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Dog's solo 4-mile walks make him a big star in a small town

A dog named Bruno has become so beloved in a small Minnesota community for his solo walks into town that he got his own statue.
/ Source: TODAY

The calls to Larry and Debbie LaVallee usually start coming in the summer when tourists to their small Minnesota town meet the local celebrity.

"People will call and say, 'I found your dog in town,''' Larry LaVallee told TODAY. "I usually say, 'He'll be all right, just let him go. He'll make it home on his own.'''

Thirteen years ago, the LaVallees' dog, Bruno, showed up as a stray puppy at the end of their driveway. Larry decided on the spot to keep him.

Soon Bruno became the most well-known dog in Longville for his regular solo walks from the LaVallees' home to the downtown area about four miles away. He wears a collar with his name and the LaVallees' phone number on it, which explains the calls.

RELATED: Watch KARE's original story about Bruno

"I tried to get him to stay home,'' LaVallee said. "I'd chain him up, and he'd try to hang himself. Then I took and had him fixed, which is supposed to calm them down, but it didn't. That's when I decided he was a runner, so I let him go to town every day."

Larry, who is now retired, used to leave in the morning to go on his garbage collection route, and Bruno would leave with him and spend most of the day walking around downtown Longville.

"People got to know him pretty quickly,'' he said. "He's a pretty laid-back dog and as friendly as can be."

People often feed Bruno a treat when they see him, which luckily hasn't been a problem for him, health-wise. He doesn't eat dog bones and rarely eats regular dog food.

"His favorite is venison,'' Larry said. "I think he's part wolf."

Bruno, whose story was first highlighted by NBC affiliate KARE, has become such a fixture in town that there is a Facebook page where people post pictures of their sightings of him.

He even got his own statue downtown last year, accompanied by a plaque that reads, "Longville's town dog and ambassador."

"When they put that up, a lot of people thought he died,'' LaVallee said while laughing. "My son put a GoPro camera on Bruno's head one time, and in part of the video a woman was petting the statue while Bruno was standing behind her recording it. If she had turned around, she might have fallen over because she probably thought he was dead."

At more than 13 years old, Bruno is slowing down. He only makes the jaunt into town about two or three days a week, spending most of his time with the LaVallees in the 50-acre area that also includes the homes of their son and daughter.

Bruno with one of his many fans!Brenda Lunde-Gilsrud / facebook

His amazing traffic-dodging skills luckily don't have to be put to use as much any more. On his way out of town to go back home now, he usually hitches a ride instead of walking.

"He knows so many people that he'll just lay next to a truck of somebody he knows and they will drive him back here,'' Larry said. "It's kind of comical but also amazing how much attention people give to him."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.