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Bronco's Adventures

Leonberger Saves Neighborhood

Photo of our late Leonberger Bronco and his sister, the pug Daisy.
Our late Leonberger Bronco and his sister, the pug Daisy.

Bronco gave us many funny and exciting stories to tell. The book I wrote “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle” feature several dozen stories. I’ve told a few of them here in my blog, but it was early on before I had many followers and I think most of you have not seen them. Instead of telling too many of the stories in the book I’ve decided to rerun some of the stories I’ve already told here in my blog, with some improvements, such as better images. Images that were used in the book (the images previously used in my blog were low-resolution early versions). This story is about the time when our Leonberger Bronco saved us as well as the neighborhood from a peeping tom who haunted and taunted us at night. Here we go!

Photo of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle or Bronco as we called him.
Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle or Bronco as we called him.

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.

Drawing of Peeping Tom outside our bedroom window at night, illustration Naomi Rosenblatt.
Peeping Tom outside our bedroom window at night, illustration 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.

Drawing showing Bronco chasing off intruder at night, illustration Naomi Rosenblatt
Bronco chasing off intruder at night, illustration Naomi Rosenblatt.

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.

Photo of Bronco with a sun ray shining down upon his head giving him a saintly look. Saint Bronco saved us and the neighborhood.
Saint Bronco saved us and the neighborhood.

Finally, I would like to promote my book about Bronco and Leonbergers.

Image of the front cover of the book "The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle". Click on the image to go to the Amazon.com location for the book.
This is the front cover of the book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle”. Click on the image to go to the Amazon.com location for the book.
Image showing the back cover of the book "The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle". Click on the image to go to the Amazon.se location for the book.
This is the back cover of the book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle”. Click on the image to go to the Amazon.se location for the book.
These are the endorsements for the book. Click on the image to got to the Barnes and Noble location for the book.

Below is a list of where you can find the book. Click on the links to go to the respective store. However, if your favorite bookstore is not listed below you can search for it using the ISBN or ASIN numbers.

ISBN number for printed edition: 978-0998084954

ASIN number for the e-book edition: B0B5NN32SR

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Bronco's Adventures

Baby Protects Bronco from Dogs Walking Off Leash

This story is an excerpt from the book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle” (see below). This story is about when our German Shepherd Baby protected our Leonberger puppy Bronco from dogs walking off leash. It is a violent and scary story, but also a story about the mother instinct and of bravery. The moral of the story is; always use a leash when walking your dog in public.

Baby was our second family dog. She was a German shepherd and was also a rescue. (Although we were told that she was a purebred, we didn’t have a certificate.) First Claudia’s sister Marianne adopted her, but when Marianne moved to France, we adopted Baby. Baylor and Baby became good friends, but sometimes Baby got annoyed with Baylor when he stole food, especially when it was hers. She liked to lie at the entrance to the kitchen and tell the other dogs, particularly Baylor, “You shall not pass.” It wasn’t because she wanted the food for herself. She just didn’t like other dogs stealing it, so she tried to prevent it, like a good kitchen police dog.

Photo of our German Shepherd Baby at the dog park.
Baby was always a little wary at the dog park.

Baby was quiet and well behaved. She was well trained and easy to walk, but she wasn’t fond of noisy places. She was a bit anxious and less social than our other dogs, and she didn’t like dog parks, though she tolerated them. We were told that she had been mistreated by her first owners, and the first months of a dog’s life are very important for his or her mental health.

Photo of our German Shepherd playing with our Leonberger puppy Bronco.
Bronco, at the age of four or five months, would soon outgrow his playmate Baby.

Even though Baby was a shy and anxious dog at first, once we got Bronco, her personality changed. She loved Bronco, and she took on the job of being Bronco’s adoptive mom. She played with him; she watched him; she was fiercely protective of him. Bronco was her puppy. She seemed rejuvenated, as if she had found an important job to do—a purpose, if you will. It was beautiful to see her take care of Bronco and play with him. She became happier and more confident, and Bronco loved her.

Photo of our Leonberger Bronco from when he was around three months old
This photo of Bronco was taken when he was around three months old, soon after we got him.

