The short stick

Sometimes, animals are heroes. In many different ways.

I love the animal kingdom. I truly do. They are smarter, and more feeling, than most of us give them credit for. Animals have feelings, and thoughts, and ideas, just like you and I. They are problem solvers. They are workers, and clowns, and companions, and champions, and so much more. Animals have proven to be the best of friends.

There are so many interesting facts about their behaviors, their worlds. Kazillions.

Yet, sometimes, I get sad about what we do to them. We humans can be pretty unthinking and unfeeling when it comes to the atrocities we inflict on the World of the Animalia. Most of the time, they do not have any say in the matter. There are so many animal-subjects who hardly volunteer for any experiment or mission. I know it saves human lives. But it seems unfair. Like the thousands of monkeys and mice used as test subjects for Jonas Salk’s first polio vaccine. They had to endure this treatment, whether they wanted to do it or not. Yes. We impose our will on theirs.

I got started on all of this after reading a lengthy article about the heroic animals that travelled into Space before humans ever did.

They were pioneers. Brave, without knowing. Heroes who helped save human lives in the early going of things. Humans wanted to venture into worlds unknown. The Final Frontier, so it is called. Space. But the big question lurking centered around survivability. Could humans safely travel to the beyond?

Enter the animals. The first was a dog. A cute dog named Laika. She was an 11-pound, part-terrier mongrel. The Russians found her running around on the streets of Moscow. It wouldn’t be long until she had a new job of wandering around the entire planet. The Soviet Union launched her into orbit aboard Sputnik 2. This was 60 years ago.

The Soviets played it up prior to her mission. And then world started to love Laika. Of course, the members of the American press seemed to love her the most. They nicknamed her Muttnik.

Everyone worried for her too. The closer it got to T-time, the more people were agonizing on whether she would survive her journey. Or not. The very sad answer was that she would not survive. In fact, the Russians never intended for her to make it home. Sputnik 2 had no reentry system. They provided her with enough food and water to last seven days. That was it.

I think, thankfully, she barely survived six hours. It was sometime during her fourth orbit, that she died when her cabin overheated. Had she made it to seven days, she would have had the agonizing experience of starving to death.

There are many more stories about the first adventures of animals in space, each one more heart-wrenching than the next.

Back down here on earth, we continue to mistreat the animals and their kingdoms. Just another one of our shortcomings as humans.

In my own life, I have known many animal heroes. Mostly in the form of dogs and cats. I am grateful to them, for being such a splendid part of my life. My friends.

I guess you could say, they truly are out of this world. And in my heart.


“We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.”
― Brad Meltzer


“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”
― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


“Doing what needs to be done may not make you happy, but it will make you great.”
― George Bernard Shaw