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Home / Articles / Columnists / Dog World with Tina /  Igor, Gold Medalist
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Tuesday, March 4,2014

Igor, Gold Medalist

By Tina Valant-Siebelts  

My new hero is indirectly involved with the Olympics, and in a race against time. Meet  Igor Ayrapetyan, 41 years old, a resident of Moscow, Russia.

“The Olympics have always been a symbol of peace. Wars have been halted for the duration of the Olympics. But in Russia, the Olympics are built on blood,” Igor Ayrapetyan stated on an interview with Radio Free Europe. There are thousands of homeless, intact dogs in Russia and there are very few shelters.

The government hired a pest control company to exterminate up to two thousand(!) stray dogs. Igor knew he had to do something. “Street dogs” were being darted, poisoned, gunned down and tossed into mass graves. Igor enlisted a friend, to drive with him from Moscow to Sochi; just under 1000 miles. It would take more than 20 hours, they could take turns at the wheel, while the other napped. They arrived to their destination amid brutal weather and ice. Mostly medium and large-sized mixed breeds were lured with food and caught with loop leads. Some of the dogs had never been on a leash and had to be carried. Most are very friendly. “It seemed like they knew we were there to help them”. Igor was able to welcome eleven dogs to safety. It was a cozy ride back.

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.

-Mahatma Gandhi

A medium sized spaniel-mix will remain with Igor. He named her Niki. “She just wants to get along with everyone, including my four dogs”. The other dogs were given to a newly emerged rescue organization and some have already been adopted by families.

Igor always loved dogs. As a child, Igor dreamt of becoming a veterinarian; instead he earned his MBA and became an economist and an attorney. “But this career did not bring me joy, I returned to my childhood dream of helping animals”, he said (via translation). “I tried to fill my inside emptiness with material things like new cars and traveling but I soon got bored,” Ayrapetyan said. “Now my life has meaning.”

A silver medal won’t be the only souvenir U.S. Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy wants to bring home from Sochi. He’s hoping a quartet of shepherd-mix puppies, will be joining him.

Igor was heading back for a second rescue effort, when I last heard from him, via private message.

Before you think, “Oh! I want a dog from Sochi”; know it could cost thousands of dollars (transport, quarantine, etc). There are pets in your community, local shelter or breed rescue that need homes. Adopt one and name it Sochi, or Igor!

 

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