Daily Tidings, The adventures of Katie

The adventures of Katie – nabbing the saboteurs of the forest fires

Katie carrying the wallets of the saboteurs of the forest fires

It was a warm April day in Hartola and Katie woke up from her afternoon siesta, startled. She sniffed the air vigorously, got out of her bed and went outside. Chloe, as always, followed her. From the corner of the fence, Katie set her eyes on the mountain in the direction of the nearby village Roop Singh Dhura. There was smoke coming from the mountain – thick columns of smoke. Immediately she knew what was happening. What everyone in the village had been in dread of had come true. The forest fires were now raging in the forest close to Hartola. Katie frantically came inside and lightly pawed her human.

While her humans started to make the calls clicking pictures and taking videos, Katie decided that she had to do something to help the wild animals living in the forest. Even as she was thinking of a plan, the embers of the fire had already spread and now the fire had reached just opposite her cottage! One could hear the squealing of the barking deer and birds frantically flying and free-falling as a blanket of thick smoke engulfed the village.

Katie knew very well that Chloe was still not ready for the big responsibilities as she was still a puppy. But drastic situations required drastic measures. She knew this was the time for Chloe’s initiation from being a puppy to a responsible adult. She entrusted Chloe to gather all the dogs of the village and alert the hardworking villagers who were engrossed in their daily chores. Chloe shook her head and made a dash down the stone stairs onto the non-metalled road. She stopped below the thick canopy of the pear tree and howled loud and long – something her pet-parents have never heard her doing in the past. Within a couple of minutes, around six mutts of the village gathered underneath the tree. Among them were Twenty, Paru, Ruby, Google and Shera. With stretched necks looking skywards they howled and went in different directions barking as loud as they could. Hearing them, the other dogs who remain tied in their homes also howled in unison.

Within no time all of Hartola was reverberating with the barks of the dozens of dogs. Hearing them, the villagers knew something was not right. They dropped whatever they were doing to find out what the matter was. Uttarakhand forest fires are a common occurrence in the state and with little help from the authorities, they have learned to live with the hazards of living close to the forests. But today they could feel it was different. The crackling of the dry grass and pine needles could now be heard in the village. Danger was now just meters away – it was as if the fire had decided to devour whatever came its way. With the absent forest department officials, the villagers got into action themselves. With buckets of water, pipes connected to their already depleting water tanks, they marched forward into the forest to douse the fires. After several calls and several hours later, a team of the Forest Department also arrived. They let the villagers know that 3 fire-brigades were on their way from Nainital which was more than two hours away. Would it be too late then?

The hurt mother verditer flycatcher lying on the ground in the midst of mountain forest fires

The hurt mother verditer flycatcher lying on the ground in the midst of mountain forest fires

Seeing the villagers getting into action, Katie took a sigh of relief. But her responsibilities were far from over. She heard her humans discussing that the reason for the forest fires in and around Hartola was the handiwork of saboteurs. She decided to take it upon herself to uncover the truth.

Chloe carrying the verditer flycatcher's nest with the nestlings to safety

Chloe carrying the verditer flycatcher’s nest with the nestlings to safety

Meanwhile, Chloe, curious as she was, forayed into the jungle along with the villagers to see if she could be of any help. As she looked around, she saw a verditer flycatcher laying on the ground beside her nest. Her feathers and feet burned, she could hardly move. Chloe went near cautiously and saw to her horror, four nestlings in the nest. The fire was inching closer to the nest. The tree in which their nest had been perched had burnt down by the hungry flames and it came crashing down. Luckily, the nest was intact although a branch of the tree had fallen on the mother flycatcher and trapped her as she fluttered around nervously. Chloe caught the branch with her teeth and gave it a pull. It came off, but the mother flycatcher was still in extreme pain. She pleaded with Chloe to save her nestlings. Chloe quickly took the nest between her teeth and darted up the mountain towards her home which was still untouched by the forest fires. The flying embers burned her soft golden fur as she zigzagged her way through the rapidly burning vegetation. She twitched as every burning ember burned her fur and penetrated her soft puppy skin. She could smell her burning fur and skin – it was painful, but she continued at the same pace. Once she reached the pear tree, she lightly placed the nest, checked whether the nestlings were okay and turned around to rescue the mother flycatcher when Twenty shouted: “Chloe, you coat is on fire!”