One day I was out walking with Baylor, Baby, and Bronco. Bronco was very young, maybe four months old. We met a man walking two medium-size black dogs off leash. Suddenly, one of the dogs attacked us. There was nothing I could do. As I watched helplessly, the black dog made the monumental mistake of going for Bronco. If the dog had attacked Baylor or Baby, either dog would certainly have put up a courageous defense, but going after Bronco was nearly suicidal, not because of Bronco himself but because of Baby.

I heard a loud explosion of barks that lasted only a few seconds, and then I saw the black dog flying five or six feet up into the air. Baby had bitten him in the side and tossed him skyward. It was surreal. I almost couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.

The black dog lay in the street. The man knelt before him and started crying. He said his dog’s back was broken. I was mortified, and I said, “I am so terribly sorry.” He said, “It’s not your fault. I was the one walking my dogs without a leash.” It was gratifying for me to hear that under the circumstances, but it was no less tragic.

Then, to my astonishment, the black dog stood up and quickly walked back to the other side of the street. The dog was in shock, but he was fine. The man calmed down, and we said goodbye to each other on good terms.

It wasn’t the only time Baby protected Bronco, but it was the most memorable. Thinking about it still sends chills down my spine. Years later, after Baylor and Baby passed and we got our small dogs, Bronco would take on the role of their protector. He would save lives.

Picture of the front cover of the book "The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle".
This is the front cover of the book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle”. Click on the image to go to the Amazon.com location for the book.
Image of the back cover of the book "The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle".
This is the back cover of the book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle”. Click on the image to go to the Amazon.se location for the book.
Image showing the endorsements for the book.
These are the endorsements for the book. Click on the image to got to the Barnes and Noble location for the book.

Below is a list of where you can find the book. Click on the links to go to the respective store. However, if your favorite bookstore is not listed below you can search for it using the ISBN or ASIN numbers.

ISBN number for printed edition: 978-0998084954

ASIN number for the e-book edition: B0B5NN32SR

Below are a few of the places where you can buy it. Click on a link to buy it from your favorite store.

Categories
Bronco's Adventures

Rollo Rolls In

Bronco grew up with several other dogs, a Labrador (Baylor), a German Shepherd (Baby), a Japanese Chin (Ryu), a Pug (Daisy), and finally a mini-Australian Shepherd Rollo. The book also describes some of the adventures of Bronco’s siblings and his interactions with them. This post is focused on Rollo and Bronco’s great patience with Rollo.

Picture of a mini-Australian Shepherd puppy on grass.
A frightened puppy at his new home.
Mini-Australian puppy on blanket.
None of us could resist Rollo when he was a young pup.
Bronco the Leonberger and his new little mini-Australian puppy.
Bronco and Rollo

Six months after the passing of our Japanese Shin Ryu, we decided to get another dog. Rachel really wanted a miniature Australian shepherd, so we got one from a breeder in East Texas. We named him Rollo, after the Viking who was the first ruler of Normandy. In 885–86 CE, Rollo led the Viking siege of Paris but was fended off by Odo, the count of Paris. Our Rollo may not have been quite as brave as the medieval Rollo (or Odo), but he was cute and full of energy.

Rollo was not a big puppy, and at the beginning he was afraid of everything and everyone. However, he quickly warmed up to both Daisy and Bronco, and he was potty trained quickly. Rachel was the one who did most of the training: she stayed with him at night and put a bell on the door to the backyard, which he rang whenever he wanted to go outside. Every time he went, he got a little treat and praise afterward. It made him happy and proud.

We also tried to take him for walks, but he did not understand the concept right away. He would lie down on his back or stand on his hind legs and stretch his paws up, wanting to be carried. So we held him in our arms as we walked him around the neighborhood with the other dogs. He was happy up there in our arms, and he contentedly chewed on his leash and harness.

But even after he started walking on his own four feet, he was still a bit anxious and easily frightened. If we saw a cat, we had to turn around and walk straight back home. If we heard a truck engine-braking on the main road a quarter mile away, we had to turn around and walk straight back home. If we saw a man with a little dog, we had to turn around and walk straight back home. If we heard a duck quacking, we had to run for our lives back home. Ducks make strange sounds that can be very scary to little puppies. Whenever we walked or ran back home, I was right behind him as he pulled the leash.

There was one thing Rollo was not afraid of, and that was Bronco. Bronco was the biggest dog Rollo had ever seen—not to mention the biggest dog many people had ever seen—yet Rollo was continually testing Bronco’s patience. One time Rollo and I were sitting on the sofa, and Bronco was sleeping at our feet. Suddenly I saw Rollo stepping off the sofa and onto Bronco’s back, then walking across Bronco’s back down to the floor. Bronco was grumbling a bit, but he let Rollo literally walk all over him.

