In a wonderful article on dogster.com, San Francisco historian Joseph Amster tells the tale of Bummer and Lazarus, two stray dogs who rose to prominence in the city during the 1860s. Prized for their friendliness, their ability to catch rats, and their place in the works of lithographer Edward Jump, the two dogs were local institutions, so much so that they were above the law:
Stray dogs were everywhere in 1860s San Francisco, and in April 1862, the Board of Supervisors passed a law requiring the dogcatcher to round up any un-muzzled dogs and if they went unclaimed, they would be destroyed. The merchants, who came to rely on the dogs, were concerned. Lazarus was caught by the dogcatcher and redeemed by a merchant. An effort was launched to spare Bummer and Lazarus from any further jeopardy. After considerable lobbying, the Board of Supervisors passed a special law on June 17, 1862, giving the dogs free reign to roam where they pleased. Reportedly, Bummer and Lazarus were sitting outside of the meeting chamber when the law was being considered, although no one knows how they got there.
It’s a great story and speaks to how important dogs have been to American life throughout the country’s brief history.