Shrikant Wakharkar is a high-flyer with a heart. The General Manager of The Westin, Chennai has been in leadership positions at several of the country’s top 5-star hotel chains. Though he is frequently given the option of living in these luxurious hotels (a perk given to management members), he’s always chosen to live in rented apartments. The reason – his beloved dog Salsa. Shrikant and his wife Radhika doted on their pet whose hind legs were disabled, and looked only for apartment complexes that accepted pets. They even fitted her with a custom-made cart that made it easy for her to navigate with her front paws and wheels.

Shortly after Salsa passed away, Radhika received a phone call from an anxious friend about a puppy. “She’d seen someone abandon a small pup right in the middle of the road”, recalls Radhika who was unsure whether she was ready for another pet. She laughs that they offered to be the pup’s temporary guardian, but all their friends foresaw that she would end up adopting her permanently.

Radhika recalls her shock when she first saw the one-month-old pup. With no fur, a hind leg bent out of shape, a hip injury and malnutrition, the puppy weighed just 720 grams. “She couldn’t even place the hurt paw on the floor”, says Radhika whose veterinarian determined from the injuries that someone had twisted the pup’s leg and then flung her aside. They fell in love with the puppy’s liquid brown eyes and pendulum-like tail that never stopped wagging. “We’d been talking about adopting a street mutt”, says Radhika who proudly declares that the injuries have healed and her pup now weighs three kilos. “Her name is Zippy”, she says. As if on cue, the pup zips back and forth between her and Shrikant. “When we moved to Chennai and were looking for a place to live, the first priority was pet-friendliness. Things like cross-ventilation were way down in the list”, she smiles.

Today, Zippy’s days of suffering are a distant memory. She divides her time between play dates with the couple’s friends’ pets, and a set of chew toys in a cosy corner in the apartment. Radhika reveals that when her pup receives admiring glances from people who ask what breed she is, she replies tongue-in-cheek – “She’s a P.I.M: Pure Indian mongrel”.