Bruno: The Gentlest of Giants
Take big, take handsome, take brave... mix sweet and loving, and fun and kind... colour him soft and gentle and caring and wise...
All of these attributes and more went into the wonderful canine cocktail that was Patricia Vazquez's beloved Mastiff "Bruno".
Bruno was a well known figure amongst the animal world of New Providence, 215 pounds of rippling golden muscle, topped off with a large blunt head and a dashing black muzzle... invariably his comical tongue would be lolling out of the side of his enormous mouth as he smiled in a quizzical manner at all those who looked at him in complete awe.
Bruno was just so BIG... And, like so many big people, he was the gentlest of giants, the sweetest of people and the kindest of dogs. Always accommodating to a small child who tentatively put out their hand timidly towards this enormous, horse like canine, his big tongue would lick the small hand as delicately as if the child were holding a butterfly.
I was privileged to watch Bruno in action when his owner and best friend Patricia Vazquez, very graciously, would allow Tambearly School's "Bahamas Humane Society Club" to visit her lovely farm in Western New Providence, called "Finca Nati".
We would arrive in a cavalcade of vehicles, with various giggling young people in the cars, hanging out the windows in anticipation of the exciting field trip. As we would wind our way up the densely planted trail, the kids eyes would get a little bigger and the excitement a litter stronger; the cars would reach the parking lot and there invariably, in the middle of the parking area, the host "extraordinaire", would be "BRUNO"... some of the children could not believe their eyes... No DOG could possibly be THAT big!
It always made me secretly giggle, because I think I went up in their estimation, as I would hop out of the car and give Bruno a quick and casual hug without being trampled. It would take the kids a few minutes to warm up to this huge and imposing figure, but even the most shy and timid were won over by his charming personality in a few short minutes as he lead the kids around the gardens to visit the horses, ducks, chickens, donkey, ponies and to, of course, meet the other dogs in residence.
In the Bahamas we are often faced with children who are fearful of dogs. This is a condition that has been promoted and encouraged by less than wise parenting. The "watch that dog, he gonna bite ya" attitude followed by "if that dog comes near, I gonna kik it" has not always bred a close and connecting relationship between kid and canine. Every now and then there would be a very fearful little one who would spy Bruno and immediately take cover behind me. Not that I was any match for Bruno had Bruno wished to move me. But strangely enough, little by little, Bruno would be able to coax that fearful child and before long the child would have laid a trusting hand on his back as they walked around the farm.
I vividly remember one day stopping on the side of the road at Lyford Cay, to say hello to Patricia and Bruno, who were on the golf cart on their way to the beach. A lady pulled up in her car, leaned over and called out to me "Is he real?" She simply could not believe his size... I assured her that he was very real indeed!
Magic is as magic does in life. Millions of humans are born, millions of puppies are born. What wayward star chose to match Patricia up with this innocent little Mastiff pup born in Canada on January 11th 2007? Some seed or spark must have flown through the layers of coincidence, opportunity and luck for these two very special personalities to meet and bond and become as close as animal and human could.
Patricia's love and respect for animals embodied Bruno's very existence. The more love that she and her family showered on him, the more he gave back to them, and to the community he lived in. People would stop and stare and take pictures of him... graciously he would stand patiently, his enormous tail wagging from side to side as people exclaimed over him in bubbling excitement... it was all in a days work for Bruno. As long as he knew that the day would end at the end of his beloved mistress's bed, and he could sigh a contented sigh knowing that she and the people she held dear were safe, Bruno was a contented dog. His day started and ended with Patricia, they would swim in the ocean, walk on the beach, go for golf cart rides, share stories and secrets... and sometimes just sit and enjoy that magic connection that only human and canine can share, at the end of a long day, when words are simply unnecessary.
One of his most amazing attributes was, I guess, the fact, that he was really always content, always happy. He never had bad days, all of Bruno's days were good days, made better by love, getting scratched, cuddled and cared for. His happiness was the mirror of the care and love he received at his mistress's hand.
It is perhaps difficult to understand why, after such a short time, Bruno got called back to his maker. At three and a half years old, on August 30th, 2010 Bruno passed away from a massive and unexpected heart attack. He has left a void in the lives of everybody who met or knew him... His passing was a shockwave throughout the animal community. It is difficult to believe that we will no longer see him sitting up on the golf cart, proud of his position beside Patricia, posing for just one more photo, leaning forward to give one more lick.
The world moves in mysterious ways indeed. For sure Bruno was sent here to teach us all the qualities of gentleness, and kindness, sent to teach us that the big and strong can afford to be gentle and meek too, and can continue to gain the respect and admiration of those whose lives they touch.
Why was he not left with Patricia longer to continue to spread his message and give unconditional love, we will never know... We just have to satisfy ourselves that there was a reason. He fulfilled his earthly mission. He has crossed over to rainbow bridge where he is most certainly the biggest and most imposing of all dogs, happy reunited with his old friend Tosa.
Somewhere in the universe there is a speck, the beginnings of a tiny puppy, waiting to be sent on a similar mission, perhaps, not as big, or impressive or imposing, but a ray of hope.... A symbol of love, that will wedge itself within Patricia's heart and help her to always remember her very special gentle giant that she so generously shared with us all.
May sweet Bruno rest in peace…
About the author: Kim Aranha grew up in the Berry Islands with her first dog, a beloved potcake named "Friendly" (who was anything but!). First educated at home, and then in boarding school in Switzerland, Kim moved to Rome, Italy in 1974 to pursue a career in the dramatic arts and ended up working as an interpreter. She moved back to The Bahamas in 1980, and now lives in Nassau with her husband Paul, and their two grown sons. Kim has 4 dogs, 2 goldfish, 11 fresh water turtles, 1 Asian box turtle and 3 Budgerigars. Her idea of relaxing is being home to take care of all her pets. Kim is President of the Bahamas Humane Society, and serves on the board of BREEF, and is co-chairman of the Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group. Kim can be contacted at email@example.com.