As Pushpangadan G. leads his charge, Bloompy, a five-year-old chocolate brown Labrador, for her daily walk, he is greeted by a chorus of woofs from a couple of mongrels. “The strays have become my friends and always greet me with woofs and sometimes they come up to me for a pat. I’ve always found dogs, be it mongrels or pedigreed, to be as sociable and as sensitive as humans,” says Pushpangadan, a former sub-inspector with the Kerala Dog Squad. He is now a full-time dog trainer and gives behavioural and obedience training lessons for several pedigree dogs in the city.
“Sit!” commands Pushpangadan, firmly but softly, looking straight into Bloompy’s eyes. The dog promptly drops onto her hindquarters, her tongue wagging. “I also teach my charges to respond to various other commands such as down, rest, sleep, roll… and also to not to eat food offered by strangers, to keep watch for strangers, judge strangers, and so on… You’ve got to be firm while giving the commands and never in an irritated tone. Dogs can sense our emotions very quickly. Ideally, training should start soon as the pups are three to four months old, especially for aggressive breeds such as Dobermans and Rottweilers. Labs are very intelligent and they can easily be trained even when they are a year old,” he says bending down to give the Lab a scratch on its head. “It’s important that you have lots of empathy when you work with dogs,” he adds.
Pushpangadan started his career with the city’s Armed Police Force. “During the Poonthura riots of 1992, I sustained a head injury and had to be hospitalised for over a month. Afterwards, I signed up for the dog squad when they were looking to recruit from the Force. I had always had a fascination for dogs, right from my childhood onwards and at 32, I found my dream job with the dog squad,” adds the 65-year-old. He and his then charge, a Labrador named Jikki, were sent for extensive training in home obedience, explosives and narcotics trade and also tracking at a facility in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. “We were trained by the Border Security Force for one-and-a-half years,” recalls Pushpangadan.
During their distinguished career with the Kerala Dog Squad, Pushpangadan and Jikki, solved many local crimes, especially with regards to tracking (of robbers and criminals). Later the officer was given charge of a female Rottweiler, Ruby, and with his canine friends also won many accolades, including the Chief Minister’s Medal and gold medals at the All India Police Meets at Hyderabad and Bhopal. Pushpandagan has also played a small role in the cult movie Oru CBI Diary Kurippu – as, what else, but a dog squad officer! “I led a sniffer dog, an Alsatian named Bruno, for a sequence in the film. In films, always, Alsatians are pictured as sniffer dogs maybe because they look rather regal. Actually, Labs are the best sniffer dogs in the business,” says Pushpangadan, who retired in 2005. He now lives a quiet life at Kanjirampara with his wife, Padmam, and three children Shibu, Shalu and Shyama, and his two pet dogs. “We are a family who love dogs,” he says.
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)