As her nose hovered above the damp forest floor, Pixel swept through a stand of trees before pressing her nose to the soil. She began to dig.
With the help of her handler, Courtney VanDyke, the pair unearthed a small white truffle.
“You did so good. Good puppy,” said VanDyke.
Pixel, a 3-year-old border collie, and VanDyke, of Everett, Washington, were among 27 competitors to take part in The Joriad North American Truffle Dog Championship in Eugene last weekend. The duo were the event champions with 14 truffles found and went home with the $500 prize.
The truffle dog competition is the inaugural event for the 2023 Oregon Truffle Festival, which features a variety of dining events and seminars over the next few weeks.
Getting into truffle hunting
VanDyke and Pixel got their start in truffle hunting after a friend jokingly suggested it after Pixel’s success with agility classes.
“At first it was a joke, and then it wasn’t,” said VanDyke.
In the months leading up to the competition, VanDyke and Pixel would train weekly for practice and after their success in the amateur competition they may begin working for hire, VanDyke said.
Truffle festival events
The Truffle Homecoming later in February is the festival’s signature weekend. There will be a truffle farming workshop, truffle dinners, lecture series and fresh truffle marketplace.
The Fresh Truffle Marketplace will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 19 at the Oregon State University Alumni Center, 725 SW 26th St., in Corvallis. The event includes cooking demos, wine and beer tastings, truffle and mycology lecture series and truffle dog demonstration (Advance: $25 general admissions/$40 with wine tasting; At the door: $30 general admissions/$50 with wine tasting).
For more info on the Oregon Truffle Festival, check out the website, oregontrufflefestival.org.
The Statesman Journal’s Em Chan contributed to this report.
Contact multimedia journalist Ben Lonergan at email@example.com, call 541-214-3136 or follow on Twitter or Instagram @lonerganphoto.