In June 1961, an unusual delivery was made to the American White House. Pushinka, a shaggy mixed-breed puppy, had been dispatched on the personal order of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as a gift to the wife and daughter of President John F. Kennedy.
The pooch may not have been a purebred, but she had something much more impressive in her bloodline: as an accompanying letter explained, Pushinka was “a direct descendant of the famous space traveler Strelka.”
Some thought the gift was a subtle way of rubbing in the fact that the Soviet Union was leading in the space race, but it could also be seen as a gesture meant to promote warmer relations between the two superpowers. Both perspectives fit into the vast mythology that surrounded the high-flying pooches Belka and Strelka, the first animals to successfully return from orbit sixty years ago, in 1960.
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