The slightly plump black labrador named Wine must have got a “very bad” from her handler after her performance this past Thursday. All she had to do was roll, exactly like her handler motioned with his hands in front of all the flashing cameras. But she did not or rather could not; perhaps because of the influence of her name, her size or because of the rising temperatures in the Capital. When Wine tried to roll, she ended up getting stuck on her belly and thought it best to remain there.

Wine was part of a seven-member dog squad that the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) unit of the Delhi Metro showcased in front of media persons. Two dogs away from Wine was a two-year-old golden cocker spaniel named Mini – a huge fan of a multi-coloured ball. Yet, it was Mini’s turn to look up at her handler, CISF constable S. P. Ojha, and shake her pretty head in disappointment when his boot was entangled with the carpet and he momentarily fell to the ground.

Such mockery is common between a handler and his dog; after all, it’s as good as they are married. Ojha met the golden spaniel when she was a month-and-a-half old. She did not listen initially to any of his instructions nor care for anything but her ball. “I used to get punished because she did not pay attention during training. My supervisors used to tell me I am not giving Mini enough love,” says Ojha, standing inside Mini’s kennel. So he showered her with love and even let the pup share his bed at night. “Whether she felt loved or not I hardly slept for a whole month,” he laughs.

Mini has since aced the canine unit’s ‘explosives training’, her playfulness is kept away when her duty harness is on and she diligently squats or wags her tail when she is near any suspicious material in metro stations. When Ojha is happy with her, he allows her extra time with her ball, shampoos her fur and dabs her mouth with a yellow towel and when disapproving just says: “Bahut Kharab” or “Very Bad!”

In fact, all the 34 dogs – 23 labradors, 4 cocker spaniels and 7 German shepherds – on the CISF’s payroll will only respond to these words. “Even if I am angry with Mini I will never beat her,” says Ojha, the inevitable outcome of such an occurrence will be the end of their relationship. Behind him, Mini watches as her ball gets passed on to 7-year-old Bobby’s handler, Head Constable P. K. Samal.

Bobby has returned from a four-hour-long duty at the New Delhi Metro Station and like his fellow labrador Brownie is now relaxing in his kennel with a cooler in full blast. “Labradors are sensitive and are very peaceful while at work. Especially in a crowded place like a metro station we need the dogs to be calm,” says Samal.

With only six male dogs of the 34, Samal says, female dogs are preferred since they are calmer and more diligent. Yet, there is a strict no-breeding policy in the dog squad that poses a great problem for the female dogs. “Some of the female dogs go into what is known as a ‘false pregnancy’ and sometimes milk starts to form in their body,” says head constable and kennel in-charge Sitaram. “Since the squad cannot afford to lose a dog on maternity leave for a year we have been advised to go in for removal of the dog’s uterus,” he says.

Behind Sitaram, a female German shepherd named Cozy rests her paws on the grilled door and barks. It was one of her brethren who left the audience in splits on Thursday when he handed over the bouquet to a journalist instead of the chief guest. Soon after, the dog bounced back towards his handler with his tongue sticking out. “We know the heat has caught up with the dog looking at the extent to which the tongue sticks out,” says Samal.

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