Earlier this year, skier Gus Kenworthy returned to the United States from the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi with a silver medal—and an armful of stray puppies. (Well, the puppies technically came about a month later after they got the care they needed for the transport.) Two of the puppies, named Jake and Mishka, now live with Gus and his friend Robin Macdonald, and the pups’ mother lives with Gus’ mother and stepfather. WOOFipedia spoke with Gus to learn how the dogs have settled into their American (Olympic-winning) home.
Gus with the dogs he brought back from Sochi
WOOFi: How did you come across the puppies in Sochi?
Gus: I had seen a photo of the puppies that a reporter from NBC had tweeted but I didn’t know where they were. I showed my friend Robin, who was in Russia doing media for the Games. The next day, when he was going to the media center to do some work, he found them—they were living outside of the security tent at the media center in the mountain village. He texted me a photo, and I got out of bed, got on the gondola, got on a bus, and ran to meet them!
Jake and Mishka, living the good life
WOOFi: What was it about these dogs made you want to keep them?
Gus: I’ve always been a dog lover. My family dog passed away a few years ago, and I had been dying to get a new one. I just thought it wasn’t the responsible thing to do since I travel so much. Regardless, it was something I constantly went back and forth on, and then to be in Russia, during the Olympics, with everything else that was going on in my life, it felt sort of serendipitous to stumble upon a family of stray dogs the way that Robin and I had. They were so sweet, too; I can’t even describe how cute their temperament was. Mama, who was very protective over her puppies, seemed to instantly trust me and she let me pick them up and play with them and pet her. It was amazing. I felt like she was really connected to me and she knew we wanted to help them and she wanted us to. So, I pretty much fell completely in love with them in about five seconds—and the rest is history.
Gus with Jake and Mishka
WOOFi: What were their first few weeks at home with you like? What were your biggest challenges?
Gus: They were relatively easy dogs, to be honest. It took Jake and Mishka awhile to figure out the potty-training thing, so there were a lot of pees and poos that happened on rugs and on the bed. Looking back, it probably would have been a good idea to crate train them, but I was blindly in love with them so I wanted them to sleep on the bed with me and didn’t care how much extra laundry it caused.
Mama had little quirks that have now been ironed out. For example, when she first came to the States she wouldn’t walk on any shiny or slippery surfaces. So at the hotel we stayed at the first few nights in New York, we had to carry her across the lobby because it had marble floors. She would literally freeze up if we tried to get to get her to walk on them. Same thing with polished concrete and tile floors. Eventually she got over it, but it was just a new thing for her because she had only known dirt, grass and pavement and it was something so foreign to her she couldn’t comprehend it at the beginning.
Gus and company
WOOFi: What are their personalities like?
Gus: Jake and Mishka are best friends. They’re always playing, and when they tire themselves out they cuddle up and sleep next to each other! Jake is definitely more silly; he acts like a total puppy. One of my favorite things is watching him pick out a toy to play with. We have a big basket filled with all their stuffed animals and ropes and things, and he will pull the basket out and rummage through it and find something he likes and then just carry it around the house or bring it into his dog bed and lay down with it.
Mishka is more of a brat. He isn’t very good at sharing and the toy he wants is always the toy that Jake has. Robin and I refer to Mishka as our shadow because he follows you everywhere and always wants to be nearby you. He’s very loyal. Jake is more independent, if you get up and walk into another room for a minute Jake is OK knowing that you will return but Mishka always gets up and follows you.
The boys both love swimming, especially in the ocean in Vancouver. Aside from playing in the snow, that’s probably their favorite thing to do.
Gus with Mishka
WOOFi: Tell us about the mother—what is her name and what were some of the challenges faced when getting her acclimated?
Gus: Mama is great! We started calling her Mama in Russia, and she seemed to like the name and respond to it, but when we got back to the States we gave her to my mom in Telluride and she started calling her “Mamushka,” which roughly translates to mother in Russian. As far as getting her accustomed to her new life, it was shockingly easy. She pretty much got to Telluride and acted like it was her home all along. She is very much in love with my mom and stepdad, and they are completely smitten with her as well. All the kids are out of the house so she is their little princess, she sleeps on the bed with them, goes to work with them, lays by their feet while they cook dinner. It’s pretty cute how attached they are.
Mishka on Bowen Island in Canada
Also read: Sochi Strays Arrive in U.S.
All photos courtesy of Gus Kenworthy and Robin Macdonald