Pets in PR: MSL's Natasha Vuppuluri and her ‘boys’ Chainsaw and Michelin

Vuppuluri had to adjust to WFH around her two dogs.

  • (L to R) Chainsaw and Michelin

    (L to R) Chainsaw and Michelin

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When the pandemic forced Americans to quarantine and shrink their social bubbles, people had to reevaluate their daily routines and relationships with their cohabitants—even of the furry variety.  

Natasha Vuppuluri, MSL SVP and director of marketing, found herself in a similar position with her two dogs. Chainsaw, a 12-year-old Boston terrier, and Michelin, a 6-year-old French bulldog, were used to having the run of her Chicago home. 

"I used to joke before the pandemic that it was their house, and I just lived in it and was a renter," Vuppuluri says. "When the office closed in 2020, that's exactly what it felt like.” 

In this week's edition of Pets in PR, Vuppuluri describes how life changed with her furry roommates during the pandemic.

How has your relationship with Chainsaw and Michelin changed since the pandemic? 
When the pandemic hit, the boys had their routine, they had their spots in the house and all of a sudden I had to integrate into it. I had a lot of guilt that I didn't spend more time with Chainsaw as a puppy when I had my startup and was in MBA school. So in some ways, the pandemic was a bit of a blessing because for the first time we could spend so much time together.

For a long time in Q2 2020, all I would look forward to during the day when everything was locked down was walks with them. We found our own routine because having me home has been very unstructured in a lot of ways and hard for them too. 

Is there a pet culture at MSL? 
Unfortunately, our actual office building is not dog friendly, but we have a Microsoft Teams channel called Pets of MSL. Everyone posts pictures of their pets wearing clothes or on TikTok, and it's the channel with the most engagement. There's constant activity on there. The boys don't interact with anyone too much, but they do know when I'm on calls. Chainsaw is a little camera shy.

MSL just made blankets that we sent out to all our teams around the New Year, and they've been a big hit with pets. I was the one who got a sample of them, so I had the boys test it and they really liked it.

Do the dogs make appearances on video conference calls?
Yes. There's a 9:30 a.m. PRSA call on Fridays, and initially I was really embarrassed about what they would do—like get the zoomies. But now people are used to seeing them on video calls and if people don’t see them, I get questions like, "Are the boys home?" Or if Michelin is on my lap, someone will pick up their dog or cat and put them on their lap. So all of a sudden, we have multiple dogs on a conference call and it's fun and feels very human. 

Do the boys have a social media presence? 
I used to have an Instagram account for them (@thebonediggity) where I posted pictures of them on a pretty regular basis. Now I post on my own account, and my friends, family and colleagues love seeing pictures of them. They boys get tons of comments. Their dog walker actually posts pictures of all her walks on Instagram, so the boys are constantly on there.

We actually were followed the other day by an account in Chicago called Dogs in Elevators. They messaged us and asked if we could send a picture and a bit of a description about the boys. 

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