ANIMALS: The She-Hound of Heaven

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Predictably, the loudest outcry came from Britain. THE DOG WILL DIE, WE CAN'T SAVE IT, wailed London's mass-minded Daily Mirror. Before BBC's announcer had even finished reading the Russian bulletin, more than 50 irate telephone calls began jamming the switchboard. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals averted complete telephone paralysis only when a quick-thinking operator urged all callers to "make your protest direct to the Soviet embassy, Bayswater 3628." The United Kingdom's second great humanitarian society, the National Canine Defense League, made a nationwide appeal for one moment of silence each day at 11 a.m. The League Against Cruel Sports roundly expressed "horror and contempt" for the behavior of Russian scientists, "beside which the sickening stories of the inhuman cruelties of the Middle Ages fade into insignificance."

At the beleaguered Soviet embassy in London's "Millionaires' Row," First Secretary Yuri Modin protested in vain to massed dog lovers: "The Russians love dogs. This has been done not for the sake of cruelty but for the benefit of humanity." Britain's public was not to be soothed. Demanded Lady Munnings, wife of the Royal Academy's onetime President Sir Alfred Munnings: "Why not use child murderers, who just get life sentences and have a jolly good time in prison?"* Novelist Denise Robins rushed into print with a touching elegy: "Little dog lost to the rest of the world," it began. "Up in your satellite basket curled . . ." The distressed schoolchildren of Doncaster offered their special prayers.

The methodical Germans gave Laika a properly Wagnerian title—die Himmels-hündin, the She-Hound of Heaven—and drew a moral from her flight. "For a few days, the world is again united," intoned the Stuttgarter Zeitung. "For a few days, black and white, democrats and communists, republicans and royalists in all countries, islands and continents have one feeling, one language, one direction . . . our feeling of compassion for this little living being twirling helplessly over our heads." The Stuttgarter Zeitung had apparently overlooked some dissonant voices, such as that of the Vietnamese farmer who complained: "I don't understand. Dogs are supposed to be eaten, not carted around through space."

*Interviewed in Cambridge, England, where he now "works for a friend" on nonsecret scientific matters, one former prisoner—though no child murderer—expressed eagerness to follow Lady Munning's suggestion. "I would gladly have gone up in the Sputnik," said Dr. Alan Nunn May, the West's first convicted atom spy. "I would have done it for science."