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There's a toy poodle on the space station for a cute reason

Houston, we have a poodle. A stuffed toy dog gets to float around on the International Space Station as a sweet reminder of home.

This is one poodle that won't need grooming.
Anton Shkaplerov

We've sent some strange things up to the International Space Station, but one of the ISS' most adorable residents is a stuffed toy poodle with fluffy ears. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov posted a photo of the fetching critter on Twitter Wednesday:

Shkaplerov's cousin made the small poodle, which features a classic poofy-legged haircut, and modeled it after the astronaut's family dog. The cosmonaut's daughter asked him to take it with him into space, but he didn't just pack it away in his luggage. It had a job.

The poodle acted as a "zero-G indicator" during the Soyuz flight that took three ISS crew members up to the station in December. The space travelers are strapped down, so they tie a small object, in this case the poodle, where they can see it. When it floats, they know they've reached the realm of microgravity. 

There's a long history of astronauts using small toys as mascots and gravity indicators. Previous expeditions brought along a stuffed hippopotamus, a cat and a bear in an American flag suit. Shkaplerov also shared a look at the zero-G indicators from his prior space station missions. Those include a toy Olaf snowman from "Frozen" and a red bird from Angry Birds. 

For a deeper dive into the oddball things we've sent into space, check out this gallery: