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Beware of Rocky and Bunty

The Alsatians at Visva-Bharati. Picture by Snehamoy Chakraborty

Santiniketan, Nov. 20: A year before he passed away, Tagore penned these lines: “Pratyaha prabhat kale bhakta e kukur/Stabhdha hoye boshey thake ashoner kachhe/Jotokshoney sango tar na kori swikar/Karasparsha diye (Every morning, this devoted dog sits quietly at my feet till I acknowledge its company by patting it).”

A modern-day version would have read not one dog but two — Rocky and Bunty.

Seventy years after Tagore wrote the poem, sitting in his house in the Uttarayan complex, Udayan, Visva-Bharati has brought in two Alsatians to guard the compound.

University officials said the decision to hire the guard dogs from a security agency was taken in the aftermath of the theft of two sandalwood trees from the Uttarayan complex in September despite the presence of guards and CCTV cameras. The Alsatians were hired 10 days ago.

The Uttarayan complex has five of Tagore’s houses — Udayan, Udichi, Konark and Shyamali.

This is the first time the university has hired dogs. Rocky and Bunty, aged three and four years, guard the compound through the night. Their handlers take them for walks during the day to familiarise them with the university compound.

In early October, the chief security officer of Visva-Bharati, U.P. Singh, had submitted to the vice-chancellor a proposal to hire dogs to guard the Uttarayan complex.

“Sandalwood trees were stolen from the complex even though it is well-guarded. So we thought the guard dogs would help improve the security system,” vice-chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta said.

“As far as we know, Tagore’s son Rathindranath had a pet dog. It was trained to hold a lantern between its teeth and show the way in darkness. These dogs (Rocky and Bunty) might prove helpful,” he added.

When this correspondent visited the varsity campus this morning, the two Alsatians were sniffing around in the campus. Chief security officer Singh was also present.

“The dogs are well-trained. They will mainly guard the Uttarayan complex at night. We are taking the dogs to different parts of the campus so that they get to know the place better,” said Singh, a retired police officer.

A senior varsity official said the two dogs had been hired along with their handlers at a monthly rate of Rs 60,000. The dogs are staying with their handlers in Visva-Bharati quarters.

Varsity officials said that after the theft of Tagore’s Nobel medallion and other memorabilia in 2004, the Centre had provided a substantial amount of money to install a modern security system inside the Rabindra Bhavana museum and the Uttarayan complex. The Uttarayan complex has 13 CCTV cameras.