Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Tail of Two Cities

Late in the afternoon on our first day in Edinburgh we trudged up Candlemaker Row in the drizzle looking for the statue of a famous little dog and the churchyard where he and his master are buried. His master - some say he was a local farmer, some a policeman - died in 1858, two years after he acquired Bobby, a Skye terrier. Bobby stayed on his master’s grave until he died 14 years later, leaving only to get lunch about one o’clock at a nearby pub, then called Traills Coffee House, now Greyfriar’s Bobby Inn.

Famous even in his time, he was buried in the Greyfriar’s churchyard and a Baroness erected a fountain and statue in front of the tavern a year after his death. His is the most photographed statue in Scotland.

Greyfriars Kirk, Bobby's grave just inside the entrance

What is it about Bobby’s story that makes visitors like Joan and Patty and myself endure the elements and jet lag to search out this little guy’s statue? Is this kind of faithfulness and loyalty missing from our lives today?

In 1886, soon after Bobby, San Diego had its own dog story. Bum, a St. Bernard - spaniel mix (that must have been some union!) stowed onto a steamer from San Francisco and got off in San Diego to become a fixture in the Gaslamp area of town for the next 12 years. He hung around downtown restaurants and bars where, unfortunately, patrons fed him alcohol and he had to go through detox. He hitched rides on streetcars and lost a front leg on a train track. Famous also in his time, he rode the fire engines, participated in town parades, and his picture was put on dog licenses.

Bum was a vagabond loyal to a town. Quite a contrast, but both dogs are immortalized with their statues in a little park at 4th and Island in the Gaslamp.

San Diego’s sister city, Edinburgh, brought over a statue of Bobby in 1998

and last month a delegation from San Diego traveled to Edinburgh to place a statue of Bum in Prince Street Gardens, just down the hill from Bobby.

Why all the fuss about these two? What is it about these two guys that makes them heroes?

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