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

Caging the wild

My 12-year-old nephew called me up last month and had a bizarre ask — he wanted to know where he could get hold of an iguana. These lizards, I said, are from the Americas and he could see them at the local zoo. “No!” he yelled, saying he wanted to have one as a pet. When I asked him why he thought that was a good idea, he confessed to having watched a few ‘cute’ videos on YouTube and found these lizards alluring. I knew that in some parts of the world, owning exotic pets — from pythons to tigers

The science behind the sniff

On a warm night two years ago, we were out for a late-night walk with Pippi on the near-tranquil streets of Bengaluru. His favourite spot on that road was a pile of stones in a construction site, which doubled up as a ‘pee bank’ of all the neighbourhood dogs. As he checked out the different scents, with a lightning speed, he also caught a mouse in his mouth. While it was too late for us to rescue the unfortunate victim of the massacre, what struck us about this incident was how quick Pippi was i

A bon voyage with Fido!

My association with the word Chapati has completely changed in recent times. It’s no more the flatbread that I despise, but a gorgeous Indie who is living a dream life. Found as a starving three-week-old pup on the streets of Kochi in Kerala, he instantly robbed his parents’ heart — a couple from Ukraine visiting India at that time. His adventurous life thus began. Today, he has left his pawprints in more than 30 countries, rode trains, cars and planes, and has photos of himself snapped in front

The ugly cost of a cute puppy

When I saw her photo on Facebook, I could not resist getting her home,” professed Pari, showing me her 30-day old labrador retriever puppy. It was a dream come true for her, who had watched the movie Marley and Me numerous times and had daydreamed about her very own fawn-coloured Marley. Thanks to the pandemic, she gathered her courage to be a first time dog mom and ‘booked’ her Marley through a Facebook ad. “Isn’t she cute?” she asked. “Of course, she is,” I nodded. But the same can’t be said o
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