My wife was several months pregnant with our first child. We were flying home to New Jersey early in the morning for our baby shower at my parent’s house in New Jersey. Cyrus, our 6 year old Rottweiler started crying out loudly in the middle of the night. I jumped up and realized that he could not get up from the floor. His legs were not working. We cancelled our trip and rushed Cyrus to our vet first thing in the morning. It was horrible news. He had bone cancer. We came home devastated. We decided to take him back to the vet that day to put him to sleep. There was no way we would allow him to suffer through another night. I will never forget that trip back to the vet. I was in the back of our little pick-up truck and Stephanie was driving. Cyrus held his head high with his ears blowing in the wind. It was an extremely difficult time. We held him on the floor as he fought and thrashed trying not to go to sleep. We were broken.
A few months later we decided we could not be without a Rottweiler. We started our search but could not find the right litter. We found a family in Eastern Kentucky that had a litter on the ground. This family had never bred dogs before and this was their first time. I liked what I saw in the pictures so we made the four hour drive.
We arrived at a home far out in the country. As we parked in front of the home a Rottweiler was laying on the front steps of the home. When the dog saw us she jumped up, opened the front door on her own disappeared for a few seconds, and ran out with a toy in her mouth to greet us. I was very impressed. She barely resembled a Rottweiler due to the fact that she had 13 puppies and was sucked down to nothing, but that big Rotty personality was still there.
We met with the owners and they took out all thirteen puppies. I asked to see the dad. The man of the house was very honest in telling me that the dad was a lunatic and was hard to control around new people and the livestock that was roaming around. That concerned me a little but the momma dog made up for it.
Stephanie and I watched and interacted with all the puppies. We both decided that one was capturing both of our attention and we decided to make the drive home with him. We called him Bruno, and our lives were about to change.
We quickly realized that baby Bruno was more than a handful. In fact he was the worst puppy we ever had. He was a lunatic, a monster, a demon. He never stopped moving, barking, biting. What did we do?
We brought Bruno home in May of 2005. Our first child, Sophia was born in July 2005. Here we go. Now it was total chaos. A new born baby that did not sleep because she was sick and a new puppy that we believed was psychotic.
Just when we thought it could not get worse, I had to leave for 6 months of training for work. I am a Federal Agent and sometimes that happens, but the timing could not be worse.
Now my poor wife really had her hands full. There was a time when I thought that without me here we may have to get rid of Bruno. My wife being the rock star she is was against that and really stepped up and did a tremendous job handling a new baby, a new puppy, and Ben our 3 year old dog. Everyday Stephanie strapped a backpack to Bruno and loaded both sides with bags of rice. She would run every day, Bruno on one side, Ben on the other, and pushing Sophia in a baby stroller. That is hard core. She had to do that just to drain enough of Bruno’s energy to be able to control him in the house.
Once I returned home from training I saw how much my baby and puppy had grown. We had an awesome family with a baby and two dogs. We were so happy, but it was still a lot of work.
Fast forward a couple of years and Bruno was a different dog. He was extremely driven and energetic but now we put all that energy into training and he excelled at everything we did.
At around 3 years old Bruno was helping me train dogs. He travelled with me everywhere meeting people and dogs all over the country. He loved everyone and would drop a tennis ball at a total stranger’s feet just waiting for them to throw the ball.
We Go To Denver
When Bruno was 4 years old we traveled to Denver, Colorado together. I purchased a dog training franchise and spent a few weeks with the company to learn about the business. I knew Bruno was a special dog but I guess I did not know to what level until other dog trainers met Bruno. He was such a big hit with everything we did. Very quickly everyone realized that if we were working with an aggressive dog Bruno was the dog that we needed to help us. He had an incredible ability to provide what the troubled dog needed, making our job so much easier. It was an amazing thing to watch. I remember one morning during one of our many group classes. There was another Rottweiler that had a bad attitude. He was a little aggressive to other dogs but really hated Bruno. He would go after Bruno every chance he had and Bruno just ignored him and stayed focused on me. Then one morning I guess Bruno knew it was the right time to take action. This same Rottweiler went into his normal tough guy bullying and Bruno just erupted. The biggest deepest bark while raising his two from legs and landing with his chest blown up with a look on his face that I had never seen. He looked right through that other Rottweiler and that big nasty Rottweiler quickly turned into a pussy cat. All the group class attendees, mostly women, let out all kinds of gasps and laughs and one woman yelled out “Bruno, I did not know you had that in you” It was awesome and the best part was that Bruno went right back to his happy stable self. The mean Rottweiler never misbehaved again.
