the actual competition that tugged on a lot of heart strings . the dogs we saw in the streets of sochi . one u.s. medal winner made it his mission to find a better home for some of them. gus kenworthy dream eed of olympic glory in the newly added slopestyle event. he left sochi with a silver medal and much more. the stray dogs wandering the streets in sochi captured the hearts of athletes and visitors.

>> you feel in love here in russia .

>> i did, absolutely.

>> but when the olympic flame went out, kenworthy wasn't about to leave his new four-legged friends behind.

>> when this tent goes, they don't really have anywhere else to sleep.

>> there are tens of thousands of stray dogs in russia . kenworthy couldn't save them all, but he and his friend traveled thousands of miles from moscow to new york city to give these dogs a chance at a better life . it took a village. some might say an olympic one, to give these dogs a happy home .

>> they're amazing and so lucky to be here. this is what we're working for, why we're staying committed. and now, an emotional reunion between man and his best friends . the end of a long journey from russia with love. gus kenworthy is with us along with his friend an three of their new pals. guys, good morning. good to see you.

>> morning.

>> it's a nice reunion, it's heartwarming. fill us in on what's been happening.

>> yeah, so, i mean, there's all these dogs in russia that we were trying to bring back. it was a lot more difficult than we think we thought it was going to be. robin stayed behind and i think that we had expected him to be there maybe two or three extra days and he was there for almost a month by himself to get them out and they just weren't really getting the treatment that they needed and not all of them made it, but the ones that did are more than happy to be here. i think they're on their own time zone still. they woke us up at 4:00 in the morning.

>> when you say not all of them made it, you did try to bring more, but some were really malnourished and really sick and some of them passed away .

>> so, we encountered some government roadblocks when we were ed the dogs were theirs and didn't want to release them to us for whatever reason and they were kind of kept away from me for the duration that i was there and we were fighting with the humane society international to really get them proper care and it took too long and two of the dogs unfortunately did pass away .

>> but the blessing here is that you were able to bring these guys home. i'm holding --

>> this is jake. this is mama.

>> and mishka. how does it feel after all of those obstacles to have them here with us now?

>> it's just incredible. feels so nice to have them home. these dogs are, they've traveled thousands of miles and it's been many, many weeks of this whole process, kind of coming to an end and just really can't thank robin and the humane society enough for making it happen.

>> and the outpouring of people. i saw stories on the internet, facebook, internationally, you guys captured so many eyes and ears to the problem. you told us what was going on and i didn't know it.

>> i think that's like the best part for me. we had people come up to both of us and tell us what they either donated to the humane society or went and adopted a dog here, so that's awesome to see and i think that we're really just kind of hoping to bring awareness to the plight of the dogs in russia and hopefully set up some shelters and stuff there so in future world cups and different events, there will be a better system in place so this doesn't happen again so if someone wants to take a dog back, they can take a dog back. it's not going to be a horrible process.

>> you're both obviously animal lovers , but are there any difficulties, mama was stray for a long time. is it difficult to get her into a situation where she's comfortable around people and being handled and touched?

>> in sochi , one of the strange things about sochi , the dogs there, the stray dogs are really friendly. people feed them, people actually do take care of them, just not bringing them into their home and treating them like a pet. there's more help with the humane society international working with them and trying to get them --

>> they're very sweet though, very comfortable. more than happy to be held and played with.

>> this one's got quite a personality.

>> just not potty trained at all.

>> they're not potty trained? come on, gus and robin. might want to tell a girl that before -- okay, i don't mind, you can go