Every now and then Larry and Debbie LaVallee will get the phone call. They’re always the same.
We found your dog.
The call is usually from a new person in town who has found their dog, Bruno, walking around by himself.
The LaVallees have stunned concerned callers by telling them to just let him go. He’ll find his way home, they say.
He always has, nearly every day for the last 12 years when Bruno ambles down busy paved highways and dusty backroads to visit the residents of Longville, Minn. — the “Turtle Racing Capitol of the World.”
He walks four miles there, and four miles back, sometimes along the side of the road, sometimes right down the center line.
Bruno has gained legendary status. The Chesapeake-Lab mix — who some suspect could be part wolf, too — is known as “Bruno the Town Dog.”
He even has a statue in town, a life-sized likeness carved from a black walnut log in a little garden between the pharmacy and post office on main street. People around town donated money for it.
A family Facebook page has turned into his official fan club page.
“On a beauty scale of one to ten, Bruno hits all ten … take your pick. If it’s the first time you’ve met him, he’ll rank pretty low, somewhere between scary and ugly. A few minutes later, Bruno becomes beautiful, friendly, loving and a string of adjectives too long to list,” the town’s Pine Cone Press-Citizen wrote of Bruno in 2014.
“In the Longville community, Bruno is an Ambassador, Wonder Dog, Town Mascot, etc., etc., and, above all, a living creature enjoyed by all.”
Over the last few days the town’s canine goodwill ambassador has become a worldwide star because of a story by KARE in Minneapolis.
“He’s our buddy, we kind of watch out for him the best way we can,” Patrick Moran, who owns a local real estate office, told KARE. “Last week he came in stayed about an hour and a half or two hours.
“He’s not just a dog. He’s a spirit.”
Bruno has been walking these roads since he was a young pup, following the trash truck Larry LaVallee drove into town, according to The Pilot-Independent in Walker, Minn., which profiled Bruno last year.
Someone dumped Bruno inside a box in the family’s driveway when he was a puppy, the newspaper reported. The LaVallees had just lost a dog, so they kept him.
Bruno’s near daily stops in town have become a well-known routine — the library, city hall and visits to several businesses including the grocery store where deli workers always have meat scraps ready for him. In the summer he hangs out at the ice cream parlor where customers give him more treats.
Visitors and new people to town often think he’s a stray. The Pilot-Independent told the story of how one woman found Bruno lying in the snow outside the library one day, picked him up and drove him to her friend’s house, announcing, “I’ve saved this dog from the cold.”
“That’s Bruno!” her friend said “Take him back into town — this is what he does!”
In his senior years, Bruno’s rambunctious trotting has slowed to a shamble. He’s been known to plop right down in a road when he gets tired; cars just drive around him.
People in town think it’s somewhat miraculous that he doesn’t get hit. Some believe divine intervention has kept him safe all these many years.
“Every year when people return to Longville, one of the first things they ask is, ‘Did Bruno make it through the winter?’ ” said one resident.