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(At Least Some) Dogs Go To Heaven

So – you have decided to take the plunge and finally go on that space vacation your kids have been nagging you to go on. But who is going to watch your six cats? And what about the fish? Well maybe just bring them along – why not? Lets see if there are reasons to not.

The Fun Part

December 23, 2034
Waldorf Astoria LEO, 373 miles above Canada

Katie was not having this. She had very clearly specified in her reservation that she was bringing a dog. Not a gerbil and fish. How in the name of all that was holy did the hotel mess that up?

Outwardly calm she replied (to the front desk attendant) “I understand that you don’t have any small mammal accommodations ready, but they are here, and there is literally not a choice but for me to stay here.”

“But ma’am” the clerk replied “It isn’t just that we don’t have accommodations ready, but we don’t have accommodations at all. We are setup to handle human needs, and have the ability to adjust for fish and birds, but not dogs.”

“I get that, but lets pretend for a minute that I am standing in front of you with two dogs, and the return capsule doesn’t leave for six days. Can we pretend that for a second? I realize that is silly, of course I don’t have dogs here…oh wait I do….”

“Yes ma’am bu…”

“Let me stop you there. You have two options. Authorize me to return home now and expose your hotel to the lawsuit I will file when I return, or show me to my room and we find something that will work for Jelly. Ok? Do you think those are reasonable options? Because unless you are prepared to eject my dog into space there isn’t another choice.”

“Of course ma’am, I will get you right to your room. I’ll have maintenance meet you there to determine what can be made for you”

“Thank you…oh and please let your manager know that this is the last time I’ll be at a Hilton…I know for a fact that the Marriott up-orbit from here is ready for dogs…”

The Real Deal

So the bottom line for the Real Deal is that if you treasure your pet above your children then you might want to wait until more research is done before bringing them on your next astro-vacation, however pet friendly your space hotel is. But if you like to live life on the edge, you need your emotional support peacock, or you aren’t the spouse attached to the cats, then just make sure you buckle them in for the flight. Because despite some conflicting research, it does appear that space is largely safe (or as safe as anywhere humans go) for animals of all types (although no research has been done on the effects of space on elephants or tigers yet).

Does Zero-G Hurt Animals?

Most animals seem to fall into one of three categories when responding to zero gravity. Some freeze, seemingly hoping that the effect will pass on its own, or simply accepting the futility of struggle. Others do the opposite, flailing madly without stopping. The last, and smallest portion, set about actually trying to figure out how to swim efficiently through the air.

Zero-G tests on cats and pigeons

Geckos and other reptiles have been observed to go into a sort of “sky-diving” pose while in space. This is mostly observed in tree-dwelling species, and it makes sense that zero g might trigger that kind of response in creatures that live high above the ground.

Fish are used to swimming with lowered gravity and so take particularly well to zero-g. A fish’s buoyancy can simulate a lot of the effects of weightlessness, and their bodies are built for swimming; moving through the air while weightless has a lot in common with swimming through water.

Great – so I can bring my pet…but how do I take care of it?

Taking animals into space requires special considerations. If you were to take a gerbil or other small animal up what would you need? Traditional aquarium-style cages don’t provide enough traction for them to walk around. Historically, space mice have wire mesh cages so their toes can grip a rougher surface. Wood chips couldn’t be used for bedding; they wouldn’t stay in place. Gravity-feed water bottles won’t work; so pick up a pressurized water containers instead. Don’t even think of using bowls of dry food, switch your little friend to compressed food bars. As for how to clean the cages, you will need a special waste containment system similar to what NASA designed for its orbital experimental animals to keep everything in its place.

BUt do they like it up there?

Fish and tadpoles swim in loops, rather than straight lines, because there is no up or down to orient them, but they generally seem to be fine. Baby mammals have a hard time in space because they normally huddle for warmth-and in space, and it’s hard to huddle when bodies drift and float. It’s also difficult for babies to nurse when they can’t locate their mother’s nipple. Otherwise, most animals (that have actually been sent to space) seem to adapt pretty well, and fairly rapidly.

What happens if I bring Fluffy Back?

So this is an interesting question because when humans return to earth, they get seriously f’ed up with what I have dubbed Gaia’s Revenge. So we can expect similar results with at least some animals. However the exact responses seem to depend on the type of animal and whether it was born in space or not.

The smaller the animal, and the shorter they are in space, the faster they recover when returning to Earth. Some animals born in space seem to have problems determining which way is up when they return to gravity; while others don’t seem to have any such issues.

Next Time

The issue of reproducing in space is a natural segue from where we are now, after the initial tease of what space sex is like, our little exploration of medicine in space and talking about whether animals are safe in space. So over the next few posts lets explore whether breeding in space is safe, whether humans born in space could even return to a gravity environment, and perhaps most strangely, could human immigrants Earth successfully procreate with space-natives.

All of these topics have been suggested by people like you over the past week, so feel free to contact me below to ask your own questions about space.

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