Chloe braving the fires to save the mother verditer flycatcher trapped underneath a branch

Chloe braving the fires to save the mother verditer flycatcher trapped underneath a branch

Chloe turned her head and her bushy tail was on fire. However the adrenalin rush was such that she felt no pain. She rolled vigorously on the mound of sand beside the road, doused the fire and was off again. The mother flycatcher by then, had limped away from the burning branches and when Chloe reached her, she let out a sigh of relief.

“Are they okay?” she enquired. Chloe nodded. “I will now lightly hold you in my teeth and carry you to them.”

By the time the mother flycatcher reunited with her nestlings, Katie was off to find out who had endangered the lives of both humans and the creatures of the jungle by lighting the fire. Everyone knew that the fire had started from a mountain little ahead of Hartola. She roamed around in the area for more than an hour pretending to be on one of her casual trips with no particular aim which usually fooled the humans. However, Katie was on a mission. She had her ears on the ground for any murmur amongst villagers that could point towards the saboteurs.

As she walked around surreptitiously, her eyes spotted a couple of adults sitting on the side of a slip road that connected the main road. They were playing cards as they drank and talked loudly among themselves. And most importantly, they were discussing something about the forest fires. Katie inched slowly towards them in the hope of finding out what these humans were up to. They seemed suspicious to her – while all the villagers were frantically running helter-skelter to save the forest from the rage of the fire, they were partying as if there was something to celebrate. As this continued, a fire-brigade truck whizzed past them. Seeing the vehicle, they started to laugh. Under the influence of alcohol, one of them started bragging how it was he who had actually started the fire just for fun. This was when they had last met and he had thrown his burning cigarette butt on the forest floor which was covered with a thick covering of dry leaves. Katie was shocked. She realised she had found the saboteurs. They were in fact, discussing about lighting up the very place they were sitting in before heading home.

As Katie looked around wondering how to alert the villagers about their involvement, she saw their wallets lying beside them. She crawled near one of them and poked her nose quietly into his wallet to see what was inside. Along with a couple of notes, there was the man’s driver’s license.

Katie carrying the wallets of the saboteurs of the forest fires

Katie carrying the wallets of the saboteurs of the forest fires

“Good enough,” Katie thought. If she could take it to the villagers they would be able to identify him from the driver’s license. Very very stealthily, without raising the men’s suspicion, who were now engrossed in their drinking and game of cards, she picked up their wallets gingerly and trotted off as quick as her legs could carry her. As she was approaching the village, Katie saw a police vehicle coming from the village. She stood in the middle of the road furiously wagging her bushy tail. Seeing her, the vehicle stopped and a policeman got down and came towards her. She dropped the wallets near his feet and stepped back. Confused, the policeman took the wallets and went to the vehicle to show them to his superior. Their discussion was interrupted by Katie’s barking and they realised that she was urging them to follow her. She turned around and led them straight to the unsuspecting saboteurs. The police, suspecting that something was wrong, picked them up and took them away in their vehicle. Katie returned home satisfied.

On being questioned relentlessly, the men confessed that they had set the fire in the forest. Nobody could believe that they could do such a heinous crime for no reason at all.

After many hours of struggle the fires were finally doused, but the smell of smoke still lingered in the valley for days. As the villagers returned home, the vet from the nearby village had arrived and was attending to the burnt wounds of Chloe and the mother flycatcher.

The villagers came to know about the heroic efforts of Katie and Chloe and they decided to thank them. They gifted them a bag of goodies as a token of appreciation. The goodies included a nicely cut and diced chicken, some treats and most importantly, Chloe’s favorite snack – beans. And as I write about the recent incidents of Hartola, Chloe is in her bed munching on a string of beans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *