Bruno lumbered 4 miles each day both to and from Longville, Minn., where he became a hero of sorts.
The brown mixed breed led the town’s parades and inspired T-shirts, a statue on Main Street and even a folksy song called “Bruno’s in Love with Longville, USA.”
But on Sunday, a driver struck and killed Bruno, 14, as he made his daily walk. The people in the northern Minnesota town of 150 and his owner, however, have no regrets about letting Bruno maintain his free-range lifestyle to the end.
“A lot of people said if you’d kept him inside he’d have never gotten run over,” said Larry LaVallee, Bruno’s owner. “Well, they don’t know what kind of dog he was. He was a free spirit.”
LaVallee said Bruno was a social butterfly, “the most laid-back dog I’ve ever seen.” He suspected he was part Chesapeake Bay Retriever and part wolf, he said.
It seems everyone had a Bruno story. Once in town, he would wander all day, napping in the real estate office, waiting for scraps of meat behind the grocery store and stopping for a doughnut or ice cream treat.
“Honestly, he never would have stayed inside,” said Teri Borkowski, whose family has lived near Longville for 20 years. “He would have found a way out to go visit.”
Borkowski said Bruno was more like a reincarnated human than a dog. “He really didn’t care who gave him love,” she said. “He’d just take it.”
From stray to celebrity
More than 14 years ago, a stray brown puppy showed up at the LaVallee family’s home. They decided to keep him, naming him Bruno.
LaVallee said he tried to keep the dog tied up, but Bruno resisted. “He wouldn’t have it,” he said. “He got to the end of the rope and he’d hang himself.”
Finally, they decided to let him wander. He soon became a local legend for his walks along Hwy. 84 to downtown Longville, about 25 miles southeast of Walker in Cass County.
“He’s just a dog that’s always been around,” said Christa Hinsz, who works at the One Stop gas station in Longville. “People cherish and love him a lot.”
His exploits are featured on a Facebook page called “Bruno of Longville, Minnesota.” The page has more than 12,000 likes.
But posts about his travels were less frequent recently. The first photo of him posted last winter was in January.
Several people commented that they worried more and more about geriatric Bruno making his trademark journey.
“It’s too cold for him to still be doing the trek, they need to keep him home more. Maybe since we haven’t seen any new pics, they are,” posted Carla Evans.
Malkhe Behr wrote: “I live in dread of an ‘RIP’ post.”
Others, however, said walking along the highway was what Bruno was born to do: “A true Minnesotan! We don’t let the cold keep us inside!” Patti Schultz wrote.
On Sunday morning, Levi LaVallee, Larry’s son, received a call from his mother that Bruno had been hit.
He went out to Hwy. 84 to pick up Bruno. He was dead, but Levi LaVallee said he looked like he was taking a nap.
The LaVallee family said a local woman contacted them, saying she had struck Bruno and felt terrible.
The family said they assured her that they knew it was an accident and that they had no hard feelings.
Levi LaVallee recalled that residents were skeptical of the big brown dog when he first started ambling through town. They soon saw how gentle Bruno was, he said.
He believes that the love people had for Bruno motivated him to stay around for nearly 15 years, despite old age and arthritis.
According to his Facebook page, Bruno was buried on his family’s property. Visitors are welcome to say goodbye, the post said.
“He’s been a pretty incredible dog,” Levi LaVallee said. “It’s hard to even fathom that it’s real, the life he lived.”