From the Doghouse to the Penthouse

gillie on sofa

three springers

My Springer Spaniel Gillie is a failed truffler. He began life on a trufferie and nearly ended it there.

In the serious business of truffling there is zero tolerance for non performance and this little dog had no interest in the smelly black hunks buried beneath oak trees on the far flung NSW property.

There were far more interesting things to sniff out – especially rabbits. 

‘I want a worker not a pan licker,’ his owner growled. ‘He’s got to go.’

A bullet was the easiest and cheapest solution. A single dollar.

I got the phone call from one his neighbours who knew I was a Springer nut. I was between homes, between dogs. Unsettled, unhappy, pretty lost. Not really in any position to take on a new dog.

‘I’ll take him,’ I told her. ‘How can I get him?’

Gillie has gone from a miserable life chained to a kennel and fed virtually nothing – straight to heaven. He sleeps on the bed, gets cooked meals, is cuddled incessantly and surfs the waves at the magnificent local beaches. He has a big beautiful chocolate brown Labrador girlfriend and is her toy boy.    

Most importantly he never has to look for a truffle again in his life.

Reading Jamie Ivey’s entertaining book Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog I am introduced to the serious – and even deadly – world of ferreting out the earth’s most expensive fungi. People get shot over the things and a good truffle dog is worth its weight in…black gold.

Moving to France and buying a truffiere in Provence, Mr. Ivey first considered getting himself a pig for the all important job. Sows have a great success rate as truffles evidently smell like a boar in heat. The downside is losing a finger or hand when trying to retrieve the big stinky thing from the pig’s gob.  

A better bet, it was agreed, were rescue dogs…..’homeless bastards make the best truffle dogs. Perhaps it’s the need to please,” he was advised by the area’s most successful truffle hunter.

Gillie is my third rescued Springer.  The previous two, Harry Morton and Sailor, were lovely dogs with large fan clubs. Although not the sharpest knives in the drawer – I admit to helping Sailor with a dog intelligence test – they are apparently the most sensitive of all the breeds and their feelings are very easily hurt.

There is something retro and highly emotional about a Springer that evokes joyful childhood memories. Walking them endlessly around Venice Beach and Santa Monica I was approached hundreds of times by people who recalled having one as a child. Some became quite misty as they reminisced about their childhoods and happier, simpler times.

So successful were the boys at attracting a loving person I soon began loaning them out to my single male friends in the hope of meeting a nice gal on a walk. No lasting romances blossomed, but the dogs loved the opportunity to snaffle up all the dropped pizza and hot dogs and I eventually had to put an end to these adventures and put them on a diet.    

There is nothing very old fashioned or particularly reminiscent about a pug. They are a much newer member of the western world dog club. Their fan club however is just as great as I discovered while pug–sitting for a traveling friend last year.

If you are ever in any doubt about the goodness of mankind try taking a pug for a walk. Everybody loved Tinkerbelle. She could cheer up the most miserable looking sod by trotting up to them like a small barrel on legs and snuffling in their face.   

Kind of off-putting if they were in the middle of dinner at an outdoor restaurant.

Late at night I would walk her around the somewhat seedy Sydney neighborhood that is the beat of very large South Pacific Islander transvestite hookers. We would find them sitting on a bench, stilettos kicked off, resting their huge tired feet after a long stint on the hard streets.

They are an imposing looking lot and I was keen to move right along. But Tinkie headed for the biggest pair of feet and plonked herself right down on top of them. It may have been the nicest thing to happen to their owner the whole night.    

‘Where’s her nose?’ he wanted to know as she snorted with sheer joy.

Good question. The original pug was bred to have no snout. I am delighted that they are now permitted to have one to breathe through. Still, snout or not, I can’t picture Tinkerbelle sniffing out a truffle under a tree. 

It would simply be beneath her. I bet Gillie would concur. In fact I’m pretty sure they had a chat about this as they sat together on the sofa, although with her snuffling and his squeaking it was hard to tell.

Who, in their right mind, they seemed to be agreeing, would bother with an old boar’s stinky underpants when you could have a perfectly nice pair of perfumed trannie feet?

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