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From Russia with love and via satellite--Putin's dog

October 22, 2008 |  5:52 pm

In case you missed it, last week the Associated Press wrote about how Russian officials tested the country's forthcoming satellite system on an unlikely subject--Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's dog.

But don't fret, animal activists aren't worried. We'll let the Associated Press take it from here:

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Putin listened as his deputy, Sergei Ivanov, briefed him on the progress of the Global Navigation Satellite System. Then footage broadcast on Russian TV showed them try a collar containing satellite-guided positioning equipment on the prime minister's black Labrador Koni.

Ivanov said that the equipment goes on a standby mode when "the dog doesn't move, if it, say, lies down in a puddle."

Putin interrupted him jokingly: "My dog isn't a piglet, it doesn't lie in puddles."

"She wags her tail, she likes it," Putin said after watching Koni outside his collonaded residence on Moscow's western outskirts.

If Russia trails behind the U.S. in developing a satellite navigation system, it was way ahead in putting a dog into space.

The Soviet Union launched Laika into orbit in 1957, only a month after stunning the world with Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth.

Laika's mission helped pave the way for human flight, but it ended sadly for the female terrier mix.

When she reached orbit, doctors were relieved to find that her pulse, which had risen during the launch, and blood pressure were normal. She ate specially prepared food from a container.

But with no re-entry vehicle for her satellite, Laika was doomed from the beginning and her mission drew a wave of protests from animal rights activists in the West.

At the time, the Soviet Union reported that the dog was euthanized after a week. It wasn't until after the Soviet collapse that some participants in the project told the true story: Laika indeed was to be euthanized with a programmed injection, but she apparently died of overheating after only a few hours in orbit.

Fortunately for Putin's dog and many others, the satellite-guided tracking systems carry no known health risks, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"While PETA is not familiar with the actual device that Prime Minister Putin used on his dog, if the collar is similar to those used in the U.S., which are not shock collars, it is probably harmless," PETA spokesman Michael McGraw said in an e-mailed response.

The GPS tracking devices in the U.S. use the Global Positioning System to determine the precise location of an animal, person or vehicle. When put on wild animals, usually in a collar, they allow scientists to study their behavior and migration patterns.

Photo: Alexey Druzhinin/EPA

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