Rollo our mini-Australian Shepherd loves belly rubs even from Bronco
“Please, Bronco, I want my belly rub.”

I also noticed that Rollo liked to play with Bronco’s tail. One day Bronco began barking at me intently, as he did when he wanted me to do something or pay attention to him. I couldn’t see anything amiss at first, but then I saw something going on behind him. I took a closer look and saw Rollo dangling from Bronco’s tail. He was biting it and using it as a swing. I got Rollo off right away, of course, which is exactly what Bronco wanted. He was being very patient with Rollo, but Rollo wanted to play.

Our mini-Australian Shepherd Rollo pulling our Leonberger Bronco's tail.
To my astonishment, Bronco didn’t react angrily when Rollo swung like Tarzan from his tail.

Of course, the dogs often go in the backyard to do their business (I don’t mean the kind of business that’s taxable). This requires me to do pickup duty. On one occasion I was walking up and down the lawn, looking for poop and picking it up, when Rollo ran over to my left side and pushed me with his nose and nipped my shoes a little bit. Then he ran behind me and did the same thing on my right side. Then he ran behind me again and repeated the process, and so it went—over and over and over. Then I realized that to him, I was a sheep, and he was having fun herding me. He herded me down the lawn and back up again until all the poop was picked up. We were a team: he the herding dog in charge and I the pooper-picker-upper sheep. We performed this ritual several times. Claudia and I thought about taking him to one of those farms where you can let your shepherd dog herd sheep just for fun, but we never got around to it.

Rollo soon found something else he seemed to enjoy even more, and that was playing with balls—chasing them, fetching them, chewing them, pushing them, rolling them, kicking them, jumping on them, and biting them. It is a truly amazing sight. There’s so much energy and joie de vivre involved. To this day, whenever a ball rolls under a sofa, Rollo gets upset and barks at the sofa. Then you have to bend down and get the ball out. You better do what he wants or he’ll wail like a toddler.

Our mini-Australian Shepherd playing with a volley ball.
Rollo plays with one of his favorite toys.
Our mini-Australian Shepherd Rollo with a soccer ball
Rollo with another ball.

Rollo also loved chewing on shoes when he was younger. Fortunately, he’s gotten over that behavior, but in the process we’ve lost a lot of shoes. One time I forgot that I had left my shoes under a table in our TV room. I was walking around the house when I met Rollo in a hallway holding one of my shoes in his mouth. He gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look, then he slowly turned around and tiptoed back into the TV room. He placed my shoe back under the table, right next to its mate, positioning it correctly so it was just the way I had left it. Then he tiptoed away as if pretending that nothing had happened.

Rollo could be quite an artist when it came to shoes. Maybe we should have framed his work instead of throwing it away. Maybe we should have established a little chewed-shoe museum so people could have paid admission to see it.

Our mini-Australian Shepherd with one of his creations, an artistically chewed up shoe.
The artist poses with one of his creations.

Rollo is also pretty good at finding weird things in the backyard and bringing them into the house—snails, lizards, strange-looking larvae and worms, caterpillars, and creatures that might have been space aliens. I’m not sure: I mean, I’ve seen Men in Black, and some of the stuff he brought in could have been small versions of the creatures from that movie. Our backyard looks like a typical backyard on the surface, but Rollo made us realize that it’s actually an amazing world full of amazing creatures.

One day as I was walking Daisy and Rollo, we saw a frog, or perhaps it was a toad. It was jumping ahead of us. Both Daisy and Rollo had been looking down, sniffing the asphalt and the grass. As the frog jumped in front of us, the dogs became very curious. They sniffed and looked closely at the frog, and then, for the first time, Rollo looked up at me, straight into my eyes, questioning. What is that? I got the strange feeling that he wanted me to explain.

I told Rollo, “It’s a frog.” Even though he doesn’t understand English—or at least I don’t think he does—it seemed like he wanted me to say more, give him some indication that this unfamiliar life form wasn’t dangerous. Then Rollo gently touched the frog with his paw and patted it a bit. He was enjoying himself, but the frog may have felt differently. The world is full of wonders when you’re a puppy.

