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Helping a Fearful Dog Part 7: Madge...
Helping a Fearful Dog Part 7: Madge Post-Adoption Update
National Specially-Abled Pets Day

Bravo Gotcha Day! a Magical Legacy on Adopt A Shelter Pet Day

by | Apr 30, 2020 | Dog Training & Care | 40 comments

Happy GOTCHA-DAY to our BRAVO-DAWG (a couple of days late)! I posted this blog two years ago after Bravo came home. Since today also is National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day, it’s even more appropriate to celebrate.

No, he didn’t come from a shelter. His red Bullmastiff mom just showed up after being dumped, and a family took her in. The ten puppies she had surprised them (probably the mom dog most of all!). Bravo, the smallest pup, looked like his red momma dog, very different than the rest of the litter of fawn babies.

Today, he’s 125-pounds of lovable funny Bullmastiff/Something mix. And we’re totally smitten with him. But every day, something he does reminds me of our Magic.

Magical-Dawg launched my fiction career, shared our hearts (and pillows), and taught me so much about companionship, determination, aging gracefully, and dying with dignity. Eleven years were not enough.

magic puppy

Magic’s first day home . . . awwwww!

Saint Spot Syndrome

I’ve often written about what I call St. Spot Syndrome — the tendency to remember a beloved pet only in glowing terms, so much so that all others can’t possibly measure up. So I plead guilty!

Even as a puppy, Magic led the way, tugging us onward with his driven personality and comedic timing. His brilliance made me look good, and — as often happens — we took him for granted.

You’ll find his picture and antics peppered throughout my blog, articles and books, so Magic’s legacy lives on, hopefully impacting other doggy and human lives. I still fight tears thinking of him, but now smiles break through as well.

That summer he seemed determined to make friends with the local skunk population — three times in a month! His joy playing “hose tag” and stacking Frisbees. His delight sniffing out and retrieving countless box turtles. Turning wastebaskets into grazing opportunities (doesn’t everyone leave wastebaskets on counters?) — or eating cat toys that created sparkly poop.

Dog Stacks Frisbees

And his delight finding Karma-Kat and finally having a cat friend that loved him back. Oh how it hurt, to see Karma sleep with Magic’s collar for two weeks, after his death.

Magic was no Saint Spot, as the Magic Markers on walls and elsewhere testify. As a delinquent dawg, he ripped up my clothes, left me bruised, and challenged my training in ways I could never imagine. But in our eyes, he was darn close to perfect.

Magic puppy

Love at first lick…

My husband didn’t grow up with dogs, and yet he slept on the floor with Baby Magic for the first week, entirely smitten. For the first time, he experienced the joy–and pain–of bonding with a truly special and magical creature. But aren’t they all magical?

Magic’s Legacy & Happy Accidents

We told each other, “someday, but not soon” we’ll have another dog. And I did look for another German Shepherd, knowing full well Magic could never be matched. Magic’s breeder, and dear friend of ours, passed away only a few months after Magic, so another glorious GSD from her was not an option.

We also knew finding the energy and stamina for another driven dog wasn’t in the cards since we’re both a dozen years older and less agile than when Magic came to stay. I found a couple of breeders online that looked promising, but wasn’t able to arrange for visits or further conversations, so . . .

What’s that saying, “Man proposes, but God disposes…” Sometimes events converge, and planning doesn’t matter. We were on a waiting list for two years for Magic. But our new boy came home within two days, a happy accident we couldn’t have predicted.


Will Bravo grow into those long legs and big paws?

Finding Bravo

One of my husband’s clients knew about our Magic and she knew we’d finally begun to think seriously about finding our next doggy love. She worked with someone who had rescued a dumped dog back in the winter, a big skinny girl half-starved for food and affection.

They didn’t realize she was pregnant. “Moose” got along well with the family’s other six dogs, the cats, and the horses, and appeared to be a lovely red Bull Mastiff girl. But then Moose gave birth to 10 puppies, and 8 survived. As they grew and developed, it became clear that Moose had bred with a “traveling dawg” (maybe a Great Dane?), although many of her pups seemed typical of the Bullmastiff breed.

On Saturday April 29, 2018, Moose’s little red boy came home to live with us. We named him Bravo because we are celebrating each day with this fun-loving dawg. At 12 weeks old, he weighed 39 pounds and has lived up to his legacy, quickly approaching the 130-pound benchmark typical of Bullmastiffs.

