The country recently mourned the death of Shaktiman, the Uttarakhand Police force horse who died in the line of duty. But there is another four-legged hero, who played a vital role during the counter-terror operations at the Pathankot IAF airbase attack and suffered grievous injuries as a consequence. But his story, unlike Shaktiman's, has a happy ending. The National Security Guard's K-9 unit's expert assault and sniffer dog, 'Rocket', is back in action after treatment, which went on for months, and is all set to be recommended for a "gallantry award". This Belgian malinois, raised by NSG itself, helped security forces in establishing the presence of one of the fidayeen attackers at the IAF base on January 4, when a massive fire had engulfed some buildings.
Rocket, specialising in detecting human presence, explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), from the 'assault dogs' unit of NSG, had accompanied the 300 Black Cat commandos apart from half a dozen other canines of different breeds, including sniffers and trackers. Officials say that Belgian Malinois are intelligent dogs who can communicate through signals. Navy SEALS had used the Belgian malinois in the Abbottabad operation for tracking Osama Bin Laden.
On the morning of January 4, there was a huge blaze in one of the airmen's billet and the intensity and temperature was such that it was impossible for Black Cat commandos to go inside the building.
"Since there was pistol firing and explosions inside the building the previous day (January 3), it was decided to not risk any more human lives as seven security personnel including Lt Colonel Niranjan had already died," said an officer.
The NSG decided to use Rocket's services for collecting 'intelligence' from inside the building. He went inside and came after a while with a pouch in his mouth. This burnt pouch belonged to one of the terrorists, said an official. Later, burnt remains of a person were found by security agencies inside the building.
During the operation, Rocket received burn injuries on his paws and forehead. He was under treatment for weeks but officials say that he is now fit and back in action.
"He walked into the fire and this bravery led us to confirm that there indeed was a terrorist inside, which is commendable. He contributed to the operation" said NSG inspector general (operations) Dushyant Singh.
Sources say that two-and-a half-year-old Rocket's name has been recommended for a "gallantry award". Jaish-e-Mohammad militants had set fire to some buildings and there were some 53 total explosions inside the base due to ammunition and inflammable material kept in some structures.