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Bronco's Adventures

A Shocking Walk

Young Bronco, less than one years old. He was gangly but already very big.
Bronco was slim and a bit gangly when he was young. He would fill out later. He was full of energy, confident and not afraid of anything.

Bronco was not only big, he was also confident and unafraid and insensitive to noise. Most dogs I’ve known have been afraid of lightning and thunder and loud explosions, but not Bronco. Here in Texas, thunderstorms can be very violent and dangerous. North Texas is located in Tornado Alley, and that’s where the world’s worst thunderstorms occur. We’ve had our share of lightning strikes, heavy rain, flooded streets, sixty-mile-an-hour winds, giant hail, and tornadoes. You don’t want to be outside when a severe thunderstorm is at hand.

Once when I was out walking Bronco, we were surprised by one of those Tornado Alley–style supercell thunderstorms, and lightning struck the ground maybe one hundred yards away from us. It was bright, but above all the following thunderclap was very loud. It was an explosion more than anything else. I jumped where I stood, and my heart was pounding afterward. Bronco, on the other hand, was too busy sniffing something interesting to pay attention to the sound. After the lightning strike, he looked up as if to make sure everything was okay, then he continued with his important olfactory project. I can assure you that he was not deaf. My repeated failure to quietly open a cheese wrapper in the kitchen without his noticing is proof of that.

I should add that Leonbergers are known to be confident and unafraid. It is part of the breed standard and they are bred that way.

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Bronco's Adventures

The Day Bronco Sniffed Out an Oncoming Insulin Shock

On the right our Labrador Baylor. On the left our Leonberger Bronco under a sun ray. Bronco may have saved Baylor when he sniffed our an oncoming insulin shock.
Bronco’s nose predicted an oncoming insulin shock

When Bronco was young we had a Labrador named Baylor. Baylor developed diabetes and I had to give him insulin shots before every meal. But he was very cooperative, and he never complained despite the pinch he must have felt every time.

One day we witnessed what seemed like a miracle. Bronco started barking while looking at Baylor, then he intently looked at us, then he turned his head toward Baylor and started barking again. He did this a few times—not aggressively, but to get our attention. It became clear that. Bronco wanted us to look at Baylor. I examined Baylor but saw nothing wrong at first. Then I looked again. This time I saw that his back legs were shaking slightly. It quickly got worse. His gait became wobbly, then within perhaps fifteen seconds he fainted. He had gone into insulin shock. We rushed him to the emergency clinic, where fortunately the doctors were able to revive him. I should mention; we didn’t know this at the time, but giving a dog sugar, or something sweet, can bring him out of insulin shock.

Bronco detected a problem with Baylor before we could see anything wrong. His warnings gave us that little bit of extra time we needed to save Baylor’s life. I still wonder what it was that Bronco noticed. Leonbergers have a very keen sense of smell, and people have told me that the dogs can smell when there’s something physically wrong with a person. We had never taught Bronco to detect insulin shock or any other condition. It was entirely his own instinct. This was one of the amazing superpowers Bronco had.

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Bronco's Adventures

The Day Bronco Stumped the Geek Squad

At around the time the hamsters died, the kids had a laptop that they used for playing games and—allegedly—doing homework. One evening, when the laptop was folded flat on a table, Bronco calmly walked over to it and bit it, as if he were taking a bite out of a sandwich. He bit it very hard—so hard that his teeth punctured the metal top and the edges curled up on each side. The force of his bite made a loud cracking sound.

The boys and I stared in amazement. The laptop looked like it had been hit with a toothed sledgehammer. It really demonstrated the immense power of Bronco’s jaws. The bite force of a Leonberger has been measured at 399 PSI (pounds per square inch), which is significantly more than those of an American pit bull terrier (235 PSI), a German shepherd (238 PSI), and a Rottweiler (328 PSI).  See the link below. We don’t know why Bronco bit the laptop. Maybe he didn’t like the computer because of all the attention it got. Thank goodness we had an extended warranty from Best Buy.

Our Leonberger Bronco bit the kids laptop with devastating but impressive results. The Geek Squad employee was astonished. Luckily the warranty covered both acts of God and acts of Dog (illustration Naomi Rosenblatt)
Luckily the warranty covered both acts of God and acts of Dog (illustration Naomi Rosenblatt)

We took the crushed laptop with the huge bite marks back to Best. Buy and asked the technician if our extended warranty covered the damage. The man looked at the laptop, puzzled. He said, “Wow—I’ve never seen anything like this before.” He told us that we were covered under the warranty but that he was dying to know what happened. I explained to him that our very big and very strong dog bit the laptop. He said, “That’s the best story I’ve ever heard.” I guess our extended warranty covered both acts of God and acts of Dog.