He couldn’t be more different than Magic — or unexpected — and we are entirely smitten!

bravo and karma

Karma is intrigued, and Bravo knows not to push his luck.

Why  Bravo?

Bullmastiffs are known as gentle giants, bred to capture (tackle!) interlopers rather than attack them. After living with a high-drive GSD, I can already see the difference in this baby-dawg. Magic led, but Bravo follows and nearly trips us he wants to be so close. Where Magic surged ahead and wanted to constantly explore, Bravo acts satisfied to hang out on the sofa or try to be a lap dog. When Magic couldn’t stop playing with toys, Bravo enjoys only two or three rounds of toss before happy to settle down. When Magic protected and sometimes threatened strangers, Bravo alerts and then wants to greet them.

We’re also happy to connect with a rescuer and tell the story that one can find any number of “breeds” in rescue situations. Bravo had already been given two rounds of puppy vaccinations and de-worm treatments. The rescuer faxed his records to my veterinarian, who gave Bravo a clean bill of health when we first visited. Oh, and Bravo gave my vet a thoroughly clean face-washing in thanks!

We wanted another dog that would be a happy and friendly companion for Karma-Kat. The rescuer sent me pictures and video of Bravo interacting with littermates, other dogs, and the family cats. I’ll write more later about the puppy-cat introduction (prep work on both sides, of course!), but must say that it went even better than I could have imagined.

Finally — the name. We wanted something that celebrated a return to joy. And in my other passion, I’d just closed a hugely successful premiere of a 4th musical theatre production, STARZ the Musical — in which a group of misfits find a chosen family on the stage.

Isn’t that what happens when we choose our animal companions, or (like Karma-Kat) they choose us? So here’s to BRAVO and chosen families, whether expected or misfits that somehow make the perfect companions. So yep, I’ll be celebrating “mother’s day” again this year with my furry “kids” and may need to (get COMPLETE PUPPY CARE for all the must-knows!) with some cute pix.  I can’t wait to see what happens next — and yep, you can bet that the new furry muse will inspire more writer-icity projects!

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  1. Angela R McGill

    What a handsome guy. Congratulations on your new baby.

    • Linda

      Awww, I fell in love with Magic, just reading about him. I’m very sorry for your loss, but joyful for you and for Brovo! Mastiffs are big beautiful dogs. I love the “stacking’ video!


    What a sweet (of very large) boy you have there. I know he will growing those giant paws (erm.. some day!!)

    • Amy Shojai

      Hey Marjorie, thanks for visiting — and Bravo really knows how to use those paws, LOL! Thank goodness he’s so mild mannered.

  3. kelly

    What a beautiful story. It’s funny how we think things are going to be or happen in the future, but when they work out differently then we imagined and it seems it was always meant to be. Congratulations on you sweet “little” Bravo, I’m sure you will have plenty of cute photos and stories to tell in the very near future.

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Kelly. My phone already fills up with Bravo and Karma pictures.

  4. hbethp

    He’s so beautiful, and I’m happy you rescued!! When I reflect on all the cats and dogs I’ve said goodbye to, I don’t know who is the most saintly!! I forgot about Night Night jumping onto the top of the fridge,knocking over the vitamin bottle then eating them. I don’t remember TT eating styrofoam out of the box where our VCR was (yes it was years ago!!), and I can barely recall Saffy, my traumatised puppy mill rescue peeing on my very gorgeous,very expensive couch!

  5. sadieandco

    Congratulations! I love that saying, “Man proposes, but God disposes…”
    It’s heart-breaking to lose a companion. Finding another does not take their place but does fill our hearts once again. I look forward to more ‘Bravo’ stories.

  6. Julia Williams

    Lovely story! That first puppy pic of Magic — Squee!! Losing a beloved pet is so difficult, but now a new little one gets to have a fabulous life in his forever home.. Bravo is so cute, and I’m happy to hear that he likes kitties. What does kitty think of him?

    • Amy Shojai

      Karma-Kat doesn’t seem all that impressed, ha! We’ll see how that goes as Bravo grows…and grows….and GROWS!

