The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bomb defuses Mary & Maxi
- Stress at work sends sniffer sisters to hospital

Chandigarh, Oct. 23: Miss Marple may never have given up on a problem once she got her teeth into it, but Mary and Maxi are no armchair detectives.

After nine days of sniffing around railway stations and unclaimed bags, both of Ludhiana police’s canine sleuths have thrown up their paws.

The two Labrador sisters were taken to hospital to be treated for stress, fever and fatigue after a harrowing 150 hours of work following the Shingar multiplex blast on October 14.

Maxi has hurt a forepaw, too. Both are now resting in their kennels, with the police still clueless about who carried out the attack that killed six people and injured 32.

Police sniffer dogs are supposed to rest six hours after every two hours of work, and must be given a five-minute break after every 20 minutes. But with only two animal detectives at their disposal, the Ludhiana police gave the rules the go-by.

For the past few days, the two dogs have been regularly climbing into police vans to carry out innumerable searches for explosives at railway platforms, bus stands, Ramlila grounds, markets and VIP routes. The dozens of hoax calls have only made matters worse.

Mary and Maxi became so badly stressed that they even stopped responding to their trainers’ calls.

“The amount of time the two dogs spent on duty after the blast is praiseworthy. They are now resting and recuperating,” Ludhiana police superintendent (headquarters) Snehdeep Sharma said.

“They will be back at work soon. There’s nothing to worry -- we are taking special care of them.”

The police are still groping in the dark amid reports that Babbar Khalsa International chief Wadhwa Singh, believed to be in Pakistan, has denied his organisation’s involvement in the bombing.

“We need more clues. In the absence of eyewitnesses, we have to rely on information the public can give us apart from our sources. But the tips coming to us have more to do with people trying to settle personal scores,” a senior officer said.

The police have announced a Rs 1-lakh reward for information leading to a breakthrough.

“We are working on the RDX haul in September (from the car of a young man named Gurpreet Singh),” the officer said. “There may not be any link between that haul and the blast, but we cannot overlook it.”

All those with any known links to Gurpreet, who is in hiding, are being rounded up across the state and questioned.

The police are also trying to get a few more sniffer dogs so that Mary and Maxi don’t get overworked again after they rejoin their beat.

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