Once upon a time, there was a man named Lawrence, who lived (and still lives) in the Laurel Canyon in California. As a boy growing up in suburban Los Angeles, he brought home a floppy, funny little puppy from a friend’s dog’s litter, “just for a day or two.” The puppy was a bit awkward, in posession of paws that were nearly the size of all the rest of her combined. She was thus dubbed – affectionately, mind you – “Dopey.” The name – and the puppy – stuck. Dopey not only grew into her paws, but she and Lawrence grew up together, and she remained a devoted and faithful canine companion till her dying day many years later.
It took some time, but eventually Lawrence obtained another dog, a Great Dane whom he named Spartan. Years later, after Spartan died, Larry’s close friend and employee, Paula, adopted an adorable Dalmatian puppy who she named Daisy. Since Paula was living on the property at the time, Lawrence’s lair became Daisy’s as well.
You’d never know it today, but when she first moved into Lawrence’s canyon home, Daisy was skittish, shy, and terrified of children. (Paula and Lawrence suspect she may have been abused before her adoption.) But a dog named Bruno would change all that. Today, Daisy is playful, confident, and exceptionally patient with children. By way of example: Lawrence’s 2 year old grand-niece played with her face and her ears, and sat on her head, and then her torso, and Daisy remained un-phased and content.
Late in the fall of the same year that Daisy came on the scene, Paula noticed a strange dog hanging around the property. He had a light golden coat and amber eyes - he clearly had German Shepherd in him, and Paula wondered if he might have some wolf in him as well. She was concerned that he might not be friendly, thinking he might be a stray. The dog seemed to sense her apprehension, and approached Paula warmly, tail wagging furiously - at which point she saw that he had a collar and tags.
His tags showed that he lived just down the road, and Paula returned him home. Lawrence’s first introduction to the canine was a few days later, on October 31, when he woke up from a nap to find a pair of paws on his chest and a golden furry face panting over his! Apparently a door had been left open, and Bruno had made himself very much at home.
Bruno was clearly enamored of Daisy, and kept coming around. The dogs got along famously, and as Paula describes it, Bruno took Daisy “under his wing” and taught her “how to be a dog.” When he was near, Daisy found her courage, no longer the nervous and cowering pup she had been – and in fact, when she felt threatened, as long as Bruno was near, she even found her snarl.
Bruno was equally drawn to Lawrence, who, from his window lined bedroom office, would often feel himself being watched. Turning around, he would see Bruno’s face watching him affectionately through the window that faced the dog yard. Bruno was perched on a stool so as to get a better view.
Meanwhile, Bruno continued to be retrieved by or returned to his owner. During one of those retrievals Brunos owner's maid told Lawrence that the owner planned on having him "fixed" because he assumed (erroneously) that this would keep Bruno home. Wanting to spare Bruno – whom by now he had developed a strong affection for – the pain, Lawrence called and offered to purchase or replace the dog instead. However, Bruno’s owner would have none of it. After a couple more days of visits, several days passed with no sign of the animal. They surmised that perhaps he’d decided not to come back after all. But then, there was Bruno, clearly as fresh out of surgery as he could muster the strength to come: stitches still in place, the surgical site still swollen and sore.
He would spend the day in Lawrence’s office, nursing his wounds; his energy a bit depleted, only to be returned back home by day’s end. Finally, there came the day that Bruno arrived at Lawrence’s office door, with at least 3 or 4 feet of strong metal chains trailing him, hanging from his neck. Apparently the sheer force of Bruno’s will was stronger than the chains his owner had used to try to keep him. At this point, his owner threw in the towel, and Bruno’s “adoption” of Lawrence (and, vice versa!) was “official.”
Bruno was eventually given a rather long, full name of “Bruno-the Flash-Houdini-Sir Gadabout-the Sultan of Brunai.” They nicknamed him “The Flash” after Paula and Lawrence saw him fly like the wind into the canyon hills – ears back, he ran with a speed and agility that stunned them. He loved taking hikes (and wild runs!) in the hills of the canyon behind Lawrence’s home about as much as he loved anything.
He was very much at home in the outdoors, and spent most of his time there, even at night when he could. Lawrence said he was “keeping the elephants at bay.” The name “Houdini” was earned by the way he continued to escape – even from chains – to make his way to his adoptive home. He never used those skills again - once he adopted Lawrence, Bruno was never far from his side.
In fact, Paula once took him for a ride down the canyon hill, during which Bruno whimpered and whined, apparently fearful that he was being returned once again to his former owner. Once she returned up the hill, he relaxed and perked up, and from then on, taking rides became one of his favorite activities – second only perhaps to running in the canyon. Lawrence got an SUV to make it easier for Bruno to go for rides and since then the SUV has been affectionately named Bruno's truck.
Perhaps the nickname “Sir Gadabout” came from the way he tried to make peace between creatures, whether man or beast. The real Gadabout may have been the ‘worst knight in the land,’ but Bruno had a true knightly streak: he was highly attuned to the emotional states of those around him, particularly to upset or discord, and gallantly attempted to mend the rifts to the best of his canine ability. He was visibly irritated if he sensed that Lawrence was upset, and would try very hard to cheer him up. When he sensed tension between Lawrence and anyone else (which at times it seemed he could sense across the house), he would nudge his way in and with licks and paws and tail wagging, try to diffuse the tension. When he was at a park, he could sense it if two other dogs were fighting even if it were a football field away, and he would bound his way into the fray to try to “make peace.”
Once, Lawrence’s 7-year old grand-nephew, then known as 'Rafi,' came from Michigan to visit. The problem was, he was terrified of dogs, and was thus petrified to enter the property being lovingly guarded by Bruno. With Lawrence and Paula’s guidance, and Bruno as a warm and patient 'personal tutor,' some 20 minutes later Rafi’s phobia was not only cured, but he and Bruno became best buddies. For the remainder of the trip, Rafi and Bruno spent nearly every moment they were in the same space together: playing, romping, walking, exploring, and 'chilling out.'
Rafi’s cousins, who were with him on his visit, didn’t need any help – they were crazy about Bruno from the minute they met him, and the feeling was clearly mutual. In fact, when it was time for Rafi and his cousins to leave each day, Bruno jumped in the van like he was one of the kids, ready to go. It would take at least 20 minutes of coaxing to convince Bruno to leave the van, but he finally did - and only then because he realized Lawrence wasn’t coming too!
For the past 10-plus years, Bruno was Daisy’s steady companion, and a fierce and loyal canine friend to Lawrence. Sadly, this past year, Bruno’s health began to fail. Though he seemed close to the end several times, and Lawrence was advised to 'put him down,' he never did. Sure enough, each time Bruno would rally and improve. Then, on January 14, 2009, Bruno could rally no more. This time, he had no choice but to leave his beloved Daisy, and Lawrence, and he now rests close to them, in the canyon hills he loved so much - in gazing distance of Lawrence’s office window. Daisy and Lawrence will surely miss him, as will the many others whose lives were touched by a dog named Bruno.
The author wishes to thank Paula Jessop, Ruth Davis, and Marcia Ferstenfeld for their valuable input, and Lawrence Davis for the photos.