Hunting for Truffles Is a Perilous Pursuit, Especially for the Dogs Who Dig

Hunting for Truffles Is a Perilous Pursuit, Especially for the Dogs Who Dig

The Carabinieri and the men traversed a bumpy country road dividing the high plains used as sets for the spaghetti westerns.

“This is the truffle hunter’s battlefield,” Mr. Tomassetti said as he climbed out of the car near the scene of the chocolate lab’s demise. A specially trained Belgian Shepherd, Asia, leaped out of the Carabinieri’s van.

“Search,” said Mr. Formichetti.

As Asia investigated, Mr. Tomassetti and his friends complained that there was an “omerta” or Mafioso code of silence among truffle hunters.

“Maybe it is one of us,” he said.

“Don’t look at me when you say that!” his friend Mario Morganti, 62, said.

Some suspected a local who drank coffee in the town bar.

“I’ll hide in the woods,” Mr. Bravi said. He nearly lost his own dog, also named Bella, a dozen years ago, to poison. He had already installed a video camera in his jeep to see who approached while he was out with his dogs. “It’s running now. And then when I catch him and see him in the piazza, I’ll break his little hands.”

Asia finished her sweep without finding any evidence. Mr. Tomassetti then let his Bella out the back of his jeep, but prudently kept her on a leash. As they walked deeper into the woods, he let her free. She found truffles and then she found the fox’s body.

After the Carabinieri took the corpse back to the lab, Mr. Tomassetti and the others returned to their jeeps. As Bella scratched in her crate, he looked at the woods and lamented that the local truffle hunters wanted it all to themselves. The jeep headed back to Rome, and he walked Bella in front of the maximum-security prison near his house.

“It was where,” he said, “these murderers belong.”

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