Bum: Belonged to No One but Loved by Everyone

A homeless dog, given the name Bum, became famous in history as the town's beloved dog in San Diego, California.

In 1886, a St. Bernard-spaniel mix puppy boarded a steamship, the Santa Rosa, in San Francisco and headed to San Diego as a stowaway. After he got off the ship in San Diego, he wandered around town getting to know the people. Everyone who met him fell in love with the free spirited dog. He would sleep on the sidewalks and sometimes on people's front porches, and he was fed well by neighborhood butchers and local restaurants. Someone began calling him Bum and the name stuck. One restaurant even put up a sign that read "Bum eats her". Bum loved to roam the streets, hitch a ride on streetcars and even join the men on the fire wagon when the fire bell rang.

One day Bum got into a fight with another dog on the Santa Fe railroad tracks, and both dogs were hit by a train. The other dog died and Bum lost part of his tail and had to have his right front paw amputated. Bum eventually healed and was back out roaming the streets on three legs. A few years later Bum was injured again when his hind leg was fractured from a kick by a spooked horse. The local newspaper informed the concerned townspeople that Bum was doing well and would be out and about again in a few weeks, and they were welcome to visit him at a certain hour.

James Friend, a journalist (who often wrote about Bum) and telegrapher, saw Bum one day trying to climb aboard a north bound train. The porter discouraged him but Bum seemed determined to go. Friend sent a message to a reporter he knew in Los Angeles about the dog wanting to take a trip. The reporter met Bum at the train station in L.A., showed him around town for a couple of days then sent him back via train to San Diego.

When all dogs were required to be registered, Bum was granted a tag for life and his picture was featured on the first licenses issued.

In 1898, Bum was crippled with arthritis and by order of the Board of Supervisors, the town's dog was given a home at the County Hospital where he died a few months later on November 19. Local children collected pennies for his burial. It is not known where his grave site is, but a life-size statue of Bum sits in the pocket park in the Gaslamp District.

“Many of the townspeople would have gladly taken him home, but he wasn’t interested. He wanted to belong to the whole community," says Bob Marinaccio, the executive director of the Gaslamp District Historical Foundation.