Another great memory I have in Colorado was Bruno’s first swim. He had never been in the water. Myself and a few other trainers drove up to a lake in the Rocky Mountains. A Rottweiler, two Belgian Malinois, a Black Lab and a Pitbull all crammed into one vehicle with 5 trainers. What a sight but think about the level of training of those dogs to be able to do that without any problems. Pretty impressive.
Now it was time to get Bruno in the water. He would not follow the other dogs in so I had to convince him that he could do it. I tossed his tennis ball, which he would run through a brick wall for, just a foot into the water. Just about six inches of water. Bruno retrieved the ball and came back to me. I repeated this several times each time getting him deeper into the water until he was chest deep. Then I gave the ball a good toss out far into the water. Bruno started to go after it until he sank and his head went under water. He did an about face and came back without the ball. His expression was hysterical. We sent one of the Malinois in to get Bruno’s ball and once he saw that he became Michael Phelps. He swam as fast as he could, got to his ball, got out of the water and took his ball far away from the lake hiding behind a vehicle. It was priceless. I have really beautiful memories with Bruno in Colorado.
Once we returned from Colorado Bruno was my full blown partner and right hand man. He traveled all the time with me and immediately started becoming a very important part of my success with aggression cases. He had such a calming effect on these dogs and knew just what to do and when to do it. I did not teach that, he was just being himself. Shortly after our Colorado trip I booked our first trade show. I rented a table for $60 at a gun show in Smyrna, Tennessee. I did not know what to expect and when I arrived that Saturday morning with my wife, Bruno, and baby Sophia I was devastated. It was not a Beverly Hills Boat show to say the least. In fact when we walked in to set up I almost left. I did not want my wife and daughter to be in that environment. My wife convinced me to stay and talked me out of my negative thoughts which she does quite often to this day. That Saturday our table had people gathered around the whole time we were there. Everyone wanted to meet Bruno. He walked around liked he owned the place greeting everyone that even looked at him. That $60 investment made us over $7000 that day. That was all Bruno. Dog owners that saw him there wanted what I had. A happy and well behaved off leash dog. It was that simple. We continued to have great success at any show we did.
For the next several years Bruno continued to be a huge part of our family and the dog training world. We trained hundreds of dogs together. I watched as he aged and traveling became more difficult for him. His legs were going but he still had the love and desire to do things together. It was hard for me to leave the house to see clients and have to leave him behind. I actually felt guilty as he would watch me knowing what I was going to do and then seeing me leave without him.
I could tell stories about him all day. There are many wonderful memories. Out of all my memories of Bruno the love and interaction he had with my kids is by far what I loved most about him. It was a beautiful thing to watch. He watched over them with so much love and care and I always knew that as long as he was with them I never had to worry about anything.
Fast forward to that weekend before we lost him. It was a Saturday night. I was sitting on my couch drinking a glass of whiskey. I asked my wife to take a picture of me and Bruno. I told my wife that he would not be around much longer and that thought brought great sadness to me. I know my dogs very well. I know when they are not right. I always have. I guess it comes from the strong bond that we have.
That Monday morning when I awoke I told my wife that it would be soon. Bruno was having trouble breathing. I thought he may be going into heart failure. I took him to the vet that morning. The news was devastating. His lungs were filled with cancer. We cried. We cried a lot. I am crying as I remember this. I could not imagine life without him. Stephanie and I decided to do what needed to be done at that moment. I would never let my dogs suffer, never. Our vet sedated him so he would be almost sleeping, very relaxed. I was on the ground with him, holding him and telling him how much I loved him and thanking him for everything. I though he was out when I went to stand up. He grabbed me with his paw one last time so I stayed down with him. We watched and held him as he went peacefully.
The house has not been the same since we lost him. We have all forgotten at times and have expected to be greeted when we walk in the house. It is a constant reminder, but this is the bad part of having dogs. I would not trade the time we had together for anything. We were so lucky to have the love of the greatest Rottweiler that ever lived. Thank you Bruno for everything. We love you always.