Keran Sector/LoC: Unskilled and untrained but sharp like pro, the local canines known as ‘Gaddi’ dogs are a soldier’s best friends and the first responders along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir as they do a fantastic job of detecting any suspicious activity and alerting the troops of possible infiltration attempts.
Named after the nomadic Gaddi shepherds who rear them as guard dogs accompanying flocks of sheep and goats, this canine breed is a Himalayan sheepdog, also known by various other names including Bhotia or Bangara and sometimes called the Himalayan mastiff.
This local canine is native to the Himalayan foothills in eastern Nepal and Kashmir. The breed is primarily used as a livestock guardian, protecting flocks from various predators and as a property guard. They are also used to assist while hunting.
These are local, but not stray dogs, an army official said at one of the forward posts on the mighty Shamsabari range in Keran sector in northern district of Kupwara, as a black canine kept pacing along the fence, the first tier of the anti-infiltration obstacle system (AIOS).
The official said while the Army uses hi-tech equipment for the round-the-clock surveillance of the fence with the combination of men and machinery, the Gaddi dogs are invaluable to the soldiers in the fight against infiltration.
They pick even the slightest of the movements. They can sniff or hear in case there is any movement. They promptly raise the alarm and alert the troops, he said.
The officer, who cannot be named for strategic reasons, said the canine breed are the soldiers’ eyes and ears and live with them like a family.
They work with the troops and practically are a part of the family. They are their best friends, he added.
The dogs live with the troops at the posts even during the winter when, at most places, the weather is harsh with around 20 feet of snow.
While the dogs are without any formal training, their abilities are unmatched, another official said.
They are not properly trained but they live with the troopers on the posts and as such, they are fully aware of the people around and the movements which take place. They can sense anyone who is not supposed to be there. They recognise troops and local civilians and start barking whenever there is a movement of strangers, he said.
The officer said the Gaddi dogs keep a watch when security forces are resting or walk with soldiers while moving on patrol or on tracks that could have been mined by the terrorists.
Besides assisting the forces in counter-infiltration operations, they also act as stress-busters’ for the troops who like to play with them.
They act as our entertainment as well, especially in places where network connectivity is not available or rare. They are our best friends in that sense as well apart from the duties they perform, he added.
A senior officer said Gaddi dogs are easy to train, easy to maintain, and do not take huge amounts to procure.
They do a fantastic job. They are alert, have superb abilities, and serve as best watchdogs, he said.