Then Along Came Aimie
By Jim Rambo
Armand Bardot is the richest man in his village of Vienne, France, a middle-aged, balding Frenchman who is unmarried and makes his living selling truffles from his estate. Thirty years ago Armand planted hundreds of oak trees on his land, his plan that the limestone soil would become rich in truffles, a mushroom delicacy. Over the years, the focused Frenchman used German shepherds to seek out and harvest the truffles. Then, along came Amie.
She was a spirited French poodle pup, born on the farm adjacent to Armand’s. She was wooly, white and landed in Armand’s arms one day while he was delivering some of his legendary home made wines for a tasting. His neighbor, Clement, picked Aimie from the litter and handed her to Armand declaring, “Here she is: your best truffle dog ever. My gift to a good neighbor and friend!” The shivering package, snuggling in Armand’s arms, was carried to the truffle farm that night. Her nose was wet and her eyes inquisitive.
Most truffle dogs take a few months to train. They are usually female, as French farmers have learned that they, like their human counterparts, have a longer attention span than the males. Aimie responded to Armand’s training techniques within weeks. It was helpful that the pup loved gorgonzola cheese. Armand would reward every truffle discovery with a taste of the cheese and Aimie would twist and dance with each such event, falling over backwards in her enthusiasm. The French farmer had found his protégé and best friend. She had one flaw; she refused to put the truffles into Armand’s leather gathering pouch. Not even gorgonzola in the pouch tempted her.
Aimie loved to romp with her leash still attached to her collar. Armand would find her nuzzling his hand at near 7:20 PM every night when she would leap up to his lap, and rub her nose through his chin hairs, finding his chin even more intriguing than gorgonzola!
Because the dark truffles were selling for about $700 U.S. per pound, there were those who would try to steal them. The thieves would trespass onto farms and begin digging, this done at night and with minimal success. But Armand had never experienced theft because his trees sat nearly fifty meters from the main road, which discouraged those who might consider truffle trespass.
That ended in early January of this year when Aimie was heard barking in the oak orchard, the moon shining brightly overhead. Soon her barks turned to yelps penetrating the darkness. Armand found her lying in the middle of a long row of oaks. He could make out nothing but two shadowy male figures bounding out of sight. Cradling Aimie in his arms, he carried her home. Then, in a moment burned into Armand’s consciousness, he watched her drag herself across the concrete floor, blood trailing behind her, as she struggled up next to his leather pouch, opened it with her nose, and proudly deposited a truffle the size of a child’s fist inside the pouch. She then dropped in complete exhaustion, though her tail that would not stop wagging. Sorrow, joy and pride wet Armand’s cheeks.
The prize truffle that Aimie had bravely retrieved from the thieves paid her veterinary expenses, including the spinal surgery that might have become necessary because of a beating with a buckled belt.
She cannot work now and walks with difficulty. But she is delighted with her new companion, a white poodle named Pierre that Armand had brought home. It was, he thought, the least he could do for the best friend he had ever known.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com