Bruno, a 12-year-old brown Chesapeake-Labrador mix, has become the symbol of Longville, a small Minnesota community of just over 150 residents. Over the past 12 years, he has been taking daily 4-mile trips from his owners’ home to Longville, just so he can spend time with the locals.
To the people of Longville, Bruno is a legend, an ambassador of goodwill, the town mascot, and above all a free spirit. Every resident has either lived or heard a Bruno story, and he’s such a big part of the community that the town even commissioned a wooden statue in his honor. Even though he lives 4 miles away with his owners, Larry and Debbie LaVallee, the friendly brown dog walks to town every day to enjoy the company of his human friends, accept tasty handouts or simply bask in the attention he gets from both familiar locals and tourists. When the day is done, he just walks back home, only to return again the next day, regardless of weather conditions.
Photo: Leah Schmid/Twitter
The Lavallee family says that Bruno came into their life as a gift. He had been abandoned in a cardboard box near their driveway and someone brought it to their door, thinking they had lost him. As fate would have it, they had just buried their own dog, and while Debbie recalls that she wasn’t ready for a new one, Larry was, so they kept him. Bruno was always a very active dog and started his daily trips to Longville when he was very young, following Larry’s garbage truck. “The first time I seen him in town, he almost beat me to town,” his owner recalls. “I was picking garbage on the way, and I get in town, and I wasn’t there five minutes, and there’s Bruno.”
Although at first they were worried that he might get hit by a car on his way to town, the Lavallees soon realized Bruno could take care of himself and simply accepted his wandering ways. They had tried to keep him home by chaining him, but he almost hanged himself trying to break free, so they just let him do his thing. Now, whenever someone calls to let them know they’ve found their dog, they just tell them to let him go because he’ll find his way home. And he always does.
Photo: Jill Yngve Nadeau/Twitter
Once he arrives in Longville, Bruno almost always follows a set route that includes stops at Tabaka’s grocery store, where workers greet him at the back door with meat scraps they save just for him, the city hall, the library, the ice cream shop, and several local real estate offices. He will sometimes stop in a doorway to rest, bask in the sunlight or accept a few pats on the head. He enjoys human company more than anything, and apparently loves parties. Once, he was missing for two days, only to be found enjoying a neighbor’s birthday party.
“Everybody knows Bruno,” says Sharon Rouse, who works at Hansen Realty, in Longville. “You may not know the people, but you’ll know Bruno.”
“He’s more friendly that most of the humans in town, and I’m not saying that in a negative way about the humans,” local Marry Tripp told KARE 11. “He’s that lovable.”
But while Bruno has been somehow able to dodge traffic for 12 years, making people think he has a guardian angel, the legendary has not managed to avoid the passing of time. He’s gait is slower than it once was and even laying down has become a painful process that he now performs with a grunt. He’s accepting rides back home more often than he used and on some days even stays home to rest.
Photo: Bruno of Longville/Facebook
“He’s getting old so you know he’s not going to be around a lot longer,” owner Debbie Lavallee says. But even if that’s true, Bruno’s legacy and his influence on the locals is firmly implanted in Longville. People love him so much that they donated money to have sculptor Paul Albright create a wooden sculpture of him, which has already been installed in a park on town’s main street. “Longville’s town dog and ambassador,” the accompanying plaque proudly states.
So even though this awesome fairy tale may soon come to an end, everyone who has ever met Bruno knows that people will be talking about him for generations to come. “Once upon a time, there was a big brown dog…And, his name was Bruno,” owner Debbie Lavallee imagines they’ll say.