I had a terrible fear of dogs. A beat constable, I was targeted everyday by one on Mount Road. While cycling back home after night patrolling, a pack of mongrels would give me a chase. What was worse, my first guard duty entailed keeping an eye on an accused who had been admitted in a hospital. A man bitten by a rabid dog was lying in the neighbouring bed. I could not stomach the suffering he went through. My fear of dogs became more pronounced and I wanted to get over it. At this juncture, an apportunity to work closely with dogs came my way. After Rajiv Gandhi was killed in a bomb blast, the Central Government wanted to increase the number of dog handlers to guide dogs that have been trained to detect explosives. Policemen from different States were imparted this skill through a one-year camp at BSF Academy, Tekanpur, Madhya Pradesh. Deep loneliness set in as I stayed away from family and friends. The trainees could not keep even a transistor. For food, we had to cycle a kilometre. But slowly, the dogs filled the void. Their affection helped me tide through the lonely, rigorous training period. When I returned to Chennai, I was a different man. Now, I had to have dogs around me! In mortal dread of dogs, my wife hated me for frequently bringing home a pup. As our son Saravanakumar suffered from mild wheezing, having dogs aggravated his condition. With her pleas as well as outbursts not having any effect on me, she even contemplated divorce.
Sniffing out bombs with the help of dogs meant he was in a risky job. Moreover, he used to get bitten by the dogs he trained. And, I definitely did not want to hobnob with canines at home. We were utterly incompatible and our marriage would have broken if I had not taken my mother’s counsel. She said, “If you can’t change him, you must change for him.” A bit reluctantly, I agreed to go with him to a dog show at Ooty. The event changed the course of my life. Charmed by the canines in the competition, I was also impressed with the nature of his work. From there, I have partnered him in his work. We run a boarding facility for dogs whose owners have to travel on an emergency. Pet dogs are like children – they are dependent and require constant attention. For this reason, I spend long hours at our kennel and often skip family get-togethers. This has led to rifts with some of our relatives. We have one son and Brucy, a female Rottweiler, has met our longing for a girl child. There is absolute peace at home because of her. If either of us raises our hand or voice, Brucy would bark vehemently and pounce on the ‘offender’. So, when we have an argument, we lock Brucy in a room and thrash it out. When Brucy’s child, a four-month-old pup, died, life was not the same for me. If I had ever felt worse, I don’t remember when.
As told to PRINCE FREDERICK