  7. Treeno7

    Awww – he’s adorable! Congratulations. I know the heartbreak of loosing a beloved friend. I look forward to hearing how Karma-Kat adapted

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much–and Karma (so far) seems in a “so what?” kind of mood around him. LOL!

  8. Monika

    Congratulations on your new family member 🙂 Bravo is adorable. So nice that Karma got a new doggy friend.

  9. Ruth Epstein

    Mazal Tov on your new baby, he is just so adorable and cannot wait to read more about him. I am so happy that karma got a new brother and they are getting along well

  10. TailsDiary (@TailsDiary)

    Never heard before of that syndrome I am so sorry that this happened to your baby Magic but at the same time I am glad you have Bravo in your life.

    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you, it’s an awful situation and the only saving grace is that it’s not painful to the dog. Just frustrating. We
      are enjoying Bravo!

    • Amy Shojai

      Awww, thank you so much! Digital detox sounds like something that might help me!

  11. Christine AnimalHealer

    I loved reading Magic’s story and got a kick out of St. Spot Syndrome. I think we’re supposed to remember just the good stuff. I’m sorry for your loss and glad you have welcomed Bravo into your family. I hope he helps heal your heart.

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much Christine. Remembering the good stuff is a big comfort, truly.

  12. Jana Rade

    They can be such an inspiration, aren’t they? Memory does work this way – censored … I think it’s a good thing, really.

    • Amy Shojai

      Jana, you may be right. Otherwise, we might never take a chance on that next dream-pet!

  13. Beth

    I was hoping that you would add another dog to your family. I love the name and hope that Bravo will bring you much happiness!

  14. Sweet Purrfections

    I’m so happy for you! I look forward to reading about Bravo as he grows up and as he teaches you even more that you can share with the world!

    • Amy Shojai

      Awww, thank you! I’m so thrilled that he and Karma get along so well. He’s finally starting to offer play-bows to Karma, and the kitty doesn’t know what to think (Magic never did that).

  15. Stephanie Seger

    I just couldn’t be happier for you, your husband, Karma Kat and Bravo! I loved your discription of how different Bravo and Magic are in terms of personality. I felt the same way when I puppy sat a Rhodesian ridgeback puppy – mastiffs are just so very laid back compared to high drive breeds like GSD or RR. I loved the video of Magic stacking those frisbees! What a crazy, amazing, talented dog he was!

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Stephanie, thanks bunches. I’ve never interacted with an RR (other than seeing the handsome doggies at shows), but suspect they’d be on a par with GSD. I like to think Magic would have enjoyed having Bravo as a buddy.

  16. judy

    I remember my first exposure to a mastiff that wasn’t on tv. It was a hot summer day and we had just put our dogs back in the house with the a.c. we were finishing up outside and this dog the size of a pony came round the house. He looked in distress and I was too worried to be afraid of this very LARGE stranger I had never seen before. With a massive head that i was barely able to stay standing when he headbutted me for affection. He proceeded to climb into the wading pool and lay down drinking so much i was afraid he might get sick. And so he became my guest as i tried to keep him cooled down cursing whoever the owner was for leaving him outside in such heat. He literally drank the pool dry over the next hour. I stayed with him as my friend drive around asking if anyone had any idea who he belonged to. Finally this guy stopped when he saw him in our front yard. Seems the kids had left their gate open. I told him he needed to get him inside and let him cool down and to put cool water on his paws. And In The future to put a lock on his gate. But i fell in love with my guest. He was the sweetest most massive dog i had ever been exposed to. I tend to be a little skittish of large dogs after being attacked by a Rottweiler while walking my dog. I couldn’t get him off me or my dog who had the leash wrapped around my leg. I injured my hand trying to unclip my dogs leash to give my boy a chance. I had a golden retriever that was all lover not much fighter. Reds face was covered in blood. I finally took my keys and smacked the rottie on the nose with them. His owner comes out of the house crossing the street yelling at me for hitting his dog not even caring that i had blood running down my leg or my dog had a face full blood. I unleashed a very vocal torrent of swear words at him that would have made a sailor blush and at the top of my lungs I was screaming at him to get his dog under control. I was told later that they heard me at the other end of the street and that neighbor came running up the road to check on me. I had not even noticed my leg because i thought he had blinded my dog. But he had gotten red right above the eyeball socket in the eyebrow area. And i put pressure on it but it refused to stop bleeding. The vet told me that eye injuries in that area bleed a lot same as the place above his ear. But just seemed a lot worse than they were. Poor red. He was so sore the next few days. after that i was afraid to walk him. Cost that guy a pretty cent too between reds er visit and mine as well. But he didn’t learn his lesson. Idiot. The sheriff I called that went down to his house to inform him he would pay our bills told him if that dog attacked anyone else he would be charged and could lose the dog. 2 weeks after he had the dog loose in the back of his truck…a clear indication what a true idiot he was..and the dog leaped out of the truck as it was moving and attacked another woman and her dog. I pity dogs with owners like that. Totally irresponsible to leave a dog unrestrained in a pick up bed out on the road. If he had been going down the highway at 60mph the dog would have been killed.
    But that meeting with that bull mastiff I was told later always stayed clear in my mind. That such a huge dog could be so gentle. Although when he licked my face he nearly pushed me over. There was no doubt I had been kissed. I needed a full size towel for my face. And when he stepped on my foot i was sure he had smashed it. It was how he wanted to stand with his foot on top of yours leaning into your leg. A thousand wonders the poor boy had not had a heat stroke.
    But your boy is adorable. Although he has that look of innocence…who me ma? It was the cat that turned over the garbage can. And i have no idea how the lamp got knocked down. Anyone ever seen a very old Disney movie the ugly dauchsand. Yea I am sure i spelled it wrong. But it was about a great Dane raised with 3 of the weiner dogs. And he thought he was as small as they were. Plus they were always causing trouble and getting him blamed. If you ever want to have a long hard laugh watch that movie.

