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.


The Grey Muzzle Award

Our Leonberger Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle at different ages, left to right : Three months old, about 4-5 years old, almost thirteen years old.
Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle a Leonberger. Leonbergers are loving big goofballs and great guard dogs. This blog is mainly about his one hundred crazy adventures as well as information on Leonbergers and how to care for them and train them. Most posts will be a funny or amazing story. Some posts will be tips, advice, breed information, history or health.

At the beginning of 2020 Bronco our old Leonberger received an award for longevity: 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. This is a special award and it made us very happy that Bronco got it.

For those who do not know, giant breeds such as Leonbergers tend to live much shorter lives than small dogs. This may seem backwards to some, after all elephants live longer than mice, but it is a fact. Leonbergers live on average 8-9 years, Bernese dogs live on average 7 years, Great Danes live 8 years, while Pugs live 12-15 years, and Chihuahua’s can live up to 20 years.

The Leonbergers receiving the Grey Muzzle Award are the canine equivalents of centenarians—humans who are at least one hundred years old. You don’t have to have your Leonberger registered with the LCA or AKC to apply for the award—it’s open to all purebred Leonbergers around the world. You can also apply if your dog is deceased, as long as he lived past the age of twelve. Incidentally, the oldest Leonberger on record is Su-Riya (formally Genette of Mutsugoro), who lived in Japan and died in 2017 at the ripe old age of sixteen years and three months.

If you have a twelve-year-old Leonberger, simply fill out a form on the LHFI website or send an email to

The foundation will ask for some information, including the registered name and call name of the dog; the breeder’s name, kennel name, address, and email; the dam’s registered name; the sire’s registered name; the owner’s name, address, and email; the birth date of the dog; and whether the dog is alive or dead. If the latter, they will want to know the cause of death. In addition, they would like you to write a one-paragraph tribute to the dog and send two (preferably high-resolution) photos—one head shot and one favorite photo.

I found out about the Grey Muzzle award via a Facebook group called the Leonberger Double Digit Club. We applied for the award a little bit late, but we received it in February of 2020, when Bronco was twelve years and seven months old. At the time, he had recovered from a heart failure the previous October and was doing pretty well. He was subsequently mentioned at the LCA’s awards banquet and featured in a video about long-lived Leonbergers produced by the LHFI.

I would encourage anyone who owns a Leonberger who is at least ten years old to join the Facebook Leonberger Double Digit Club. There you can gather a tremendous amount of information and helpful tips. Its members share photos and stories and advice for dealing with old-age problems, food issues, and more.

LHFI (the Leonberger Health Foundation International) is an organization that exist to improve the health of the Leonberger breed. They facilitate the solicitation and distribution of donations given to support health related breed-specific research.” The LHFI also administers a program that collects DNA samples from Leonbergers to share with universities and research institutions, in addition to administering the Grey Muzzle Award. I can add that when Bronco passed away, we submitted his DNA for research.

LHFI’s global biobank contains DNA samples from more than nine thousand Leonbergers. Among the organization’s notable achievements are the eradication of Addison’s disease among Leonbergers and the raising of nearly half a million dollars for research into conditions that affect canine health, including osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, glaucoma, cardiac diseases, thyroid diseases, and neurological disorders. Its research also supports healthful longevity and aging as well as population diversity. Another success is the fact that since 2011, no Leonbergers with two copies of the LPN1 gene mutation (which causes Leonberger polyneuropathy) have been recorded in LHFI’s biobank. LHFI is one of my favorite charities

For more information, see; to see the 2019–2020 awardees, including Bronco, visit

The Grey Muzzle Award: For Leonberger longevity is presented with gratitude by the Leonberger Health Foundation International to Bronco, for offering hope and potential for longer lives for Leonbergers throughout the world.
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.

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)
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)

What is a Leonberger?

The Leonberger breed was originally created by Heinrich Essig (1808–87) in the German town of Leonberg, in what was then the kingdom of Württemberg. According to legend, Essig bred the dog to resemble the lion in the town’s coat of arms. It was bred to be a large companion dog. He registered the new breed in 1846. The Leonberger is often said to be a cross between a Saint Bernard, a Newfoundland, and a Great Pyrenees. However, in reality the story is more complicated. More on that later. One thing is for certain, the history around the interactions between the Leonberger breed and the St. Bernard is quite interesting. Also, more on that in another post. Another interesting fact is that Leonbergers were used in World War I to pull ammunition carts and cannons. Both World War I and World War II was tough on the breed and few survived.

Very few Leonbergers existed in North America until the 1980’s, when a breeding program was established. Saturday, November 2, 1985, the few families owning Leonbergers, the so called, Denver eight, got together to form the Leonberger Club of America. The Leonberger was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010 as its 167th breed (in the Working group). Today there are more than 2,300 Leonbergers in the United States and a 1,000 in Canada. There are about 30,000+ Leonbergers in the world. Since there are not millions of them you can still consider the Leonberger a rare breed.

Leonbergers are confident and brave gentle giants. They are great with children, very social and good companions and guard dogs. Leonbergers are double-coated, and they have webbed paws, so they’re natural swimmers. They are sometimes used in water rescue operations. But be careful, they are big, full of energy, and can be rambunctious when they’re young.

According to the original purpose of the Leonberger, and the breed standards, the Leonberger is a large, strong, muscular, elegant dog. He is distinguished by his balanced build and confident calmness, yet he has quite a lively temperament. Males, in particular, are powerful and strong. As a family dog, the Leonberger is an agreeable partner for present-day homes and living conditions who can be taken anywhere without difficulty and is distinguished by his marked friendliness toward children. He is neither shy, nor aggressive. As a companion, he is agreeable, obedient, and fearless in all situations of life.

The following are particular requirements of a steady temperament:

•             Self-assurance and superior composure

•             Medium temperament (including playfulness)

•             Willingness to be submissive

•             Good capacity for learning and remembering

•             Insensitivity to noise

Leonbergers are large and muscular dogs. The height of an adult male is between 28 and 31.5 inches (72 to 80 centimeters) at the withers. The height of an adult female is between 25 and 29.5 inches (65 to 75 centimeters) at the withers. (The withers is the ridge located between the shoulder blades of an animal, on the back right below the neck.) Reputable breeders try to maintain these characteristics.

Leonbergers are sexually dimorphic—that is, there are noticeable differences between males and females. This is not always the case in dogs. Female Leonbergers are usually smaller and look more feminine. Males typically weigh between 120 and 170 pounds, and females usually weigh between 100 and 135 pounds. For comparison’s sake, below are the standard heights and weights for male dogs of other breeds.

• An Irish wolfhound, the world’s tallest dog (when standing on two feet), is 32 inches tall at the withers and weighs between 120 and 155 pounds.

• A Great Dane stands between 31 and 35 inches at the withers and weighs between 110 and 180 pounds.

• A Saint Bernard is between 28 and 35 inches tall at the withers and weighs between 140 and 180 pounds.

• A German shepherd stands between 24 and 26 inches at the withers and weighs between 66 and 86 pounds.

In other words, the Leonberger is right there among the largest breeds in the world.

In the picture below is an overview of the FCI breed standard for Leonberger dogs. I will post the full breed standard in another post.

This photo is a summary of the Leonberger breed standard
Summary of the FCI Leonberger breed standard (Photograph of Leonberger © Shutterstock/Eric Isselee)