With law and order issues rife in PNG, the Police department should look at recruiting more dogs to assist in major operations, writes BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
IT started raining “cats and dogs” and everyone scurried for refuge under a large make-shift tent.
I put on my coat to keep out the cold mountain air that descended abruptly with the deluge and joined the rest under the lean-to.
After I was safely sheltered, I kneeled and rummaged through my rucksack to ensure the rain had not seeped through the fabric.
I let out a sigh of relief as the interior of the sack was dry and my trade tools, a digital camera, voice recorder and mobile phone were dry as a bone.
But my relief was short-lived as when I looked up a menacing canine was heading directly towards me.
I was about to both but a reassuring grin from the handler eased my fears.
Corporal Wass Kandan and his canine, named Max, are with the NCD Police Dog unit, I found out moments later.
The location was the Nogoli market near the Oil Search ridge camp at Hides, about 4000m above sea level.
The occasion was the Licence-Based Benefits Sharing Agreement forums in the oil and gas rich Hela and Southern Highlands provinces.
Hides is South of the Hela capital, Tari, where it’s much, much colder.
Another canine, named Talis, and his partner Constable Reeves Mota, were also deployed to provide support to the strong Mobile Squad Units.
The primary mission for the Dog Unit was crowd control and if the need arose to pursue any troublemakers.
This mission, according to Cpl Kandan is the first major deployment for the dog unit, and if the precedent is set, similar missions will ensue in future.
In many other countries, police dogs are recruited in high numbers by law enforcement agencies.
For instance, the popularity of the police dog was being echoed all over the UK with police forces both large and small employing dogs and handlers on their strength and setting up dog training schools to cater for the ever increasing number of dogs being used.
With law and order in PNG rife, I guess it is time the Police department looks at recruiting more dogs to assist in major operations.
In PNG, Police dogs do not get the attention in fighting crime and riot control but they play and can contribute immensely to police operations.
Cpl Kandan is witness to that. He explained that Max is trained specifically to assist police officers during riots for crowd control and he is also ready to sniff out drugs and explosives and also chase and apprehend suspects.
“Max is well behaved and disciplined, but can become instantly aggressive upon my command,” Cpl Kandan said.
Constable Reeves echoed similar sentiments.
As I chatted with Cpl Kandan, the rain remained relentless and drummed a monotonous rhythm on the tarpaulin.
The grey clouds were not leaving soon and the mist continued to descend steadily upon the area casting an uncanny feeling of loneliness – for me at least, as I was a stranger to this part of the Highlands, trying religiously to get acquainted.
But the locals dressed in traditional attire, beating their kundu drums and dancing in one accord brought the only ray of life to what was a dull and damp afternoon.
Max seemed calm and composed despite the chants from the dancers and drum beats.
While Max was distracted by the dancers, I seized the opportunity to move closer to Cpl Kandan to seek consent for a photograph of Max.
“Sure he won’t bite,” was the reply.
The dogs and their handlers are best friends.
According to the two policemen, once a dog and an officer become partners, it’s for life unless either canine or man retires.
I was touched to learn that the two policemen have been sleeping beside their dogs since coming into the area, because the dogs did not like the idea of sleeping in their kennel.
When Max needs to “take a leak” at night, Cpl Kandan said “he wakes me up and I take him outside”.
Max is past his retirement age of five by two years.
“He’s getting old to be on duty, but until the Police get new dogs, Max will be on call,” he said.
Cpl Kandan said he has been with the unit for close to eight years now and his duty very much relies on his partner Max.
“Our dogs are an integral part of Police operations, should he be injured or die while serving the nation he will be accorded a proper funeral just like any officer,” his handler said.
That is the respect that reflects the importance of police dogs.
Both policemen explained that a good canine with a policeman is as sound a proposition as you can get.
They said the dog hears what the officer does not, gives notice of anyone posing a threat in the vicinity and guards his master to the death and will remain mute unless roused.
“As such we accord much respect to our dogs and treat them like any other fellow officer,” they said.
When the canines retire both officers said they are ready to adopt them and take them home to settle into a life as a family pet.
Indeed, dogs are a man’s best friend.
“Woof, woof,” Max agrees.