It stands at a distance watching soundlessly as multiple teams work to reach those buried under mounds of debris and is sometimes heard breaking into howls of anguish — a canine sentinel watching over the rescue mission in its search for its missing puppies.
The hours have stretched into days of endless waiting and clinging on to the tenuous hope that those buried when flash floods devastated the Alaknanda river system exactly a week ago will be rescued – alive. As scores of villagers and relatives keep vigil in villages and at the two hydel power projects that were damaged extensively, so does the nameless brown dog.
Of the more than 200 missing, the bodies of 38 people have been recovered and two were found alive, officials said. On Sunday morning, five bodies were recovered, two from Raini village in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district and three from a sludge-choked tunnel at NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel power project where about 30 people have been trapped for a week.
Since the morning of the disaster, when a portion of a glacier possibly broke off triggering massive floods, the dog has been at the Rishi Ganga power plant near Raini village, say rescuers.
Villagers add that it had about three or four puppies, which were buried when the waters came rushing in that fateful February 7 Sunday morning.
The dog can be seen sniffing through the site, now awash with silt and sludge, standing on the side watchfully as men from multiple agencies rush around frantically from one end to the other and machines are deployed in the rescue effort. And then, as the shadows lengthen and darkness falls, it stays on, determined as it were not to move till its puppies are found.
Sometimes, it moves to the river and other times to the top of the hill to look down at the ravaged landscape as the lights from villages nearby shine like beacons in the gathering dark.
Villagers have told rescuers that the dog has not eaten anything since that morning. They have tried to feed it several times but it has always turned away. It can be heard crying, whimpering and also howling, day and night since that morning.
Digambar, a resident of Raini village, is also searching for his brother, hoping against hope that he is still alive. Along with him are scores of others, some from the area and some from other parts of the country. And the dog. Human and animal bonded in their grief.
Their wait continues.