MAN AND DOG BEST FRIENDS IN ARMY
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
A human being is rated higher than an animal. Man is man and dog is dog. Despite not belonging to the same category in hierarchy, man and dog are rated as best friends. It is so because a dog is always loyal to his master, the Man and is ever ready to be of help in adversity. There have been many instances when a dog saved its master or another member of the master’s family even by sacrificing its own life.
Loyalty is a two-way tenet. In the Army, budding leaders are taught this principle day in and day out. If an officer is loyal to his troops by looking after their welfare and facilitating their advancement in the career, the troops will be loyal to the officer concerned and be at his service through thick and thin. Human beings have higher intelligence and look after friends protecting them against foes even at the cost of their own lives. With good training and motivation humans sacrifice their lives at the altar of freedom of their country.
Though a few notches lower than human beings, dogs too are trained to carry out the job assigned to them, never mind adverse circumstances. Dogs are loyal to their masters or handlers and go to any extreme to carry out the orders given. Indeed some breeds are better than others but it is intense training, love and affection of handlers and looking after creature comforts that matter most.
The Republic Day Parade 2016 will present a spectacle to the Heads of States on the saluting dais, dignitaries sitting in special enclosures and spectators all along the parade route of perfect coordination between dogs of the Indian Army and their handlers. As many as 36 specially trained dogs of the Remount and Veterinary Corps of the Indian Army accompanied by their Army Jawan handlers will march past the Presidential dais holding their heads high displaying grace in gait. Why not? It is after a gap of 26 years that the Dog Squad of the Indian Army has been chosen to let our citizens know that they are doing their difficult jobs silently both in war and peace.
Among the chosen 36 canine marchers, 24 are Labradors and 12 German Shepherds. Of course, their Army Jawan handlers will hold them on the leash to prevent them from running after a suspected terrorist in the crowd holding gun powder or any other explosive device. Our trained dogs of the Indian Army are given assignments to spot explosive devices in the terror infested areas like Jammu & Kashmir or training grounds of ISIS recruits in some southern states like Karnataka or Kerala. It may be mentioned here that a well trained dog and its handler sacrificed their lives in the high altitude of Kashmir hills combating Islamist terror from across the border.
It will be pertinent to mention that among the animals employed and deployed by the Army in the battle zone are horses, mules-both artillery and normal beast of burden and, of course, our friendly dogs. Some of them displayed acts of bravery beyond the call of duty and were awarded regular gallantry medals. I have heard but not seen in print that a mule of the British Army was awarded the highest gallantry medal for displaying bravery beyond the call of duty. Coming back to our dog squad, I must mention that some of our one thousand odd trained dogs of the Indian Army some have won Shaurya Chakra, Sena Medal and so on. It is indeed interesting indeed that the canine friends saved lives of soldiers and even saved the day for the regiment they were posted to braving odds and proceeding forward to catch the enemy unawares.
Like maintaining career records of officers and soldiers, files are opened and maintained on individual dogs of the Remount and Veterinary Corps too. Naturally every dog is given a name and is always addressed by name that he responds to when called. Thus animal dignity is maintained and individual personality of each dog blossoms. Their postings or transfers from station A to station B is done by their Record Office, under direct supervision of Army Headquarters, depending on the requirement of the dog concerned at a specific place. Career profile of dogs are maintained methodically and scientifically to prevent putting square pegs in round holes. How career conscious the dogs become without knowing that they are being assessed by handlers and their superior directing staff. It is indeed an interesting topic that needs delving deep into depth to do justice to dogs of the Indian Army.
Captain Anurag Boruah, RVC is incharge of the dog squad and he is particularly patient with implementing training schedule of his canine charge. He sees that both the dogs and their handlers are out of barracks four times a day to train themselves. The strict training schedule has been going on for the last four months or so in the Republic Day Camp in the Delhi Cantonment. The emphasis is on maintaining impeccable behavior and not so much on marching of the dogs. With their training to sniff explosives, gun powder, they keep their sniffing capability above reproach. Strong noise, crackers, smelly objects and even costly perfumes like channel 5 are kept away so that the sniffing faculty of our canine friends continue to remain as strong as ever. Loud noises are anathema to them and they have to be protected from cracker bursting, barat bands and so on. Of course, the martial music of the military bands is something they have got used to by now.
Behaviour of our dogs of the Army matters a lot. If a dog displays unruly behavioural pattern, it may not be selected for the national event like the Republic Day Parade. One would not like the RVC dogs misbehaving on the Republic Day Parade in the presence of foreign dignitaries like the Chief Guest, Francois Hollande and our own President Shri Pranab Mukherjee and Pradhan Mantri, Shri Narendra bhai Modi as that would spoil the show. So the handlers and the officer –in-charge ensure that each dog is on its best behavior. They are trained to put their best foot forward. The Dog Squad is likely to be the centre of attraction of a large number of spectators, both high and low. Every dog has its day and 26 January 2016 is the day of the Dog Squad of the Indian Army.