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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A ‘thank you gesture for faithful friends’ to spend their retired life with dignity

The country’s second largest such facility for retired police dogs, after Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, currently shelters 11 German Shepherds and Labradors who are K-9 unit veterans.

Written by Vaibhav Jha | Anand |
Updated: August 9, 2021 1:31:13 pm
Inmates at the old age home for retired police dogs in Anand. (Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

A rear exit from the Ahmedabad-Anand-Vadodara expressway, taking a detour of 15 kilometres in Anand, and you reach the office of the superintendent of police (SP), a talk of the town of late. It houses Gujarat’s first Old Age Home for Police Dogs.

As the wrought iron latch on the gates is unlocked, Snoopy, a female German Shepherd, lets out a low-decibel warning for her handler and other dogs regarding the infiltration. She has strategically placed herself beneath a framed quotation on the wall that reads, “Dogs never bite. Just Humans.”

The country’s second largest such facility for retired police dogs, after Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, currently shelters 11 German Shepherds and Labradors who are K-9 unit veterans.

Among the 11 canines, the most illustrious one is ‘Bullet’ an 11-year-old black male Labrador who retired October last year from Palanpur police headquarters, Banaskantha. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

True to the spirit of her name, 10-year-old Snoopy is the most alert of the lot, working as a watchdog of the facility, snooping out any possible infiltration — squirrels, cats and at times, humans. Her age doesn’t allow much activity but years of police training has taught her to be vigilant even as she fights frequent bouts of sleep.

Her handler Nirmal Zala, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) with Anand police, states, “Snoopy served as a sniffer dog for 10 years at Ahwa police headquarters in Dangs. Her work mainly included keeping vigil at VVIP events as well as at railway stations and bus stands, sniffing out explosives and narcotics. She retired from service in September last year but her traits are still strong though her body has grown old.”

Zala points out a bulletin written in Gujarati installed at the facility that mentions the profiles of all 11 dogs, created similar to that of illustrious police officers listing their age, career years and medals won along with postings.

The inmates — ‘Sushi’, ‘Thunder’, ‘Sophie’, ‘Tag’, ‘Venus’, ‘Meesha’, ‘Nikita’, ‘Crispy’, ‘Bullet’, ‘Papier’ and ‘Snoopy’ — have served in Gujarat Police in the past 10 years as part of the sniffer dogs unit. Today, they have found a new home, which according to police, is a “thank you gesture” for their service to the society.

On July 25 this year, Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) Ashish Bhatia inaugurated the facility started by DGP Training Vikas Sahay and Anand superintendent of police Ajit Rajian. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with the Kamdhenu University to provide medical facilities to the dogs. In the first batch, veteran canines from Navsari, Vadodara Railway Police, Ahwa Dang, Aravalli, Rajkot and Palanpur in Banaskantha were brought in.

“Initially, we had a system to auction retired police dogs, giving dog lovers a chance to adopt them. However, we saw that service dogs had issues settling in as a homely pet dog and owners were deserting them. Then we decided to start a facility for police dogs, providing good food, health facilities as well as regular exercise. It is a thank you gesture by the police towards our faithful friends who have served the force for more than a decade,” said SP Ajit Rajian.

Four handlers are employed at the facility for 11 inmates at present. Each dog has a caged room where they retire after evening hours. The facility also has a playground with “jump bars”, “agility course” and other equipment for their training.

“Labradors and German Shepherds usually have a life span of 14 to 15 years. With age, dogs start developing health issues such as arthritis, heart issues, skin infection diseases and ticks. The facility is situated near a veterinary hospital to ensure mandatory check-ups every fortnight,” said DR Patel, deputy superintendent of police, headquarters, Anand.

The inmates have served in Gujarat Police in the past 10 years as part of the sniffer dogs unit. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Among the 11 canines, the most illustrious one is ‘Bullet’ an 11-year-old black male Labrador who retired October last year from Palanpur police headquarters, Banaskantha. Bullet boasts of seven medals during his decade-long career.

His handler, head constable Ramesh Khant, says, “Bullet received seven medals for serving the force, sniffing out narcotics at the crucial Rajasthan-Gujarat border in Palanpur and for his performance at events.” Other dogs are also not far behind.

Explaining the life of a police dog, DySP Patel said, “There are usually two types of police dogs — trackers and sniffers. The former is assigned at crime spots to pick up scents for investigation while the latter is deployed to sniff explosives and narcotics. A puppy is chosen at the age of six months based on their skills and the training lasts from nine months to one year. Once given a handler, the dog remains with that person throughout their service. One handler manages four to five service dogs.”

At present, Gujarat Police train dogs at Ahmedabad and Karai Police Academy in Gandhinagar. The Gujarat Police is now planning to bring in more dogs to the facility and also open it for the public.

“We want to turn this facility into a relaxing space for people to come with their dogs and make them interact with our retired friends or just spend time with them. We are also planning to include more retired dogs in phases,” said Rajian.

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