Just a few moments ago I rolled over, looked out the bedroom window, and thought “the sky is aflame… wait, I couldn’t write that because it could be taken in other ways than the sky was lit up by the sunrise in brilliant pinks and oranges holy crap I have to do Mad Genius.” I then jumped out of bed, headed for the office… and tripped over the dog. I managed to catch myself on the book case and keep from taking a header, and I managed to keep the yell inside me so I didn’t wake my still-sleeping husband.
Our dog is not big, but she’s solid. About 60 pounds of all-black muscle on short legs. So when she takes to sleeping stretched across the threshold of the bedroom in the dark, we both stub our toes on her regularly. It’s not her only quirk. The other one (ok, another one – I will spare you most of them) is that she can’t stand for me to be awake and her primary person, my First Reader, to remain asleep. So she will go whine and yip at him until he gets up unless I drag her out of the bedroom. It’s not that we don’t love her, in a way, but argh! she can drive us crazy.
But this got me thinking again about what happens when mankind takes the big leap off this mudball into the stars. Who will go along with us? Pets are a luxury, and an expensive one. If we follow the old patterns of emigration with the tough scouts followed by the hardscrabble miners, and then the farmers foolish enough to take family far from civilization… it’s going to be expensive and luxuries are going to be few and far between, and more likely to be related to personal safety and comfort than having a ‘furbaby.’
Which isn’t to say that animals won’t go along nearly from the beginning. But I see that as more of a working role than a pampered pet. Mice may become the spaceman’s canaries, for instance. I’ve never had mice as pets (they were fox food when my parents were trying to raise Silver Foxes) but they are warm and soft and fun to play with. They are also easier on the ventilation system than birds would be – having spent a couple of years with parakeets in my office (they didn’t make the cut for performing in a magic show. Who would have thought that parakeets are among the few birds who don’t shut up when closed into a dark place?) I am very aware of how much airborne mess even a small bird makes.
I’m working on a book, originally intended to be a short story about a boy and his dog, that was inspired by a friend who travels the Internet as the Basset (beware the Drool). In it, I speculate that dogs did not make the first jump into space, and have become so rare in the colonized galaxy as to be unheard of. There are woolies, which make spectacular fleeces in colors to order. And there are beeves, which more closely resemble massive furry slugs than the hoofed and horned fore-bulls they came from. But there were no dogs… Because, if you think about it, a colonist on a spaceship needs a dog about as much as a hole in his hull. There is no ‘outside’ to walk the furry little monster in. His hairs and dander (even our flat-coated labX produces enough fuzz to make a new dog every week, it seems) will be a serious nuisance in the ventilation system. Now, when that colonist is on-planet, a working dog would be an asset. But until ‘stasis’ boxes or transport of frozen embryos or some such technology comes along, the big livestock guardian dogs like the Maremmas and Great Pyrenees are not going to do well on a space voyage.
I have also written a story in which I speculate that cats don’t make the jump. Admittedly, this was set in the world I started with The Eternity Symbiote, and that wasn’t how I expect mankind to begin their journey to the stars – on an alien ship and leaving Earth in a hurry just ahead of a genocidal crowd. But I know how people are, and young soldiers (of which there are a large percentage in TES) will smuggle along a pet or three. The story I will be releasing soon is set about a century after that exodus, so there are a few animals, but the cat the girl finds is very unusual and it’s no wonder she wants it, after he jumps in her lap, curls up, and starts in with that rusty purr.
I’m not even getting into livestock, and the various other critters I’ve kept (or my kids have) through the years.
What do you think? Who will come along with humanity for that wild ride and why? How will kids manage to conceal and smuggle along that adorable kitten (and you know they will)?