About patience, truffles and working styles

I was never a very patient person. That is why I love my dogs. They have taught me more about patience than I ever thought possible. And I enjoy every unpredictable day with them.

People make plans, dogs don’t

I am still waiting for the first signs of my lagotto bitch Rita’s heat. According to my calculations she should start any day now. The sire recommended for her by MyDogDNA Breeder database lives abroad, so at any given moment I shall be busy booking progesterone tests, flight tickets, hotels... But so far all I can do is wait.

This kind of a situation would have driven me crazy twenty years ago, when I still tried to be in control of everything in my life. Waiting, making exceptions, having to act on the spur of the moment, giving up or changing my plans used to be an endless source of anxiety. I have since learned to improvise.

Taking one day at a time

I am waiting but not being idle. Since I retired after thirty years in advertising I particularly appreciate the fact that I can get up in the morning and decide what to do each day. In a household of three lagottos my last minute decisions often involve them.

We have had a fairly good truffle season, which means that I have spent a good deal of my time getting very dirty with my dogs. The season here is short: it starts in the beginning of September and goes on until the ground freezes. All through this time my dogs are very happy and mostly muddy, since their favorite hobby involves a lot of ground digging in circumstances, which are often wet and rainy.

My dogs come from a long line of working lagottos and this breed specific activity has proved to be very important to them. Outside the season we train ruin search and obedience, but nothing motivates them as much as truffle searching. As a food lover I can appreciate that.

We go out “truffeling” once or twice a week depending on the weather and how I feel. I have a painful osteoarthritis in my fingers and on some days I just cannot hold the spade in my hand.

Three different working styles

It is interesting to compare the three different approaches to truffle searching. When I put on my working gear and get out my little spade and shoulder bag, the dogs get very excited: they jump and bark and huff and puff until we get out of the house. But as soon as we get to our “work site”, they all act in their own personal way.

Toto, the Senior Specialist, gets to work immediately, almost in a manic state and digs such big holes that sometimes he manages to kick the precious truffle far away from the spot. He could go on like this for hours without ever wanting anything in return. For him, the work itself is the prize.

Rita, the Whimsical Momma, takes her time to get started, but then she works in a precise way just lightly scratching the ground with one paw to show me exactly where to find the truffle. She is very particular about being rewarded every time she does this. However, she only concentrates for as long as she finds something more interesting to do, like chasing a pheasant or a hare. Obviously there’s quite a bit of the ancient game instinct left in her.

Finally Lola, our Playful Learner, is overjoyed with the truffle aromas and tries to eat everything she finds. She works frantically for half an hour, gets bored and just wants to play. But the way she is developing, she already has the makings of a great future in her.

Hic et nunc…

Here and now the startup of my puppy project is not the only good thing worth waiting for. One of them is that wonderful day when Lola finally grows out of her tendency to explore the world by chewing holes in it. Her tooth marks can now be found on the corner of the fireplace, on the piano legs, on the seat of an antique chair, on my laptop, in the living room rug… to mention only a few examples of her never ending activity.

I can hear you saying: - Poor Lola, maybe she is bored and needs more attention. And I answer: - Oh, yes! She has a real talent for getting bored, she can do that in two seconds any day, and any night for that matter. She is now 14 months old, so I keep calming myself by dramatically sighing to myself as the Italians do: - Ooo! Pazienza!

Toto posing in the garden a few autumns ago.

Rita on the day of her 2nd Certificate in 2012.

Lola's 2nd Certificate this summer at 10,5 months old.