Hi, there, Dear Reader. It is late morning in Lithia, Florida, on Saturday, July 16, 2022. It is a humid, hot summer day in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, the temperature is 84°F (29°C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 78% and the wind blowing from the northeast at 5 MPH (8 KM/H), the heat index is 90°F (32°C). Today’s forecast calls for scattered rain showers and a high of 92°F (33°C). Tonight, scattered rain showers will continue. The low will be 74°F (23°C).
Well, I received my paperback copy of my friend Thomas Wikman’s The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger from Amazon yesterday at 5:33 PM. Someone in the house brought it in – the notes in the book’s tracking history say that it was handed off to a resident, and that resident was not me – and placed it on the kitchenette table next to my usual spot, still in its blue-white Amazon Prime shipping envelope.
Even though I’d read excerpts from The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger on Thomas’ WordPress blog and had seen some of the illustrations – by the talented Naomi Rosenblatt – and photos of Bronco and the other Wikman family dogs, I was blown away by the quality of the book, which was published by Thebes Press of Dallas, Texas, and is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other places where you can buy books (either printed or in digital editions).
“A wonderful tribute to the author’s beloved Bronco. The stories are heartwarming as well as informative—a true glimpse into life with a Leonberger. The adorable illustrations are icing on the cake.” —D’Nae Wilson, President, Leonberger Health Foundation International
“A lovely tribute to Bronco, with lots of resources for general Leonberger information.” —Julie Schaffert, Leonberger Club of America breeder since 1992
If you’re thinking of getting a Leonberger, or if you’ve already owned one and know how rewarding the experience can be, you’ll want to read the story of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle, called Bronco, who came into the lives of the Wikman family of Dallas, Texas, in 2007. Bronco, a recipient of the Leonberger Health Foundation International’s Grey Muzzle Award, lived an unusually long life for a Leonberger—almost thirteen years. His human family is convinced that what helped him exceed his breed’s normal life expectancy was his brave and loving heart.
Here you’ll read about some of Bronco’s amazing feats: the night he scared away a prowler; the day he performed a hamster search and rescue; the time he stumped the Geek Squad; and the late night he snuck into the kitchen and ate a two-pound bag of dog treats, a box of pastries, a loaf of bread, a grilled chicken, and a Key lime pie, all in one sitting. You’ll also read about his unflappable calm during a north Texas tornado and his stoicism as he endured health challenges in his later years.
In addition to entertaining stories, these pages contain a wealth of practical guidance, including
- a history of the Leonberger breed;
- advice for the care of very large dogs;
- breed-specific health and genetic information;
- training and feeding tips;
- suggestions for finding a breeder;
- the official breed standard; and
- an extensive resource guide.
Bronco’s fearlessness, tolerance, and affectionate nature warmed the hearts of everyone who met him, and his sometimes uncanny adventures with his human and canine companions will bring a smile to the face of every dog lover.
The author is donating the proceeds from the sale of this book to the Leonberger Health Foundation International.
Since I received the book so late yesterday afternoon, I can’t write a comprehensive review of The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger today. I would be doing a disservice to both Thomas and you if I wrote a review without reading the entire book, and I don’t want to give you one of those one-sentence “Amazon reviews” that give products either love or hate but without substance – or context.
I can say that I’ve skimmed through The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger, and I really like what I’ve seen so far. I learned the “origin story” of Bronco’s name – it’s in the section What’s in a Name? of Chapter One – and it’s quite a charming story, and a hilarious one, at that.
There are some wonderfully touching vignettes in The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle, such as the one in the same chapter in which Thomas – who finds himself alone in the house on a quiet Dallas evening – is making a sandwich in the kitchen when, all of a sudden, he feels what he thinks is a human hand on his shoulder. Thinking that it is an intruder, Thomas turns around, only to see the sweet, loving face of his big furry Leonburger, asking for half a sandwich!
And, of course, because Thomas tells the reader about the ups and downs of life with multiple dogs, there are some sobering stories in The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger as well, including one about the Dogsitter from Hell. Having been a pet- and house-sitter when I lived in Miami, I could not understand how someone like that young lady that Thomas and his wife Claudia hired to take care of their dogs while the Wikmans went on vacation could be so inept and irresponsible. (What did she do? Read the Intermezzo – pages 73-80 – to find out.)
If you’re like me and love dogs, or if you’re interested in adding a Leonberger to your family, The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger is a must-have book that will entertain, enthrall, and inform you from the first chapter to the last one. It is excellently designed – by Susan Hood Design – and features many illustrations, including Wikman family photos of their furry family members and drawings by artist Naomi Rosenblatt.
As for my other leisure pursuits?
Well, I started a new South China Sea 2000 campaign in Cold Waters; it’s been a while since I did a play-through of the U.S vs. China campaign in an altered history where the Cold War never ended, Britain held on to Hong Kong, and Beijing allied itself with a weakened and cash-starved Soviet Union in a bid to become the dominant power in the South China Sea/Western Pacific area.
As I did in my previous go-round of this Tom Clancy-like scenario that blends elements of the old 1988 MicroProse game Red Storm Rising with others from Simon & Schuster Interactive’s Tom Clancy’s SSN, I began the war as commanding officer of USS Seawolf (SSN-21). The campaign’s difficulty level is Hard, and even though Seawolf acquitted herself well during Week One of World War III, she was sunk during her first war patrol near – luckily – Allied waters in the West Pacific. As a result, most of my crew and I were rescued, and now I’m the CO of USS Annapolis (SSN 760), an Improved-Los Angeles class boat that just completed her first war patrol and is about to begin a second.
I must remember that when I play campaigns in Cold Waters, I should limit myself to playing one mission a day. Maybe two if I am not tired or easily distracted. It is a game, after all, albeit one that requires you to pay attention and act as though you really command a complex, deadly, and expensive ship of war in the United States Navy. Every time that I get “killed” in a campaign – whether it’s South China Sea 2000 or North Atlantic 1984 – it’s when I get overconfident after a successful battle and press on to play another session.
I don’t know if it’s a matter of getting tired or impatient – maybe both – but I tend to make mistakes a-plenty when I play one mission after another in multiple-battle campaigns. Part of it stems from the fact that in campaigns, the Soviets and/or Chinese have several surface or sub task forces at sea at one time, and you have to either set courses to avoid or intercept them, based on your orders from Commander, Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC). If you run into any enemies, you must engage them; if they’re the group you are tasked to destroy, then great. If they are another enemy force, well, that’s fine, but (a) you’re forced to expend torpedoes and missiles on them, and (b) their counterattacks will damage or destroy your boat if you’re not careful – or if they’re lucky and get the drop on you.
So far, USS Annapolis has had a better war career than the more advanced – and pricey – USS Seawolf, and I earned several commendations and decorations as her skipper. That having been said, I’ll take a hiatus from Cold Waters for a while so that the next time I resume the South China Sea 2000 campaign, I don’t lose my boat because I was in a rush to get through a mission or because my brain is tired and I make a bad decision because of that.
I don’t have much to add, Dear Reader. I’m trying to keep from thinking too much about the upcoming seventh anniversary of my mom’s death, so I’ll probably go out to the family room and watch a movie or read for a while.
Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.