How Arlo Found Us

I didn’t want another dog for a long, long time after we put our English mastiff Bruno down the day after Lowell was born.

That was 2.5 years ago.

I said, let’s wait until Callie, our chocolate lab, passes.

She’s still alive and well (and nearly 13 years old).

I have enjoyed the lack of grown-man sized poops in our back yard and not having to worry about slipping on a puddle of slimy drool on our floor.

More pics of Arlo in this post!

The baseboards in this new home have no idea what’s coming (nor does the ceiling or the walls or the kitchen cabinets). I haven’t even stocked up on Magic Erasers yet. The kids are going to have to learn what a “slobber towel” is and how to get one quickly before they are slimed.

Mastiffs are messy and enormous and they poop very big poops.

And we missed having one in our family, like the crazy people we are.

A brief history of Bruno, our last English mastiff:


We got him when he was 4 months old. A woman bought him from a pet-store, not realizing he would grow to outweigh her husband. We paid her a small re-homing fee, and he went to us instead of a shelter. A month later he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and we gave him 2 injections of insulin a day, and checked his blood sugar levels with a human glucose monitor multiple times a day for the rest of his life.


When he was diagnosed, the vet told us we’d be lucky to get 5-6 years from him.┬áHe lived 10 years, which is an average life expectancy for a healthy mastiff.

He was a ton of work, and we never regretted any of it, even at the end when I was 9 months pregnant and he began having multiple seizures a day. Was I happy about it? Of course not, but I’ll never take that time back.

We grew to adore the breed. Truly, he was such a special dog. We had him long before we had kids. He was basically blind from cataracts by the time we brought our first baby home. He was never anything but loving toward all our children.


Kendall, 3 days old, and Bruno, 5 years old

Scott left me at the hospital with a 1 day old newborn to take Bruno to be put down. He’d had a seizure while in the backyard for a potty break. My mom couldn’t lift him to bring him in from the hot July sun.

I knew from the minute Scott came back, trying to hold his broken heart together for his wife and new son, that we would have another mastiff someday. What a shame that Lowell never got to know Bruno.

I thought we’d rescue one. For a few months I’ve been checking out local rescue groups. The thing about massive breeds, though, is some people in this world think they should be made into intimidating, fearful dogs.

It worried me to bring in a mastiff more than a few months old who may have been treated to fear humans or expect harm from them. You’re looking at a potentially 200+ lb dog with social issues, and while these can be worked through, we are not at a place to put our young children in that position.

Mastiff puppies never came up on any rescue sites.

So I began researching reputable breeders in the area. The kind that devote their lives to this breed, and aren’t producing puppies to be as giant as possible, but breeding for that gentle disposition that we fell in love with in Bruno.

After a bit of a hunt, and some wait lists, I found that one was adopting out a 12 month old mastiff, and I thought this might be the best compromise -an older dog, house trained, who needed a good home.

She wouldn’t sell him to me. Her concerns were that he wasn’t raised around children up to that point, and that would be okay if we had older kids, but knowing we had a 2.5 year old she didn’t think it would be a good fit.

Plus, there was a man coming to see about him the next day.

I respected her so much for that.

She followed up to let me know that she did have a litter of puppies ready to go that weekend, though. And yes, she had 2 brindle males, just like what we were looking for.

Well hell, I knew right then we were going to get a puppy.

We drove 2 hours out into the country, and we fell in love with her dogs and her. Her heart was the size of Texas, and you could tell she devotes her life not just to her mastiffs, but to animals in general. She had several cats and other dogs she’d rescued on the acres of land they lived on. It was like a happy animal farm.

Unlike the last time, when we knew Bruno came from a puppy mill and we never got to see his parents, this felt so right. Arlo came from a house of love. His parents were happy. Here’s his daddy, Hugo. (I couldn’t get a good pic of his mom. She was a runner.)

The Arlo we have now wasn’t our first choice. We went there thinking we’d get his larger brother with lighter brindle coloring. Scott loved the size of him at first glance and didn’t even really consider the other brindle male.

That is until the 2nd brindle attached himself to Kendall, following him around the puppy box. He walked right up to me and put his face in my hands while all the other puppies ran the other direction with the larger brindle male.

That one was the bossy pants ring-leader. This one? He was independent and sweet.


