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Canines compete in Eugene at North America's only truffle dog trials

This is Bella's first time competing in The Joriad, which organizers say is the only truffle dog championship in North America. The canine competition invites pups to head to the Lane County Fairgrounds to try their nose at sniffing out truffle-scented targets hidden in boxes. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Bella is a newcomer to the competition.

A bit of an underdog.

Literally.

"She will find it in two or three minutes," Norman Panitch, one of Bella's humans, said. "She's just got an incredible smell sense."

This is Bella's first time competing in The Joriad, which organizers say is the only truffle dog championship in North America.

The canine competition invites pups to head to the Lane County Fairgrounds to try their nose at sniffing out truffle-scented targets hidden in boxes.

"We determine whether or not the dog has found a truffle-scented hide," competition judge Sunny Diaz said.

All of the competitors are amateurs; none of the dogs are professionally trained.

"The best dogs who do this, I have found, are the ones who will play fetch over and over and over and never get tired of playing fetch," Diaz said, "because you need to repeat this task over and over and over."

The dogs needed to find two truffles to qualify for the next round.

And Bella was off to a good start, locating a truffle on her first try.

But when her nose lead her to the next box, the judge couldn't find the truffle.

"But she was so sure of it!" Norman Panitch said. "She was sure of that box.

Time ticked away.

"And they couldn't find the truffle," Robin Panitch said.

Ten seconds to go ...

The judge calls another judge over. The two dumped the box on the ground, searching for the truffle.

"When they said 10 seconds," Norman said, "I think I flatlined."

No truffle? Then Bella is disqualified.

But then: Truffle!

It's a miracle on dirt.

Thursday's event was just the beginning, with another indoor event and then a foray into the woods this weekend.

But for now, Bella and her people are walking on air.

Bella had no comment - but thought the microphone looked tasty.

LEARN MORE | The Joriad | Oregon Truffle Festival

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