Check this link “Dogs Bite Force Comparison,” at

Dogs Bite Force Comparison

uploaded December 26, 2020

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Bronco's Adventures

The time Bronco accidentally pushed Baby into a storm drain

I am rescuing our German Shepherd Baby from a storm drain while holding our Leonberger Bronco.
Me handling a difficult situation. Illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt.

Among the 100+ stories I have about Bronco, this is one of the shorter ones. However, it is an amusing one. At the time our Leonberger Bronco was still young and somewhat misbehaved. We also had a well-behaved older female German Shepherd, Baby, who loved Bronco very much.

On this occasion I was walking Bronco and Baby. We met a man and his dog walking on the other side of the street, heading toward us. Bronco started barking at the dog, and the other dog responded. Both dogs worked themselves up into a frenzy. Bronco began pulling on his leash and even jumping. Baby remained quiet. But with all his carrying on, Bronco accidentally bumped Baby into a storm drain, which we happened to be standing right in front of.

To save Baby, I lay on my stomach and grabbed her around her abdomen with one arm—all while holding Bronco’s leash with my other hand. He continued pulling, jumping, and barking as I gradually dragged Baby up out of the drain. The guy on the other side of the street looked at us with big eyes, as if he had seen an evil clown peering out from the storm drain. He lifted his dog up in his arms and ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

Meanwhile, Bronco had calmed down, and I was able to drag Baby back onto the street. She loved Bronco, but after this incident she showed us in her own way that she’d rather not take her walks with him. We respected her wishes, and I walked them separately from that point on.

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Bronco's Adventures

Bronco’s Hamster Search and Rescue

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.

Our Leonberger Bronco with his cheeks full of hamsters (illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt)
Cheeks full of hamsters (illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt)

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.

Claudia doing CPR on a Hamster (illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt)
Hamster CPR (illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt)

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.

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Bronco's Adventures

The Time Bronco Saved the Neighborhood

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.

It was a quiet evening, and I was home alone. My wife, Claudia, was visiting her parents a few blocks away with Rachel, our daughter. Our son Jacob was meeting with his debate team; our other son, David, was visiting a friend.

I was making myself a ham sandwich in the kitchen when I suddenly felt a hand on my right shoulder. I startled and turned my head to face what I feared was an intruder, and there he stood on his hind legs—our Leonberger, Bronco. His big paw on my shoulder felt for a moment exactly like a human hand.

Bronco looked at me with his kind, wise eyes, then he looked at the sandwich. Then he turned his head toward me again and held my gaze. At that moment I understood what he wanted. I cut the sandwich in two and gave him his half.

I should explain that we had a problem with a trespasser at that time, which was the reason I was startled. This trespasser would sit outside our bedroom window at night and make threats and shout obscene comments at Claudia when I was not present. At first, though, we didn’t know where the threats and comments were coming from. I doubted Claudia’s accounts of these incidents, especially because she thought the voice might be coming from within our bedroom, perhaps via an electronic speaker. I thought she was just having nightmares.

Then one night I heard it myself—a voice screaming, “I am going to burn your house down!” Just as Claudia had said, it sounded like it came from within our bedroom, almost as if it were right next to me.

After Claudia and I went through our “Oh, so now you believe me” routine, I started looking under our bed and inside the heating and air-conditioning vents for hidden speakers and/or microphones. It was hard to believe that someone had planted these things in our bedroom, but that seemed to be the case.

Then it finally dawned on me. Next to the headboard of our bed, on Claudia’s side, just inches from her pillow, is a window. At night, when the blinds are lowered and the slats are partially open, you can see in, even if we have just a few lights on in the house. But, of course, under these conditions, you can’t see anything that might be outside.

I ran out the front door and around the back of the house, and there, right in front of our bedroom window, was one of our lawn chairs. The trespasser had climbed our fence, taken the chair, sat down in front of the window, and spied on us. Whenever I left the room, he would shout obscenities and threats at Claudia. When his face was planted in front of our window, he was just two or three feet away. This was why the voice felt so close. This had been going on for two weeks. We were happy to have finally figured it out, but we realized we had a problem.

A trespasser looking in through our bedroom window at night (illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt). Our Leonberger Bronco saved us from this threat.
Trespasser at night spying on us through our bedroom window (illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt)

We talked to our neighbors about the situation, and they told us that the trespasser had terrorized them as well. He had been quite busy looking through bedroom windows at night. People in the neighborhood were scared. I called the police, who told us they could do nothing unless the man was caught in the act or he committed a crime other than trespassing.

