I’ve been using this little image of Peg’s self-cleaning olfactory apparatus as my web presence for years. It’s my gravatar and the favicon here and at Hot Topic. It was shot for The Truffle Book in 2005, when she was two years old and already a champion truffle hound. She died on Monday morning, poisoned by eating pindone bait laid to control rabbits. The bait was in stations designed to stop dogs getting to it, but beagles are greedy and resourceful, and somehow she managed to eat enough to kill her. The poison hit her in a way that fooled us all, vet included. Right now, I’d trade a thousand rabbits and the ire of my neighbours to get her back.
Peg joined the family in May 2003, a compelling little bundle of fun. Look at the early pictures in the Flickr set I’ve compiled — A life in bones — and you’ll get some idea of how easy it was for her to capture our hearts. As a part of her training, I kept her with me all day, every day. At first she had her own little playpen in my office, later she graduated to basket and blanket and the run of the house. She kept me company nearly every day over the last seven years, eagerly leaping out of her basket when it looked like the boss was off out round the farm. You could say we were close.
She learned her trade quickly, graduating from hide and seek games round the kitchen to digging up dummy truffles in the truffière in a matter of weeks. I think she thought it was easy. She found her first truffle — in a neighbour’s truffière — in 2004, and won the first NZ truffle dog championship in Napier a few weeks later. As you can see from the picture (right), I was somewhat pleased, but also rather embarrassed. The trial had been my idea, and Peg had beaten real, working truffle dogs — dogs that found truffles for a living. For Peg, truffles were an interesting little sideline, something she did to please me. The following year in Christchurch she repeated the performance, as this TV NZ news item records:
In subsequent years she relinquished her title, and concentrated on real work. We found our first truffles at Limestone Hills in 2006, and she has played her part perfectly in every subsequent season. She became something of a media star, popping up on TV and in the press: most recently filming for a forthcoming Asia Downunder (I’ll link to it when it’s up on YouTube) and in a lovely six page feature in Pet magazine.
She’s buried in the garden. I dug the hole and laid her in it only a few hours after taking her to the vet. I don’t want to have to do that again. But I do need a truffle dog. I just wish it could be Peg. Daft dog that she was, she was mine, and we grew up in the truffle business together.