Writer’s Note: To celebrate the Dog Days of Summer, here’s one of my all-time favorite canine interviews, originally published in the Wild River Review.
There’s something about the forest that brings out the adventurer in every dog – and when you add truffles to the scene, the ultimate companion for woodland discoveries is my canine pal, Rico.
Like many of the world’s great truffle dogs, Rico is a Lagotto Romagnolo – a rare Italian breed that originated with the ancient Etruscans. Rico was born into a distinguished family of truffle hunters in the Sicilian village of Mazara del Vallo, arriving in America as a puppy with a keen nose for exploration.
Like many Sicilians, Rico has a charming talent for storytelling. He agreed to grant this exclusive interview if he could recount the truffle tales in his own words – read on for our question and answer session!
How did you first learn to hunt truffles, Rico?
When I was a tiny puppy in Sicily, the only toy I had was a tartufo (that’s Italian for ‘truffle’) sewn into a cloth bag called a borsa. Mario, my first tartufaio (truffle hunter), started my training by throwing the borsa for me to retrieve – and giving me a treat when I brought it back to him.
When that got really easy, Mario started hiding the borsa so I’d have to search for it with my nose. Next, I learned the secret of being a champion truffle dog: you have to really dig truffles – literally. Now, when I wanted a treat, I had to sniff out the borsa wherever Mario had buried it. He didn’t make it easy, but it turns out I’ve got a great nose and tireless paws.
These days, I’m a truffle hunting pro who travels all over the world – if there’s a truffle (or even truffle spores) anywhere around, you can count on me to bring you the treasure!