Story of two stray dogs – Bummer and Lazarus

two stray dogs

Story of two stray dogs – Recognized for their legendary friendship, Bummer and Lazarus were two stray dogs who wandered the streets of San Francisco, California, United States. The relationship between these two stray dogs was so famous that they became celebrities in the early 1860s.

The citizens of Emperor Norton’s city loved them for their rat-killing skills and their friendship made journalists and reporters write about the duo in the local newspapers. Everything Bummer and Lazarus did, used to get published in the newspapers. All of this was due to their friendship and unity.

Bummer and Lazarus did everything together as one team and they were best pals. From guarding the streets at night, stealing a bone from another dog, exposing rat nests, to stopping a runaway horse, their joint-ventures were innumerable.

In a city with strict anti-stray dog policies, it wasn’t easy for the duo to survive in the beginning. Notably, in the Montgomery Street there was a large number of stray dogs. The stray dog population was a serious problem to the localities and as many complaints of rabies emerged, the stray dogs were being destroyed by the animal control.  

However, Bummer and Lazarus were loved so much that when a new dog catcher captured Lazarus, the locals became furious and an angry mob demanded to free him until the city supervisor let go, releasing Lazarus.

The incident ended with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declaring that Lazarus and his best mate Bummer were beyond all the city’s anti-stray laws and could freely roam the city.

Bummer and Lazarus had a special quality that gained them recommendation and reputation: they were terrific rat-catchers at a time when rats were also a serious problem. It was their extra-ordinary rat-killing ability that distinguished them from other stray dogs.

Bummer would chase and corner the rats and Lazarus would bark to confirm their hiding nest, and both would destroy the rats one by one.

The bond that grew between the two dogs attracted attention along Montgomery Street, the main street for restaurants and bars in San Francisco. 

Their prodigious talent had earned them a name in their locality to a status that Bummer and Lazarus were very much respected and exempted from local ordinances.

Interestingly, they were immortalized in cartoons by Edward Jump, a young French artist, who included the two dogs in a series of satirical cartoons along with the city’s notable characters. One of these characters was Joshua Abraham Norton, who proclaimed himself as the Emperor Norton I of the United States and Mexico in 1859.

Later on, these cartoon illustrations led to the myth that Bummer and Lazarus were Norton’s pets, but there weren’t. They were street dogs and belonged to no person, they belonged to San Francisco.

When Lazarus died in October 1863 and Bummer in November 1965, a newspaper – called ‘The Bulletin’ gave them a tribute and referred to them as: “Two dogs but with a single bark, two tails that wagged as one.”

On March 28, 1992, a brass plaque of 30″ x 20″ was installed at the base of one of the city’s most visible and famous landmarks, the Transamerica Pyramid, recalling the adventures and misadventures of the legendary stray-duo, Bummer and Lazarus.

Two dogs but with a single bark.

Two tails that wagged as one.

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