Marching slowly along with his buddy on a thick sheet of snow in North Kashmir, ‘Buzo’, a double-coat German Shepherd, gets a hero’s welcome after successfully pushing back infiltrators from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) recently.
‘Buzo’, a silent sentinel of the Army, is among the more than 150 expert dogs with the military that maintain a tight vigil along the Line of Control (LoC) as well as in the hinterland.
The dogs are specialised in three wings - assault (who attack the enemy), tracker (who track movements of the enemy) and explosive detection (who sniff explosives).
The canines posted along the LoC in the heights of North Kashmir are generally ‘double-coat German Shepherds’ which are best suited for the climate, while Labradors are used in the hinterland.
U.K.-based author Malcolm Beverley Willis, who died in 2011, had written in his book The German Shepherd Dog: A Genetic History that double coats can serve a dual function during different times of the year.
“During winter, they can keep the dog’s naturally produced heat close to the skin. In summer, they can reflect the sun’s light, preventing the dog from getting too hot,” Dr. Wills wrote in his book.
The handlers of the dogs feel that the canines have a legendary status when it comes to intelligence and courage.
They help detect any infiltration by terrorists from across the border, smuggling of drugs and forewarn about the possibility of avalanches, they say.
Recently Lt. Gen. Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, keeping with the Indian Army’s tradition of reciprocating salutes of juniors, was seen saluting a canine soldier outside the Amarnath cave shrine in South Kashmir.
Lt. Gen. Dhillon, who heads the strategic Kashmir-based XV corps, makes sure to meet his canine soldiers during his visit to the forward posts in the Valley. “Post dog is also very much part of the family and part of all celebrations,” said Lt. Gen. Dhillon.
Part of family
“Man’s most loyal friend is always there with the soldiers during rain, snow or any weather ... they go for all operations with the troops like patrolling and ambush and are especially there during emergencies like avalanche rescue,” said. Lt. Gen. Dhillon.
Other Army officials recalled the work of ‘Roma’, a tracker dog, who alerted her companions and got a temporary camp evacuated earlier this year. An avalanche damaged the field within a few hours.
Earlier this year, ‘Meena’, a Labrador, had alerted the troops about a possible Improvised Explosive Device, planted on the national highway. The warning from the specialised ‘explosive detection’ dog helped defuse 25 kg of IEDs planted on the highway to target an Army patrol, preventing a Pulwama-like situation.
Another German Shepherd named “Devil”, who has been trained as an assault dog, keeps anti-national elements on their heels.
“He does not spare any of his enemies,” boasts his handler.