It’s also full of things that can seem threatening. So even though we got a stroller for Daisy, the dog who I think uses it the most is Rollo—although not because he gets tired walking. On the contrary, he seems to have endless energy. But Rollo is a bit of an anxious dog, and he feels safe in the stroller.

Canis Lupus, the grey wolf is a fearsome and courageous hunter in nature.

Canis Lupus familiaris, the dog, a close relative of the grey wolf, is sometimes less brave. This specimen prefers to sit in a stroller when he hears strange sounds.
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Bronco's Adventures

Are Leonbergers like bears, lions or wolves? Ask the Boy Who Cried Wolf!

Canis Lupus left, Canis Lupus Familiaris right, the Leonberger kind. Both are very brave. Canis Lupus is brave hunter. This specimen of Canis Lupus Familiaris is a brave protector.
Leonbergers are big dogs and little boys may think they are wolves, but Leonbergers are very friendly.
Canis Lupus left, Canis Lupus Familiaris right, the mini-Australian Shepherd kind. Canis Lupus is brave hunter. However, this specimen of Canis Lupus Familiaris is not so brave  and wants to sit in a stroller if he hears scary sounds like quacking ducks.
Mini Australian Shepherds like our dog Rollo may look like wolves but are rarely mistaken for wolves. A quacking duck can be very scary to little mini–Australian Shepherds.

Bronco was a big dog. Once when I was walking Bronco around the neighborhood, a neighbor who always let his black Labs run loose saw us. He shouted to his wife, “Honey, get the dogs inside! Someone is walking a bear out here.” I guess letting your large dogs run loose isn’t a problem until someone walks a dog much bigger than yours.

On a number of occasions, we’ve met people who said to us that Bronco is the biggest dog they’ve ever seen. However, there are bigger dogs. We’ve met bigger English bullmastiffs and bigger Great Danes.

One day I took Bronco into PetSmart, and after I did my shopping, he and I were standing in the checkout line. Bronco was very quiet and well behaved, but a boy ahead of us in line became quite alarmed when he saw us. He shouted, “Look! A wolf, a wolf, a wolf!” He pointed his finger at Bronco. His mom tried to calm the boy, but he would not stop shouting. He didn’t seem to be afraid of Bronco, but he was really concerned that there was a big wolf in the pet store. I tried to explain to the boy that Bronco was not a wolf. He was just a big dog.

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Bronco's Adventures

When Bronco Swallowed our Neighbor’s Head and Teaching Dogs How to Greet People Properly

Like any dog, Bronco loved greeting people. He ran to the door very excitedly whenever someone came over. Unfortunately, in the beginning he would jump up on people. He would put his paws on their shoulders or, worse, bump his nose into their noses. We eventually got him to stop doing this, but nevertheless we got some funny stories out of it. Of course we didn’t intentionally allow funny things to happen. We really tried to solve Bronco’s behavior issues, but it doesn’t hurt to tell the stories after the fact.

Leonbergers love to jump up on people. Here Bronco is jumping up on me.
Bronco loved jumping up on people, lick people’s faces, butt noses and giving people hugs, and more. A behavior that is problematic in a big dog and that needs training.

For example, when Bronco was young, we used to have windows on either side of our front door. The windows were placed around five feet up from the floor so that you could look out and in, assuming you were not too short. (We would later replace our front door and windows with something that felt more secure.) Back then, mail carriers and people delivering packages could look through these windows to see if we were home. It also meant that Bronco could easily look out the window himself if he stood on his hind legs.

A Leonberger kiss. Our niece Jessica with our Leonberger Bronco.
In the photo our niece Jessica is giving our Leonberger Bronco a kiss but frequently Bronco would jump on people to give kisses.

One day, a UPS deliveryman rang our doorbell, and when no one answered, he placed his face at the window and shaded his eyes to see if anyone was home. That’s when Bronco’s big happy face slammed into the window from the other side. It was a sudden face-to-face encounter, complete with a big tongue. The UPS guy jumped backwards from the surprise. Then we opened the door and accepted the package. The man was somewhat shaken, but he was fine.

On another occasion, one of our neighbors came over to say hello to our new puppy. We’d had Bronco for almost a year by then, so he was big. As our neighbor entered our hallway, Bronco came running, and before I had a chance to stop him, he jumped up and put his paws on our neighbor’s shoulders. This man is somewhat short, so Bronco was able to lick his head, which he proceeded to do. Then Bronco did something we were totally unprepared for. You know the circus trick in which the lion tamer puts his head in the lion’s mouth? Yes, that’s the trick Bronco performed on our friendly neighbor.

