Laika: 1957 Soviet space dog, one of the first animals in space and the first to orbit Earth, she died from overheating. Laika’s craft, Sputnik 2, and her remains, disintegrated on re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.



Moscow street-mutt, unloved

stray. Eleven pounds of bone,

of pelt, of tail. Who can weigh

the heart of dog? What dials

or instruments may measure

loyalty; the desire, hard-wired,

to obey? Dogs have no gods,

know only to worship the hand

that feeds. There is no canine

word for pray. Brave little

cosmonaut, faithful to a fault;

caught and collared, Earth no

more than a distant ball with

which you cannot play. How

the words that sent you on

your way crackle through

the ragged dishes of your ears,

a comet’s tail of breaking

syllables that even now leave

their trail: Laika, in. Laika, lay.

Good girl, Laika. Wait. Stay.




This poem was a runner-up in the Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize in 2019, and was published in the Keats-Shelley Review, going on to be variously republished. I was deeply moved when I first read of little Laika’s plight, and, if readers’ responses to my poem are an indication, it’s a story that continues to resonate today.


© Sarah Doyle