Bouncing Bertie Boffin, Scientific Advisor to Blogville here!
Surely, space travel is every scientist’s dream?
Ever since I was a wee pup, I have fantasized about becoming an astronaut.
A realistic ambition, for sure, given that in the Soviet Union, dogs like Laika (above) preceded humans into space. OK so they were all bitches ‘cos apparently it was thought that a leg cocking tendency was incompatible with rocket hygiene (yes, truly) but that is a minor obstacle is it not?
Oh I was excited beyond measure when I saw an advert in one of my favorite magazines, ‘Canine Astronaut Weekly’
WANTED: CANDIDATES FOR MISSION TO MARS
Joint US/Europe/Russian space agency seeks fit, flexible, intelligent young adult dogs (male or female) with a sense of adventure, a friendly nature and a sound grasp of science and technology.
No previous experience necessary as training will be provided.
To apply, please send CV and covering letter (human assistance with typing is permitted).
You can bet I sent off my application faster than you could say ‘one small step for dogs….’
You are thinking it was a foregone conclusion that a high achieving pup like me would be selected and you are of course correct.
Gosh I was so bouncing with excitement when I arrived at the Star City Cosmonaut Training Centre near Moscow, I nearly achieved escape velocity under my own steam.
A programme of intensive and rigorous instruction ensued. I overcame my aversion to clothing and learned how to get comfortable in my spacesuit. It did take a while to achieve the necessary accuracy in using the zero-gravity toilet (one of my fellow trainees, a husky from Siberia, called it the Poo-tin). A lot of the training was focused on how to achieve successful Space Walkies, something that of course came naturally to an outdoorsy type like me, although it was disappointing to learn that on a Space Walkie one must always have the walking string attached.
It was only when I sampled the dehydrated rations and learned that sausage would be unavailable on the spacecraft that doubts crept in.
Oh, and when the novelty had worn off, after a month or so, I did start to miss Gail, and wonder whether she would still be there for me when I returned at the end of the four year mission.
But, with so much invested in my training, and so much pride at stake, I knew there was no turning back now
It was only three weeks to blast off when we were all sent for public relations training. Obviously, these days, the canine astronaut is encouraged to be active on social media, to communicate our adventures to the public. I could tell that my instructor Boris Borzoi was interested to hear I have been writing a blog for, well, like forever. He even wrote down the url.
Next morning I was pulled out of my Advanced Rocket Science class unexpectedly and asked to visit the big boss, Top CAT*
Who was not looking at all happy.
On her computer screen I saw displayed my blog post about ‘An Incident at Newcastle Station’.
“Bertie” she said, “we at Mission Control have been reading your blog with interest and great concern. It seems to me that the CV you submitted to us contained important omissions which were also not mentioned in your covering letter.
"In your blog you record several incidents that, had we known about them beforehand, would most certainly have prevented you from being offered a place on our prestigious Mars mission training programme. What, you look surprised? Blue poo, chewing cashmere sweaters, getting into fights with neighbour dogs, nearly giving your owner a heart attack by escaping from a train at Newcastle, …. need I go on?
"OK, I will.
"It is clear from your record at agility shows that your performance under pressure is erratic at best. The letter your cousin Coco sent last December detailing your behaviour as a guest in her home makes us doubt your ability to fit in with your fellow space travellers, and the egocentricity indicated by post titles such as the recent “WFTs come first, right?” is a sure sign that you lack the team spirit required on the long journey to another planet.
"In short, you are not made of the Right Stuff.
“So, Bertie, I regret to have to inform you that since you fail to meet the high standard we expect from our canine (and human) candidates for space flights to Mars I am dismissing you from the training programme forthwith. You may collect your belongings and go home."
And so my dream of being an astronaut came to an abrupt end.
I guess I am not the first and nor shall I be the last creature to have a promising career blighted by their social media pawprint.
But secretly, between you and me, I was a just wee bit relieved to be home and see Gail again before she became a wizened old lady.
*CAT = Canine Astronaut Trainer.