Bruno was a fully-grown puppy when my boss, who couldn’t keep him in his apartment, asked if I wanted him. Me? Gee! Sure. I loved animals. He’ll be a perfect pet. What could possibly go wrong? At the time we lived in Manhattan Beach in a tiny, one-bedroom house with a big yard –– perfect for a dog. Bruno happily hopped into the backseat of my four-door Dodge and we drove to his new home.
“Bob, come see what I’ve got,” I called from the front yard, pointing to the car.
“I don’t see anything,” Bob said, peering at the window. He couldn’t see Bruno because he filled the entire back seat like a hairy, fawn-colored rug. When the rug moved Bob recognized it was a large animal. He was speechless. Aghast, and against owning anything that large, it took a few minutes to convince him we should keep Bruno.
Bruno required lots of exercise so we regularly drove to the Manhattan Beach Pier, parked in front of Lulu’s White Stop Café and then let him run on the beach. (It was the mid-fifties –– dogs could run on the beach then.) It may be a slight exaggeration but before we finished a cup of Lulu’s coffee Bruno could run a mile to the Hermosa Pier and back.
One day we had just parked in front of Lulu’s when surfer Dale Velzy parked alongside us, with his dog in the front seat –– a big, scary-looking wolf-dog cross between a domestic dog and a wolf. His name might have been Wolf, so that’s what I’ll call him.
The two dogs spotted each other. Our gentle giant wanted to play. Slobbering, he barked maniacally and pounded his paws against the car window, so Dale’s dog did the same. Wolf’s inner alpha probably growled, “Who does that silly dog think he is? Kill him.”
Because of their size, there was no stopping them. Dale’s window cracked in those square pieces that laminated glass does when it breaks.
We bought Dale a new window.
Another day, we were drinking coffee in Lulu’s and Bruno lay on the floor next to us. A dog walked by outside and Bruno decided to say hello. Without warning he crashed through the screen door, wiggled a greeting to the other dog and took off on his pier-to-pier run.
We bought Lulu a new door.
Just before Easter, my mother created a special basket for us filled with jellybeans, chocolate rabbits and hardboiled eggs. The eggs were elaborately decorated with lace, sequins and glitter. She delivered the basket but we weren’t home, so she left it inside the door.
Later, she telephoned to ask, “How did you like your Easter basket?”
“What basket?” I replied. It was nowhere to be found. Then we looked at Bruno. He sat there guiltily, his head hung low. Hanging out of his jowls and caught between his molars, were shreds of green grass. Bruno had eaten everything –– glittered eggs, jellybeans, chocolate (usually harmful to dogs, Bruno was the exception), the basket, and all the grass on which the goodies were nested.
My mother bought us another basket. Happy Easter everyone