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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Space (01/23/06)

TITLE: Muttnik
By Teri Wilson


I never wanted to be a hero. Back when I was a lonely stray on the frigid streets of Moscow, all I ever wanted was a home. Now people all over the world know my name. Children learn about me in history books. I have been praised by world leaders for going where no man before me had been brave enough to go. I am Laika, the Russian space dog of Sputnik 2.

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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This article has been read 1828 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Connie Husby01/30/06
You pulled me into your story line right from the start. You are a wonderully talented writer. There were a few punctuation errors, but let me tell you again, I really enjoyed this!! Thank you for sharing such an entertaining story, I look forward to reading more.
Lynda Schultz 01/31/06
What an original piece of work! Very well done.
Virginia Gorg02/02/06
Very nice, gave me chills reading it. Poor little dog, but the "end of a matter is better than its beginning" (Ecc 7:8).
Shari Armstrong 02/02/06
A well told story (I'm not sure about the puppy going to heaven) but nicely done :)
Garnet Miller 02/02/06
I really enjoyed this story, Teri! It is very heartwarming and well told. I would divide the second paragraph into two separate ones, though. I smell a winner!!!

Debbie Sickler02/02/06
Teri, I really enjoyed this too. I think it was well written and effective. You made me want to kill those NASA guys for doing that to the poor little puppy - and I don't even like dogs! lol

The only suggestion I would make would be to break your second paragraph into smaller paragraphs. Other than that, I think you did a great job.

(wonders off shaking head, "Poor little puppy...") ;)
James Clem 02/02/06
...it's just a dog! (I'm a cat person.) It would have been fun if Dmitry had been revealed as a Cat in disguise.

Just kidding. This is great and the ending wraps it up nicely. (I wanted to offer constructive criticism you asked for, but this is well done as it is.) Don't linger in Level 1 too long - you don't belong there.
Pat Guy 02/02/06
Well done Teri! I'm a dog lover and you captured the plight of this dog beautifully. I can't offer any more than what's been said so I get to say 'You did a fantastic job - especially for your first time!"
Corinne Smelker 02/02/06
Yep - your days in the beginner level are numbered! My only critique would be to work the first paragraph a little differently, rather than stating who the dog is, let the reader discover for themselves, apart from that - well done!
Jan Ackerson 02/02/06
Very well written! You really gave that little dog a lot of personality. I may touch off a flurry of protests, here, but I'm "iffy" on the dog going to heaven. Very charming story.
Maxx .02/03/06
You have a gift with words. You write smoothly. My constructive crit is that I just read a story of someone telling a story. I'd have much rather just read the story. Make sense? Keep it up! You're doing good.
Jeffrey Snell02/03/06
Good job developing the dog's perspective. Fascinating lesson in history as well!
Jeffrey Snell02/03/06
Good job developing the dog's perspective. Fascinating lesson in history as well!
Nina Phillips02/03/06
I wanted to cry..I am a dog lover, but I like all the animals. I thought your story was great! unique, and touching. It pulled me in, and sailed straight through. Thank you for sharing! God bless ya, littlelight
Debbie Sickler02/06/06
Anita Neuman02/06/06
I'm one who would disagree about the dog going to heaven, but that's inconsequential when looking at your writing skill - which is GREAT! Congrats on the EC placement!
Sally Hanan02/06/06
Congrats on your win, and well done on being so creative with the theme.
Rachel Rudd 02/06/06
Very well written story!
Dara Sorensen02/06/06
Aww, it brought tears to my eyes! It makes me miss my dog. I love animals and it hurts me to see them in pain like that. It was incredibly well-written and definitely deserved being one of the Editors' Choice! I think you'll have to move up a level; your talent extends beyond the beginner's level!
Clyde Blakely03/26/07
I remember Laika. I was a youngster at the time. Space travel was a dream just starting for the world and for my imagination. I remember seeing Laika's picture on TV as she traveled weightless. She looked happy then. I was happy. Then I heard that she had died in space as there was no plans to bring her back. I was terribly sad. Even to this day.

Thank you for a wonderful story and NOW a happy ending for me after all these years.

God bless and keep writing.
Jacquelyn Horne05/09/07
Amazing story! Such a wonderful article on this touching subject. You did it materfully.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/05/07
I loved your story.
Joanne Sher 07/05/07
Loved this one when I read it in the anthology (didn't know it was your first entry OR your first EC!) and loved it again. You were BORN good, girl! ;)
Catrina Bradley 07/06/07
Very nice, Teri!
Rita Garcia07/07/07
WOW! Great first!! I am one who would certainly like to think we will have our furry companions in heaven!
Brenda Welc07/09/07
Great story! Nicely written for a first entry.
Clyde Blakely10/04/07
Today is the 50th anniversity of Sputnik and in a few short days the "anniversary" of sending Laika up. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember her.
Clyde Blakely11/02/07
Laika - tomorrow will be 50 years since I saw you floating around in that space capsule, you looked so happy then. Thank you for such a good writer of this article to remember you also. I do hope that the essence of it is true.

Your friend,