Bronco was just playing and having fun, but that’s not how to greet a neighbor. I apologized profusely, but our neighbor said that it was perfectly all right and that there was no harm done. He looked a bit unnerved, and obviously he had not expected to be part of a circus act, but he said that Bronco was a wonderful dog and that he really loved the big galoot.

Despite what happened, our neighbor was always very nice to Bronco. However, for us that first encounter was a red flag. We had to get the jumping-up-on-people problem under control.

Our Leonberger Bronco standing in front of our Hallway. He was certainly big.
Bronco in front of the hallway

The Solution

Leonberger puppies jump up on you and on visitors. But dogs jumping up on people is never a good thing. A little dog jumping up and touching the knee of a visitor may not be a big deal. In fact, some people think it’s sort of cute. However, with Leonbergers this problem is bigger—much bigger. A Leonberger jumping up on a neighbor and trying to swallow his head is embarrassing. A Leonberger jumping up on Grandma and making her fall and break her hip is a major disaster.

Leonbergers love jumping up on children, too, because they’re small, and this may frighten them. The children may even get hurt. Jumping up on people is something every Leonberger owner should be prepared to deal with.

One thing you can do is turn your back as soon as your puppy jumps on you. You can also put the dog on a leash and gently but firmly tug on it when he jumps. Removing him from the room for a while—giving him a time-out—may also discourage him from jumping. One thing that worked very well for us is filling a spray bottle with water and spraying it on the puppy when he jumps. We found that plain water was good enough. The surprise will deter him from jumping again (eventually).

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Bronco's Adventures

Bronco the Very Big Dog Bites My Behind

Bronco was a big dog. As an adult, when he was not overweight, he tipped the scales at 135 pounds. He was significantly bigger than a German shepherd, and when he stood on his hind legs, he could easily put his big paws on a person’s shoulders, even if that person was almost six feet tall. Naturally, his size, combined with his energetic nature, made him a perfect dance partner, and Bronco loved dancing. His size and energy also combined to produce a lot of good stories.

Me and my Leonberger Bronco. Leonbergers are very affectionate.
Bronco was a very affectionate dog and a good dancer
Bronco our Leonberger was a very big dog. Here he is sitting in Claudia’s lap. He was 167 pounds in the photo.
Bronco was a very big dog. Here he is sitting in Claudia’s lap

When Bronco arrived at our house from the airport, for example, we had prepared a very large crate for him to sleep in. Unfortunately, even though it was spacious, he didn’t like it very much. As time went on, he decided that he wanted to abandon the crate and sleep with us in our bed. It was difficult to say no and listen to him whine at night. So Claudia lay down on the floor next to him and put her hand into the crate and petted him and held his paw. He loved that and was able to fall asleep that way.

Our Leonberger Bronco at 3 months
Bronco our Leonberger 3 months
Bronco our Leonberger 3 months old in black and white
Bronco our Leonberger 3 months old in black and white

Eventually, though, we relented and let him sleep in our bed. As the saying goes, “First they take your heart, then your bed.” But as Bronco quickly grew to 120 pounds, and then to 130 pounds, that arrangement didn’t work very well. We were three in the bed, and Bronco would sleep between us, a situation that became a bit crowded. Sometimes Bronco would push me with his paws until I fell off the bed and onto the floor. To my great relief, as time passed, he started to prefer the dog mattresses that we bought for him. On the other hand, Bronco was relatively easy to potty train. He quickly learned to go number two outside, but the peeing outside took a little longer, so Claudia hired a trainer from our veterinarian’s office to help us out. As a result, Bronco was mostly potty trained by four months old.

Dogs in our bed, including a giant breed. First they take your heart, then your bed.
First they take your heart, then your bed
Our Leonberger on our sofa. Not much room left.
One of our sofas was too big too be comfortable for people. It was perfect for Leonbergers.

