In 1886, an unlikely figure arrived to the burgeoning city of San Diego and quickly became one of its most famous residents, mythologized for his free-spiritedness and dogged self-determination which seemed to embody that of the nation itself. And although he mingled among aristocracy and dined on the finest foods, he wasn't born in the chambers of the elite -- but rather in a kennel.
This is the story of Bum, a street dog who won the heart of a city.
Much of what is known of Bum's life comes from his close companion and biographer James Edward Friend, a journalist who often wrote of his exploits about town in a colorful blend of fact and fantasy. According to Friend, Bum was born in San Francisco in July 1886 to a stray, who along with all but one of her puppies was put down. A fire company took Bum in as their station pet, but he soon proved too independent-minded for domestic life, earning the St. Bernard-Spaniel mix his trampish title.
Legend has it that Bum then boarded the steamboat Santa Rosa as a stowaway, arriving to San Diego in December where he met Friend not long after. "For several days he visited points of interest in the boom-coming town," Friend writes, adding that a fisherman provided the dog with a place to sleep.
Life in his adopted city wasn't always easy, however. During a skirmish with a bulldog at the rail yard, the two were hit by a train, severing part of Bum's front right foot and killing the other dog. After healing from the incident, Bum's demeanor changed, noted Friend, as he "chose a life of gentlemanly leisure."