Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday Mom and Bob Take a Walk in Downtown Jersey City

It was unseasonably warm on Saturday, so we decided to give Bob a little treat by taking him out for a solo walk in the down town area.    Since we have so many dogs we always try to give each of them some one on one time.  Here are some pictures the hounds Dad took of me and Bob on the walk.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tasty Tuesday-Pumpkin Chicken Tidbits

After Thanksgiving and Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake I had a can of leftover organic pumpkin from Whole foods.  I also had some boneless chicken breasts in the freezer that have been there forever.  So I decided to make some super simple treats for the pups.

The ingredients chicken, pumpkin puree, cinnamon,

The finished product: it doesn't look too good but the hounds sure loved it.
Pumpkin Chicken Tidbits

3 boneless chicken breasts cut up in chunks
1 can of organic pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350.

Stir the chicken chunks, pumpkin puree, and cinnamon together in a bowl.   Place in baking pan lined with foil and sprayed with non stick spray and bake for one hour.  Cool.
Did someone say chicken.  Yummy!
Can we have some chicken please!  We are waiting patiently.

I like chicken.

Some for me too please!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winston Churchill-Author of Oh Pug

Some people remember Winston Churchill, whose birthday is Wednesday, as one of the greatest war time leaders in history a man who saw England through World War Two.
from wikipedia

But the educated among us know him as the author of Oh Pug

Oh, what is the matter with poor Puggy-Wug?
Pet him and kiss him and give him a hug.

Run and fetch him a suitable drug.

Wrap him up tenderly all in a rug.

That is the way to cure Puggy-Wug.

The poem was reportedly composed when Churchill's daughter's pug, Punch, became ill with an unknown ailment and it worked!  Punch recovered completely.

For his part Churchill, despite the legions of bulldogs named after him, was actually a poodle man.   He had two brown Poodles named Rufus who he was extremely close too.
from wikipedia

Nevertheless the song is a classic and I have tried it on my own pugs when they were feeling poorly.
Ping after surgery last year, she may look upset because of the surgery and the cone, or it may be because I was singing Oh Pug!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Treats for Humans

Finally a camera!  So we were able to photograph our Thanksgiving.

Yummy Food Stuffs! 

Tubby in his Native American Vest

Dr. Zira in her dress

Post Turkey Naps

Pumpkin Cheese Cake with Gingersnap Crust (adapted from Epicurious

3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs (ground in the food processor)
1/2 cup ground walnuts (grind in the food processor)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp melted butter

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin, about one can
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp bourbon

2 cups sour cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp bourbon
Pecans (about 16)

Mix the ingredients for the crust all together in bowl until well combined.   Press into the bottom and one half inch  up the sides of a buttered 9 inch spring form pan.  Refrigerate one hour.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350.

Make the filling: Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, spices, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl and set aside.  In the electric mixture cream together the cream cheese and granulated sugar.  Then beat in the heavy cream, cornstarch, vanilla, bourbon, and pumpkin mixture.  Beat until smooth.  Pour the filling into the crust and place the pan on a sheet pan.   Place a baking pan filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven and place the cheese cake on the sheet pan on the rack above that.  Bake 50 to 55 minutes until the middle just barely jiggles.

Meanwhile, make the topping.  Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and bourbon.   When the cheese cake is done let it cool five minutes (don't turn off the oven).  Spread the topping over the cheese cake and bake five minutes more.   Garnish with pecans.

Cool for four hours and then refrigerate (can be made two days in advance).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Ping dressed up in her Native American dress for Thanksgiving, taken three years ago

Here is our list of things we are Thankful for

1) Our home.  Even if its small with a tiny yard and not in the best neighborhood, at least we have one.  Especially at a time when the economic troubles have  caused so many pets to loose their homes.

2) Norbert surviving bloat  and having a remarkable recovery after major abdominal surgery.  His Doctor's said he bounced back amazingly quickly for a dog his age (9).  He was his old self a week later.

3) Embrace Pet Insurance.  If only we were all young enough to be insured unfortunately only Norbert, Bob, and Scooter made the cut off.    Insurance makes such a difference and mom says every future pet is going to be insured from day one.

4) Dr. Z's Basal Cell Tumor Turning Out to be Nothing-Though we sort of which we had not spent 900 dollars to find out she basically had a bad scabby scrape on her leg!

