Montreal has a new fashion icon, and she’s a seven-pound dog.
Tika, the Italian greyhound whose video about all the outfits she didn’t get to wear over the course of the pandemic went viral in December, lives in the southwest borough of Ville-Émard with owner Thomas Shapiro and his husband (“favourite dad” and “second-favourite dad,” in Tika’s Instagram captions). She’s been shouted out by celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Diane Keaton and Lizzo, and her video was re-created by Sofia Vergara. She has an agent and her own merch. And this month she appeared in Vogue, where the legendary fashion magazine showed readers how to recreate human versions of Tika’s now-iconic outfits.
“It’s been a bit crazy,” Shapiro told HuffPost Canada.
Shapiro and his husband got Tika nine years ago, when they were living in an apartment and needed a dog who would be comfortable in a small space. They had both grown up with big dogs, so initially they weren’t thrilled about the idea of a little one. But doing some research on Italian greyhounds quickly changed their minds.
Her name comes from a slight mishearing of the Hindi word ठीक है, or theek hai — something they often heard a friend say on the phone to her mom. “It means like, everything’s good, everything’s okay,” Shapiro said. “We thought it sounded cute. People keep pointing out that sounds like tikka masala, the chicken dish. But it has nothing to do with that.”
Sometimes Shapiro forgets Tika is a dog, he said. “She doesn’t really fetch. She has toys that she plays with, but it’s kind of on her own terms — if you take out a toy and show it to her, she’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ She wants to go to the dog park, and she’ll run around and have fun, but she’s not like the other dogs running and playing together. So I really do feel like there’s like a tiny human trapped in this little Italian greyhound’s body.”
Tika’s illustrious outfit collection stems from practicality, Shapiro said: Italian greyhounds get cold really easily, as they’re very slim and don’t have a lot of fur. And they’re “a very dramatic breed,” Shapiro said. “If it’s under 20 degrees, she starts to shiver.”
So winter coats are a necessity, especially in Montreal. Boots, too, are needed to protect delicate paws from salt used to de-ice the sidewalk.
“And of course, like human fashion, we’re able to have fun with it,” he said. “And we definitely do.”
He estimated that Tika now has over 200 outfits.
“At the moment we’ve got a bunch of bins in the basement,” he said. “People are asking for a wardrobe tour... we’re looking at a better wardrobe solution.”
It’s impossible for him to say which outfit is his favourite overall, but one of his favourites right now a pink and yellow faux-fur jacket that made it onto Lizzo’s Instagram feed after she wore a bikini and stole in the same material.
“I was like, You know what, I love this one. And if Lizzo loves it, I love it even more.”
Tika already had a pretty big online following — about 230,000 Instagram followers, Shapiro said — before the “loved it, couldn’t wear it” video came out in December. But the cheerful yet relatable video, which put a silly, colourful spin on the frustration so many people were feeling at the beginning of the pandemic winter, took her to new heights.
“I think it really hit home with everyone, how people couldn’t wear so many outfits because no one had anywhere to go,” Shapiro said. “That’s where people got interested.”
She now boasts over 850,000 followers on Instagram, and her videos have racked up more than 11 million likes on TikTok.
Tika has some fashion advice for other dogs interested in following in her very fashionable footsteps, Shapiro said.
“Comfort first,” he said. “Once you know that they’re comfortable, and the garment serves its purpose, then the more colour the better. You really want to turn heads on your walk, which Tika always does. Just have fun with it. Explore different textiles, and kind of make it your own.”
Tika has a whole new kind of adventure to look forward to: Shapiro and his husband are expecting a baby at the end of April. Experience has shown them that Tika is more comfortable with kids she’s seen grow up than kids who are strangers, sometimes because young kids who see a small dog assume they can pick her up, which she doesn’t enjoy.
“My sister-in-law has three kids now, and watching Tika with these kids, she’s just amazing, because she’s known them from day zero so she really has this nice bond with them,” he said. “We’ve realized that when the baby is really close to the family, or it’s a baby that she’s known since the get go, that she’s really comfortable with them.”
And from a dog’s perspective, there are practical advantages to having kids around, as well. “She realized very early on that babies and toddlers drop a lot of food from high chairs.”
They haven’t made their baby news public on Tika’s Instagram page yet, but an announcement is forthcoming, Shapiro said. In true Tika form, it will be fashion-related: watch out for a photo of matching dog-and-baby outfits coming soon.