“Dogs around here are not friendly at all, huh?” I smiled at the soldier while filling out my details in the entry register.
“Friendly?” He smiled back at me, “These dogs will kill you if they had a chance”
“Are you serious?”
“Why do you think I did not let your friend go alone and had a soldier escort him?”
We were on a motorcycle trip to Ladakh and were riding across the Changtang Valley. Loma is a small village in the valley where we had to register ourselves at an Indian Army check-post before continuing any further because this entire valley lies right next to India-China border, a highly sensitive area. While I was filling out our details in the entry register, one of my friends asked the soldier if we could get some drinking water around here. He asked another soldier to escort my friend to a nearby building which looked like either an Army barrack or canteen.
“Because of the dogs?” I asked the soldier.
“Yes, there are dogs all around here and If they see a stranger around, they will immediately attack”
“Attack means barking and growling to scare?”
“No” He laughed, “Attack means attack to rip the stranger apart”
Moments ago while we were entering the village, I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful valley ahead. My friends were riding a ahead of me and I was following them, a little behind. Just when I thought of taking my camera out, I noticed a couple of puppies coming towards me. By the way they were approaching, I could tell that I cannot just stand there to pat their heads and immediately accelerated to get away from them. A few meters ahead, I noticed an entire pack of dogs running crazily towards me from a distance. Thankfully, I reached the Army check-post before either of them could get to me.
“Have there been incidents of these dogs killing people?” I said, looking at the soldier in disbelief.
“Well not around here”
“Not here? You mean they have killed someone elsewhere?”
“Yeah, at another check-post not far from here” He replied and started to narrate, “We are very careful around these dogs. At nights, these dogs are really on prowl and we take extreme caution while stepping out of our barracks. Even though we feed these dogs with our own hands during day, we are still scared of them at night”
“OK” I said, listening intently.
“A few years ago” He continued, “at a nearby check-post not far from here, an Army subedaar got really drunk before he went to sleep. We don’t usually drink alcohol here because of the height and lack of oxygen in this area but some people still do. At night, the subedaar got up and stepped out in the dark for some reason, I think he must be wanting to pee or something. Usually if we have to step out at night, we stay close to the barrack and keep our gun close.These dogs also don’t attack us all of a sudden since they get to recognize our faces but that night, no one knows what happened, whether the subedaar tried to shoo a dog away or hit a dog or the dogs didn’t recognize him or whatever but he got attacked. In the morning, the other soldiers found him in pieces, ripped apart and the dogs were eating him.”
“Eating him?” I asked him in disbelief.
“Yeah, The only part of his body that remained intact till morning was the one inside his shoes”
“You mean his feet?”
“He must have screamed or shouted for help. How come no one came out to assist?”
“These dogs aim straight for the throat and that is what must have happened. No one heard a thing. The guard on duty here at check post heard the dogs barking and running around but he couldn’t see that they were attacking a human in the dark”
“How is this even possible? Dogs killing a human and you folks only found out about it in the morning?”
“Trust me, it happened” He said, “Even the villagers don’t go messing around with the dogs here”
“And you still let these dogs stay?”
“They are not ours really, they belong to the villagers. It’s not even our call to shoo them away, they just stay close to Army check posts for some reason. Some check-posts have as many as 50 dogs”
“Why in the world would you want these beasts around you?” I asked, astonished.
“Because they help us keep watch” He replied with a blank stare.