A tribute to Bru posted on the outside of Beacon Paint and Hardware.

By Gus Saltonstall

The sidewalks did not tremble and the streetlights did not flicker, but a small wave rippled across the Upper West Side three weeks ago.

Bru the dog had passed on.

Steven Stark, co-owner of Beacon Paint and Hardware store between 77th and 78th and Amsterdam Avenue, took his dog Bru to the store every day for 13 years. In those 13 years Bru’s calm presence has moved on to wherever good dogs go after a lifetime of making friends.

Today, all that’s left is a heartfelt tribute to Bru that Stark has set up outside the store, with pictures and a few cut out words that attempt to capture what the cheerful black lab meant to Stark, and all those who came into contact with her in the neighborhood.

“Bru enriched my life, and all the lives she touched every day since she came into my life at two months old,” Stark wrote.

Bru had no problem lounging wherever she liked throughout the store. But she had her favorite place at the entrance to the back office—as evidence by the black marks still visible on the bottom of the door that her coat left from years of happy, consistent lounging.

“She made the store an even friendlier place,” Stark said the other day.

His customers agreed, especially those who often brought their own dogs in for a quick visit with Bru.

“I always thought that Bru added an extra bit of charm to Beacon,” said Linda Biel.

“Who wouldn’t like a business where you can bring in your dog and visit with the owner’s dog? She was just an absolute sweetheart.”

Bru and the Beacon family.

Bru also reserved a special place for another kind of clientele—children.

“When my younger son walked by Beacon to nursery school,” said Lee Ann Jonas-Stern,” he had to stop by each and every morning to say hi to Bru regardless of the weather or late we were.”

A favorite Bru story of everybody who works there is the time when Stark had to figure out a way to protect Bru’s feet from the freshly salted sidewalks of the Upper West Side after a big snowstorm.

In maybe the most hardware-store-esque solution of all time, Steven slipped four rubber gloves onto each of Bru’s paws. Bru walked through the store making a smacking sound with every step, as all the employees buckled over with laughter.

Bru didn’t seem overly happy about it though, and it was the last time she wore plastic gloves.

The labrador was named after Stark’s brother and store co-owner, Bruce Stark. Bruce also played a pivotal role in the idea of Bru coming to the store every day after; Steven confided he was worried about leaving Bru the puppy at home all day.

“So, bring her to work,” Bruce responded.

And every customer that has walked into the store since is thankful for Bruce’s suggestion.

Said customer John McNally, who trains service dogs for the blind: Everybody became a better person because of Bru.”

Read Steven’s entire tribute below:

For those of you who follow my posts about my beloved dog, Bru, I have bad news: She lost her battle with cancer today. I just returned from euthanizing her. Yes, I have been crying.

The last week has been very tough. She was breathing heavy, her pulse was way up and she could hardly get up on her own or walk. I took her to the Animal Medical Center this morning for her monthly check-up; an abdominal ultrasound was planned. But the oncologist called me to say there was no point in doing it. Bru was in pain and suffering. “Bru isn’t Bru,” the oncologist said.

That’s true. Bru was not Bru. In fact, last night, I could hear her panting while trying to sleep. I lay down next to her and stroked her head. The look in her eyes said it all. This morning, when the vet tech took her from me at the Animal Medical Center, she gave me a look that confirmed it: Daddy, it’s time to let me go.

I always knew this day would come, especially when Bru was diagnosed with cancer last year. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier; it never does.

Bru was two months shy of her 13th birthday, which means she was between 90 and 100 in human years. The cancer from which she suffered was her first and only major illness in all those years. For that, I am very grateful.

And while I am presently overwhelmed by grief, I am comforted by the fact that Bru enriched my life, and all the lives she touched, every day since she came into my life at 2 months old.

I could write volumes on what a sweetheart she was. She was smart, silly, and loved just about everyone she ever met. She especially loved children, and would wag her tail like crazy and roll over for belly rubs when kids would come into my store with the parents.

