Sophia and Thunderstorm, are unaware of the hype surrounding them. Little do they know that they have created a history in India, yet they seem quite elated with the gifts they have been showered with. Sophia is a dog and Thunderstorm is a horse, both of them providing their service to Indo-Tibetan border police force. They belong to a number of other animals that the ITBP has inducted into operational and logistics service. What is special about both of them, is that they made history by becoming the first animals to be decorated with special service medals while alive. Thunderbolt is seven years of age and belongs to the Animal Transport unit of the force and has been called the ‘lifeline’ of the force providing rations and ammunition at high forward posts. Sophia three years of age and undertakes special sniffing operations in order to detect IEDs with her handler in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist extremism areas. Sophia has also successfully sanitised events attended by VVIP dignitaries, including PM Narendra Modi
ITBP’s Director General Krishna Chaudhary honoured Thunderstorm with an Animal Transport medal and Sofia with the Canine medal during their 55th Raising Day Parade. The event took place at their 39th battalion campus in Surajpur, Greater Noida. Both Sofia and Thunderstorm were seen to be marching up to the saluting dais while bowing their heads to receive the medals and the DG also offered them sweets as a token of appreciation for their work. According to a report in HT, Thunderstorm will be showered with chocolates and Sofia with ‘Hide’ (synthetic) bones. A thunderstorm can graze all he wants and Sofia can play all she wants. The honour apart from being a reward for the animals also acknowledges the work of the veterinary cadre who have trained and looked after them.
The ITBP is one of the 5 Central Armed Police Forces of India, which was raised on 24 October 1962, following the Sino-Indian War of 1962. It has almost 90 thousand active personnel providing their service, and these animals walk proudly beside them.