5) Baby Cat still healthy at eleven years old, not so old for a cat but consider the medical crises she has survived: pneumonia (twice), several extremely bad eye infections, going missing in Bay Ridge brooklyn for a week after she opened a window screen and escaped from our basement apartment,  a full body infection bad enough to cause seizures (something she caught during her grand escape), and fatty liver that lead to near liver failure.   Today she is chubby and happy and her liver is functioning normally.  I am counting that as 6 out of nine lives so hopefully she has many, many years to go.

6) Tubby is Cancer Free-Its been nearly a year since Tubby had a grade 2 mast cell tumor removed from his abdomen and no recurrences (cross fingers).  He is doing great.

7) The Animal Medical Center in Manhattan-They saved Norbert's life and are at the fore front of Veterinary Medicine in ever area.    The Doctor's in their oncology department train with Doctors at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where  Dad works as a post doctoral researcher.

8) Etsy-Where mom can buy us lots of adorable hand made gifts, yeah Christmas from wonderful sellers like: Pug NotesBean TownPecan Pie Puppies, and many more.

9) Olive Green Dog-Where mom can order our supplements and toys and no everything is safe and all natural.

10) Blogger and all of Our Dog Blog Friends!  Now mom can write endlessly about us and there are people out there who equally obsessed!

And one bonus Thanks: We are grateful for post Turkey Naps!
Thanksgiving three years ago, Norbert was likely napping in another room

We will take our naps this year after eating our yummy meal , visiting with Grandpa (who is driving down from Saratoga Springs to see us) and watching one of Mom and Dad's favorite shows on our RokuMystery Science Theatre 3000, which premiered on Thanksgiving in 1988 and in mom's opinion never stops being funny.     A perfect Thanksgiving, we hope yours is just as wonderful!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Almost) In Memory of Bingo

This is my favorite of Bingo our late pug. We started fostering him for a pug rescue group and due to his medical problems (cancer, incontinence, paralysis) we kept him.  He enjoyed two years of loving retirement in the kind of home he deserved to spend his whole life in.  He was a lucky dog and we were lucky to know him.

?-November 28, 2010 (guestimated age 14 years)

Time with us (June 2008-November 28, 2010)

Thanksgiving Yummies-Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Yam Frosting

Sunday night I said "turkey" while standing in the kitchen and immediately  heard a thunder of galloping paws and had five expectant faces looking up at me.   So I wanted to participate in the        

  dinner party and   Tasty Tuesday  even though my camera is still in the shop, the shop being Best Buy's Geek Squad.    So I don't have any pictures of the Thanksgiving inspired treats I made my dogs this year.  Its just as well because they didn't look lovely, although they where gulped up with enthusiasm.  Here is a picture of Sweet Tubby dressed in a Native American vest, a costume from three years ago, to accompany the recipe:

Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes with Mashed Yam Frosting

  • 1 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 12 oz bag of Cascadian Farm's mixed frozen vegetable
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of wheat germ
Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick spray.  Stir all of the meatloaf ingredients together in a large bowl and spoon into the muffin pan cups.  Bake 45 minutes.

Mashed Yam Frosting
2 to 3 yams
Black Strap Molasses (optional)

Poke yams all over with a fork and microwave on high for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.  Cool.  Cut yams in half and scoop flesh, discarding the skins.  Mash with a fork and bit of blackstrap molasses, if you have any, about a tablespoon.
Frost the meatloaf cupcakes with the yam mash and serve to any hungry dogs who are excited about thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dr. Z update

We have some very good news

Dr. Zira's growth/skin discoloration which was initially diagnosed as a basal cell tumor was actually nothing but an irritation!   After it was removed on Wednesday they did a full biopsy.  So Z should be fine but she has to wear a cone for two weeks.

On less good news are camera is still being repaired at Best Buy, two weeks and no camera!  Thats why the picture of Dr. Z is an old one and also why I could not photograph anything at the wonderful Meet The Breeds at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.  I go ever year and its my idea of heaven on earth, hundreds of dogs and cats to pet and play with, paradise!  The dogs and cats were all so cute and I would have loved to get some shots but it was really packet and might have been hard to get good pictures anyway.   One thing I really love about this event is that it puts the spotlight in a positive way on responsible breeders.   In dog loving circles breeders are  often portrayed as the enemy due to puppy mills and bark yard operations.   While there are plenty of terrible "breeders" who care nothing or the dogs, there are also plenty of breeders who devote their lives to their dogs and the betterment of their chosen breed.   Its wonderful to meet such devoted dog lovers and get to hear them talk about their "breed."  I will definitely be going again next year.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Toto-A Historical Hounds Post

link to picture
When I was a little girl I would watch the Wizard of Oz every day, sometimes more then once, and as soon as I could read I devoured all of the Oz books.   In the beginning of the book and the movie Dorothy is a lonely, isolated child.  No friends her own age and no siblings.  As an awkward only child growing up in the country without other kids nearby, I definitely felt a kinship with her.  Of course, Dorothy had one thing I did not, Toto, an utterly loyal canine friend.   I was convinced that if only I had a dog I would never be lonely again.  Unfortunately my parents are not fond of dogs so I had to make due with cats, birds, and guinea pigs and a range of reptiles and amphibians, none an acceptable substitute for Toto.   I told myself that as soon as I was an adult I would get a dog just like Dorothy's, of course when I did grow up I decided a pug would actually make a better first canine companion then a Cairn Terrier.

I still love the Oz books and the movie, I watch it every year at Christmas, and I still love Dorothy even though I can't fathom why she chooses to leave the magical land of Oz to return to dull, dry Kansas, but my favorite part of the movie continues to be Toto.   I love how Toto, unlike many cinematic dogs, basically behaves like a regular dog throughout the movie: chasing cats, snatching food that doesn't belong to him, and barking at strangers.  In my opinion its the best canine performance of all time, a Tour De Force.

Today, marks the birthday of Terry, the dog who played Toto.   Born in 1933 Terry was owned by the famous dog trainer Carl Spitz who founded one of the first American dog training schools, The Hollywood Dog Training school, in 1927.  At the time The Wizard of Oz was made Terry was already a star having appeared in six films, including Bright Eyes  with Shirley Temple.  Terry was payed a 125 dollars a week for appearing in the Oz film, more then some of the human actors, and about five times the weekly salary of the average American during the Great Depression.  Of course like everyone involved in the film Terry will be forever associated with The Wizard of Oz and her role as Toto eclipsed all of her other work.  Spitz even officially changed her name to Toto in 1942.   

Terry, or Toto, died in in 1945 having made fifteen films, the last of which was Tortilla Flat based on the novel by John Steinbeck.  Toto was originally interred in a cemetery on Spitz's ranch, but eventually when the Ventura Freeway was expanded the property and cemetery where destroyed.  On June 18, 2011 a permanent memorial to Toto was erected in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday-Stoop Time

Traditionally in the city lots of people hang out on the front stoop.  I had never seen that in action until I moved to Jersey City, despite living in Brooklyn and Manhattan for years.   I personally never sit on my stoop,  I would rather be inside.   A few years ago though I decided it would be cute to take these pictures of the dogs on our houses stoop.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Cost of Vet Care and the Responsibility of Pet Guardianship

Picture of me and Dr. Zira two years ago

Nothing in life is free, and that certainly includes veterinary care.  In the past year I have spend more then 7,000 on surgeries, not including routine care such as blood tests, for my animal companions.  Insurance off sets some of the costs but there are co-pays and some of my pets are too old for coverage or have pre-existing conditions.  Of course I have five dogs, but still the cost is mounting particularly as my pets age.   Tomorrow, Zira is scheduled for surgery to remove a basal cell tumor, a low grade skin cancer that once it is removed should cause her no more problems.  When I told some co-workers about Zira's surgery the response of many of them was to ask how old Zira was and how much the surgery was, and when they heard almost 13 (not particularly old for a small dog in my opinion), and 900 dollars (not a particularly high surgery cost either) several of them asked me why I was doing it.   What depressed me was the majority of people who questioned the surgery are pet owners, reasonably well off pet  owners. 

The rising cost of Veterinary care has gotten coverage in the media in articles like this one from CBS news.   I don't particularly like this article as I strongly disagree with their advice to feed generic food because it wont matter, I can just see a doctor at Johns Hopkins advising a person to exist on frozen dinners rather then fresh foods as it "won't make a difference."  It does point out though that if a person adopts a dog or cat today after several pet free years, he or she is going to be faced with bills far higher then what they remember.

