Tuesday, 3 November 2009

What we owe to Laika

Nige, with the assistance of Zbigniew Herbert, threnodises Laika the Space Dog, the Soviet canine that was aimed at the stars and never made it back. We're understandably a little shocked that anyone in responsibility would do that sort of thing to a dog. I can't imagine a British space programme allowing it to happen.

But we do have good reason to feel we owe something to the dogs, that when we abuse them, we really do let them down. There's a theory that their domestication was a key development in our being able to out-compete Neanderthal man.

Having dogs in camp and out hunting with us, meant we could effectively outsource our keen sense of smell to our canine co-conspirators. This allowed our whole nose-throat condominium to make itself available for language. Jabbering away, our dogs sniffing lustily at our sides, we left those Neanderthals for dead. So, apologies Laika.

12 comments:

Brit said...

Yes, that sounds like a plausible load of old bollocks.

I thought we mostly like dogs cos they're lovely?

Gaw said...

Here's the list of good animals from your excellent animal post:

Dogs, horses, dolphins, elephants, little Robin Redbreasts (the Christmas bird), sealions, penguins, otters, donkeys, pandas, chimps, red squirrels, whales and baby lions.

Of these we do not keep as pets dolphins, elephants, little Robin Redbreasts (the Christmas bird), sealions, penguins, otters, pandas, chimps, red squirrels, whales and baby lions.

And of the remainder we do not keep in our homes horses or donkeys. (And I maintain we wouldn't even if they were all little - after all Shetlands don't get a look in).

Dogs are very special friends.

worm said...

Sea lions are actually fishy black labradors that live in the sea. And otters are like dachshunds that live in rivers. Perhaps in the spirit of fairness we should blast a few of them into space too

Brit said...

And horses, in many ways, are just big dozy dogs.

worm said...

Horses are actually giant rabbits, and they are quite tricky to fit into space capsules. You would have to lure them in with a trail of polos

Peter Burnet said...

Gaw, that is the best just-so story I've heard since the fellow who theorised that women evolved blond hair to compete for a dwindling supply of mammoth hunters. "Outsource" our sense of smell for language? How positively brill! Now that we have texting and Twitter, etc., do you think we should think about outsourcing language to cows in exchange for x-ray vision?

Gaw said...

So that's not true about the blondes then...

But the possibilities for outsourcing do seem endless. We just need to make sure those who don't participate die without issue.

Bunny Smedley said...

What you write is literally true. The first point at which I realised that communists were evil [sic] was the point when I learned the truth about Laika. [How I hated breaking that story to my son, btw - 'poor dog', he said, but his look spoke volumes which may yet have a baleful import for UK / Russian foreign policy.]

For what it's worth, I was also not very impressed by those photos of poor Sefton, post the 1982 Hyde Park bombing. [Some of his tack is in the Household Cavalry Museum in Horse Guards, and is rather more moving than a casually-passing parent might wish.] It's only later that one realises how much more permissible it is for the media to show and tell tales of wounded animals, than to portray accurately what bombs do to people. Still, I don't think my childhood self was led very far wrong on that occasion ....

malty said...

The thing about animals, apart from unfettered farting, is that they die, the ungratefull devils. Our neighbours Springer died last week, after playing, for many years, a usefull role, extracting bunnies from their nice cosy warrens and, well, eating them, yum-yum. It being a chunky beast I gave my neighbour a hand hewing the ground, we have to bury them deep in these parts or the foxes get 'em. Afterwards we, as you do, got to ruminating and cogitating over deceased canines etc, the grand total, between us, is eleven dogs and one cat buried hereabouts.
Woofgate cemetery or what. Saves on vets bills though but.

Gaw said...

Bunny, I like how you took on the responsibility of breaking the Laika story to your son. I mean if he'd stumbled across it on his own and you weren't there to manage the trauma...

Anyway, good work - we need a bit more backbone in dealing with the Russkies.

Malty: Hello there and welcome! Dogs are difficult. I grew up in a farming family, where typically dogs are treated with huge affection mingled with a professional lack of sentimentality. Constantly switching from one to the other. Whilst I like to think I'm rational and unsentimental about these things, I still can't make up my mind whether it's OK to eat them.

malty said...

Odd relationship between dogs and their farmers Gaw, the common ground always seems to be the Quad bike.
Talking of odd relationships what are the Germans up too these days. Goodness knows what the fruit of that union would do with the fish.

Gaw said...

Down our way the quad bikes are only used by celebrity farmers, Malty. Liz Hurley looks particularly fetching on her pink one.