Calufa The War Dog 

The Sights, Sounds and Smells of War

Calufa (= Canis Lupus Familiaris)

In this story, the dog is treated as a person. There was once a dog named Calufa (Canis lupus familiaris = domestic dog). The owner thought he would be creative, so he used a portmanteau word by combining the first two letters of the trinomial name. His four cuspids commonly called canine teeth are fierce when he bares them to strangers. He is not the kind who barks for no reason; his bites are telling in their depth when he sinks his teeth in the butts of the intruders. The home-invading victims called him the dumb dog that bites. He was no dumb dog. He served overseas as a military dog and now enjoys his retirement in the suburb. He was trained to be nice to children and strangers, when the owner properly introduces them to him. His service in the military is a legend.

Once he ran after an enemy soldier, who sneaked into the camp, bit his Achilles tendon, and ripped it apart. Down fell the enemy soldier with his tendon in the mouth of Calufa. So fierce was his bite. In the mess hall, he had special treatment. He would go around the dining table and receive special treats from the appreciative soldiers. Some soldiers had dog food sent to them by relatives so, they can treat the dog with goodies. For smell and hearing, he was the top dog with no competitors. As he would sniff a bitch in estrus a mile away, he could sniff an IED (Roadside bomb) a mile away. No sooner than the enemy launched his rockets, Calufa would know them by its sound bites. He knew the differences in air turbulences caused by the different enemy projectiles, even before the soldiers would hear them. He was that good. His keeper knew the nature of the weapon launched by the enemy by the dog’s whining, bark, growl… His handler was so impressed that he and his company recommended him for promotion to corporal and so on. He had a knack to locate exactly the IEDs. He would sit beside the IED until his handler arrives. Calufa carried a two-headed camera and a microphone on his backpack so the handler could pick up the sights and sounds of Calufa’s peregrinations in places man is too big or too exposed to go. He was the dog that would bark only when necessary. He received training to rotate his tail when he picked up the scent of narcotics, explosives, dead bodies… He knew the scent of a living enemy to differ from that of his handler and his friends. He would swirl around 360 degrees twice, when he scented and spotted the living enemy some distance away. The 360-degree rotation meant the enemy was in the target range. Where his bark would give away the location to the enemy platoon, he would wag his tail up and down and cock up his ears. The cameras would pick up the images and forward them to the handler. There was onetime he urinated on a lighted fuse. He was that clever and resourceful. As a war dog, he wore body armor. One time, he dragged his handler’s backpack tied by nylon cord to his shoulders.

He passed all tests in his training sessions in the location of IEDs and the fake ones. Calufa saved many lives and military assets were because of his uncanny canine ability. He was an acrobatic dog. He could jump, skip, pounce, and bite on receiving commands from his handler. He would crawl under concertina wire with ease and agility. He was a true soldier. He was a good swimmer too.

His ability to smell was remarkable. He learned to identify noxious gases, combustible substances, narcotics…

Once Calufa was gassed and dognapped by the enemy soldiers, when he was injured in his hind foot. Taken to a military base, the enemy soldiers tried to use Calufa against their enemies, the friends of Calufa. The enemy soldiers called him Faluca (Calufa in reverse). He knew the difference between Calufa and Faluca. The enemy chained, starved and smacked Calufa with belt, a retraining program. The enemy soldiers could not get the dog to work for them to begin with. After a few days, he pretended to cooperate with them by identifying noxious gases, gunpowder… His mind was always on escaping back to his handler and friends. His loyalty rested with his old keeper. He had a muzzle on when he was not eating and had his paws covered with leather shoes, so he would not scratch the enemy handler. He gained his strength, and two enemy soldiers had two leashes on him pulling him from both sides, when they went on their missions. One night when the enemy keepers were napping, he gnawed on the leather straps, freed himself and ran as fast as he could away from them and toward his friendly keepers. The frustrated keepers fired, and the dog dodged the bullets and ran away. He took several days to locate his original keepers and on the way, he ate leftover food from the cans discarded by the soldiers. He drank water from nearby streams.

On the way, he saw feral dogs, rats, squirrels… He played with the squirrels and assiduously avoided any contact with feral dogs. Calufa saw the cows look at him suspiciously and walk away from him. The cows mooed out of fear, and Calufa coughed to show his friendliness to them. The bears were a different matter.

When Calufa was eating MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) discarded on the fields, the bears ran toward him and stood up in their eight-foot threatening poses. Calufa was resourceful enough to carry or drag the meals to a foxhole and enjoy them without molestation from the big black bears. The bears were speaking ‘Bearish,’ while Calufa spoke ‘Dogalish.’ They seem to understand each other because they were polyglots. The chief bear said, “This is our territory; you have no business to be around here. You are eating our lunch.” Calufa in perfect Dogalish said, “There is plenty to go around. What is your beef?” Since the bears could not break through the fox hole fortification, they ran away to adjoining trees to steal honey from the bees. Calufa saw them drinking beer and wine in the convenient brewery abandoned by the owners because of war. He saw them do the bear dance in their drunken revelry.

He was exhausted from all the walking; he would nap on top of the bales of hay abandoned on the field by the farmers. That is where he knew he would be least molested. He always had his ears cocked for any intruders. After several days of walking and scavenging for food and water, he reached the edge of the camp during the night. He slowly, steadily and silently walked over to his handler in bed and sat beside his bed throughout the night. He knew his handler by his scent. He made no sound, true to his character. The keeper woke up, saw the dog, picked up and cuddled him. It was heaven on earth for both dog and man. He received several medals for his loyalty and service.

Calufa, his handler and a few soldiers went on a scouting mission. They went from one abandoned village to the next. In one such village on their recon, Calufa ran forward ahead of the soldiers and sat near a closed room. The soldiers and the keeper trudged with heavy equipment on the backs and went to check on the dog. He was silent and looked up to his keeper, who knew something was inside the room. They broke open the room gingerly for fear of triggering explosive devices and found it was chock-full of unexploded IEDs, automatic weapons, rocket launchers, controlled substances and cash in foreign denominations. They took the cash for delivery to the company commander and exploded the arsenal. If it were not for Calufa, the soldiers would have been the target . On their way back, they took the same safe route they used before. Everything appeared to go well. Calufa ran and sat near a patch of freshly turned earth on the trodden path. The soldiers dug up the IED, meant for them. Again, Calufa came to their rescue.

The war was winding down; the dog and his keeper came back home; the town celebrated their arrival and gave them a warm welcome. He was such a good dog. Both the keeper and the dog retired from the military, lived well in the town, adjusted well to their civilian lives and suffered no PTSD. The dog kept his protective loyalty so much; he bit one intruder on his Achilles tendon and another one on his butt.

Both retired with Veteran’s benefit. Whenever there was a meeting of veterans, both were there to celebrate the event. The city officials honored him; the ‘military brats’ were always there to pet and play with him. Calufa enjoyed the company of children. He had his protective gear and the medals hanging on the sides. He enjoyed the jingles, when children were rustling his medals. Then, there was a parade of the veterans. Invited as the Grand Marshal, the top dog Calufa was at the head of the parade turning his head side to side and up and down acknowledging the adoration of the crowd. If Calufa stood in elections for mayor, he would have been elected in a landslide victory.

July 17, 2016 Notes

A heroic British military dog, who (sic) is said to have saved a thousand lives by sniffing out hidden explosives in warzones around the world, has been honored with a memorial. Buster an arms and explosive search dog with the Royal Air Force completed five tours of duty in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Irag and saved countless lives by searching out improvised explosive devices.

Veeraswamy Krishnaraj