Priyanka Jena, Tanveer Taj and their dogs, Frodo and Cruise, are cooped up in their house in Mumbai. “I think our biggest problem is boredom, which is a privilege. We don’t have any reason to complain. Many people are going through a lot more,” says Priyanka.
But they are also restless. “It is not just because of the pandemic. We like being in the company of Nature and outdoors as much as possible.”
Two years ago, the four of them did an all-India tour, swimming in beaches and hiking up snow-capped mountains. With most of the country forced into a lockdown, it is a past they most reminisce about and long to recreate. Fortunately, they had recorded their journey with five GoPros, two digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras and a drone camera. Snippets of this can be found on their website, wheelsandtrails.com, and their social media pages. But Sony BBC Earth has packaged their adventures into a show, Life off the Leash.
“Our journey goes quite a few years back,” recounts Tanveer of how the four came together. “I am from Pune and had a pup, Frodo (a golden retriever) when I moved to Bombay in 2015. That is where I met Priyanka. A few months later, she brought another nugget into our lives — Cruise (a labrador mix).”
Tanveer and Priyanka loved the outdoors and dogs. “We camped out a lot,” says Tanveer. They started with trips around Mumbai and then went to places in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. They didn’t know anyone who went on long trips with their dogs and so shared their journeys on social media.“That is when it started snowballing. People got curious about how we were doing it. Everybody wanted us to talk more about it. So, we decided to give ourselves an identity online and called it Wheels and Tails.”
- Start them young: Travelling with dogs is not as difficult as it may seem. They are the happiest when they are with you. See if the dogs are getting used to the car. Start with smaller trips, while they are young.
- Packing is paramount: One of the major essentials we never forget is the medical kits for the dogs. You’ll be going to places where there are no vets around, so you need to be equipped with all the medical supplies that you may need in case your dog falls sick. It will be useful to do a crash course with your vets on first-aid for dogs.
Priyanka and Tanveer then made a bucket list for places they wanted to go with Frodo and Cruise. The latter liked water. So, she wanted to take Cruise to see the tides in Rameshwaram. The former, who is more of a mountain guy, wanted Frodo to experience the snow in the Himalayas. “We kept adding places and it became an extensive list,” Tanveer says. ‘What if we covered all the places in one long tour?’ wondered the couple.
After a year and a half of planning, they headed for the most thrilling trip of their lives: a 120-day adventure covering 20 Indian states.
There were challenges aplenty. Finding pet-friendly places to stay, for instance, wasn’t easy. “The heartland of India has grown around animals. The people there are not uncomfortable with two dogs being around or having a meal with them. In the cities, we couldn’t find many places to stay. We got a lot of help from our social media community. People whom we have never met opened their doors to us,” says Tanveer.
The fun outweighed the troubles of the trip. For, they had some of the best moments of their lives during those four months. “The New Year’s Eve in Tuticorin is one of the best we will experience in a very long time,” says Priyanka. “We were staying in this lovely surf school and were camping out for three days straight. Frodo and Cruise were completely off the leash. They were swimming constantly. And, everyone there adored them.”
Priyanka and Tanveer considered taking a filming crew along but decided against it. “We wanted this to be a raw and candid experience. Even the presence of one or two or three people can make it seem like it is not authentic. The biggest USP of this show will be that it is completely self-shot,” says the latter, “We have not gone to touristy places. It is India like you have never seen before — through the journey of two people and two dogs.”
Life Off The Leash premieres on May 31 at 10pm