On a Test Animal

The scientists named her Barker.

She was found wandering the streets of the city and was quite obviously a stray. She was also quite obviously a mutt. Oh, she had some physical characteristics of a Samoyed, and some of a Husky, and there was definitely a bit of Terrier in there as well. Ah, but she was a tiny thing. She weighed only about 12 pounds.

And that’s why it was somewhat comical that such loud barking yelps came from a girl this small. Of course, they had to name her Barker. The best that the scientists could determine, Barker was about three years old. Her ears stood straight up, except at the top tips which folded down. Ah, she was a real cutie.

The scientists liked using stray dogs from the city streets because they felt that those dogs had been conditioned to extremes of temperature and of hunger. Their experiments needed dogs that could withstand both. Now, as an animal lover, I will go on record as being against the use of animals in scientific experiments on principle. However, this was the mid-1950s, and the use of animals in scientific experimentation was commonplace. Sadly, the experiments that were being performed on the street dogs would end up killing them.

One of the scientists who was conducting the experiments developed a soft spot for Barker. He would scratch her ears and whisper to her so that the other scientists could not hear his sweet nothings. He would put his head on hers and quietly say that, in another life, he would love to have her at his house to play with his children, and to watch her grow up with them. In fact, on the evening before the experiment that would lead to her death, he did, indeed, take Barker home. She and the kids had a wonderful time, running and playing throughout the house. Of course, the kids were giggling, and Barker was, well, barking. “She was so charming,“ he would say later. Knowing her fate, the scientist wanted to do something nice for her.

I wish this story had a happier ending. It is true that all stories involving dogs end sadly. When you bring a puppy into your life, the result is going to be heartache because nothing is forever.

The next day, Barker began the experiment that would take her life. And because of that experiment, she would go down in history. Or, in this case, perhaps, up.

You see, Barker is what her name is in English.

You know her better by her Russian name, Laika, and as the first animal from earth to go into space.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s