[FOUNTAIN]More than friends, dogs are pioneers

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[FOUNTAIN]More than friends, dogs are pioneers

On Oct. 4, 1957, panic spread across the United States after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I. It was the first artificial satellite to be put into orbit; Sputnik means companion in Russian.
Less than a month later, the Soviet Union surprised the United States again by launching Sputnik II. This time, the more surprising fact was that the satellite was carrying a living passenger into space for the first time in history. The passenger was a dog named Laika.
While traveling in space, various biological data on the dog’s changing heartbeat, respiration and body temperatures were transmitted to Earth. After a week in space, Laika died. It proved, however, that space travel by a living organism was possible. Moreover, Laika played a crucial role in starting the “space race” between the Soviet Union and the United States. The United States established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) a year after Laika’s death. If it hadn’t been for the canine’s unwilling sacrifice, the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s travel into space in April 1961 wouldn’t have been possible.
As the oldest companion of humans, dogs have made great contributions to the advancement of science. Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov established his theory of conditional reflexes in 1900 after experimenting with a dog. The theory proved that much of human behaviors were reflex responses aquired from conditioning and learning. The theory is still used in education and pedagogy today.
French scientist Louis Pasteur developed a vaccine against rabies by testing on dogs, eventually freeing mankind from the fear of the terrible disease. Recently, Dr. Hwang Woo-suk and his research team successfully cloned a dog, another historic first.
Dogs are a symbol of devotion and loyalty. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus has an old dog named Argos. When Odysseus returned to his hometown disguised as a beggar 20 years after he went off to the Trojan War, the faithful Argos was the only one to recognize his master.
On Sept. 1, the Companion Animal Welfare Conference was held at COEX in Samsung-dong, Seoul. The conference, which discussed the relationship between humans and animals, was the first of its kind in Korea.
The phrase, “companion animal,” has been used since the international symposium held in Vienna, Austria in 1983. The phrase stresses that animals are not just pets to play with, but companions living together with people.
I hope that the COEX conference will provide an occasion for people to renew their perception on animal protection, as we all recognize animals’ contributions to civilization.

by Ko Dae-hoon

The writer is a deputy city news editor for the JoongAng Ilbo.
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