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Judy, yes Bravo does have that “innocent” look down pat. Hah! We’re having rain storm, and I just took him out and he wanted nothing to do with getting wet. So, soon as we came inside, he squatted…of course. My own fault–he’ll learn, eventually!

  17. Dakota/Caren/Cody

    I’m standing here clapping (with tears in my eyes) shouting “Bravo!! Bravo!!” I could NOT be happier for you! I LOVE THAT NAME and I LOVE THAT FACE!!! Karma looks like “WTF?” lol!!!! All Bravo needs is a pipe and a distinguished hat………oh my is he ever adorable!!!!! Hmmm….I think there should be a NEW BOOK featuring this distinguished looking gent!!! (hint, hint!) I am over-the-moon happy for you AND Bravo! He couldn’t have a better home! Wishing you many, many years of good health and happiness! xoxo

    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you Caren, you made me laugh out loud! We’re really enjoying him. Now if we can get him to that “a-ha!” moment with house training, before he gets REALLY big. *S*

  18. Frank Steele

    Really nice. I mean really, really nice!

  19. Susan Stutz

    What a handsome pup! I’ve heard from people I know how much they love their Mastiff dogs. I’ve always had shepherds, but like you am not sure I can face a GSD puppy, as my husband and I are getting older. We will see when the time comes. I look forward to hearing about Bravo as he grows in size and personality! Congratulations!

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much Susan. He’s a handful but so much fun! Thankfully, Bravo and Karma have already developed a positive relationship.

  20. mary

    We lost Moxie a fur baby that we got from a shelter in Oct. We got Lily from a shelter 2 weeks later.

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Mary, So sorry for the loss of Moxie–and I’m glad you found Lily to love so quickly, too. Thanks so much for commenting on the blog.

  21. Gail and Sunshine (Sunny)

    Best of luck with your beautiful pup. I understand that you wanted to wait a while before getting another dog; but, I can never wait. Some folks asked me if I was trying to replace my dog. No, I can never replace my baby. BUT, since I will adopt a rescued dog…I know I am saving a life. I have been told I treat my dogs better than most people treat their children. Well, I guess I do, because they are my kids. I have brought them into my family and I love them, care for them and treat them as I do any of my human family members. When times have been tough, my children and pets would get their food before me. If any of them are ill, they go either to their doctor or vet. So many people just don’t understand how important our pets can be…they are your friend, confidant, and the one who is always happy and great you when you walk through the door.
    So, congratulations on bringing Bravo into your life. I know Magic is looking down at you and he is smiling…

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much! Yes, they are part of the family, and now it’s hard to imagine that Bravo hasn’t always been here. Magic would have loved him!


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