Tails like no other

Dogs on an agility course, food, drinks and lots of fun at the Woofs and Hoofs Carnival this weekend

Two years ago, at just four months little Loki, an indie pup was incredibly nervous. He refused to leave the house, even for walks. He didn’t even want to play. He could become aggressive if he was continued to be misunderstood. His owners approached Mitali Salvi, a canine behaviourist who at the time had just discovered the wonders of agility training. “It’s a great way to boost confidence in dogs,” says the 28-year-old Salvi. “All the excitement and praise makes them feel great about themselves and really helps in regular training.” Keen to spread the advantages of agility along with a desire to bring pet parents together, Salvi collaborated with fellow behaviourists from the city. She, along with Tanya Patel, Rajvi Mariwala and Manjula Engineer, set up Woofathlon, a company that curates events for pets. “The idea behind our events is for the dogs to have fun and to encourage inculcate better training and better habits,” she says. This weekend, Woofathlon will present an agility course at the Bombay Society For Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals’ (BSPCA) Woofs and Hoof Carnival.

Going to the dogs

Salvi’s own journey with training dogs started when she was 19. “When I was studying [Bachelor’s in Mass Media] BMM, I rescued my dog who had a lot of behavioural issues,” says the canine behaviourist who eventually learned to help her own pet and in the last eight years has worked with over 350 dogs across the city. With Woofathlon, the four partners hope to create a community for pet owners through carefully planned events. “We have come back from pet events scarred because there’s no regulation in terms of temperaments,” she says adding that usually dogs are just left to roam free without any supervision. “We’ve had incidents where dogs have been bitten and scratched.” Plus, the quartet are hoping to create better agility opportunities for dogs in addition to having more public spaces accessible to pets and expand the scale of the annual Woofathlon event. Their first full-scale event, which took place in 2017, premiered a unique version of an obedience competition for owners and pets — instead of breeders and handlers who usually present dogs. “The competition was done in partnership with the Indian National Kennel Club & Joey’s Dog Club, so the winners did get a [legitimate] certificate,” says Salvi.

Fun for all

At the upcoming fundraiser, Woofathlon is only showcasing an agility course. There will be weaving polls, a stay square, body balance, a little bridge and a tunnel — which is every dog’s Kryptonite because they have to rely on their owner’s voice. “Winners get spa vouchers, doggy photo booth coupons, gifts and goody bags,” says Salvi who adds that it’s a sight to watch pet parents put their heart and soul in the course thinking their pets will follow suit.

The upcoming fourth edition of the Woofs and Hoof Carnival was first initiated with an aim to raise funds for the BSPCA which primarily relies on donations. “But we wanted to rope in a younger crowd and children who are more impressionable and teach them about animal welfare,” says Maya Bhogilal, who represents the BSPCA’s fundraising committee. Their efforts today have transcended money (although that’s always going to be important) to focus largely on adoption and welfare. The proceeds raised will go towards the upkeep of the hospital and welfare of the animals. “We do [the carnival] to promote the adoption of indie animals and discourage breeding,” she stresses.

Accordingly, the carnival has invited the participation of other non-profits working for our furry friends. For instance, World For All – Teach Co.Exist will have a session on how to be empathetic towards animals. The Animal Adoption Crusaders are organising an adoption enclosure with some of the animals from the BSPCA who desperately need homes. There will also be merchandise from NGOS, like Youth Organisation in Defense of Animals (YODA), Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD), Plant and Animal Welfare Society and others. But it’s not all serious stuff, a bouncy castle aims to keep the kids entertained, the Jazz Collective display their vocal chops and a host of brands like We Exist, La Dogce Vita, Wild Wash and others, get the adults to turn out their wallets.

Woofs and Hoof will take place on Sunday, January 13 from 4 p.m. at the Second Enclosure, Mahalaxmi Race Course. Entry is priced at ₹100 onwards.

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