Debbie and Larry LaVallee from Longville, MN have come to expect calls from strangers saying their dog has been found. When the LaVallees get these calls, they always know the person is from out of town. They’ve grown used to it. And the silence on the other end when they say the dog can find his way home on his own? Well, they’ve grown used to that too.
Meet Bruno, a 12-year-old, wolf-like mutt who has been taking himself for walks into the town of Longville every day since he was a puppy. The citizens of Longville have grown used to seeing Bruno around town. In fact, many of them look forward to it.
“He’s our buddy, we kind of watch out for him the best way we can,” Patrick Moran told KARE 11. Bruno has a route that he follows through town, and Moran’s office is along the way.
Bruno’s walk is about 4 miles, starting from the LaVallee’s home, into the town center, and then back home again in the evening. He makes several stops along the way, where the residents of Longville often greet him with treats. He stops at city hall, the library, the ice cream shop, several real estate offices, and the grocery store. At the grocery store, Bruno is given deli scraps through the back door. Mary Tripp, a citizen of Longville, is one of several people known for giving Bruno a ride home sometimes. Tripp often buys special donuts, just for Bruno.
“Don’t you buy your best friend treats?” She asked KARE 11. “He’s more friendly than most of the humans in town, and I’m not saying that in a negative way about the humans. He’s that lovable.”
But Bruno’s life wasn’t always full of special treats and welcoming friends. This hometown hero actually began his life as a stray.
“The first time I seen him in town, he almost beat me to town,” Larry LaVallee told KARE 11. Larry used to pick up Longville’s trash. “I was picking garbage on the way, and I get in town, and I wasn’t there five minutes, and there’s Bruno.”
Bruno was just a puppy then. He was seen around town by a neighbor who thought he belonged to the LaVallees.
“A guy come in my driveway, and Bruno was a little pup,” Larry LaVallee recalls, “and he says, ‘I found your dog at the end of your driveway.’ I says, ‘Well he ain’t my dog.’”
But despite Larry’s protests, one look at Bruno was all it took. After seeing the puppy inside the man’s car, he decided right then and there to keep Bruno. And that was just the beginning.
Though Bruno was a natural wanderer, the LaVallees attempted to keep him at the house. Part of their efforts included chaining him up to prevent him from going into town. But this unfortunately backfired. Bruno “almost hanged himself” attempting to break free.
After that, the LaVallees let Bruno do as a pleased. Fortunately, the citizens of Longville all look out for Bruno. And the dog’s skills at dodging traffic have reached an almost legendary status. “He’s got to have a guardian angel,” says Moran.
So far this “guardian angel” has enabled Bruno to reach the ripe old age of 12. And his age is certainly showing. He walks slower now, and when he lies down to relax, it takes some effort. Knowing this, the town wanted to do something to remember Bruno while they still had the chance.
A carved, wooden statue was erected last year and dedicated in Bruno’s honor. Next to the statue is a marker engraved with “Longville’s town dog and ambassador.”
His memory will certainly be remembered fondly. But until then, Bruno continues his daily trip through town, visiting all his friends along the way.