On the other side of the coin is the fact that even in the economic down turn people are spending more then ever on their pets, 41 billion dollars.   Obviously many people, like me, love lavishing their pets.  Why  not?  While some purchases may be silly why is sending your dog to camp any different then buying a fancy vacation for yourself.  

I have nothing but sympathy for people who truly cant afford vet care.  I can't imagine how awful it is.  Obviously their need to be more programs like this one in NYC that helps owners locate lower cost care.  I also don't believe in herculean measures to treat truly untreatable conditions, sometimes it is true that with people and pets we need to learn to say good-bye.

Unfortunately, many of the people I have met who lament that they can't afford vet care are clutching i-phones and designer purses as they do so.  Some are planning elaborate vacations.  Most of them use the phrase "just a dog" or "just a cat."  I can't understand why these people became pet guardians in the first place.  I've never looked at any of my animals, or my husband or any other person I love, and thought they were "just" an anything.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy 11th Birthday Baby

Today is Baby's guestimated 11th birthday.   She was my first pet as an adult and my husband and I adopted her from a grooming shop in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn right after we graduated from college at the University of Buffalo.   Unfortunately she was a sickly kitty and we racked up big vet bills  (when we had no money) right away as she battled pneumonia and a terrible I infection.  It was well worth it though and thank goodness Baby is still with us and happy and healthy.  Here are some of my favorite pictures of her

The Kitten and the Falling Leaves
That way look, my infant, lo!
What a pretty baby-show!
See the kitten on the wall,
sporting with the leaves that fall.
Withered leaves - one - two and three
from the lofty elder tree.
Though the calm and frosty air,
of this morning bright and fair.
Eddying round and round they sink,
softly, slowly; one might think.
From the motions that are made,
every little leaf conveyed
Sylph or Faery hither tending,
to this lower world descending.
Each invisible and mute,
in his wavering parachute.

But the Kitten, how she starts,
crouches, stretches, paws, and darts!
First at one, and then its fellow,
just as light and just as yellow.
There are many now - now one,
now they stop and there are none:
What intenseness of desire,
in her upward eye of fire!
With a tiger-leap half-way,
now she meets the coming prey.
lets it go as fast, and then;
Has it in her power again.
Now she works with three or four,
like an Indian conjuror;
quick as he in feats of art,
far beyond in joy of heart.
Where her antics played in the eye,
of a thousand standers-by,
clapping hands with shout and stare,
what would little Tabby care!
For the plaudits of the crowd?
Over happy to be proud,
over wealthy in the treasure
of her exceeding pleasure!

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Simple Projects Fingerless Knits-Knit with the Magic Loop Method

I have been wanting to expand my knitting repertoire beyond scarves.  So I decided to try fingerless mitts--

I used this free pattern from Ravelry.  I choose it because it uses the Magic Loop method and I thought that would be easier then double pointed needles.  They were very easy to make and they have a pretty cable pattern on the cuff, my lousy too dark pictures definitely don't do them justice.  Since I knitted them up in October, for a friends birthday, I used a nice, inexpensive pumpkin colored yarn from lion brand.  I did make two changes from the original pattern, since I am a very loose knitter I used size four needles instead of the size sixes recommended in the pattern. (if you are a new knitter like me I would recommend making a gauge.  I also extended the cuff by adding five extra rounds of ribbing before the first cross stitch round.  As for the cross stitch in the pattern its really easy once you get the hang of it, it helps if you are a bit of a loose knitter like I am. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A recipe worthy of Cinderella-Stuffed Baked Pumpkin

Ping dressed as a Princess this was her second Halloween Costume

I am dealing with a camera crises, my canon power shot just up and stopped working and it will be 5 to 10 business days before it is replaced through my Best Buy warranties, eek!   No picture for 5 to 10 days, I couldn't even photograph our pug group's, The Northern New Jersey Pug Extravangaza, snow delayed Halloween party.  

