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Dog statue in Gaslamp highlights obscure part of San Diego history

Bum the Dog was once town mascot
Bum the Dog.png
Posted at 8:43 AM, Oct 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-21 12:29:50-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A statue of a dog that sits in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter is often overlooked, but historians say it says a lot about San Diego's past and its present.

"A lot of people walk by every day and don't even know the story of who Bum is," said Professor David Miller with the San Diego History Center.

Bum the Dog was a stray in the 1890s. According to the History Center, he arrived on a boat without an owner or any identification and made himself at home in his new town.

"He was really owned by nobody but loved by everybody, and he became a symbol of the new San Diego community," said Miller.

Throughout his life in San Diego, Bum would wander through all parts of downtown, often bridging the gap between the upper-class areas north of Market Street and the "seedier" parts of the Gaslamp Quarter.

"This was the area that you had the bars, the saloons, the brothels," said Miller. "Bum didn't live by the social categories that we had created. So he was just as comfortable going to the firehouse as he was going to the brothel or the Chinese butcher shop."

Bum also had adventures. Miller tells a story of how he wound up on a train to LA, spent a few days there, and then came back.

He also lost a paw in a fight with another dog. Local veterinarians took care of him whenever he got injured.

"A surgeon had to amputate part of Bum's leg. So he walked around with a limp for the rest of his life, but he was this hero who had to stand up for himself," said Miller.

The statue of Bum, also missing a paw, sits in the garden at the Gaslamp Historical Foundation. Most people who walk by it every day never see it.

Other parts of San Diego have paid homage to Bum. The city's dog licenses in the early 1900s had his picture on them. And the History Center's kids club is named after Bum.

Miller said Bum's story teaches us all about the importance of history.

"History is fun stories, it's people's lives, it's dogs getting into fights and kicked by horses and getting on trains to LA," said Miller. "But those stories tell us something more important about ourselves and who we are as San Diego."

The statue is located on 4th and Island on the Northeast corner. The garden is open to the public every day at 10 a.m.