The candidate finally selected was a 13-pound, 2-year-old female by the name of Kudryavka (Little Curly), who like many of the dogs serving in the canine cosmonaut corps had been a stray plucked from the streets of Moscow. Two other dogs also joined the launch team. Albina (Whitie) would serve as backup, should anything happen to Kudryavka, while Muhka (Little Fly) would be the "technical dog'', used for the testing of all of the satellite equipment and life-support systems. Each of the dog flights had a control dog like Muhka, one that travelled around with the flight dogs, ate what they ate and was kept under the same conditions, but did not fly.
One interesting side note on Mukha's behaviour at this time was reported by Oleg Ivanovskiy in The First Stages . Ivanovskiy said that the little dog suddenly began acting strangely and quite out of character. On one occasion, when she had spent a few
Laika, the most famous dog in space history, was known for her easy-going disposition. (Photo: authors' collections)
days alone in a training cabin, a scientist checked in on her only to find her eyes filled with tears and her food untouched. The research team never determined what was wrong, but they joked that she probably became depressed because she had not been the one selected to go into space.
It was actually surprising that Kudryavka was chosen for this important flight, which would ultimately make her the most famous dog in history, as she was not considered the most qualified of the satellite dogs. Kudryavka was known for her calm disposition, and she had also scored high marks in training by quickly adjusting to extreme conditions. But, according to Vladimir Yazdovskiy, Albina was the best candidate for the flight . However, Albina missed her chance at fame for several reasons. For starters, she had already flown twice before, and so it was reasoned that she had done her part for science. Second, she had recently given birth to a litter of puppies and it would not be right to take her from them. And, perhaps the reason that carried the most weight - she was everyone's favourite, and they did not want to sacrifice her on this one-way mission.
Kudryavka, the dog that would fly in Sputnik 2, had not yet officially acquired the name Laika. She apparently was known by several names while in training. Aside from being the name for a breed of dog similar to a husky, "laika" also means "barker" in Russian. Like all of the space dogs-in-waiting, Kudryavka was a mixed breed, and like others she had some husky (Samoyed) in the mix. She may have been referred to as a laika. Kudryavka also had a rather loud, resonant bark. The term "lai" means "bark" in Russian. Adding the feminine diminutive "ka" to the end could loosely be interpreted to mean "barker". So, it is likely that - at least among the workers - Kudryavka was referred to as Laika. She also had a nickname of Zhuchka (Little Bug). Immediately following the launch of Sputnik 2, some Soviet sources claimed the dog was named Limonchik (Little Lemon). The name "Laika" seems to have attached itself permanently to Kudryavka during the flood of press coverage that followed the launch.
This casualness with the names of the dogs was not uncommon, especially during the latter years of the dog programme. Some dogs actually flew under different names for different flights. Take the case of Zhulka. Even though Oleg Gazenko adopted Zhulka as his pet, and she lived with him for 12 years, she was also destined to make several orbital flights, but not under that name. Perhaps the name Zhulka ("Mutt" in Russian) was not glamorous enough for one who travelled in a rocket. So Zhulka flew under the name Zhemchuzhnaya (Pearly), and under other names as well . To avoid confusion in this discussion, the name Laika will be used from here on in the narrative when referring to Kudryavka/Laika.
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