Laika | Elizabeth Poggiagliolmi

Laika, the first animal launched into orbit, paving the way for human spaceflight.

 


Laika

Elizabeth Poggiagliolmi

Heineken Memorial Award


Laika came into Casey’s life gently. She was one of thirteen. Casey’s mother had read the announcement in the vet’s office. Maremma Sheepdog puppies looking for loving home. Call number below.

“We are going to meet a new friend today” Casey’s mother announced  as she picked her up from school. Casey acknowledged with an absentminded nod, barely looking up from her phone.
Ten minutes later she looked up from her phone again. They had stopped in front of a rumbling farmhouse. “Mum?” “Come, let’s go meet your new friend”

Ten puffs of cotton wool fought for their mother’s attention. “Mum! Really?” She squealed in delight.

Signora Bianchi handed her a little red ribbon and said, “Here, tie this around your new friend’s neck. That way you will recognise her when you come back in two weeks’ time. She should be ready to leave her mum by then”.

And that was how they met.

Casey jumped out of bed every morning now, she did not dread going to school anymore. She no longer felt she needed to check on her phone the first thing in the morning. She talked incessantly about Laika. All her friends rushed around her as her mother met her outside the school gates every afternoon with Laika in her handbag. Summer flew by. Laika never left Casey’s side. Not when she could barely lift her arm to pet her. Not when her hair started falling off. Not when she was so sick she could not hold any food down. Laika was the first thing she reached out for when she opened her eyes in the morning. She was the last thing she saw before she closed her eyes every night.

The autumn sun cast its golden hue over the trees that morning as they laid Casey to rest. There was a gentle breeze. The grand oak stood firm, witnessing the passing of yet another life. The path where Casey used to walk with Laika by her side was now covered with fallen leaves. Her mother walked along the path now. She did not feel alone. She had Laika by her side.

Jean had always thought Laika was a gift from her to Casey. She realised now that Laika had been Casey’s gift to her.