The Story of Mr. Rio Bravo. He Was Just A Dog.

Just a dog.. of the young Anatolian Mastiff variety who, about 7 years ago, landed in a Georgia shelter where animals are killed to make room for others. They bounced him around from eager foster home to foster home. Despite his striking good looks, he was a huge wild child with no manners and apparently wore out his welcomes a little too quickly. Rio Bravo eventually caught the eyes of Denise & Dell Bryant, a retired couple in Houston, TX. They adopted him. Gave him the love, stability, and training that he needed. Enough to find his purpose.. & become a 150 pound certified therapy dog. (I took the photo above for an art installation at Memorial Hermann Hospital Medical Center in 2012 of the 19 therapy dogs & 1 cat who work in the hospital. I’ve been smitten with him ever since.)

Just a dog.. who piloted an animal assisted therapy program for down syndrome & autistic children in Houston..of which the Kids Developmental Clinic’s program is based on today. Who worked weekly all these years assisting literally 1000’s of people and children to heal. “I can’t tell you how many stories there are. One time we were visiting a young child who had been in a coma. He laid his head gently on the child’s arm. It didn’t take long. First the fingers moved. And then his little toes. Then he woke up. It was amazing. But that’s just the power of Rio Bravo.” (Most of the photos above were taken by Rio’s proud Daddy Dell Bryant).

Just a dog.. who dressed in silly costumes to do his work. Because it made people smile. Even when he got sick. And he was very sick. Aggressive bone cancer in his leg sick. He did his therapy work as scheduled on January 16th. His parents were so proud. Unbeknownst to them, it would be his last tour of duty. Helping heal the patients at Memorial Hermann Hospital’s Outpatient Cancer Center. Funny how life works, isn’t it?

Just a dog.. who “spoke” on command, but never barked for just no reason to his parents even though it is a common characteristic of the breed. He spoke to them a lot the last few days. Let them know it was time.. But maybe they needed one more sign.. It came in gorgeous rainbow colors of light soon after I arrived this morning.

And then, as planned, Denise & Dell said goodbye to Rio Bravo tonite. Even though their hearts are broken, the Bryant’s are so grateful for all their blessings by way of Rio Bravo & they so appreciate all their friends & those who loved him so. Just a dignified doctor, healer, counselor, soldier. Just a big brave guy with a gentle soul who did so much living & inspiring & kicking ass in his short time here. Popular on foot. No interwebs needed. Just a legend. Just my friend. I love you Rio Bravo. ‘Til we meet again..



Donations in memory of Rio Bravo can be made to the following charities that mean so much to his family:

National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue Network

FAITHFUL PAWS Pet Therapy of Houston, Texas

Rio singing along with the band on the visit to Memorial Hermann Hospital. Dell said the band had a hard time keeping a straight face.

Bringing you these dog stories takes precious time and resources. It's important to me, and I'll do it no matter what. But your small donation — even $1 or $2 — goes a long way toward helping me maintain my website and continue to invest my time and energy into helping give voice to these animals who so desperately need one.

robyn arouty