From the moment the first wolf left its pack and joined his human family some 15,000 years ago, canines have been a valuable part of the human experience. They have been protectors, workers and loyal companions. Unfortunately, humans have not always been good stewards of that trust. As a member of the Humane Society of the United States , I do my small part in making the world a better place for our animal friends. I’m also honored to share my own life with two intelligent, loyal and loving Boston terriers, Charlie and Eddie. Recently, I came across a bit of news that reminded me of that special bond humans and dogs have and how we humans sometimes get it right.
Readers of this blog know the story of Jack the Dog and Tig. While Jack sat “alert and faithful” atop the Wells Fargo treasure box and Tig was giving his life in the line of duty, two other dogs were making their way into hearts and legend. The first was Bum. Here in San Diego, schoolchildren all know the story of Bum the dog . But soon, everyone in San Diego will know Bum’s story. Later this year, the San Diego-Edinburgh Sister City Society will complete a $54,000 fund-raiser and install a bronze statue of the ol’ boy in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego.
Bum was a St. Bernard and Spaniel mixed-breed dog who arrived in San Diego as a stowaway on board a San Francisco steam ship in 1886. Bum was friendly and soon adopted by the locals. He ate scraps from the best restaurants and even developed a drinking problem (yes, alcohol, for which he had to be treated!) thanks to some locals who thought it was funny to give him sips when he wandered into the saloons. Bum soon ruled the streets from Old Town to New Town, hopping streetcars back and forth. When his territory was challenged by another dog, the two began to fight, ending up on the railroad tracks at the wrong time. Bum lost part of his right leg and part of his tail, but the other dog lost his life. Legend has it that, except once to rescue a puppy, he never went near the tracks again.
Bum became a regular at parades and other civic events of the day, taking top spots with dignitaries and celebrities. And when the city passed a law requiring licenses for all dogs, Bum was granted immunity and his picture placed on the first licenses issued. Bum was and is forever San Diego’s “Official” Town Dog, and soon there will be a statue to prove it!
Joining Bum will be the famous Greyfriars Bobby from Edinburgh, Scotland . Bobby belonged to John Gray, a night watchman. For two years Bobby and John were inseparable. In February 1858, Gray died of tuberculosis and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, the local graveyard. It is told that Bobby spent the rest of his 14 years guarding his master’s grave. Locals are said to have built a small shelter next to the grave to protect Bobby from the harsh weather, as Bobby refused to leave, and a local restaurant owner fed him once a day. In 1867, when it was suggested that the unwanted dog should be destroyed, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers , who was also a director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals , paid for a renewal of Bobby’s license, making him the responsibility of the City Council.
Now, both dogs will have their day as dual statues will be placed in San Diego and Edinburgh.