My Buddy Is the Goodest BuddyBest buddies can come in all shapes and sizes – even in the form of a four-legged furry friend who likes to play fetch and can also sniff out dangerous explosive substances to keep everyone safe. Meet SSG Kannan and sniffer dog Rogue in PIONEER's Buddies series!
// Story by Benita Teo
// Photos by Kenneth Lin
Your best SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) buddy doesn't always wear a uniform and sit next to you in the office. Sometimes, they're furry, have four legs, and like to be taken for walks, just like Staff Sergeant (SSG) Kannan S/O Virapandian's best buddy – Rogue!
A six-year-old Labrador Retriever, she detects explosives during bomb sweeps for events such as the National Day Parade.
Military Working Dog Unit (MWDU) dog handler SSG Kannan has been working with Rogue since 2019. He is responsible for taking dogs like Rogue through an eight-week sniffer dog course, where they are trained to use their senses to detect different types of explosive substances.
Like all friendships, an inter-species bond takes time and effort to nurture, says SSG Kannan. And despite their differences, their similar personalities is what allows them to bond quickly and work well together.
We sit down with SSG Kannan and Rogue to find out more about their extraordinary friendship!
Hi SSG Kannan and Rogue! Tell us how you met!
Rogue: Hi! I met Kannan when I joined MWDU two years ago!
SSG Kannan, what do you do to take care of Rogue?
SSG Kannan: There are three important elements to caring for Rogue. First, proper grooming, like clipping her nails and brushing her fur. It's essential not only for her health and well-being, but also to put her in a good mood so that she can concentrate during training.
Second, monitoring her diet and medication (whenever she needs it) because food and nutrition is very important for dogs to stay healthy and operational.
Last, being present and showing her affection. Outside of training, I spend some quality time with her by bringing her on walks once or twice a week and petting her.
What was the moment when you realised that you could become "goodest buddies"?
SSG Kannan: When we first start training our dogs, we usually use a leash when doing walks with them because they often get distracted and will try to wander off on their own.
One day, I tried bringing her out for a walk without her leash just to see how she'd react. And to my surprise she was so obedient and followed me throughout.
It was then I knew that we had successfully bonded and she trusted me and was following my guide. That was a day to remember!
Rogue: This was after we'd been working together for about a year. We were able to build mutual trust and understanding after spending all that time together!
Obviously, you're both very different. How are you able to bond and work so well together?
SSG Kannan: Rogue has a far superior ability to sense and isolate smell (when searching for explosives). On the other hand, I'm the one who provides her with the direction and instructions. I also watch for her safety while she is searching for explosive substances. This teamwork allows us to cover a greater area of operations in a shorter time.
Rogue: But we're similar in that we're determined to complete the tasks given to us. We're also loyal, and we enjoy being active and having fun outdoors. Our similarities make it easier for us to bond, and we trust that we'll have each other's backs no matter what!
What do you do when you hang out together?
Rogue: I love it when we play fetch with my favourite toy – the tennis ball! I get so excited just thinking about it!
SSG Kannan: This dog just cannot keep still; she loves being out and about! She hates going back to her kennel – after training, she will try to pull you the other way when you walk her back, and then give you the "sad eyes" when you close the kennel door.
Rogue: *gives sad puppy dog eyes*
SSG Kannan: But it's important for her to have enough rest after training to recover.
What's one of your best memories together?
SSG Kannan: We've had so many memorable experiences, but if I had to pick one, it would be the time we did an overnight operation together. During the break, she snuggled up to me and took a nap on my lap. It was a really tiring operation for her, so I was gently patting her tummy. When I stopped, she used her paw to move my hand to her tummy again. I realised that she didn't want me to stop, so I continued till she woke up again.
Rogue: It's very comforting when I'm out training with other handlers and I see Kannan there! I will always look out for him and run to him for hugs during my break!
What do you like best about each other?
SSG Kannan: There's so much I like about Rogue but more than anything, she comforts me when I'm having a bad day! What's unique about Rogue is that she has a calm and peaceful-looking face. She can sense when I'm stressed, and a small interaction with her is all it takes to make me feel instantly better.
Rogue: He's very patient with me. And he will take time to play fetch with me!
And what do you hate the most?
Rogue: When he puts me back in my kennel. *sad puppy dog eyes*