Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Space (01/23/06)
By Teri Wilson
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Before I became Laika, before Dmitry ever found me hovering behind the trash cans in my alley, my name was Kudryavka (Little Curly). This is what Mother called me before the Russian winter marched in and took her life. For three years I lived alone on the streets. I battled hunger, ice and snow, but my worst enemy was loneliness. I dreamed of a home, a place to belong. Some nights, I would press my nose against the frosty windows of Moscow’s downtown apartments and peer inside. I could see other dogs curled up in front of warm, toasty fires or playing with small children. How I longed for that kind of life. A life filled with love, laughter and companionship. That is what I was hoping for when Dmitry lured me from my hiding place. He smelled of sausage and called to me in a gentle voice, “Come here little dog.” I warily poked my head out from between the trash cans. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he beckoned, as he extended a pudgy hand filled with sosiska. Ever so slowly, I crept toward the hand and took his offering. The food was warm in my belly and Dmitry’s eyes were kind, so when he motioned for me to follow him I did.
Dmitry took me to a large building with many noisy machines. I was nervous because it did not look like the other apartment homes I had seen before. But, my worries melted away as Dmitry tenderly rubbed ointment on my paws, cracked and bleeding from the icy pavement. After wrapping my paws in soft bandages, he placed me in a shiny metal box. The box was hard and uncomfortable, but I was filled with hope for my future.
Once my paws were healed, Dmitry took me out of my box only to poke and prod at me. Sometimes, he strapped me inside noisy machines which moved around very fast and made my stomach feel sick. Afterward, I wanted nothing more than to be put back inside my metal box. At least there I knew I was safe and the ground was solid beneath my feet.
I learned I was being prepared for a very special day. I heard Dmitry talking about a time when all the eyes of the world would be on me. However, I remained alone in my shiny metal box. Finally, the day came when Dmitry fastened me into the last noisy machine. My space was so small I could not stand up or turn around. As he shut the door, Dmitry said, “Laika, you are about to make history!” Then my compartment started to shake and made a noise so loud my ears began to ring.
That is how I became the first living creature to travel into space and pave the way for space exploration. It is also how I became the only animal to be launched into space with no plans for a return trip to earth.
I lay in my tiny compartment, panicked and panting for hours. I was hot and longed for the cold, Russian winter. Just when I thought I could not take any more, I saw a bright, white light. I looked down and noticed I was no longer in my space capsule. I took a few tentative steps toward the light until I saw a man with a long beard.
“Welcome, Kudryavka,” said the man. Tears stung my eyes. No one had called me Kudryavka since Mother. “Yes, little curly one, I know your name. I have known you since before you were born.” Then the kind man scooped me up, held me in his arms and whispered in my ear, “I also know what it is like to die alone, without a friend in the world. It’s all over now. Here there is no more pain, and no more sadness.” I licked the man’s face over and over again. Kudryavka was home at last.
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