On our motorcycle journey to Ladakh, we traversed the Changthang Valley, moving from Pangong Lake to Hanle. Loma, a small village in the valley, required us to register at an Indian Army check-post before proceeding. These villages, once quite secluded, have only recently begun attracting tourists.
Situated alongside the India-China border, this entire valley is a highly sensitive area with regular ITBP and Army check-posts to monitor tourist activities. As I filled in our details on the entry register, one of my friends inquired with a soldier about obtaining drinking water in the vicinity. The soldier then instructed another comrade to accompany my friend to a nearby structure resembling either an Army barrack or a canteen.
“Dogs around here are not friendly at all, huh?” I smiled at the soldier while filling out my details in the entry register at the check post.
“Friendly?” He smiled back at me, “These dogs will kill you if they had a chance”
“Are you serious?”
“Why do you think I did not let your friend go alone and had a soldier escort him?”
“Because of the dogs?” I asked the soldier.
“Yes, there are dogs all around here and If they see a stranger around, they will immediately attack”
“Attack means barking and growling to scare?”
“No” He laughed, “Attack means an attack to rip the stranger apart”
A short while ago, as we entered the village, I paused to capture a photo of the captivating valley up ahead. My friends were leading the way, and I trailed a bit behind. Right as I was contemplating retrieving my camera, I observed a pair of puppies heading my way.
Observing their approach, I realized I couldn't linger to pet them and promptly sped up to put some distance between us. Just a few meters ahead, I spotted a whole pack of dogs charging in my direction from afar. Fortunately, I reached the Army check-post before either group could reach me.
“Have there been incidents of these dogs killing people?” I said, looking at the soldier in disbelief.
“Well not around here”
“Not here? You mean they have killed someone elsewhere?”
“Yeah, at another check-post not far from here” He replied and started to narrate.
“We are very careful around these dogs. At nights, they are really on the prowl and we take extreme caution while stepping out of our barracks. Even though we feed these dogs with our own hands during the day, we are still scared of them at night”
“Ok,” I said, listening intently.
“A few years ago” He continued, “at a nearby check-post not far from here, an Army subedar got really drunk before he went to sleep. We don’t usually drink alcohol here because of the height and lack of oxygen in this area but some people still do.
At night, the subedar got up and stepped out in the dark for some reason, I think he must be wanting to pee or something. Usually, if we have to step out at night, we stay close to the barrack and keep our gun close.”
The dogs also don’t attack us all of a sudden since they get to recognize our faces” He continued, “But that night, no one knows what happened, whether the subedar tried to shoo a dog away or hit a dog or the dogs didn’t recognize him or whatever but he got attacked. In the morning, the other soldiers found him in pieces, ripped apart and the dogs were eating him.”
“Eating him?” I asked him in disbelief.
“Yeah, The only part of his body that remained intact till morning was the one inside his shoes”
“You mean his feet?”
“He must have screamed or shouted for help. How come no one came out to assist?”
“These dogs aim straight for the throat and that is what must have happened. No one heard a thing. The guard on duty here at check post heard the dogs barking and running around but he couldn’t see that they were attacking a human in the dark”
“How is this even possible? Dogs killing a human and you folks only found out about it in the morning?”
“Trust me, it happened,” He said, “Even the villagers don’t go messing around with the dogs here”
“And you still let these dogs stay?”
“They are not ours really, they belong to the villagers. It’s not even our call to shoo them away, they just stay close to Army check posts for some reason. Some check-posts have as many as 50 dogs”
“Why in the world would you want these beasts around you?” I asked, astonished.
“Because they help us keep watch” He replied with a blank stare.
So unfolds the tale of the Army Subedar and the menacing dogs, the veritable beasts of Ladakh's Changthang Valley. It was challenging for me to accept at that moment. I mean, dogs devouring people? How is that even possible?
Yet, it's a reality and surprisingly not an isolated occurrence. Similar dog attacks have occurred in Ladakh. In one such incident, these dogs fatally attacked and consumed a 9-year-old girl in Spituk village, the daughter of Bihar laborers employed in the region.
Another recorded incident took place in Saspol village, where a mother of two fell victim to the dogs. All that remained in the aftermath were her skeletal remains.
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