Albert the dog in New York

Autumn Leaves

Autumn is my favorite season in New York, even if it means sometimes having to wear my coat. The falling temperature and humidity allow me to walk longer without getting overheated; the motorcycles and skateboards that I so loathe are fewer in number; and in the parks the nutty, sweet scent of decaying leaves—elm, plane, white oak, sycamore, red maple, and more—and the marvelously fetid odor of rotting ginkgo fruit send my olfactory receptors into overdrive.

Whoever’s homeless now, will build no shelter;
who lives alone will live indefinitely so,
waking up to read a little, draft long letters,
and, along the city’s avenues,
fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.
-Rainer Maria Rilke, “Day in Autumn
(Translated by Mary Kinzie)

With the shorter days at this time of year, even I am bound to be a little more pensive than usual, to find my thoughts circling around existential questions, pondering without hope of resolution the problem of my purpose in the universe.

Pardon me, I just have to…

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On Dogs and Space

When the Soviet scientists rounded up strays, they sought small, feisty dogs who could withstand the punishing preparation and, they hoped, the rigors of spaceflight. Many dogs died, and even those who lived paid a price.

—Dana Jennings, “Strays Leading the Soviets into Space,” The New York Times, Nov. 3, 2014

LaikaThe Lady says she tends to get choked up when she thinks about Laika, the most famous of the Soviet space dogs and one of the first animals launched into orbit. Mainly because she thinks about her lonely, painful death in the confines of Sputnik 2. And also she remembers hearing John Haskell‘s fictionalized version of Laika’s journey on a podcast years ago and being transfixed by its ending.

I am small, and could well be described as feisty, and though I don’t think I was ever a stray, I was a shelter dog. I am always up for adventure, but I don’t like to be confined (I’m still not very happy in a crate). So I probably wouldn’t have made a very good cosmonaut. On the other hand, I am a quick learner and like most of my canine brethren, eager to please. So who knows? Maybe I would have been a likely candidate had I been living on the streets of Moscow in the 1950s. I probably would have learned my duties well (as long as those scientists compensated me with enough treats), and I may very well have been one of those chosen for a lonely mission into the cold, dark unknown. That’s the thing about being eager to please: You will end up working to fulfill someone else’s ambitions. You just have to trust they will do what’s best for both of you.

Laika is in the news again because of a new book by Olesya Turkina called Soviet Space Dogs, which is mentioned in the review quoted above. My People and I haven’t looked at the book yet, so this isn’t a review, but it has me pondering these things. Although these cosmonaut dogs became famous for their contributions to science, for now I’m happy being just a regular old small, feisty dog doing nothing more traumatic than riding in a shopping cart now and then.


Dana Jennings’s review: “Strays Leading the Soviets into Space: Soviet Space Dogs Tells the Story of Canine Cosmonauts” 

Studio 360 podcast episode of John Haskell’s “Laika’s Dream”

Becky Ferreira, “Why We Still Want Laika the Space Dog to Come Home” 

 Soviet Space Dogs, published by FUEL Publishing. Text by Olesya Turkina

It is believed that the image of Laika in this post qualifies as fair use. 

Albert the Dog Hudson River Park NY
Albert the dog in his cozy cave
Can you identify the event this towel is from?