I was often working long hours, and Claudia was at home with our kids, so it was she who mostly took care of Bronco, especially in the early years. She took him for walks every morning; she took him to the dog park, to go shopping, to Starbucks, and other places. She socialized him well. She also brushed him a few times a week, kept him clean, gave him medication to prevent heartworm and repel fleas and ticks,* and took him to the veterinarian’s office and the groomer. All of us in the family helped with the training, but Claudia did most of it. She grew up with dogs, so she knew what she was doing, and she did a very good job.

This medication also protects against infestations of chewing lice: see “Dog Lice:

What They Are, How to Avoid Them,” American Kennel Club, June 24, 2020, at

Ticks, fleas aw well as lice

Bronco was eager to learn, and he liked to go for walks, but he didn’t always finish them. When he got tired, he lifted his front paws up and scratched our legs. Then we picked him up and carried him. He loved being carried around like a baby. We carried him when he was thirty pounds and when he was fifty pounds, but at one hundred pounds it was time to stop.

Walking a big strong dog like Bronco presents special challenges. You need to be physically fit in order to control a Leonberger who isn’t listening to you. On several occasions Bronco yanked the leash so hard when I walked him that I almost fell forward. Did I mention that it’s not a good idea to wear flip-flops while you’re walking a big strong dog? When our daughter, Rachel, did, she fell face-first after. Bronco got excited and took off in pursuit of something. She shouted at him to come back, and he did. I guess he felt bad for her and returned. That was his personality.

Bronco our Leonberger was strong enough to drag a less heavy person. Drawing by Naomi Rosenblatt.
Bronco was strong enough to drag a less heavy person. Drawing by Naomi Rosenblatt.

One time, when Claudia was walking Bronco at White Rock Lake Park, just outside Dallas, Bronco saw a dog whom, for whatever reason, he did not like. He started running toward the dog and its owner. Claudia, taken by surprise, had a hard time controlling the situation. Bronco pulled her along as she tried to keep her balance. The man with the other dog saw that a potential confrontation was developing, and he loudly screamed, “Noooooo,” at Bronco. Then Bronco just stopped. He understood, and it all ended well.

Adolescent Bronco, still a gangly not yet proportional Leonberger
Adolescent Bronco, still a gangly not yet proportional Leonberger

It was incidents like these that prompted us to hire a professional dog trainer from Bark Busters and buy a Gentle Leader harness, which has a loop that fits around your dog’s nose. When your dog pulls forward, the motion gently moves his head to the side, redirecting his attention back to you. It may be a little bit uncomfortable for the dog, but it is certainly infinitely better than a shock collar, which is something you should never use.

One day I was standing in our living room, talking to the Bark Busters trainer. Bronco was standing behind me, and he kept poking my leg with his paw. I ignored him because I was in the middle of a conversation. Suddenly Bronco bit me on the rear end. It was not an aggressive bite, but it was a big one, and it hurt. He could easily have bitten me much harder, of course.

Our Leonberger Bronco and his confident look
Bronco’s confident look

I turned around, and there stood Bronco, looking at me with his happy eyes and wagging his tail as if he were completely innocent. I forgave him instantly.

I asked the trainer, “Why did he do that?” She said, “He was trying to get your attention, but you were ignoring him, so he bit you.” She continued, “He should know that he is not the one in charge, and he shouldn’t do that.” She knew what she was talking about. I should add that this was the only time Bronco bit anyone.

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Bronco's Adventures

The Day an EF3 Tornado Ravaged Our Neighborhood. It was a tough day for us and Bronco

October of 2019 was a very difficult month for Bronco. He was getting old, and he had the first signs of geriatric-onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy (or GOLPP), which made his breathing a bit labored and affected his gait. In addition, he had developed another case of squamous cell carcinoma, this time on his right rear paw, and that toe was amputated on October 3—the day he turned twelve years and three months old. The surgery went well, but after around ten days it was discovered that he had a large deep ulcerous sore on the same paw a few inches above the surgical scar. Fortunately, it was not cancerous, as we first thought, but we would have to treat this sore in addition to nursing him back from his amputation.

On October 20, I was sitting in our backyard. Claudia and the dogs were inside. I was finished walking the dogs, and the sun had just set. A severe thunderstorm was approaching, and there was a tornado watch in effect—but that’s not unusual for North Texas. I was sipping a delicious Texas beer, an IPA called Yellow Rose, when my cell phone started beeping. It was a tornado warning—upgraded from a tornado watch. I also heard tornado sirens, but they weren’t very loud, and as I found out later, some people didn’t hear them at all.

