In the last few weeks I’ve come across dogs and space several times. Most recently it was Frank Cottrell Boyce who mentioned Belka and Strelka earlier this week. And the odd thing is, that before I read this picture book about them by Vix Southgate and Iris Deppe, I’d never heard of them.
Laika, yes. I thought she was the most famous space dog, even if she did die up there. And now it turns out that Belka and Strelka orbited Earth in 1960 and lived to ‘tell the tale,’ paving the way for [the human] Yuri Gagarin the following year.
They were street dogs, recruited, ostensibly because they were used to the rough life out there. But you can’t get away from the fact that if things went wrong, they had not been anyone’s pets.
But once lured off the street, they received cosmonaut training rather like their human colleagues, and the best dogs were picked for the first space flight.
And it does seem as if the pair was ideally suited for this job. I’m glad to have made their acquaintance after all these years.