POSTED: 10:58 a.m. HST, Mar 1, 2014
Amanda Bird's quest to adopt a stray dog who was among those rounded up during the Sochi Olympics continues to be a challenge.
Bird, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, drew worldwide attention during the Olympics by deciding to rescue and adopt a dog she named Sochi. Many people Bird had never met, even actress Katherine Heigl and her family's foundation for rescue animals, began providing assistance after hearing her story, which took another turn Saturday when the dog was diagnosed with distemper.
"I'm still not giving up on Sochi," Bird said Saturday.
It may be several more weeks, at minimum, before Sochi -- who has been getting treated in Los Angeles -- can be brought to Bird's Nashville-area home. The dog is already overcoming parvo, a sometimes-fatal gastrointestinal virus, and the additional diagnosis of distemper further complicates matters.
Sochi was among hundreds of dogs who were brought to makeshift shelters before and during the Olympics. Animal activists said they were alarmed by reports that the city contracted the killing of thousands of strays, and several Olympic athletes and officials, including Bird, said they wanted to try to bring a dog home.
Bird was one of the few who succeeded in actually getting a dog out of Russia during the Olympics. Still, her plans to make him a true pet remain challenging.
Health officials in Los Angeles have told Bird her new dog may need to stay in that area for about two more months, largely because of quarantine rules and because Sochi arrived without a rabies vaccine. The dog needed a feeding tube and other treatment just to get through a very touch-and-go first few days in the U.S.
"He's getting some of the best medical care in the world," Bird said.
Bird's story was chronicled by The Associated Press and several other media outlets during the Olympics, and even after getting so much notoriety she feared saving at least one of the stray dogs was still slim. It took about three weeks before Bird could actually visit a makeshift Russian shelter and choose her pet, and she was accompanied on that trip by a crew from E! News, which wound up being a very fortunate break.
Marcus Mulick, an E! producer, told Bird he wanted to both tell her story and help her situation. And since Bird was prohibited from bringing the dog out of Russia on her charter flight after the Olympics, Mulick took Sochi with him back to Los Angeles.
"I'm not sure what I would have done without him," Bird said.
When Sochi arrived in Los Angeles, his care started being arranged through the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, founded by Heigl and her mother Nancy, neither of whom had any previous ties to Bird or the USBSF. The dog was taken almost immediately after arriving in Los Angeles for examination, and not delaying that visit is the reason why Sochi is still alive, Bird said.
The Heigl's foundation has also paid for all of Sochi's care to date, Bird said.
"He probably wouldn't have had a chance," Bird said.
The kindness of strangers, Bird said, helped save Sochi.
All she wants now is a chance to bring her new pet home.
"This story is about more than stray dogs and the compassion we feel for and about them, but it's also about the compassion we have for one another," Bird said. "Isn't that what the Olympics teaches us? It's about uniting together on a global level, regardless of where we are from or what we do. I've just never felt it on this level."
Heigl Foundation: http://jasonheiglfoundation.org/donate