About the same time as I heard the sirens, I saw lightning in the distance and heard thunder. I decided to finish my beer and go inside to be safe. A few minutes after I walked in, it started raining heavily, and the wind became very rough. It sounded like golf-ball-size hail was hitting the roof. The house shook from the winds, then suddenly there was a loud boom.

Our neighbor's house was destroyed as can be seen in the photo.
The damage to my neighbor’s house after the Dallas tornado of October 2019 was devastating. Her roof lay across the street.

I thought lightning had struck the house. What I didn’t know was that a flying block of concrete had just smashed our chimney. Bronco was calm, and the little dogs seemed okay, too.

After the wind had died down a bit, I opened the door to the backyard, and what I saw shocked me. My gas grill had flown across the patio. There were bricks and pieces of concrete all over the patio and the lawn. There was a big sheet of metal lying on the patio. Big tree branches covered the lawn. There was debris everywhere. We had also lost power. I didn’t notice until the next morning that our chimney had been smashed and that the roof was covered in bricks and debris. It turns out that an EF3 tornado had gone through our neighborhood and passed within fifty to one hundred yards of our house.

Another neighbor's house that was destroyed in the Dallas Tornado of October 20 2019.
Dallas Tornado 2019. The damage to another of neighbor’s house was even worse.

Claudia called her parents, who live only a mile from us. They had been badly hit, but they seemed fine on the phone, and they didn’t complain. Still, she asked me to drive over and check on them. But as soon as I turned out of our driveway, I saw my neighbor’s roof lying on the street, rendering it impassable. I turned around and tried to go the other way, but that didn’t work, either. Across that end of the road lay a huge pile of trees.

So I parked the car in my driveway and started to walk toward their house. I was stopped by four firemen, who told me that it was not safe to walk around the neighborhood. They asked me to go back home.

This is the house of Dallas Stars Ice Hockey player Tyler Seguin. It is located in our neighborhood. It was destroyed by the tornado.
Another Tornado damaged house.

It was dark, but I could see some of the carnage. I realized that we had been lucky. Many of our neighbors had lost their entire homes. We ended up needing a new chimney, a new roof, a new fence, and a few other things, but we were fine.

Houses destroyed by the EF3 tornado that ravaged our neighborhood on October 20 2022.
Another Tornado damaged house

The damage to Claudia’s parents’ house was more severe, which we would discover the next day when we visited them. Their windows had been blown in, and Claudia’s dad had to hold on to a doorframe in order to keep himself from being carried away. A broken marble tabletop hit him in the back and gave him a foot-long bruise. He did not go to the hospital.

Claudia walking into her parents house. It was badly damaged by the tornado.
Claudia walking into her parents house.

The Preston Royal shopping center was also devastated by the tornado. That’s where our veterinarian’s office was located. Thank goodness they didn’t have any animals staying overnight that night, but the clinic was gone. So were many stores and restaurants. Our favorite supermarket was destroyed. The school our boys went to was severely damaged, and some buildings were later torn down. There was debris all over the neighborhood.

The Gap store at Preston/Royal was destroyed by the tornado.
The Gap Store at Preston Royal shopping center.

Claudia’s parents had to move out of their house while repairs were made, but although we were able to stay in our house, we didn’t have power for four days. There was no cell-phone signal in our neighborhood. The streets weren’t navigable, so I couldn’t go to work. It was also hot, so this was stressful for Bronco.

Bronco inspecting the damage of our fence that was made by the tornado.
Bronco, who was not at his best in this picture, rests next to our tornado damaged fence. We put a plastic bag around his bandage when he went outside.
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Bronco's Adventures

The Eye Drop War

One day we noticed that Bronco’s eyes were red, so we took him to the veterinarian. He was around one year old at the time. The veterinarian told us that Bronco had conjunctivitis and that all we needed to do was give him eye drops. But giving a very big dog eye drops turned out to be a lot more challenging than we had anticipated. “Just give him three drops two times a day”—easy peasy, right? Well, the veterinarian might as well have told us to wrestle a bear on a tightrope while juggling.

Gates we had around the house to prevent Bronco from roaming where he shouldn’t

Whenever we approached Bronco with the eyedropper, he ran off. Almost nothing else scared him—thunder and lightning, explosions, large hail, other big dogs, noisy crowds—but he was terrified of eye drops. Once we would catch up with him, he would thwart any attempt on our part to put the drops in. He would jump up and down while violently shaking his head back and forth and closing his eyes. So Claudia and I and Jacob and David decided we needed to do it all together.

