Tailspin (My Dog Blog)

Meet Pippi

Pippi, the-almost human in our house, met us in 2018 when he used to roam the streets of Bengaluru like he owned them. His carefree personality and never-say-never attitude swooned us and soon, he made a space for himself in our homes and hearts. When life took us all the way to Canada, he braved a transcontinental flight, and traversed cities, climates and cultures like his immigrant parents. In the years he has been with us, he's made us a better version of ourselves. He's my muse for the monthly column "Tailspin" I write for Deccan Herald. Below is a compilation of all those columns over the years. 

As you read them, you'll know him better for who he really is and what an incredible journey he has had!

Chasing the ‘forever’ pet

For how long would you love to have your pet? Ask any pet parent, and the answer mostly is an instant, screaming FOREVER. Although it defies reality — the lifespan of most pets isn’t as long as ours — we leave no stone unturned to have our furry companions lead their best life with us as long as possible. A case in point is the ballooning market for pet supplements — probiotics for gut health, omega-3 and multivitamins for better immunity and glucosamine for ageing joints — you name it. Zillions

Furry, fuzzy and frazzled?

A couple of months ago, we decided to bring home a robotic vacuum cleaner for the first time. Get it at your own risk, a few well-meaning friends warned, recounting how their pets had loathed the new addition. A poodle had sent the robot tumbling down the stairs on day one. Another lab had chewed up some of the moving parts. The internet brims with hilarious videos of pets reacting to a moving, whirring ‘monster’ in their houses.

I, on the other hand, was curious how Pippi would respond. Would

At home with ball pythons and iguanas!

A few days ago, a friend recalled his bizarre encounter with his to-be-landlord’s pet. After the basement apartment he had viewed checked all the boxes, he was at the landlord’s place upstairs to sign a few documents and close the deal. While he sat on the sofa, his eyes scanned the living room. In the corner sat a topless glass box with coloured pebbles and plastic plants. The bright light inside caught his eyes, and he looked closer. A black slithering face emerged from behind the rocks, and w
Photo by Phong Thanh on Pexels

Picking our pets’ brains

In the northern latitudes, winter is fast approaching. Our days are shrinking while the evenings are turning frigid and awfully long. Darkness descends at half past three while I am still at my desk typing away to glory — a grim reminder of the chasm between the seasonal rhythms and the monotonous 24-hour world we have created for ourselves. But as a crepuscular species active during dawn and dusk, Pippi’s biological clock does not hold back. Those paw-scratching reminders for the evening walk n
Photo by Anna Tóth on Pexels

When the bite is worse than the bark

A mush-inducing face, a pair of oxytocin-infusing eyes, an always-alert brain and satin-like fur — there’s so much to fall for when it comes to our pets’ looks. Often, what we miss noticing are their pearly white teeth hidden behind their lips, lining their strong jaws. Those canines, meant to tear and grind meat, if forced, can sink into our skin and draw blood. Imagine sleeping next to a carnivore who can potentially maul you, but instead chooses to boop you with its nose or lick you with affe
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels

What pets teach us about teaching them

Last week, as Pippi and I sat in the park soaking up the morning sun, my brain was ruminating on the lessons we impart to our pets and the lessons we learn from them. Between us and our pets, who is the teacher? Who is teaching whom?

On the face of it, these ramblings may sound a tad bit anthropomorphising, but let me explain why it isn’t. As humans, we tend to be know-alls and quickly assume the role of teaching, no matter how different our students are from us. Case in point: our pets, especi

Finding the sweet spot

August is Pippi’s ‘gotcha’ month. Five years ago, on the last day of the month, he became ours forever. His sunshine personality has meant there’s never a dull day in our lives: his expressive eyes, adventurous spirit, ever-wagging tail and cute-as-a-button face always brings a smile to our faces. This past weekend, my husband and I were reminiscing about our first meeting with Pippi on our street, how he found his way into our home chasing kittens and eventually decided to win over our hearts.

Should you get a second dog?

One of the first dog friends Pippi made when we moved to a new city was Caramel, a month-old labrador retriever puppy fostered by a family in our neighbourhood. During their first meeting, after playing for a while, Pippi cued Caramel to sniff around and soon she followed. Then, she got excited and began jumping all over Pippi, and he was done with her for the day. Caramel went home, and we continued our walk. Since then, every time we pass in front of Caramel’s house, she erupts in joy and invi

The inconspicuous cost of caregiving

Sometime in March, after a cold evening walk, Pippi flopped on his bed and showed no inkling to get into the car to go to the convenience store. As I wrote in April, after our move to a new city and a new home, he’s been a bit of a velcro — wanting to stick around us everywhere we go and refusing to stay at home. Plus, he absolutely loves car rides. So, when he chose to stay back, we were surprised.

The two-minute ride without Pippi in the back was dramatically serene — and for the first time i

Catwalk fur real: Feline escapades on a leash!

A bright, sunny spring day is a welcome relief from months of grey, snowy, frigid winters up here in the temperate countries. Parks in the city come alive with people frolicking with their picnic baskets to laze in the sun, eat a snack on the newly sprouted green grass and make the most of the warmth. Pets are a big part of this celebration of spring — after being cooped up in their houses for most of the winter, this is the time for fetching balls, chasing squirrels or sniffing the ground. As P

The other face of fear

In the past couple of months, I have written about what fear might look like in our pets. Fear is complex. Fear is understudied. Fear is often misunderstood. As humans, we find it uncomfortable to talk about fear, and it takes enormous effort to deal with it and overcome our fears. A cockroach can scare me to death even today — no matter how many I have seen in my life, and despite my understanding that they can do no harm. What hopes do we have in understanding fear in our pets, who don’t speak

Every stranger is a danger!

Last month brought a big change in our lives: we moved from a bustling megacity to a quiet town on an island known for its charm. Of course, Pippi came along, enduring a three-hour flight locked up in his crate. While we are still coping with the transition, and everything that comes with it, Pippi has been extremely quick to feel at home in his new home. He’s no stranger to moving, having crisscrossed continents, climates and cultures with us. But each time, he surprises us with his resilience.

Paw patrol of the right sort!

A quintessential trick in most pet training books or videos today is the ‘paw-shake’—a gesture comparable to a handshake where the pet puts forward his or her hand and rests it on yours. In our world, it’s a lovely gesture of reassurance and companionship, and pictures of pets paw-shaking with their humans are indeed cute! But, what purpose could it serve in the pet’s world? Unlike us, they don’t greet each other with paw-shakes or paw-bumps! Instead, they sniff, stare, whimper, bark or use othe

Pondering along with our pets

Weekend mornings are my favourite to walk with Pippi. A sense of calmness envelops the streets as birds chirp their dawn songs. When the sun’s out, the golden rays thaw the frosted grass, laying out a wet carpet. This New Year’s Day turned out to be one such gorgeous winter morning — the snow gods had taken a break and the temperatures were mild, with the mercury veering ever so slightly to the positive side of the Celsius scale. Pippi and I headed out early in the morning for our walk. For a ch

When a nightmare comes true...

In the June column of Tailspin (dated 12 June, 2022), I wrote about every pet parents’ nightmare — our pets getting lost — and how being prepared for such a day can prevent possible heartache. Well, Wednesday two weeks ago was that damned day for us. Pippi took off after a rabbit and had a nerve-wracking adventure, and our preparations were put to test.

It’s almost winter here, and the days are getting shorter. By 4:30 pm, twilight rings in. The grass in our neighbourhood park is turning brown

Friends, foes or just a lot of fuss?

"Is your dog friendly with other dogs?” This is a question we are frequently asked when we are out walking with Pippi. There’s, unfortunately, no simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, like most answers in a dog’s world. ‘Maybe’ is more apt because Pippi is ‘dog selective’— he takes to some dogs like he has known them for life, viciously hates some, barks at the top of his voice whenever he sees them, and mostly ignores the rest. Every time we are asked that question, we try to see if we can find a pattern to Pi

When you spot that first tuft of grey...

During my last visit home, Pippi was exhilarated to see me, and like a good boy, decided to put his head on my lap and grab a siesta. While my fingers stoked his whiskers, I saw some tufts of grey hair on his muzzle — and my heart sank. Was Pippi growing old already? He’s almost six, but only six! In a split second, the image of an old, frail and limp Pippi flashed in front of my eyes. How do our pets grow old so fast? In a minute, he was up, barking at the garbage truck, as if nothing had chang

Beating the breed obsession

The media is notorious for propagating stereotypes — of people, places and even pets. And one such stereotype is about breeds of pets, especially dogs. Some breeds, like Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, are often portrayed as saintly and family-friendly, while Dobermanns, Pitbulls and German Shepherds are shown as fierce guard dogs that can bite if need be. Some cities in the world have also banned ownership of certain breeds deemed ‘dangerous’. Popular movies and TV shows that involve

Belly rubs, but with consent

One hot summer evening, we were heading home from our usual evening stroll at the park. A young kid, probably excited about seeing a dog, ran towards us from nowhere with his hand stretched to pet Pippi. Before I could say no, he was so close that I had to pull back Pippi’s leash. Terrified at seeing the kid shouting and zipping towards him, Pippi barked and lunged, and thankfully the kid stopped in his course, quite shaken. Disaster averted. Alerted by the commotion, his mom, who was lost in he

Anxiety on the other end of the leash

The last month saw major upheavals in our lives — I moved into a new city more than 4,000 kilometres from home — leaving behind Pippi and my husband, who is now tasked with all doggy duties. The conversation that’s on top of my mind during our daily calls is about Pippi — did he have his walks and was he a good boy today (he always is, and we love him nevertheless, but I still ask). So far, the reply has been a resounding yes and I am impressed. Of course, it isn’t the first time I am away from

A nightmare no one wants to go through

Pippi is no stranger to escapades: not that he is a runner, but he thrives on adventures. If we don’t take him on one often, he finds his own! When he started visiting our home before he adopted us, he came in and went out on his terms, squeezing his body between the compound bars. Once he was ours, we had closed those gaps with ropes in the hopes that he could stay safe inside.

A couple of days passed and one morning, while out in the garden, he vanished. We went frantically looking for him on

Pets and neutering: To snip or not to snip?

When Pippi shows off his intelligent or goofy self, we often delve into how much we’d miss him when he isn’t around. To lighten our mood from the impending gloomy thoughts, we joke about having Pippi Jr continue the khandaan. A brief second later, reality strikes — Pippi can’t make puppies! When we first met him as an adult street dog, Bengaluru’s BBMP had already done the honours: Pippi’s ears (and testes) were snipped and he was neutered. Thankfully, we were spared from wrapping our heads arou

Let sleeping dogs lie, literally!

The pandemic forced our pets to become a part of the ‘virtual office culture’— from joining water-cooler conversations with their barks and whines to appearing on Zoom meetings to even making a celebrity appearance on live TV! (The Irish President’s Bernese mountain dog did not shy away from asking for some love during his live address!) But Pippi got into no such adventures! What he succeeded in doing was to figure out a daily routine that let him sleep — a lot at times — and we are extremely p

Have you thought about your pet’s pawprint?

T he world has around a billion pets — about one dog or cat for every seven people. Most of them were brought into this world by us with a ‘human-created’ stamp. That stamp has very little positive associations because much of what we have created — plastics, automobiles, agriculture and chemicals — have been disastrous for this planet. So, could our much-loved furballs be just as bad? Unfortunately, beyond the cuddly, innocent faces of our pets lies an inconvenient truth — our pets have a signi
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