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!

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

Always game for more

A household with pets has a stash of toys — ropes, balls, stuffed animals, chew toys, puzzles, treat dispensers, squeaky toys, and so on. Online and offline, pet parents discuss the newest toy in the market and how much it’s a hit with their pets. Currently, ‘talking buttons’ and ‘flopping fish’ seem to be trending. Aisles of pet shops are filled with toys of all kinds, shapes, sizes, smells, and colours for every pet, including dogs, cats, fish, birds, rodents, and even reptiles. Just a few yea

But the beauty is in the walking

I am nowhere close to being athletic, but I am a sucker for long walks. It’s hard to kick yourself out of bed early in the morning to do it alone. So, when Pippi came into our lives three years ago, I was ecstatic about our to-be long walks. In my head, I pictured the two of us walking the picturesque streets in the town for hours on end! In my imagination, we’d meet people and dogs, discover interesting hideouts in our neighbourhood, and find buddies. Our long walks would rock, or so I thought.

Yelping to a different pitch

The quirky side of our pets swells up our hearts and eyes long after they are gone. Ramana, our Indie dog, joined the orchestra with his ‘singing’ (howling, ahem) each time we amateurishly played the harmonica. His divertimento sure won him our praise, and we performed on a loop, driving my mom to her wits end! One day, she decided to stop this craziness by hiding the prized harmonica. When we found it again, Ramana had crossed the rainbow bridge, giving us a glimpse of his Elvis Presley avatar.

Are dogs capable of empathy?

At home, no one reads the room better than Pippi does. A whiff of anxiety in the air unsettles him to no end. Although never a cuddle bug, he sticks to us like Velcro when we are in pain. He gets all ‘nosey’ during a family squabble, nudging us with his snout to calm us down, or so we think. A hint of despair, and he miraculously appears next to us, sharing his warmth. When we chuckle, his FOMO kicks in, and he joins us in an instant to know what’s up. Every time, his all-knowing-ness leaves us

A segue into the wild side

On our morning walks with Pippi, we don't meet people or their dogs but look forward to our encounters with squirrels, geese, gulls, rabbits and stray cats. On rare occasions, we have raccoons, skunks, turtles, and coyotes join us too. (If you are wondering, this is all in our neighbourhood park in Toronto). Of course, there are a thousand other tiny critters, but they don't seem to draw Pippi's attention. He has a characteristic way of interacting with each species. Sighting a squirrel means si

The hunt for a fetching name

What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet. It may not matter for roses. For pet parents, however, the name of our beloved pet is an emotion. At times, many of them. We seldom have a chance in our lives to name something fun, wacky, silly and endearing — all at once. Our kids don’t fall into this bin, but our pets do! Ask any of us the name of our pet, and we’ll tell you one; spend a few minutes with us, and you’ll have more to count! What we call our pet comes fro
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