Busted: Canine woes
This weekly column debunks the various myths propagated by Indian cinema — Tamil films in particular
Myth: Chilli powder can throw of a dog off someone's trail
Propagated in: Ghilli, Thavam, Thoranai, Ayan
This week, fourteen years ago, Ghilli released. The film not only turned around the fortunes of Vijay, but also proved to be the decisive boost for Trisha's career which was steadily on the upswing. And then, of course, it gave us Appadi Podu, which continues to unfailingly get people dancing. For the purposes of this column though, it propagated a myth about dogs that has long persisted in Tamil cinema: The idea that smearing chilli powder can get dogs off one's trail.
Dawn Williams, manager of Blue Cross, assures it's not all so simple. "There are two types of dogs used by the police: a trekker and a sniffer. A trekker goes after criminals while a sniffer is used to identify explosives and drugs," he explains. "This myth originates from a thorough underestimation of the dog's sense of smell. First of all, it doesn't necessarily have to put its snout to the ground to sniff out footprints. A dog can pick up scents from as long as fifty feet away and when it does, it will run straight to it, without having to sniff throughout the trail."
He likens trained dogs to soldiers. "They don't malfunction for such simplistic distractions. Even if a criminal is hiding among hundreds of people, once a sniffer catches a whiff of a drug or explosive, it will sit on its haunches and stare at the culprit," he says. What he's saying is, if Ghilli had remained factually accurate, Prakash Raj's character would have nabbed his 'chellam'. And no amount of chilli powder would have mattered.