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Three-legged dog’s spirit inspired all he met

Bruno was an extremely handsome dog who attracted considerable attention from the people he encountered during his long and happy life. Although he looked like a yellow Labrador, he was in fact of decidedly mixed heritage. He was also missing a leg.
Bruno came to live with us when he was just two years old, about eight weeks after an altercation with a FedEx truck had left him without his rear left leg. And, for the next thirteen years, he was a beloved member of our household, a faithful walking companion, a great ambassador for our B&B, and an inspiration to many people he encountered along the way.
So, dear reader, should you ever be faced with a decision as to whether to have your dog’s leg amputated, or are considering adopting a three-legged dog yourself, as the following stories of Bruno illustrate, please have no concerns.
ADOPTION
Bruno was not our first three-legged dog.
Before Bruno came to us we had adopted Harry from Middlebury’s Homeward Bound animal shelter. Although Harry was only three years old, it would not be long before the vet discovered a lump of his ankle that turned out to be cancerous. So, very reluctantly, we decided his leg should be amputated.
But, within a fortnight of his surgery, Harry was again running through the hills of Goshen. Thus we quickly discovered that missing a leg is no impediment whatsoever for a dog to enjoy a full and energetic life. Sadly however, a few months later, the cancer returned and before long had claimed poor Harry.
When we decided to look for another dog, we went again to Homeward Bound, but could not find a dog we felt would enjoy being a B&B dog. So I phoned the Middlebury Animal Hospital where the receptionist told us about ‘this very special three-legged dog who needs a home’. My response was ‘We’re cool with that’ and invited Emily, his owner, to bring Bruno over for a visit.
While Bruno explored the house and polished off the cat’s food, Emily explained that, because of separation anxiety, Bruno would chew things when he was left alone during the time she and her husband were at work, so they felt they could no longer keep him. I asked what he chewed and she answered rather ominously “THE HOUSE!!”
It turned out that his accident happened because, when she had tried leaving him in their barn, he chewed his way to freedom, only to be hit by a truck.
EARLY DAYS
So, to avoid giving him the chance to chew OUR house, initially we took Bruno with us wherever we went. We soon learned that, even with complete strangers, a three-legged dog will elicit compassion. More than once we would overhear people emit a long sad sigh and mutter “Oh that poor dog.”
We also discovered that a three-legged dog is extremely easy to describe to perfect strangers. After he had been with us about a month, Dick and I decided to leave Bruno on the grass in the shade, tied to a crab apple tree, while we popped into the museum at Middlebury College. We returned a little while later, only to discover a short length of wet dog lead looped around the tree.
Fearing the worst, I rushed over to a group of soccer players, and then on to some surprised construction workers, frantically asking if they had seen a brown THREE-LEGGED dog. Nothing!
Then a woman stopped her car and shouted ‘Have you lost a three-legged dog?’ As I nodded sadly she commanded me to “get in,” and drove me back to the museum. From here she led me upstairs to the private area, where I found her officemate gently trying to persuade Bruno to sip water from a very small paper cup.
Apparently, they had seen him sitting at the museum entrance and felt they should take him under their wings!
We concluded that Bruno had watched us walk off without him, carefully chewed his way through his lead, and then gone to the very spot where he had last seen us to await our return!
EMPATHY BETWEEN PEOPLE AND DOG
We also discovered that Bruno was a special inspiration to people with disabilities.
One time a third-grade class came to visit our garden. The bus pulled into the driveway and kids piled out, running off to look at birds, bees and flowers.
Finally a small boy on crutches cautiously descended the steps of the bus. Then, as he caught sight of the three-legged dog, he knelt down and gave Bruno a long meaningful hug. After that, for entire visit, the little boy walked alongside his new acquaintance, repeating gently “Oh Bruno you are just like me — you’re my friend.”
A few years later, as we went out to welcome a returning B&B couple, we found the man had recently lost a leg to cancer. As we carried the luggage into the house. Pat remained behind to embrace Bruno, using almost the exact same words— “you’re my buddy; you’re just like me.”
Another memorable experience occurred at Middlebury’s Festival on the Green. Just as the music was starting, we spied an empty spot on the grass, maneuvered ourselves past other concertgoers and sat down next to an elderly gentleman. After a few minutes I realized the man was quietly stroking Bruno’s ears while our dog leaned himself up against the man’s prosthetic leg. They remained that way until the music stopped, whereupon the man stood up to leave, shot us a mischievous smile, and said “That makes four between us!!”
GREETINGS
We found the only real pitfall to having a three-legged dog was repeatedly having to answer the question “What happened to his leg?” And for us, as B&B hosts, for six months of the year this was almost a daily occurrence.
While we compiled a list of witty answers such as “Doggone it, he must have mislaid it again” we never had the nerve to say anything other than “He lost it in an accident before he came to us.”
Sometimes, people would direct their question to Bruno himself, murmuring “What happened to your leg?”whereupon Bruno would obligingly wag his tail.
Still others would whisper their question to us in such a way that Bruno would not hear, as if they were afraid of embarrassing him.
Many of our B&B guests bonded with Bruno in special ways and some of them never forgot him. Right to the end of his life, each year at Christmastime, Milt, a longtime guest, would send him a doggie present addressed to “Dear Bruno, with much love from Santa Paws.”
MY TWELVE-THOUSAND-MILE DOG
Throughout his long life Bruno was always an excellent walking companion. Each afternoon he attentively watched as I put on my boots, the signal for our daily walk.
Oftentimes we would just go along our country dirt road. As he soon learned to come to heel at the sound of an approaching car, in this quiet environment I could let him walk off the lead.
But sometimes I liked to roam the Moosalamooo area trails near our house, both for mountain hikes in summer and back-country snowshoeing in winter. And, no matter how steep the incline and whatever the weather, Bruno was my constant companion.
Add all this together and I estimate he and I walked a thousand miles or more a year together, and we kept this up for twelve long years.
Bruno had surely earned the honorary title of “A twelve-thousand-mile dog.”
This article is dedicated to all the wonderful people at Middlebury Animal Hospital who cared for Bruno throughout his long and happy life.

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