Olympic mission: Backes and wife help save two dogs from Sochi

News-DemocratFebruary 25, 2014 

Playing hockey and trying to win a gold medal wasn't the only mission at the Winter Olympics in Russia for St. Louis Blues captain David Backes.

When he learned of the plight of the many stray dogs around the Sochi Olympics, the avowed dog and animal lover quickly began looking for solutions.

Backes, T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk and other Olympic athletes did their best to bring a few dogs back to the U.S. for adoption.

Two dogs personally brought back by Backes and his wife, Kelly --which they named Sochi Junior and Sochi Jack -- are now at the Five Acres Animal Shelter in St. Charles, Mo.

Backes said it wasn't easy, especially given the national and international rules and regulations that the athletes and several organizations had to wade through to make their goodwill journey a successful one.

The dogs received vaccinations and will be watched closely for 30 days before being ready for adoption.

"It was quite a mission," Backes said. "There was a lot of 'no' answers to questions when we were trying to get them out and credit to (Kelly) and a couple of the other wives from Team Canada that really bonded together.

"When one door closed, they looked for another way to go."

Backes and his wife founded the "Athletes for Animals" foundation last year. The group includes professional athletes from various sports with a "shared passion for rescuing an protecting the welfare of homeless pets nationwide."

To learn more about Athletes for Animals or to offer support, visit www.athletesforanimals.org.

"It was a team effort, but in the end you shed light on an issue that's not just there," Backes said when asked about the issue of stray dogs in Russia. "It's a global issue with strays and mistreating them and unfortunately culling and exterminating (them).

"What we see as our loving pets, sleeping in bed with us or as family members, they're not necessarily fond of that way all around the world."

So while Backes and the other athletes were fortunate enough to help a few stray dogs, they hope to shine even more light to a problem that affects numerous countries.

"These two lives aren't going to make a huge impact on the stray population of Sochi and we're well aware of that," Backes said. "But the stories they can tell and the examples they can set for people is something that will be exponentially multiplied for them and some of their other kind."

Humble hockey players

Oshie was asked why he pointed at Team USA goaltender Jonathan Quick after scoring the game-winning shootout goal against Russia.

"I think those of you guys that know hockey players and have been around hockey teams quite a bit knows everyone relies on everyone else to do their job in order for them to do theirs," he said. "Without him we didn't get the win, we didn't get to overtime or the shootout. You can ask any other guy that's in that situation, most hockey players would say the same thing."

Oshie's Blues teammate, Canada defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, enjoyed watching Oshie's popularity soar after the shootout performance.

"He dialed up his Twitter followers," Pietrangelo said. "It was pretty special to see what he did. I was calling all the shots; I knew what was coming but it was unbelievable.

"None of us were surprised, but I guess it was a big coming out party for him."

An interesting aspect of the Olympics that stuck with Oshie were the bicycles made available to the athletes.

"I thought one thing that was really cool was all these professional athletes riding around on these little bikes getting from place to place," Oshie said. "Riding a bike to our games kind of brings you back to when you were a kid riding your bike to the rink."

* The Blues were 6-1-1 in the final eight games before the Olympic break. They return to action at 9:30 p.m. Thursday in Vancouver, opening a three-game trip that includes games in Anaheim on Friday and Sunday in Phoenix.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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