Canine ‘soldiers’, the mute sentinels of Kashmir
Some of the army personnel pat them while others throw a ball and some offer biscuits for a great job done by the two canines during an anti-militancy operation by detecting an Improvised Explosive Device(IED) or alerting troops about suspicious movements.
‘Tractor’, a Rottweiler, and ‘Sam’, a German Shepherd, have been deployed with an unit of army’s Rashtriya Rifles, which keeps a vigil on sensitive areas of south Kashmir covering Kokernag, Achabal, Magam forests and Pahalgam.
Both had the distinction of being part of the operation in which young Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani and two others were killed on July 8.
“After the successful operation, these two colleagues of mine also had a sense of relief along with other team mates,” says an army Major referring to ‘Tractor’ and ‘Sam’. They are fondly taken care of and engaged by soldiers who devote a considerable free time of theirs to give company to their “colleagues” who keep a watch when they sleep in their make-shift tents or accommodation or walk down the roads which could be mined by terrorists.
Sniffing out an IED planted on a road or chasing a runaway terrorist or alerting a possible intrusion are some of the duties that these dogs have been performing with aplomb.
“When nation sleeps, people know that we are awake and when we take a nap, we know that these (dogs) are awake,” says a army officer as he fondly pats ‘Sam’ and ‘Tractor’ who had detected an IED on Dailgam-Achabal road.
The canines besides performing the duties in counter- insurgency operations also act as “stress-busters” for the troops who like to play with us, says a handler.
“The dogs have their own mechanism of studying and observing us and adjusting themselves to our mood,” said another army major.
“During chalo calls when crowd was building, ‘Trigger’ was very effective with his presence. He activates himself to attack any violent demonstrators,” the officer said and added with a smile, “his nervous system gets activated the moment he hears word ‘Azadi’”.
Besides these canines, there is a “Jojo”, a Bakarwali dog found locally in hilly areas, and “Ceasar”, a Rottweiler, to help security forces tackle violent demonstrations.
“Last month violent protesters pelted stones at our camp and threw petrol bottles. We refrained from firing as this could have led to casualties and instead we unleashed the two who not only chased them away but also ensured they don’t assemble again,” a senior army officer said.
And not to forget “Tarzan”, another German Shepherd, who plays an important part in the perimeter security especially at night and is very responsive to any suspicious activity.