You’ve probably heard of a Tale of Two Cities, but what about a City with Two Tails? Stay with me, this is going somewhere, I promise.
I’m a dog lover, always have been. But since we moved back to the UK and added a dog to our family, I’ve been reminded that dogs really are…well, the dogs ‘ahem’. Luckily for me, I live in Edinburgh. At least I do for another month or so until we move down south. Edinburgh is not only a very dog friendly city but also home to two dogs of note. Or at least, home to the stories and statues that continue to capture hearts, long after the dogs themselves have gone to the big kennel in the sky.
Edinburgh is a keeper of many stories, but few have touched hearts and captured imaginations like that of Greyfriars Bobby. The Skye terrier belonged to an Edinburgh resident by the name of John Gray, a night watchman known locally as ‘ Auld Jock’. The story goes that man and dog had been inseperable for several years and when Auld Jock passed away, his four legged friend wasn’t ready to leave his side.
The little dog led his masters funeral procession to his final resting place in Greyfriars Cemetary and took up residence upon his masters grave. Despite the best efforts of the graveyard keepers and local people, he refused to leave his post for any length of time. The loyal dog found his place in the hearts of local people as well as his master, and he was cared for until his own death in 1872. Bobby himself has a memorial stone in Greyfriars Kirk and of course, you’ll find his statue atop of the drinking fountain in the Old Town. The original design of his statue included two drinking fountains- one for people and one for dogs. The water has now been cut off and the basins filled in, but if you find yourself in need of a drink you’ll find a pub named after the loyal dog directly behind him.
How much of the story is true? I’d like to think all of it, its a heart-warming tale. I suspect like many a good story, it sprouted from a seed of truth but has grown with each telling. Whatever the fact and the fiction, Greyfriars Bobby will be forever part of the identity of Edinburgh. His little statue in the Old Town is the city’s smallest listed monument and is a major draw for visitors. Most can’t resist giving his nose a rub, it’s said to be a gesture that brings luck. Don’t be surprised if an Edinburgh local politely – or not so politely-asks you not to. It’s a custom that is damaging the little dogs nose.
Bum The Dog
Yes, the dogs name is really Bum. However, this dog hails from San Francisco so I think its safe to say the name is meant more in the sense of a vagrant or a wanderer than a rear end. What’s the old quote about Britain and America being divided by a common language?
Bum was a vagabond resident of the American city of San Diego, which was officially twinned with Edinburgh in the 1970’s , making the two city dogs brothers of a sort. Much like Bobby, Bum was an independent soul who did his own thing and won people over along the way.
Believed to have been a mix of St Bernard and Spaniel, Bum was born in 1886, or thereabouts. He was initially adopted as mascot and companion to a Fire Station, but he proved too adventurous for domestic life, preferring to roam. The story goes that his adventures included stowing away on a steam boat that carried him from San Francisco to San Diego, being adopted as a companion to a local fisherman and losing part of his right leg to a fight with another dog. He earned his name on the back of a reputation for eating well by being able to ‘bum’ scraps from diners at local eateries.
As with Bobby, no one really knows how much of the story is true and how much has been added and embellished over the years. But wagging tails make charming tales so I’d like to think Bum and Bobby both lived happy lives, local characters well cared for.
Find Greyfriars Bobby at the top of Candle Maker Row, opposite the National Museum of Scotland.
Find Bum in Princes Street Garden West, tucked away by the Kings Stable Road Entrance. To find him turn your back to the castle and he’s by the wall, but look carefully he is quite easy to miss.
And that’s it. A tale of two cities, a city of two tails. You can’t walk with these dogs, but you can walk between them, pay them a little visit and see a bit of the place along the way. Just remember to leave those noses alone…