She was mostly friendly with other dogs, although she was always afraid they’d steal her lunch. Bru had several close dog friends over the years, some of whom we met on the many mornings she spent in Central Park. That’s how I met one of my best friends, Eric Wynne, whose chocolate Lab, Satch, passed away a few years ago. It’s how I met David Ottavio, our now official walkathon photographer, whose dog, Rugby, is fighting his own health battle. And there was Baxter, the yellow Lab, whose Mom, Corinne Beschner, came into my store one day as she was passing by just to say hi to a cute little black Lab named Bru. And of course, Reggie, the Wheaton Terrier, whose parents, Seth and Cindy Horowitz, are also among my closest friends. And on and on the list goes.

I have always loved dogs. My late sister, Marcia, received two Guide Dogs from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The second one was a black Lab named Carrie. I didn’t have quite the same relationship with Carrie, and I was away at college when she passed away. I always wanted my own dog after that and I lived vicariously through my customers’ dogs over the years.

Before I got Bru, I was in Costa Rica on vacation and rather than swap stories or drink with some of my fellow travelers, I lay down on the floor and played with the bar owner’s dog. A few years ago, while vacationing in Italy, I detoured from a group tour to play with a native’s dog, who proceeded to bathe my face in kisses. Somewhere, there’s a photo of that.

How did I get Bru? Well, I met a woman on JDate and she was a dog trainer. She was moving to NYC and I helped her find an apartment. We didn’t date, but remained friends. She knew a lot of dog breeders, and brought one back for me from Texas. She said Bru was the pick of the litter, and was she ever right.

When I asked my brother, Bruce, about the possibility of getting a dog, I told him I did not want to leave her home all day. “So, bring her to work,” he said. And I did – every day.
I even named Bru after Bruce. There was a “Seinfeld” episode in which Kramer had a rooster who did cock fighting. He named the rooster Little Jerry Seinfeld. Since I did not have a name picked out for my pup, Bruce and I joked I should name it after him. Since it was a female dog, I thought Bru was fitting. Nice, short, one syllable. Like Spot.

So, I will celebrate Bru’s life. I am so incredibly grateful she was a part of my life for as long as she was. She made me a better person.

NEWS | 15 comments | permalink
    1. PedestrianJustice says:

      What a wonderful tribute. Thank you for sharing this, WSR. All hail Bru!

    2. Gregg says:

      This was beautiful. Thanks for sharing all of these wonderful and loving memories.

    3. Lisa says:

      Anyone who has had the privilege of having a dog as part of their family understands the pain you are in, Steven, and we weep with you. Dogs are so very special; their only fault is their short lifespan. I am so sorry.

    4. Fazia Mangru says:

      Our beautiful “BRU” …
      Now a Celebrity …will always be in our heart …


    5. Cyrus says:

      My condolences to Steven and those who knew Bru over his lifetime. It’s always difficult to lose a furry friend.

      RIP Bru

    6. Barbara Fight says:

      Bru had an amazing spirit. I loved coming in with my dog knowing she’d be there.
      So sorry for your loss. She will be missed.

    7. Giulia says:

      I didn’t know Bru but I know the pain of losing a dog, and I cried at this lovely tribute. Thank you.

    8. Diana says:

      Such a nice tribute. Condolences on the loss of a special dog.

    9. MJ says:

      This is so sad. She was such a sweet doggie. RIP, Bru, condolences to the entire Beacon family and thank you for sharing her with us.

    10. Darwin says:

      Bru was a real member of the UWS community & she will be missed. Walking into Beacon won’t be the same. Condolences.

    11. Marci says:

      I remember Bru! What a sweet dog and what a heartwarming tribute! Rest In Peace Bru! There will always be a lot of love in our hearts for you. You will be missed!

    12. richard roth says:

      Condolences Stark family. so helpful when I did a story with them. Love the lab.
      Richard Roth

    13. Jane says:

      My heart goes out to The Beacon Family! Having lost a much loved dog and, certainly a wonderful member of my family, I know how much your heart aches! I am so sorry for your loss and I thank you for sharing your incredible tribute to Bru.

    14. Tracey says:

      Aw, Bru…. always loved seeing you at the store. When my son was a 5th grader at PS87, newly transferred from another school which made us feel like newcomers to the neighborhood, walking by the hardware store with the beautiful black lab puppy on the front stoop with her beaming with pride dad was a highlight of our day. In recent years I would come in with my own dog. My son is grown and Bru has left us. Sad.