Most of us have had a pet that was a little more special than the others, one that seemed to speak to us and understand exactly what we were saying.
Thomas Wikman had Bronco, a 167-pound Leonberger who, by all accounts, was an extraordinary dog with a remarkable owner.
A native of Sweden who has lived in Preston Hollow for the last 23 years, Thomas holds a master’s degree in engineering physics from Uppsala University and studied electrical engineering and applied physics and worked on his doctorate in robotics at Case Western.
He took early retirement from Siemens, where he, among other things, worked with artificial intelligence to enhance software performance.
Thomas is also a family man who enjoys spending time with friends and neighbors, his in-laws, who also live in Preston Hollow, his wife, Claudia, and their three children. He takes French lessons for fun and is a bit of a beer nerd, a prolific reader, and an avid book reviewer. He is even an author.
In 2022, Wikman wrote one of the most sweet, charming, and poignant books I’ve read. It’s filled with anecdotes about life with Bronco and practical information about large dog ownership, particularly Leonbergers.
A Leonberger, a scarce breed of dog with a tight-knit group of owners, enthusiasts, and historians, came into Wikman’s life in 2007.
The 9-week-old ball of fur arrived weighing in at 20 pounds and captured the hearts of the Wikmans and their two other dogs, Baylor and Baby, a German Shepherd who firmly believed Bronco was her baby, even when he was twice her size.
By his first birthday, the gentle giant, intimidating to strangers but loveable and playful, weighed 120 pounds. He also played well with others.
One of the many adventures of Bronco included hamsters and CPR.
“Back when Bronco was young, the kids had hamsters, Moldova and Montenegro,” Wikman writes. The hamsters escaped from their cages, but Bronco, on command, would sniff them out and recover them.
Another time, the hamsters went on the lam for two days. Their hiding place remains unknown to this day, but they were found in Bronco’s cheeks, expelled on command, and unconscious until Claudia performed CPR on the little guys.
The life expectancy of Leonbergers is around nine years. The Wikmans cherish every day of Bronco’s 13 years. As he became older and had more health problems, Thomas would spend nearly 24 hours a day at Bronco’s side. This part of Wikman’s book is beautiful and difficult, especially if you have lost a beloved pet, but it’s also healing and insightful.
With only 2,000 Leonbergers in the United States and no more than 30,000 worldwide, Bronco was a rare breed in Dallas. He adjusted well to the climate and loved to swim in the family pool.
Dog lovers, pet lovers, and anyone with a heart will love the simple and sweet Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle. I’m thankful that my friend, Thomas Wikman, shared it with me.