I still decided to post this recipe for Dorie Greenspan's Baked Pumpkin though, it was just so good.  I read about it while I was making the recipe for Soup Cooked in a Pumpkin.   One thing I really like about Dorie Greenspan's recipe is that it is just a blueprint you can change it up with ham, bacon, or different cheeses.   This was how I made mine (I tripled the recipe too so we would have some left overs, and because we have good appetites).

Dorie Green Span's Baked Pumpkin

3 Japanese Pumpkins also called Kabocha Squash about 2 1/2 lbs each
1 lb grated Gruyere Cheese
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs from stale french bread
1 1lb sweet sausage
2 chopped shallots
1 cup heavy cream
salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg
minced chives

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut the top off the pumpkins leaving it intact to form a lid.   Scrape out the seeds and all the stringy stuff from inside the pumpkin.  Season with salt and pepper.   Stir together the cheese, bread crumbs, sausage and shallots.  Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg (all to taste) to the heavy cream and pour over the ingredients.  Stir.   Bake for 2 hours until everything is bubbly and the pumpkin is tender, check sooner as the pumpkin might be done earlier.  Take the lid off for the last 20 minutes to insure the filling gets nice and brown.
Top with the chives and serve.

And Dr. Zira Update:
Zira's EKG report was all good news.   While her valve is a little leaky her heart is not at all enlarged and she good to go for anesthesia!   Her surgery to remove a basal cell tumor on her leg is scheduled for Wednesday.  According to her wonderful vet, Dr. Green, at the Jersey City Animal Hospital once the tumor is removed Zira should be fine as these tumors are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, even though they are locally invasive. 

  This is a good lesson in taking your dog to the vet regularly and being diligent in checking for any lumps, bumps, or skin discolorations.  Zira's very found her tumor and it looks more like a scrape or an area of irritated skin then a tumor.  If my camera was working I would take a photo.   Its also a good lesson in being prepared for vet bills, my credit card debt is mounting again as this whole basal cell fiasco is going to cost about 1500 on top of the 500 we spent on her eye problems.  If only Zira had not been to old for insurance! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ping's A Star-A Semi Wordless Wednesday Post

Ping is a star!   This picture of her wearing a hat from the Etsy shop All You Need is Pug, which I took in August of 2010, is featured in the Smilers spread in the November/December issue of  Bark Magazine.  I am so excited!  Bark is my favorite magazine and we get a year's free subscription since Ping was chosen.   You can enter your smiling dog on their website.

As for Dr. Zira

 We got the results of  her needle biopsy and the news isn't the best it could be, or the worse.  The tentative diagnosis is a Basal Cell Tumor, generally these are locally invasive but tend not to spread.   The treatment of choice is still surgery but since Zira has a heart murmur we have to consider that as well.  Tomorrow she has an EKG scheduled to see how her heart is doing and  based on that we will decide if surgery is a good option.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie-Wherever you (and they) want. A Saturday Pet Bloggers Blog Hop Post

This is probably the  best picture I  have ever taken of any of my dogs.  It was taken about 6 years ago when we all lived in a Manhattan apartment.  Tubby was 4, Norbert, 3 and Ping 2. No grey hairs, as much as I love my old guys, I do miss those days. It was pre-Bob and pre-Dr. Zira so they are not featured.  It is also a fitting segue-way to my post

Every night in our house is a four dog night, it would be a five dog night but Zira chooses to sleep on the floor, and that is not counting the three feline visitors who regularly stroll across the pillows.  When I meet non-dog people they often ask me with a mix or horror and salacious glee, "they don't sleep in the with you bed do they?"  Whether or not it is harmful for pets, particularly dogs,  to sleep in the bed has long been a topic of debate.  Many pet guardians admit to allowing their pets in the bed in embarassed and guilty tones.  However, there is really no reason for this.  Allowing your pet in the bed is a matter of personal preference and not a determining factor in whether or  not you are a good pet parent.

One reason for owners shame over admitting to allowing their dogs in their bed stems from the training angle, and most particularly from what Patricia McConnell would call the "dominance myth."  This is the outmoded idea that dogs spend every waking moment of their lives trying to stage a coup in the home and establish themselves as the leader over their owners.  According to this theory if your dog gets on the bed or other furniture they are trying to establish themselves   as "dominant" over you.  The real reason a dog, or cat, lies on the furniture, is the same reason we do: Its comfy!

