I'll never forget visiting Russia when it was still the Soviet Union and staying with families I really clicked with, even though we didn't speak the same language.
But I'll never set foot in Sochi despite it being such a big draw. In addition to being the locale for the upcoming Winter Olympics, it's also known as the "Russian Riviera."
Sochi, like all of Russia, reportedly has a very bad stray dog problem. And a very bad dog owner problem. Seems too many not only don't sterilize their pets, but quickly become "bored" with them and kick them to the curb.
A problem certainly not limited to Russia. Just visit any shelter here at home. With such an overwhelming population, it's never enough, and my heart goes out to everyone everywhere who tries to help.
But things are said to be so bad in Sochi, the city's given the go-ahead to kill strays ahead of the Olympics because they pose a threat.
"Let's call things by their real name. These dogs are biological trash," says the owner of the company reportedly hired to do the deed. He cites "an epidemic" of rabies in the city.
And he says there are thousands of them roaming the streets, "biting children." And they've been able to get inside inside the Olympic grounds.
If that's all true, it sounds like the plot of yet another bad Hollywood movie.
The people of Sochi have been living with a rabies "epidemic" all this time? From packs of wild dogs taking over and going after their kids?
How could humans have let things get that out of hand? What about declaring a health emergency and working to change hygiene and pet ownership laws?
Again, it's not my aim to throw rocks when too many Americans treat their pets pretty abysmally too.
But here at home, I've always seen news warnings if there's even as much as one case of rabies. Not going out and killing any dog on the loose.
But the owner of the pest-control company reportedly says rabies isn't the only threat from strays. There's so many of them, they could interfere with the athletes. Like one could run into a ski jumper trying to land. Right.
Jordan Malone, a U.S. skater competing in Sochi, might have had a real reason to be afraid if he had taken his beloved dog with him, as he's done in the past. What if the dog had run off without any ID?
I tweeted Jordan and asked if his dog was with him. Not this time, he responded, saying he really missed his pal.
All I could think was: Thank goodness.
Though a Sochi-area lawmaker admits the killing of strays isn't very nice, and authorities had pledged to build shelters for them, animal activists say there's no evidence of any.
It sounds like it may be too late for some dogs. Let's hope the outcry can save others.
I won't watch the games. And again, I wouldn't dream of going there. Unless it could be to help save a stray. I already have a 17-year-old one. Does that count?