Sure, Gus Kenworthy Is an Olympic Medalist, but Have You Met His Dog Birdie?
The professional skier is celebrating National Dog Day by raising awareness about animal adoption, and we couldn't love him more.
Gus Kenworthy was only 11 years old when he realized a lifelong passion, which began with a trip to an animal shelter with his dad. There, he discovered his first dog, Mack, who became his best friend growing up and a wonderful addition to the family.
"Because of that experience, I think I've always felt strongly about animal adoption and knowing that had we not got Mack that day, he potentially could have been put down or lived a sad life," Kenworthy tells Daily Paws. "I feel so lucky that we got to give him an incredible life."
The freestyle skier and Olympic medalist Kenworthy has traveled the world competing on the slopes of Sochi all the way to Silvapana. But through all the ups and downs of training and competition, the dog lover still finds the time to advocate for animals every chance he gets.
It was during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia when he and his then-boyfriend made headlines with their efforts to rescue a family of stray dogs and bring them back to the U.S. The Humane Society named Kenworthy an 'Inspirational Honoree' for his efforts, and in 2018, he worked with Humane Society International (HSI) to advocate on behalf of thousands of dogs in Seoul, South Korea around the same time as the Pyeongchang Games.
While in South Korea, Kenworthy adopted a bright ball of fluff, Beemo. The adorable ball of fluff immediately graced the internet with some of the sweetest celeb puppy photos on Instagram. But it was only a few short months before Beemo tragically passed away from a heart condition before she was even out of puppyhood.
Understandably, Kenworthy says he was heartbroken and "felt empty," writing in an Instagram post at the time that he'd "never loved anything or anyone in the way that I loved that dog and she is and will always be deeply missed."
But even through his grief, Kenworthy still remained active with HSI. It wasn't long before he'd started keeping tabs on another rescued litter from Korea, and simply couldn't take his eyes off a beautiful tawny-colored sweetheart. In the summer of 2018, the Korean Jindo and Labrador retriever mix who'd captured his attention joined him stateside.
"She's Like a Teenage Girl"
Kenworthy decided to name the sweet little pooch Birdie because, he shared, "birds were one of Beemo's favorite things in the world."
Now almost 3, Birdie and her human are simply inseparable. Kenworthy says some of the things he does with Birdie aren't that special, but they're better because she's with him. "We'll watch TV together, she'll hang out by my feet while I read, we'll go for hikes and car rides," he says. "It's actually not anything that any other dog owner doesn't also do, but it feels connected and bonded and just a better experience having her there."
RELATED: The Most Heartwarming Celebrity Pet Adoptions of 2020
All that said, having a celebrity dog dad who's not only an Olympian but also an actor does allow Birdie a few special pooch perks. Kenworthy insists on sharing the spotlight with her every chance he gets, and the two have appeared together in Abercrombie & Fitch ads and as a spokesdog for a pet food company. And, according to Kenworthy, it's not that fame is going to her head, but she's been known to throw a little sassy social shade his way—like when she embarrassingly displayed a complete lack of interest in his soulful music.
"She's like a teenage girl: she's embarrassed by her dad and she doesn't want to be around him and as far as her friends go, I'm a loser," he jokes. "But at home, she actually loves me."
How They Celebrate National Dog Day
In an effort to help other adoptable cats and dogs find their forever homes, Kenworthy and Birdie are teaming up with Autotrader's Dogtrader adoption site this year just in time for National Dog Day.
He and Birdie are cover models for Autotrader's 2022 "Calen-Dogs" calendar, which is just as cute as you might think and features famous dog-fluencers as well as other cute canines hoping for big-hearted humans to bring them home. For every calendar claimed, the company will make a donation to Adopt-a-Pet.com to support the organization in its efforts to help rescue dogs everywhere.
"Whether it's a road trip or running an errand, she really loves riding in the car," Kenworthy says. "We love going to Joshua Tree for hikes in the desert in the cooler months, and in the warmer months, we like going to the beach—although she doesn't like the water, to be honest. My boyfriend says it takes her, like, two days to dry!"
"There are so many animals in shelters that need their forever homes, so I hope that anyone hearing about my story and my experiences with Birdie would feel encouraged or implored to consider adopting a pet," Kenworthy says. "It really has changed my life for the better in so many ways."
If any BFFs (Best Fur Friends) deserve a gold medal, it's these two. It's clear Birdie and Kenworthy share an incredible bond, and we can't wait to see how they use their star power for good next.