updated 03/14/2014 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/14/2014 AT 4:00 PM ET
It took a lot longer than he thought it would, but Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy was finally able to bring those puppies home from Sochi, Russia.
“It’s just incredible,” Kenworthy, 22, told Matt Lauer and Tamron Hall, who held Jake in her arms while the athlete petted Mom. “It feels so nice to have them home.”
But the reunion proved bittersweet as not all of the puppies survived.
“It took too long and two of the dogs unfortunately did pass away,” said Macdonald, while holding Mishka. “We encountered some government roadblocks when we were there. A politician claimed the dogs were theirs and they didn’t want to release them to us for whatever reason.”
Still, Kenworthy, who intends to keep two of the puppies himself, was thrilled to rescue the ones he did.
“These dogs, they’ve traveled thousands of miles and it’s been many, many weeks of this whole process kind of coming to an end,” he said. “I just really can’t thank Robin and the Humane Society International enough for making it happen.
He’s also doing what he can to help other stray dogs in Russia.
“[We’re looking to] set up some shelters and stuff there, so in future World Cups and different events there will be a better system in place so this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “So if someone wants to take a dog back, they can take a dog back. It’s not going to be a horrible process.”