A Tale of Two Dogs – Bummer and Lazarus

November 17, 2019


Dogs are a beloved part of our lives and everyone knows it. All you have to do is look around and chances are you will see someone taking their beloved four-legged friend for a nice walk.

But dogs weren’t always so highly regarded. In the 1860s, San Francisco had a rather large problem with stray and feral dogs. The situation was so bad that dogs were regularly poisoned and killed.

Yet there were two dogs that no one in San Francisco messed with. Their names were Bummer and Lazarus, and they had all of San Francisco in love with them.

A Tale of Two Dogs

In the 1860s, a man named Frederick Martin owned a saloon in San Francisco.

Out of all the regulars who came to call at this saloon, the 2 most common were a couple stray dogs that people had taken to calling Bummer and Lazarus.

Bummer earned his name by begging scraps from passerby, while Lazarus was given his name after recovering from a vicious attack by another dog.

The pair was inseparable after Bummer helped Lazarus recover from his wounds by coaxing him to eat, bringing back scraps from his scavenging missions and huddling next to him to keep him warm during the night.

The duo earned the love of the city by being exceptional ratters, or rat-hunting dogs. The city cared about them so much, that the Californian, Daily Alta California, Daily Morning Call and Daily Evening Bulletin, all local newspapers, ran articles about the dogs and eventually created a cartoon of the pair.

Not to mention that these dogs were exempted from the city ordinance on strays. Once, a poor dog catcher new to the job rounded up Lazarus. He was released after an angry mob gathered in protest, which eventually prompted the mayor to sign into law the amendment excluding the doggy-duo from local ordinances.

When the dogs both eventually died, after many years of adventures, it was to the lament of the city. Lazarus, who passed first, was given a rather long obituary in the Daily Evening Bulletin titled “Lament for Lazarus”. Bummer, who passed on years later, received an even higher honor: his eulogy was written by none other than Mark Twain.

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