NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: Marching slowly along with his buddy on a thick sheet of snow in North Kashmir, 'Buzo', a double-coat German Shepherd, gets a hero's welcome after successfully having pushed back infiltrators from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) recently.
'Buzo', a silent sentinel of the Army, is among the more than 150 expert dogs with the military that maintain a tight vigil along the Line of Control (LoC) as well as in the hinterland.
The dogs are specialised in three wings -- Assault (who attack the enemy), Tracker (who track movements of the enemy) and Explosive Detection Dogs (who sniff explosives).
The canines posted along the LoC in the heights of North Kashmir are generally 'double-coat German Shepherds' which are best suited for the climate, while Labradors are used in the hinterland.
UK-based author Malcolm Beverley Willis, who died in 2011, had written in his book 'The German Shepherd Dog: A Genetic History' that double coats can serve a dual function during different times of the year.
"During winter, they can keep the dogs naturally produced heat close to the skin. In summer, they can reflect the sun's light, preventing the dog from getting too hot," Dr Wills wrote in his book.
The handlers of the dogs feel that the canines have a legendary status when it comes to intelligence and courage.
They help detect any infiltration by terrorists from across the border, smuggling of drugs and forewarn about the possibility of avalanches, they say.
Recently Lt Gen Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, keeping with Indian Army's tradition of reciprocating salutes of juniors, was seen saluting a canine soldier outside Amarnath cave shrine in South Kashmir.
Lt Gen Dhillon, who heads the strategic Kashmir-based XV corps, makes sure to meet his canine soldiers during his visit to the forward posts in the valley.
"Post dog is also very much part of the family and part of all celebrations," Gen Dhillon told PTI.
"Man's most loyal friend is always there with the soldiers during rain, snow or any weather. Post dogs are the most important members of the family, and they go for all operations with the troops like patrolling and ambush and are especially there during emergencies like avalanche rescue etc.
"So don't miss them out when there is a ceremony like 'Barakhana'," says Lt Gen Dhillon with a smile.
Other Army officials recalled the work of 'Roma', a tracker dog, who alerted her companions and got a temporary camp evacuated earlier this year.
An avalanche damaged the field within a few hours.
Earlier this year, 'Meena', a labrador, had alerted the troops about a possible Improvised Explosive Device, planted on the national highway.
The warning from specialised 'explosive detection' dog helped defuse 25 kilograms of IED planted on the highway to target an Army patrol, preventing a Pulawama-like situation.
Another German Shepherd named "Devil", who has been trained as an Assault Dog, keeps anti-national elements on their heels.
"He does not spare any of his enemies," boasts his handler.
There are a number of similar stories about the valour of the canines.
"Gem", a Labrador, trained as an Assault dog, helped his fellow colleagues nab a militant who had escaped from an encounter site in North Kashmir recently.
"After sniffing the encounter site, Gem picked up a smell and led a team of army personnel in front of a house where the third militant was hiding," recalls an army officer engaged in the encounter.
They are taken care of fondly by soldiers who devote their free time to their "canine colleagues", who keep a watch when they sleep in their makeshift tents or accommodation or walk down the roads which could be mined by terrorists.
The canines besides performing the duties in counter-insurgency operations also act as stress-busters for the troops, says a handler.
The handlers of these dogs also recall the services of "Mansi", a four-year-old Labrador and a member of army's tracker dog unit, who was the first canine to have been selected for a posthumous war honour.
Mansi was honoured with the 'Mention of Despatches' certificate.
Her name will appear in the Gazette of India for making the supreme sacrifice for the nation.
She and her handler had a successful season in 2015, with three kills to their credit.
They were involved in the killing of a terrorist at Kaisuri ridge in Tangdhar area, followed by the gunning down of two militants on July 21, 2015.
Mansi and Bashir Ahmed War, of the 160 Territorial Army, were gunned down by infiltrating terrorists in August 2015 when they were posted in dense forests where terrorist from Pak-occupied-Kashmir made an infiltration bid in Tangdhar sector.