The space race was on. The Russians were winning it an’all. They had sent Sputnik 1 up earlier in the year, and the Americans hadn’t even got one into orbit yet. Sputnik 2 was going to go one better. They were going to send a dog up in it to prove that a living creature could survive the rigours of take off. The cruel beggars weren’t too bothered about what would happen to it afterwards though. They were only testing to see what happened during take off. They had decided that once it was in orbit and they had got all the information that could from the probes that they had stuck into its poor little hide, they would put it out of its misery by feeding it poison space jelly dog food .
Laika was a stray bitch that they picked up on the streets of Moscow. They trained her by getting her used to spending days on end in increasingly poky little cages, and feeding her space jelly dog food (without the poison.) They whizzed her around in machines like doggy sized fairground rides. Then they strapped her into Sputnik 2 and blasted her off. The poor thing lasted until she got into orbit, and then the thermostat went in the pod, and she roasted to ruddy well death. And what did the scientists learn from the experiment? Just that in space, no one can smell it when you mess yourself.
The Americans called her Mutt-nik. They couldn’t kick up too much of a fuss though, what with them having blasted all those monkeys into the upper atmosphere earlier on. The dog lovers of Britain marked her passing by having a minutes silence just after blast off.
Apparently, Laika was a lovely, good natured dog, who was chosen because she was placid and not easily aggravated. One of the scientists responsible for training her took her home to play with his kiddies a few days before blast off, because he thought she deserved a bit of fuss. It must have been a horrible way to go. If anyone had ever suggested sticking my Tuppence in a space pod and blasting her off into space I would have given them very short shrift indeed. The thought of my Tuppence getting all hot and sticky in zero gravity makes my blood boil.
I know that the Russians put up a statue of Laika at their space school to commemorate her memory, but it would make no difference to me if they put a statue of my Tuppence up in Red Square and had military march pasts and hundred gun salutes for her every Good Friday and Easter Monday, I would still think that they were cruel beggars. I would want to have my tuppence on my lap, to stroke and play with, not fried to a crisp and made a ruddy statue of. But that’s just the way I am.