Team USA and St Louis Blues leader David Backes did not come home empty-handed from the Olympics in Sochi. David and his wife, Kelly, brought home two new members of the Backes clan when they rescued ‘street dogs’ from southern Russia, as the pair of special guys would frequent their resort residences during the games.
Named Sochi Jake and Sochi Junior, the two mutts will lead the life that every dog deserves to lead- well fed, warm place to snooze and a house full of love- a literal departure from their lives in Sochi, which has been well documented over the past month.
As you can imagine, and are probably wondering, it is very difficult to bring stray dogs into the United States, especially out of a country like Russia. But with some help from various organizations, including the International Humane Society, and a little of that beloved, Backes determination that every team USA and Blues fan has grown to admire, the couple was able to get the proper documentation and returned back to St Louis this week with hounds in hand.
Just in case any of the Backes’ neighbors are reading this, not to worry, the dogs will have to go through a mandatory, 30-day quarantine at Five Acres Animal Shelter in St Charles, Missouri, and receive all the necessary vaccinations and be given a clean bill of health by the vet. And after they pass with flying colors, the dogs will become up for adoption.
This is extraordinary behavior, especially in a time when professional sports are littered with A-rod types and the Aaron Hernandez’s of the world, a story like this one restores your faith in athletes, millionaires and human beings in general.
However this is not that extraordinary when you look back at the Backes’ track record. David and Kelly are well-known animal lovers in the St Louis area, and the couple actually met at a pet store while attending university in Minnesota. After David became a fixture on the Blues roster, the two created a non-profit charity called Athletes for Animals to promote the importance of responsible pet ownership and raise awareness in the fight against animal cruelty. They also founded, and currently sit on the board at, the Five Acres Animal Shelter, where the dogs are staying.
Living in a state well-known for puppy mills, in Missouri, the two love birds understand just how terrible the treatment of animals can reach, which perhaps provided a bit more motivation for the Backes’ to do whatever it took when preparing to leave Russia. They seized the opportunity to continue to raise a conscious recognition of the indecent conditions for strays all over, but particularly in that region of the world. Kelly explained this to Yahoo! Sports:
It’s been such a journey, but one that’s certainly worth all the work, as the lives of these two pups will be changed for the better,” she said. “We hope this brings much-needed awareness to animal rescue and adoption and shows the public how gentle and kind the companion street dogs of Sochi really are.
The Backes’ are incredible people, and they use their fame and fortune not to get on ESPN or E!, but they use it to help and support other living things, and at least try to give these animals a fighting chance in this sometimes (all the time) crazy global society we live in. It is a breathe of fresh air in sports media and one that I hope is not dismissed or soon forgotten.
And obviously the problem at large of animal cruelty will not be solved with one story, but David understands the importance of at least writing a chapter in this story, as he told to Stephanie Diffin of KSDK.com in St Louis:
These two lives aren’t going to make a huge impact on the stray population of Sochi, we’re well aware of that. But, the stories they can tell and the examples they can set for people is something that will be exponentially multiplied…
I think all St Louis Blues fans would agree that, after proving time and time again, Backes’ heart, dedication and character is second to none in the NHL, if not in comparison to all public figures. These intangibles are exactly why he wears the ‘C’ on his jersey and will (eventually) lead the Blues to their first Stanley Cup championship.