Meet the truffle dogs: 'Her main goal in life is to hunt truffles'

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Oregon Truffle Festival came to a close on Sunday, but for many the hunt for truffles is still on.

KVAL News reporter Nicole Comstock met up with the best truffle connoisseurs you can find; the dogs that hunt for truffles.

Nothing perks up truffle hunter Isis's ear like the rustle of treats inside a paper bag. Her owner, Jeannine May, kept a bag at hand as the duo walked through the 8th annual Truffle Festival in the Hilton convention room.

"I've been training Isis since she was about 8 weeks old and her main goal in life is to hunt truffles," said May.

Jeannine said that they came to the festival's public day on Sunday to meet up with other truffle hunting teams, like Leslie and Charles Scott and their dog Mocha.

The Scotts helped to bring the whole festival together.

"She loves to dig and she occasionally loves to eat the truffles she finds," the Scotts said.

Trainers like Kris Jacobson said that the dogs aren't supposed to taste the truffles, even though they don't have much flavor when they are raw.

Jacobson has been hunting with her dog Ilsa for nearly a year.

"So you can shave it on pasta, any sort of warm dish, and the heat of the dish, just prior to service, brings out the aroma," Kris said.

It is that taste that has some people paying nearly $20 an ounce for a truffle.

While they don't have much taste when they are uncooked, the aroma can be detected by a trained truffle dog.

For Mocha, hunting for truffles is more play than it is work.

"For her its just a big play-day. She doesn't work for food, she works for - im gonna have to spell it," Kris said, pausing to lean toward the camera. "Because she knows the word for a B-A-L-L."

Jacobson said that using a furry companion to find the fungi is a lot more eco-friendly than other truffle-gathering teqniques.

"As opposed to commercial rakers that go out they literally will destroy the native habitat," said Jacobson.

Each of the truffle teams that KVAL's Nicole Comstock spoke with said that any dog can be trained to hunt truffles. It just takes diligence, patience and a love of nature.