Fall in love with these truffle-hunting rescue dogs.

Meet Jayson Mesman of Canberra, Australia.

All photos from Jayson Mesman/The Truffle Farm, used with permission.

In addition to looking eerily similar to Chris Pratt, Jayson also adopts rescue dogs and trains them to hunt for truffles.

GIF from "Parks & Recreation."


Before he happened upon this brilliantly adorable idea, Jayson worked as a trainer for law enforcement dogs. But he eventually fell in love with truffles (which, who can blame him?) and now runs the only truffle farm in the Australian Capital Territory.

Truffles are famously rare, famously difficult to cultivate, famously delicious, and above all, famously expensive. This year's harvest is expected to run between $2,000 and $3,000 per kilogram. 

The flavorful funguses are found in the soil around certain trees like hickory and oak and can only be detected by their smell. While pigs have a natural ability to sniff out the scrumptious scent of truffles, they also tend to eat them, which has led some farmers to train dogs for the task instead.

As a lifelong dog enthusiast, Jayson took this one step further: He recruited a legion of eager pups to help him in the truffle hunt — all adopted from nearby pounds.

"I actually go into the pound and look for the dogs that people quite often can't maintain," Jayson said. "Those with a really strong hunt drive, wanting to play constantly, the dog that chases the ball until he falls over almost."

"Owners are grabbing the cute, cuddly Labradors that everyone sees on the Kleenex ads," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "They don't realise they're a natural born retriever, so really high-powered ... and they don't realise that until their nice manicured backyard gets ripped to pieces."

Jayson went on to explain that he uses positive reinforcement to train the pups to hunt truffles, noting that technique "can get a dog to do basically anything you want them to do." He said he tries to rescue as many dogs as he can.

So how do you train a rescue dog to sniff out this sweet truffle goodness? The trick is figuring out what each one wants.

"These dogs don't consider it work; it's not a chore by any sense," Jayson said. "The key is making sure they're having a good time."

Most of his canine crew would respond to standard treats or praise, and Jayson only had to figure out the rewards they liked best. But for some of them, the process was a little more tricky.

Take Simba, for instance.

Jayson had exhausted his usual tricks of toys and food in trying to train Simba, and he was all out of ideas. But Simba finally found his first truffle, and right after, Mesman's partner, Danielle, gave the dog a hug.

This elite squad of truffle pups is rounded out by Willow...

...Nala...

...Samson...

...and Max, Jayson's personal kelpie that recently started joining in on the truffle hunt action.

"He's a dog that can run 80 to 100 kilometres per day," he said. "So we put all that energy to use, and it's something that he loves doing."

But this rowdy crew couldn't do what they do without Winnie and Piglet, the truffle pigs.

These two saddlebacks rely on their innately attuned noses to dig up any unformed or rotten truffles at the end of the season, which they eat up and poop out — spreading the spores back into the soil to make next year's harvest even more robust.

Thank you, Jayson, for making a difference in the lives of these wonderful animals. (And also for supplying people with tasty, tasty truffle treats.)

The next time you're in Australia, you can visit Jayson and his canine crew at The Truffle Farm Canberra. The internationally-renowned gourmet experience is just an added bonus. And yes — you can go hunting with the dogs, too.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
True

In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."