Soviet Space Dogs

When on vacation in a new city I always make sure to drop into a used book store (if it has books in a language I can read). While visiting Portland, Maine in late summer, I visited a narrow shop with books piled high to ceiling. While in line to purchase a book, I stumbled on this little book about dogs going to space as part of the Soviet space program. Of course I had to buy it, and was not disappointed.

The Russian space dogs were all strays taken from the streets of Moscow, which they believed made them hardier than house dogs. They were chosen for health and size (they had to fit into a small suitcase-size habitat), but also for looks, as the USSR would end up putting them on all sorts of propaganda. See below, for example, Laika-branded cigarettes, or the matchbox label on the right.

Laika was the most famous of the soviet cosmonaut animals, but close behind her were the pair of Belka and Strelka, who grace the cover of the book. While Laika met a rather horrible end when the cooling system of her Sputnik capsule failed, the two cover dogs landed safely back on earth and were heroes in the USSR.