An advertisement in the newspapers caught my attention. A police dog that was soon to be retired from the Dog Squad was in need of a home. His trainer who loved Randy dearly was loath to part with him. But the dog on one of his assignments to catch a drug smuggler, had met with an accident resulting in a serious leg injury. It had left him with a limp. Randy was declared unfit for active duty and had to be retired. Squad dogs had to be perfect.
I am a forest ranger and live alone on the periphery of the Bandipur WildLife Sanctuary. It is a lonely life and I thought Randy would make a good companion. I was summoned for an interview with the trainer.
“I hate to let Randy go,” the man said, “He is my favourite dog, very intelligent and faithful.”
The trainer regaled me with stories of Randy’s exploits. The dog had been trained in Explosive detection as well as sniffing out drugs.
“Randy has even appeared on TV, dressed in a red velvet jacket with the State Police Insignia, when the President bestowed on him the Medal of Honour.”
“I see he’s a much decorated dog. Will he settle down to a quiet life in the forest with me? At best he’ll be able to chase squirrels or rabbits or monkeys,” I said.
“Be kind to him and show that you love him. He will love you in return and protect you with his life. He is obedient and will follow instructions faithfully. Take him. You said you lead a lonely life. Randy will make a good companion.”
It was love at first sight. I couldn’t take my eyes off this German shepherd, with his honey coloured eyes. He stood three feet tall and weighed fortyfive kilograms What’s more, he
wore his tawny coat like a monarch’s robe. There were tears in their eyes when the trainer and dog bid each other farewell.
It has been five years now and we are inseparable. Randy is intelligent and overprotective. He can gauge my moods and anticipate my movements. He even thrusts his paw into my hand if he thinks I need to be praised. When I am sad, he brushes my cheek with his wet snout to cheer me up.
“You’re a great companion,” I always tell him when I brush his coat every day.
Randy accompanies me to the forest when I go on duty. I marvel at the acuity of his senses. He has learnt to recognize the growl of a tiger or the trumpet on an elephant at a great distance away. He watches with interest the scampering of herds of deer when they hear our jeep approaching. Sometimes he jumps out and gives chase for a while until I order him back. I have
trained him to show respect to all the animals and birds in the forest. When Randy thinks he needs to be praised for good behaviour, he offers me his paw to shake.
I have learnt how to identify Randy’s barks – his “woof woof” when he is hungry or wants to play, a welcoming bark when friends arrive, or a growl and a ferocious bark to ward off strangers. Randy is well known among the forest staff and in the area where we live. He is also known by people in a town nearby as he always accompanies me wherever I go.
One day we were getting ready to drive through a section of the forest. My loaded gun was on the back seat of my jeep. In his haste to be gone, Randy jumped on the back seat inadvertently setting off the loaded gun.
“Ouch!” I screamed as the bullet shot through my shoulder.
Randy was panic stricken as he saw me moaning. Then like a bolt, he darted indoors to the telephone and knocked the receiver off the hook. He tapped the red button that was connected to an emergency call number, just as I had taught him to do. When he heard the voice at the other end, he began to whimper and bark.
“That’s Randy’s voice,” thought the operator, as Randy continued to holler, “There must be trouble at the Ranger’s house.”
He dialed the Forest Department’s ambulance which arrived within ten minutes. By then I had bled profusely and blacked out. I heard later that Randy was hovering around me and whining pathetically. The ambulance staff said they saw tears in his eyes. He kept whimpering as they drove me away.
Randy was not to be left behind. He raced after the ambulance and did not leave the hospital premises for three days, until I was discharged. When he looked up at me with his honey-coloured eyes, I saw remorse for what he had done. I gave him a hug to show that I was well.
The accident has mellowed him. He has even grown soft towards the stray kitten that came to lodge with us. I call her ‘snowball.’ She is a little terror who comes dashing into his front legs causing him to stumble. Sometimes she suddenly springs on his back when he is having his siesta. When I’m around he just dismisses her with a grunt. But I’m sure when I’m not looking, he threatens to pounce on her and nip off her tail. He’s jealous when she comes scurrying to me and jumps on to my lap.
Then one day I was treated to an unusual sight. A hawk was threatening to swoop down and attack snowball. Even before I could get down from my seat, Randy charged towards
snowball his hackles raised, and planted himself between the kitten and the hawk. He barked so furiously that the hawk just fled. Now things have changed between Randy and the kitten. They are a cosy twosome making me feel that I am the odd one out.
“No,” Randy assures me as he places his wet snout against my cheek, “We belong together.”