The following story is an excerpt from an upcoming book about Leonbergers and especially our Leonberger Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle and his many crazy adventures.
Back when Bronco our Leonberger was young, the kids had pet hamsters—Moldova and Montenegro. The hamsters escaped from their cages sometimes, but Bronco usually helped us find them whenever they did. Claudia would tell him, “Bronco, find the hamsters,” and he would go around the house sniffing until he found them. One time he found them in the linen closet; another time he found them on a shelf in the living room.
On one occasion, a friend of David trusted us with his two hamsters while he and his family went on vacation. A couple of days later, Claudia noticed that the two hamsters were missing from their cage. The next thing she noticed was that Bronco’s cheeks looked puffy, so she said, “Bronco, drop it!” Out came the two hamsters, both unconscious.
In a panic, Claudia started performing CPR on the unconscious hamsters. She put one hamster at a time in her hand and gently compressed each tiny chest using the finger of the other hand. Fortunately, one hamster revived right away. The CPR didn’t seem to be working on the other hamster, but Claudia put both of them back in their cage, and soon the second hamster also woke up. We decided to keep the incident to ourselves. Hamsters don’t squeal.
The question is, Did Bronco try to eat the hamsters? Or did he simply find them and pick them up, intending to alert us to their presence? I’ve asked several people this question, including some who know Leonbergers well. The answer they give is that he tried to save them from whatever danger he thought they might have been in. If he wanted to eat them, they say, he would have tried chewing them. But clearly, he didn’t.
The hamsters may have felt differently about the situation and may have fainted from the shock. Who knows? Bronco was a hero on many occasions, but this time, perhaps, he was a hamster superhero.
Eventually our own hamsters died, but that didn’t end Bronco’s interest in them. When the first hamster died, we held a funeral. We put the hamster in a shoe box, said goodbye, put some flowers in the box, and buried it in the backyard underneath some bushes. But when we turned our backs, Bronco was there, digging under the bushes. Perhaps he thought he could save the hamster. So, we called Bronco off and tried again: this time I dug a deeper hole and put a wide rock over the shoe box before covering it. Now Bronco couldn’t dig up the hamster. When the second hamster died, I had learned my lesson and did the same thing.