KOCHI: Everyone loves dogs. But In India, while most expensive breeds get to live the dream, Indian dogs are chased away, beaten up, mass-killed and left to starve. Ukrainian couple Kristina Masalova and Eugene Petrus, however, didn’t hold prejudices. That is how a cheerful Chapati who is full of life came into their lives. The furry friend is now dear to over 30,000 people from all over the world online
Chapati, an Indian dog is living the dream, going places. As a puppy, he was adopted by Ukrainian couple Kristina Masalova and Eugene Petrus from Kochi in 2017. Now four-and-a-half years old, Chapati was recently labelled ‘the most travelled dog’ by the India Book of Records and National Register of Records of Ukraine.
Years ago, Kristina and Eugene, a married couple from Kyiv, Ukraine were so overcome by grief at the loss of their dog, that they decided to leave the country and travel. “Our beloved dog died due to a very uncommon autoimmune reaction to sterilisation. I couldn’t continue living in the same place, I couldn’t be back on the streets where we used to walk together. I blamed myself for everything that happened and didn’t see any sense in living forward. The only thing I was sure of, was that I would never find a place for a new dog in my heart,” says Kristina over email. The duo took a one-way ticket to Asia and started their lives anew. And that is the beginning of their tale with Chapati, one of healing and happiness that is overwhelming to anyone who hears it.
In Kerala, the duo chanced upon a starving, ailing puppy. They adopted her, named her Chapati and took her on their adventures. They started a social media account to popularise Indian dogs, to make the world see what they see in Chapati, the apple of their eyes!
Ever since Chapati came into their lives, the couple has been travelling with her. When they make road trips, they ensure she is one of them, and not confined to luggage compartments. But travelling with a dog comes with many challenges, says Kristina. “It was a new and unique experience for us. It might not suit everyone and not all dogs. There is only one way to do this — to change your travel philosophy,” she says.
For the duo, Kerala was all about Chapati. Currently, Kristina is writing fiction about Chapati’s adventures and working on a film on Indian street dogs. For this story, we speak to Chapati, about being a travelling friend to the couple, being a social media star and seeing the world, as a happy puppy!
Hi, Chapati. How do you feel about all the attention you are getting? How does it feel to be called the most travelled dog?
I adore the attention! When they open up to me and pet me, I remember my days as a tiny naive pup and feel as happy. I don’t care about certificates much, they’re for my parents who are trying to get more of my brothers and sisters adopted around the world.
Where are you currently pitched?
For the last 1.5 years we are in Kyiv and have only taken a few small trips around Ukraine.
Take us through your journey of how you met your parents.
I don’t remember the first three weeks of my life. I was born at the beginning of 2017, somewhere in Fort Kochi. I don’t know how I got separated from my biological family. On January 26 somebody put me on a wall or pedestal, where I spent some time under the burning sun. By nightfall, I was so weak and dehydrated, from starving for days. That is when I heard two people pass by. So, I howled with whatever strength I had left. That was Kristina and Eugene — they found me at my worst, nursed me back to life. They thought finding me was destiny, so they took me along. That was the turning point of my life — more like my Cinderella story.
How do you compare your life in Kerala and Ukraine?
It is hard to compare India and Ukraine because of my environment. In Kochi, it was all about survival. Now I’m surrounded by love and care. I love Ukrainian winters! I even need a jacket, but only on the few coldest days of the year. I also fell in love with snow. You can’t even imagine how fun it is to play in the snow, to bite and dig around in it! (grins)
Does the rough climate affect you?
I borrow my genes from the Indian Indigenous dogs that had to survive on their own for at least 15,000 years. So, I am positive that my breed can adapt to different climates.
What does travel mean to you?
For me travel means action, and action means life! Due to my genetics, a nomadic lifestyle is the norm. My only concern is to be with my humans. After losing my family as a child, this still remains my biggest fear.
How did you turn into a travelling dog?
I started to travel when I was a pup. It was the only possibility because my human parents had to move countries when their visas expired. It was a sequence of lucky coincidences, the attitude of my parents that changed me from a dying puppy to the happiest dog!
How many countries have you been to?
I have visited 30 countries and 116 different cities with my parents. I’ve covered over 55,000km, been to 14 islands and 11 seas.
Has travel changed you?
The best change has been being myself. Travelling suits my active temperament and being an extrovert, I love meeting new people!
Why are you called Chapati?
My parents fell in love with the bread variety and ate it almost every day while they were in India. So they started calling me ‘Chapati’, because of my colour and tiny size. When they realised that the name could make Indians laugh, they knew they made the right choice.
Tell us something funny.
The funniest hobby I have is pranking my humans! I make a showy and loud yawn each time I lie on their bed. I walk around the table a few times before I start to eat. I also wake my daddy up at 8am and when he leaves the bed, I take up his place next to mommy! Sleeping in many postures is one of my favourite things to do. You should see my yoga positions.
Do you miss your homeland? When do you plan to come back?
All three of us dream of coming back to India and giving my brothers and sisters a helping hand. But, since my parents do not want to put me in the luggage compartment of a flight, they don’t have an option to come back.
What is your dream?
I hope and wish for all my brothers and sisters to have a loving, caring family like mine, where they don’t have to starve or face cruelty. I also dream that someday, Indians will start to love and appreciate Indian indigenous dogs.
Travel is life
For Chapati travelling is his life. He is thankful to his parents for the nomadic life he is living now.
A dream yet to be fulfilled
Chapati hopes that all his brothers and sisters to have a loving, caring family. He dreams that no dog have to starve or face cruelty. He wishes that someday, Indians will start to love and appreciate Indian indigenous dogs too.