U.S. newspapers, whose feature editors sometimes treat the dog story as the newsman's best friend, got their teeth last week into the shaggiest saga of all time. Cracked a city-room wit as Sputnik 11 hove into the headlines: "It's the first time a dog story made eight-column streamers on every front page in the country." The press gave full coverage to the challenging aspects of the Russian feat. But, in a spree of Muttnik jokes and doggerel, wry puns and photographic gags, it also served up laughter to a nation big enough to chuckle over a joke on itself.
Man Sights Dog. Headlines yelped such barbaric new words as pupnik and pooch-nik, sputpup and woofnik. Cartoonists filled outer space with gloomy GOPniks and gleeful Demo-niks, drew doghouses occupied by Marshal Zhukov and U.S. defense officials. Readers reported mysterious flying objects that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram promptly dubbed whatniks. Photographers posed Skye terriers and Airedales in front of telescopes, concocted such whatniks of their own as the Knoxville Journal's cut of a space platform with Rin Tin Tin in the driver's seat.
Besides barking up a flock of man-sights-dog stories, Muttnik pointed the press to such offbeaters as the U.P.'s breathless account of an Illinois housewife whose metal bed frame somehow picked up the satellite beep ("Three shorts and one long, like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony"). Editors strove heroically for local angles. Hearst's New York Journal-Americanwhich let its sleeping anti-vivisectionism lietracked down a canine psychologist who reassured animal lovers: "This dog is happy to be part of something important."
Everywhere, dogs talked, at least in print. The Los Angeles Times went after mutt-in-the-street reaction, quoted one usually reliable hound: "We have plans for a satellite which will have an astrodome, lounge seats and dual headlights. Unfortunately it will not be ready before 1976." Humans also had some biting remarks. A Chicago Daily News paragrapher advised Under Secretary of State Christian Herter: "Maybe you should reserve a large share for the U.S. when you're dishing out the aid to backward countries."