The breeder encouraged us to give him a better look. She felt he’d be a great fit for a family with a toddler. I love how she gently encouraged us to make the right choice, all the while letting us think it was our idea.

And yes, this was a family choice. A couple people asked if he was going to be a surprise Christmas gift for the kids. I respect that this is something some families do, and I don’t think less of them for it.

For us, though, we really wanted the kids to grasp that this dog is a lifetime commitment from everyone in our family.

He’s a pet, not a present. He’s not something we can donate to someone else in 6 months. He’s ours if he gets broken, he’s ours if he gets boring.

Kendall is very proud of the fact that our Arlo chose HIM. We didn’t find Arlo, Arlo found us.

Also, Arlo has an Instagram account now – @ArloTheMastiff– because I can’t stop taking pictures of his sweet face.

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  1. Danielle Michaud on

    I absolutely love this post.
    This is a lot of what happened with our puppy we got this weekend. It was something I had been pushing for in our house. I researched a ton and found a lovely lady in the area who like your breeder had dedicated herself to her dogs. We went to meet “Suzie” Friday night which just so happened to be Camden’s birthday, but once we got there “Suzie” was scared shitless of the kids. Too much chaos for her, and the other female puppy they had was like… “HEY! Me! Look at me!” She started playing with the kids and running around the yard with them and I knew then that she would be a much better fit for us.
    Boy was I right. Maggie, is now the center of everyone’s world.
    When I saw the pictures you posted of Arlo, I remembered sitting at my computer and crying like a baby while reading the post you wrote about putting Bruno down. Arlo is a lucky guy.

  2. Jasmine Robertson on

    I love this post and I agree with you on so many fronts. We had to put our boxer down this past April. She was an amazing dog that we had for 11 years. We got her when my oldest was 7 and my middle was 3. She never realized that she was a dog, she always acted human. But she was fantastic with all of our kids, my triplet neice and newphews and my other nephew who came along when she was 10. I have cried more over losing Layla than I have over anything in a really long time. My husband, has been looking at boxer puppies and we too will buy from a reputable breeder, while my kids are older I still have baby neices and nephews and even my older kids would not do well with a dog that could have potiential issues. I”m not in a super hurry for a new dog, the right dog will happen when its time, and I dont want to force the issue.

  3. Laura Braly Cochran on

    He is wonderful and adorable. Congratulations. Puppies are hard work just like babies. That’s why it’s great to get them when you are already used to have small, destructive beings in your home. We brought home a puppy in in June and even though he chews everything, steals food and eats the wall when he is locked out of a room we love,love, love him.

  4. How beautiful with how Arlo picked your family.

    We went through the same thing with our rescue pup, they were rescued at 5 weeks old and were skin and bone. I worked at the vet when the rescue brought them in for desexing and checks once they were a bit larger and fell in love with the Great Danes x Dobermans. When we went to see them, I already knew I was going there to see which female pup I wanted as we already had a male dog at home. So here I was calling the girls over trying to get a good look at them all the while they were racing around bowling the kids over and this little male came and sat next to me and put him paw on my knee. I shooed him away a couple times not even clicking that he was choosing us and then finally I realised that he was the “one”. 2 years later we don’t regret our decision, he is the most placid loving family member we could have asked for!

  5. How adorable!!! My puppies have made me so happy! Also, raising kids around dogs is such a gift!! Yay Arlo!! I love his name too!

  6. Good for you for getting the dog that is right for your family. We adopted a pursian kitten from a reputable breeder and people give us crap all the time for it. but after having our rescue become diabetic and sick, we knew we needed to know more about where our animal was from. Bruce chose us too. Congrats on the new fur baby!

  7. Kristin VanderHey Shaw on

    I love Arlo, I love the thought and care you put into this choice, and the love of dogs that you all have. I wish I could come cuddle him myself!

  8. Oh I just LOVE this! Our Rosie chose our 7 year old Jack. We adopted her at age 6.5 from a shelter and it hasn’t been easy. She’s a former hunting dog – very smart, needs to be very active, and we didn’t realize it from the initial meet and greet with our other dogs, but very dominant with other dogs. Currently she and our female don’t get along and it kind of sucks but…she’s Jack soulmate. She’s so good with the kids and Jack struggles with a number of issues (we’re looking at a possible ASD diagnosis) and she helps him so so much. Dogs are just the best.

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