Since we returned from our trip to Torridon last week, I've been struggling to gain Gail's attention as she's had her nose deeply inserted into two library books, both apparently highly absorbing (she says), in very different ways.
As usual, I insisted on speed reading the two volumes, scouring the pages for canine-relevant material that might be of interest to followers of this blog.
First the Ben MacIntyre book, 'The Spy and the Traitor'. I really thought I'd drawn a blank in this true story about the Russian double agent Oleg Gordievsky. Until, that is, I reached page 301. It's 1985 and the KGB have rumbled that Gordievsky has been spying for the Brits. And in this tense scene we encounter a Soviet sniffer dog, at work on the Russia-Finland border but being distracted by the wife of the MI6 Moscow chief changing her baby's nappy on the boot of the British Embassy car. The whiffy nappy fortuitously disguised the fact that Gordievsky was hiding inside the boot, sweating with fear, escaping almost certain execution for his traitorous activities.
One can understand how the poor pup got confused. The book does not tell if he was later punished by the KGB for dereliction of duty. I surely hope not.
Perhaps the dogs in the other book had a more enjoyable working environment. In the opening pages of 'Entangled Life' by Merlin Sheldrake (a book about mycorrhizal fungi - yes really) we meet Kika and Diavolo, two Italian dogs who also earn their keep by means of their superior scenting ability. Roaming the woods with their handlers Paride and Daniele, these Lagotto Romagnolos sniff out Piedmont white truffles. Apparently dogs are favoured over pigs for this highly skilled work as it is not so easy to train a pig not to devour the much prized delicacy immediately upon its detection. Who knew?
Soviet spy sniffer, or tasty truffle tracer - which would you rather be?