Adopting Bruno adopted October 2007 went to sleep 18th August 2014
My first Dalmatian Polo was a large black spot puppy who became a huge, smart, loving dog. With simple training, he was a delight though headstrong and I often puzzled over how other Dalmatian owners would ask how I kept him so calm. I bred him with someone else’s bitch and I took care of him, her and nine puppies. An intensive and exhausting experience! Unfortunately, Polo developed ‘Dalmatian itch’ and had to be medicated from 4 years old. He lived to 13 before his kidneys failed. I only lasted a month before I called British Dalmatian Welfare.
When I first met Bruno he half barked at me as he thundered past with other dogs. Eventually I got a closer look at this liver spotted crazy dog and decided to take him home. Pat Kindersley said he was a ‘sweetie’ and ‘don’t feel sorry for him’. Sound advice in when dealing with a big dog that has been rescued more than once. Some friends had kindly taken me to collect Bruno, and they laughed as I tried to walk to the car with a large dog scrambling up the back of my legs. I sincerely hoped Pat was not witnessing this spectacle.
Once home I took several photos to email to my (future) husband who was abroad on business and he received the only one that did not feature the red eyed ‘devil dog’ look. Anxious to get out with my new companion we walked down to the local river, no one was around and Bruno had been very responsive so I took a deep breath and for the first time let him off the lead. Within five minutes some sheep appeared and Bruno was equal distant between us. I called him, he looked at the sheep then at me then back to the sheep. I called him again, he looked at me, back at the sheep then turned and came back to me. From that moment I knew we would be best friends.
There were some difficulties to start with, he was house trained, good in the car and knew what his lead meant, but very little else. He distrusted men and even nipped my husband on the nose first time they met. When giving him a treat he would often bite us, he could not play with a tennis ball, and stared at us with the intensity of an inquisitor when he had been waiting in the car. Once he got so caught up playing with other dogs he rushed off with them then suddenly realised I was not there and rushed back. Unfortunately I am asthmatic and had also been rushing around and shouting for him. He stared at my face so hard it became apparent his vision was quite bad and so I took closer care of him after that.
Bruno at times, could easily become confused and he was also slightly boss-eyed; at least that is the reasons we gave people for his perpetual groin sniffing! There were occasions when things surprised him and caused him to bark and growl: a huge looming cow unexpectedly rising up out of the ground; an odd shape of a man pushing a bicycle; the triangular silhouette of a woman walking with two small children (!); a hunched over old woman; a trailer covered with a tarpaulin he had walked past several times before; and the all time scary, sneaky, frightening, stalking composter bins that lay in wait for poor Bruno in the shadows of tall trees.
Dartmoor is a fantastic place to live and walk. Quite early on we took Bruno along to Wistmans Wood and my husband being a biologist was talking to me about the lichens. Foolishly, he held up this puff of green-grey plant material and without warning a land-shark leapt through the air and snatched the lichen from his fingers. Bruno used to do a pointing stance when we walked him in the woods, we wondered that perhaps he once was part of a pack of dogs who liked to hunt. Then came that fateful day when a tiny wild rabbit hopped along the country lane and went into the hedge. We encouraged Bruno to sniff the trail of the ‘little bunny’ as he was on the lead and in no danger of running off and the rabbit should surely be long gone. Bruno lunged in and pulled out this tiny creature then crushed it to death before he would drop it. We did not do that again.
As a five + year old he was hard to train, a bit wild and had obviously not been exposed to some experiences. This was fine as I needed a companion not a disciplined show dog, and he did have that unusual stripe down the middle of his forehead! On walks, Bruno would press his body tightly against my legs when we saw men out walking their dogs. I’m not certain who was protecting who but this devotion spoke volumes about our deepening relationship. Bruno came to trust we would not hurt him when we drank wine nor squash him when he was lying down but he still growled just in case. Bruno eventually became more at ease and even obviously loved some men but never liked teenage boys. As for the Ladies my Bruno would ooze his magical ecstatic charm upon them and engulf them with the most handsome, charismatic and enchanting attention that only a male Dalmatian possesses. My neighbour Sandy would check on him when I went to college, the first time she did so I got a text saying ‘I am in love with your dog’!
However, the front door was a complete obsession, as hard as I tried he would not give in the manic barking but rarely pushed past my legs. We must have had a reputation, people delivering leaflets would often not put things through the letterbox; Bruno barked when he heard the gate open and they would just throw paper at the door and run away. One morning my husband opened the door to the postman as a huge dog belly-surfed down the stairs, landed in a heap but then leapt up and resumed barking.
Bruno always was a windy dog, from both ends, and had issues with his digestion from the word go. Shortly after he came to stay with us we had some people over for a meeting, not wanting him to stress, I put his bed in our room and a dog gate on the stairs. As the meeting got underway heavy, pacing foot falls resounded on the ceiling and then he released his favoured weapon, the stench attack. Acrid was not the word for it, people were crying and saying their faces were melting, well almost. I changed his food, cooked for him once a week, gave him herbs and charcoal.
Our time with tender loving Bruno has been far too short. Such a noble companion; an excellent house and car dog; a groin-sniffing bunny-killer; a stair-surfing land-shark; and a charming, handsome, gentle natured, trusting, loyal, beautiful being. Bruno was indeed a true sweetie, we are glad he came to stay.
By Michele Tyler-Walters