Once a stray, Thenga set to sniff out criminals for Uttarakhand Police

Lalmani Verma
Thenga will formally join the police squad after completing a three-month training programme. (Express photo by Virender Singh Negi)

This stray dog has kept up with the best of pedigrees during its training to join an elite canine squad of the Uttarakhand Police at the Reserve Police Lines campus.

Uttarakhand Police officials say this is the first time that a stray is being trained to track criminals during investigations of murder, loot and theft-related cases. As a sniffer dog, Thenga will also assist the police during rescue operations.

Thenga will formally join the police squad after completing a three-month training programme, and will have to travel Dehradun and Uttarkashi districts to assist the police in search and rescue operations.

His performance at the recent state foundation celebrations has made him so popular that senior police officials are receiving phone calls from their counterparts in other states about the possibility of replicating the experiment of training a stray dog for their own respective canine squads.

Born about eight months ago on the streets of the Jogiwala area, on the outskirts of Dehradun, Thenga’s life changed for the better after he was picked by daughter of Kamlesh Pant, the inspector in-charge of the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) and dog squad. Pant adopted the dog, observed that he was very active and its immunity was very good.

“During a meeting regarding procurement of dogs for the squad, we discussed the possibility of training stray dogs. Pant told us about this dog (Thenga). I gave the approval. All the documentation formalities were done for this experiment, and it is quite successful. Thenga is taking training and performing very well and will join the squad very soon,” said Sanjay Gunjyal, Inspector General (police modernisation), Uttarakhand police.

Officials say he has been named Thenga because he broke a tradition of inducting of only pedigree dogs in the canine squad, and even performed better than popular breeds.

During a recent meeting in Delhi of police officials from across the country, other states also expressed an interest in carrying out a similar experiment.

Gunjyal said that top police officials of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar have shown interest in knowing more about the ‘Thenga experiment’.

Officials said that each dog of foreign breed — German Shepherds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers — cost a minimum Rs 40,000-50,000.

During procurement of these dogs, their pedigree is checked. But Thenga is first in the squad without a pedigree history. He now lives in a kennel with three other dogs, around 500 metres from the police lines ground. His handlers — Prem Vallabh and Ram Dutt Pandey — take him to the ground every morning and evening for a two-hour training session.

Earlier this month, Thenga and 24 other sniffer dogs were introduced to the public during the state foundation function in the presence of Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.

“While the other 24 dogs in the squad jumped across obstacles of almost three feet, a special obstacle of four feet was prepared for Thenga because during training sessions, he had displayed a capability to jump across higher obstacles. Also, in a mock drill performed there, Thenga helped the police in nabbing a thief,” Pant said.

“Training Thenga was more difficult compared to dogs of foreign breeds. He was more aggressive and it took time. But now, he has mixed with other dogs and they all saluted the dignitaries at the state foundation day event. Now, Thenga is familiar with others,” Pant said.