Book Review: ‘The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger’


My friend Thomas Wikman wrote a loving tribute to his Leonberger, Bronco. (Photo by the author)

Reviewer’s Note: Thomas Wikman is one of my long-time online friends from Epinions, a now-defunct review site where we both wrote product reviews. Additionally, I adapted this review from an original version that I wrote on the book’s Amazon product page.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Isn’t he cute? Bronco, aged three months. Image Credit: Leonberger Life/Thomas Wikman

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” Milan Kundera

In 2007, Thomas Wikman, an automation, robotics, and software engineer and resident of Dallas, TX, bought a Leonberger puppy for his son’s upcoming 14th birthday.

Wikman and his family, which also included his wife Claudia and two other children, already had two dogs (a Labrador mix named Baylor and a German Shepherd named Baby), but Thomas wanted to get a Leonberger, too. So, after being vetted by the breeders in Canada, the cute furball they’d eventually name Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle was shipped from our northern neighbor by air to the Lone Star State.

(C) 2022 Thebes Press/Thomas Wikman

Thus began the Wikmans’ 13-year journey of love and friendship with their big – and I mean BIG – Leonberger, who despite his aristocratic name for his American Kennel Club papers answered to plain, simple, and unforgettable “Bronco.”

Bronco – as the book’s title, The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger, foreshadows – was unusually long-lived for a big dog. He lived long enough to earn the Leonberger Health Foundation International’s Grey Muzzle Award, which is earned by dogs who live to be 12 years old. As a result, Wikman and his family have a treasure trove of memories, not just of Bronco himself, but the other dogs in the family.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Wikmans’ German Shepherd, Baby, in a Dallas area park. Image Credit: Leonberger Life/Thomas Wikman

One day I was out walking with Baylor, Baby, and Bronco. Bronco was very young, maybe four months old. We met a man walking two medium-size black dogs off leash. Suddenly, one of the dogs attacked us. There was nothing I could do. As I watched helplessly, the black dog made the monumental mistake of going for Bronco. If the dog had attacked Baylor or Baby, either dog would certainly have put up a courageous defense, but going after Bronco was nearly suicidal, not because of Bronco himself but because of Baby.

I heard a loud explosion of barks that lasted only a few seconds, and then I saw the black dog flying five or six feet up into the air. Baby had bitten him in the side and tossed him skyward. It was surreal. I almost couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.

The black dog lay in the street. The man knelt before him and started crying. He said his dog’s back was broken. I was mortified, and I said, “I am so terribly sorry.” He said, “It’s not your fault. I was the one walking my dogs without a leash.” It was gratifying for me to hear that under the circumstances, but it was no less tragic.

Then, to my astonishment, the black dog stood up and quickly walked back to the other side of the street. The dog was in shock, but he was fine. The man calmed down, and we said goodbye to each other on good terms.

It wasn’t the only time Baby protected Bronco, but it was the most memorable.

(C) 2022 Thebes Press/Thomas Wikman

My Take

Advert for the book.

There are some wonderfully touching vignettes in The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle, such as the one early in the book in which Thomas – who finds himself alone in the house on a quiet Dallas evening – is making a sandwich in the kitchen when, suddenly, 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 Leonberger, 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 particularly infuriating account of 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.)

I was one of the first to buy a copy of the paperback edition. If you prefer a digital edition, there is also a Kindle edition available.

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ― Will Rogers

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.

Here, another of the Wikman family fur babies, Rollo, asks Bronco for a belly rub. Image Credit: Leonberger Life/Thomas Wikman

This is a terrific book. Not only does Wikman know how to tell a story, but he also gives potential owners lots of tips on how to properly care for a Leonberger. In The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle, you’ll find out what types of dog food you should give to a Leonberger in all the stages of his (or her) life, what Leonbergers are like personality-wise, and what to look for in canine health issues, especially since Leonbergers are a large breed and require lots of tender loving care, especially as they grow older.

I smiled a lot while reading this book, but I must admit that I shed more than a couple of tears, too. That’s the hallmark of a good story, well told. And it’s a true story, at that.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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