Therefore, I decided to hire private investigators. I found them in the phone book. Phone books still existed back then.

The investigators told me that they typically spy on people suspected of cheating on their spouses, so this would be a more interesting job for them. The plan was for them to hide behind the bushes in our backyard and in a dark car parked on our street. When the man appeared, they would record him on video. They had a lot of fancy equipment and instruments, including big microphones, cameras, and metal detectors. They reminded us of Ghostbusters with all their technology and enthusiasm. They clearly loved their job. Unfortunately, though, the trespasser didn’t show up, so after a couple of days I decided to let the investigators go.

However, I soon figured out who the trespasser was. I started paying attention to what was going on in the neighborhood, and one evening, I noticed a strange looking but relatively young man, apparently homeless, who seemed to be stealthily roaming our neighborhood. I did not confront him, because I had no proof.

But a few days later, I heard shuffling noises outside our bedroom window. The trespasser was finally back. This time I sent Bronco out to chase him, and he did. Like the detectives, Bronco was enthusiastic but didn’t catch him. Still, he chased the man off. Having a big bearlike dog rushing toward you at night is probably a bit unnerving, even if the dog just wants to lick you. We never experienced or heard about the problem after this event, so Bronco may have helped the entire neighborhood.

A couple of weeks later, while walking Bronco on a neighboring block, I saw the homeless man across the street, at a bit of a distance. He stared at us in fright. Bronco just calmly looked at him without barking. The man was clearly terrified of Bronco, and he ran away.

But despite the nightmare the homeless man had inflicted on us, I felt sorry for him. My guess is that he was suffering from mental illness and that he had had a very tough and lonely life.

Bronco chasing off trespasser (illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt)
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Bronco's Adventures

Our Leonberger Bronco

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.

The photos below is of our Leonberger Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle. In the left photo he is three months old and in the right photo he is soon to be 13 years old. Due to a misunderstanding his name on the original pedigree certificate from the Leonberger Club of America was even more interesting: “Lets do le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle”—yes, without the apostrophe.

The Leonberger is a noble and relatively rare breed, and purebred Leonbergers typically have a long pedigree that can be traced back to the beginning of the twentieth century. This means that if you buy one, you and your dog will become part of a special community, and your dog’s name will reflect that. Bronco’s last name, von der Löwenhöhle, means that he originated from Kennel von der Löwenhöhle.

During an email exchange with the person writing up Bronco’s pedigree certificate, we were informed that because our dog was born in a litter identified by the letter L, his official name needed to begin with an L, too, even though at home we could call our dog whatever we liked. We knew we wanted to name him Bronco, which we thought was appropriate for a Leonberger, so later Claudia wrote, “Let’s do Le Bronco,” intending that the dog’s name would begin with the word “Le,” fulfilling the kennel’s requirement.

But when we received a copy of Bronco’s pedigree, we saw that our correspondent had misunderstood and included the words “Let’s do” as part of the name! Well, “Let’s do” starts with an L, too, so it fulfilled the pedigree requirement. And that’s how Bronco’s official full name came to be Lets do le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle. I should mention that we later got this corrected.

We got our Leonberger, whom we just called Bronco, from a breeder in Canada by the name Julie Schaffert. She is a responsible breeder and is recommended/endorsed by the Leonberger Club of America. She was among the first Leonberger breeders in North America. She got started in the 1990’s. I should add that it is important that you get your Leonberger from a responsible breeder for the sake of the breed and your dog’s health. The Leonberger Club of America maintains a list on their website where you can find LCA recommended breeders.

During his lifetime Bronco did a lot courageous and amazing things. He saved our Pug’s life, he sniffed out an oncoming insulin shock in our Labrador before it happened, he found our runaway hamsters, he chased off a guy who was trespassing and threatening my wife and other women in the neighborhood at night, thus protecting the entire neighborhood. He also did a lot less great but funny things. We have 100+ stories that I will be adding to this blog.

For a Leonberger Bronco lived a long life. He died two weeks short of 13 years old and the average life span for a Leonberger is 8-9 years. Because he reached an advanced age for a Leonberger he was awarded the Grey Muzzle Award, given by the Leonberger Health Foundation International, which bestows the award on any Leonberger who has reached the age of twelve. The Grey Muzzle Award is also given to breeders, because they are partially responsible for the dogs’ longevity.

Our Leonberger Bronco at the age of three months (left) and at the age of almost thirteen (right)