Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan


For this issue, Natural Selections interviews Malu, the dog who lives with Tiago Siebert Altavini (Gilbert Lab, The Rockefeller University) and Patricia Saletti. Malu speaks Portuguese and I only know 10 words of it, but her parents were willing and capable translators for our interview. I love animals, please write me at if you have pets!

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Malu: I’m 5, which in human years is about 36 years old.


PV: Is there a story behind your name?

M: Malu is actually short for Maria Luiza, which my parents only use when they are mad at me. That doesn’t happen often though.


PV: What is your first memory?

M: I’ll never forget the day I met my best friend, Nina. She lives with my grandparents and we spent much of our childhood together. We used to play a lot in the backyard. Unfortunately, I don’t see her much anymore because she lives in Brazil and I live here.


PV: Who are your parents? When did you meet them?

M: I live with Patricia and Tiago, my mom and dad. I met them in August 2013 when I moved in with them.


PV: How do they belong in the Tri-I community?

M: My dad works in the Gilbert lab as a postdoc. My mom is also a postdoc but works far away in the Bronx, but she has many friends in the Tri-I community.


PV: Where do you live?

M: I live in Scholars Residence, the tall building close to the university where my dad works.


PV: What are your favorite smells of New York City?

M: Oh, I love to smell everything. My mom always complains that we take too long when we go for a walk. I guess that’s why my dad does most of the walking with me.


PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

M: Definitely in Brasilia so I could be close to my best friend, Nina. But I have to say I would be tempted to live closer to the beach. I love the beach, it’s like a huge dog park with all that sand.


PV: What are your favorite foods?

M: Chicken and carrots! Not necessarily together. I usually get chicken flavored dog food and whenever my dad is cooking I cry by the kitchen countertop to see if he’ll give a little piece of vegetable. If I hear him cutting carrots, I come running. I also like to eat fruits.


PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in New York City?

M: Going to the dog park. I don’t care much about the other dogs to be honest, but I get to play “catch the ball” a lot, which is my favorite game. I don’t go much anymore though. I got sick after going to one of these parks and now my parents are afraid of taking me again. I also like going to Central Park and to the beach.


PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

M: I have many friends in the area, but if I had to choose one, it would be Sofia from the Freiwald Lab. We used to be neighbors and I would play with her all the time. I usually stay with her when my parents are out of town. We play a lot and she teaches me Spanish.


PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

M: I tend to get very excited after my morning walk. When I come back from walking, I run around the house, play with my toys and try really hard to get everyone’s attention. One day I was particularly agitated and decided to jump on the bed. Now, the bed is too tall for me, but on that day I was feeling so energetic I was sure I could do it. I took some distance, ran towards the bed, jumped and hit the side of the bed with my chest and fell to the floor on my back. I didn’t get even close. I didn’t find it too funny at the moment but my parents laughed the whole morning.


PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

M: No, my parents say I’m too young for social media.


PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

M: To open the door and go out by myself. I love going out, to the park, to parties, to trips. The problem is sometimes my parents don’t take me with them and I have to stay home by myself until they come back.