  Certainly some dogs may demonstrate resource guarding and growl or even bite humans or other dogs who try to move them from a cozy spot.   This is definitely a behavior problem, but the solution isn't to establish dominance over the dog.  It is to teach the dog a good solid off cue.  The most effective way to do it, as with anything in dog training, is through positive reinforcement.   Armed with a clicker and some bits of chicken anyone can teach a dog a firm off command in a few days time.   Many people also train their dogs to wait for permission to get on furniture and beds.  I  have not done that myself.  However, even with four dogs in the bed and five dogs on the couch, I  have never had any real problems.  When Bob began to display some resource guarding behaviors around the furniture towards his canine siblings, I worked on his off command and also rewarded him for sharing the couch with the other dogs.  Once I had changed his mindset, through attention and food rewards, that sharing the couch and bed with other dogs was a really good thing,  his resource guarding tendencies pretty much disappeared.  I still keep a careful eye on his behavior though, and we regularly review the off command.

The other argument for not allowing  your pet in the bed is the health and hygiene one.  Last year a report published by the University of California at Davis listed medical risks associated with sharing your bed with your pet including: bubonic plague, cat scratch fever, and fleas.  Upon examination of the report though it is pretty clear that many of the risks where caused by poor decision making on the part of the pet owner or happened because the human in the equation was an immune compromised individual.  Obviously a dog or cat who is not well groomed can contract fleas or other pests and pass them on to the owner, whether or not they share the owners bed.  The other obvious response to the hygiene and health argument is that any contact with living things carries the risk of disease transmission.  Think of all of the horrible diseases we catch from other human beings.  Aside from sealing yourself inside a hermetically sealed plastic bubble there really is no way to avoid germs. 

Of course if you don't want your pet in the bed with you that's fine too!  Just make sure you get them something comfy of their own to sleep on like one of these great beds from In The Company of Dogs.  

On a non-related topic please keep Dr. Zira 

in your thoughts.  She went to the vet to have a check up on her eye issue and they found a strange area of irritation on her leg that had to be biopsied.  Hopefully it is nothing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Today in Doggie History-Laika's Historic Voyage into the Beyond


In  August I posted about  Belka and Strelka, the Russian dogs who on August 19, 1960 where the first canines to survive orbital space flight.  Belka and Strelka where not the first canines in space though, they were proceeded by Laika, a Russian street mutt whose name meant "Barker."  Laika has the distinction of being the first living creature to enter orbital space flight.

Laika was trained along with two other dogs by Russian scientists during the Space Race.  At the time no one was sure what the impact of orbital space flight and weightlessness would be on living creatures.   No one felt confident enough to send a human into Space.  For that reason many countries, not just Russia, sent animals into space.  The US sent monkeys and mice and France sent a cat.  Laika was also not the first Russian dog involved in the Space race, between 1951 and 1952 Russia launched several dogs in rockets into sub-orbital flight and the dogs where retrieved via parachutes.  However, Laika was the first dog to make orbital flight.

When Laika was launched into Space on November 3, 1957 there was no plan to retrieve her rocket, Sputnick 2.   The Russians used dogs in space research because they are easily trainable and enjoy human contact, as a result the scientists likely grew fond of Laika.  Some stories say that in the face of her iminent death  one of the scientists brought Laika home to play with his children.   Sadly, Laika died a few hours after her launch.  Some reports state that she died of overheating and others that she died from eating poisonous food that had been put on board with the intention of euthanizing her,

There was some controversy at the time of Laika's death with animal rights groups protesting at Russian Embassies.  However most Scientists, including US Scientists, supported the Russian's decision to use Laika.  In 1998 one Russian scientist, Oleg Gazenko, did express regret about the experiment saying: 

"Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog."

Laika's mission may have cost her her life but her role in ushering the era of space exploration has not been forgotten.  In 1959 a Romanian stamp with Laika on it was issued

Image from Wikipedia

It reads "Laika, first traveler in the Cosmos."

Laika also appears in the Moscow monument "Conquerors of Space" which was erected in 1964.

During the Mars Exploration Rover mission scientists named a soil target on Mars after Laika:
image from Wikipedia

In April of 2008 Laika got the biggest honor of all, her own monument in 

Not bad for a 13 lb street mutt who died 54 years ago.