We made what we thought was a great plan: two people were going to hold Bronco down on the floor while keeping his head still. A third person would hold his eyelids open, and a fourth person would put in the eye drops, being careful not to touch his eyes in the process. Poor Bronco was certainly not going to like it, but what else could we do? He needed his medicine.

Bronco sleeping on the floor in the living room. No photo of the actual struggle.

We chased Bronco around the house and finally caught him in the living room. He struggled, but we were able to hold him down. However, before we could open his eyelids, he made a sudden and powerful move that got all five of us rolling like a giant snowball into the metal pet gate that stood between the family room and the living room. With a loud bang, we crashed into the gate. The screws that fastened it to the wall popped out and shot across the room. We had turned into a messy dog-and-people pile on the floor.

The family room

Bronco was the first one to get up. As he stood and surveyed the carnage, we acknowledged our defeat. Claudia put away the eye drops. I put the pet gate in the garage. No more eye drops; no more pet gate; no more forcing anything on Bronco. He had been victorious in the Eye Drop War, and he knew it.

As it happened, the conjunctivitis healed without the drops. We would later learn that it is possible to get eye drops into a Leonberger’s eyes without going to war.

———–

Pray that you don’t have to give your Leonberger eye drops, but if you do, first ask your veterinarian for instructions. If those don’t work, take a step-by-step approach: give the dog a treat for standing still, then a treat for letting you hold his head, then a treat for allowing the drops in his eyes. You can also warm the drops in your pocket so they don’t feel cold.

For other helpful tips, see Videojug, “How to Apply Dog Eye Drops,” at

uploaded April 12, 2011

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Bronco's Adventures

Bronco the Great Swimmer

Leonbergers are double-coated, and they have webbed paws, so they’re natural swimmers. Bronco was no exception: he loved to swim and chase waterfowl at our go-to destination, White Rock Lake. If he saw ducks or egrets in the water, he would swim after them. They would fly off before he could get to them, though, so he never caught any. That was okay—he still had fun, and he had no egrets (pun intended).

Leonbergers are excellent swimmers. Here is our Leonberger swimming in White Rock Lake.
Leonbergers are excellent swimmers and are sometimes used in water rescue.

Claudia started taking Bronco to White Rock with Baylor and Baby when he was an adolescent. At first, he was hesitant to get into the water. Then a nice man came along (we don’t know who he was) and threw a stick a little way out into the lake. He asked Bronco to get it, and he did. Then he threw the stick a little bit farther so that Bronco had to swim to get it. Little by little and step by step, the man encouraged Bronco to swim. And once he got started, there was no looking back. Swimming in the lake became one of his favorite pastimes.

Bronco loved swimmed in White Rock Lake outside Dallas
Bronco loved swimming in White Rock Lake.

After a while, getting Bronco into the water was easy. Unleash him, and he would walk right in. Getting Bronco out—that was another story.

Leonbergers are excellent swimmers. Here is our Leonberger Bronco swimming in White Rock Lake nearby Dallas.
Bronco in water

It wasn’t that he disobeyed. He came out of the water when we asked him to. The problem was what happened after he came out. He shook himself dry, like all wet dogs do, but a large dog with a coat like his has a lot of water to share. If you’ve ever been to a show at SeaWorld, you know that you get very wet if you sit in the first row. It was the same with Bronco: if you stood close enough to hold the leash, you were bound to get soaked when he shook himself. Our choices were to walk away, hide behind a tree, or take the involuntary bucket challenge. Towels certainly came in handy.

Leonbergers are excellent swimmers. Here is our Leonberger coming out of the water.
At White Rock Lake, Dallas

One morning, Claudia was taking Bronco for a walk around the lake with two of her sisters, Dora and Marianne. Suddenly Bronco jumped in the lake. But there were steep banks on either side of him, and he couldn’t get back out. So Claudia got in the water with him and pushed his butt while Dora and Marianne encouraged him to move toward a less steep part of the bank. They got him out, but this scary incident didn’t decrease Bronco’s love of swimming.

Leonbergers are excellent swimmers. Here is our Leonberger by the canoe dock.
Bronco at the canoe dock, White Rock Lake
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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.