Saturday, March 7, 2015

Go Dog L.A. - Some History of Dogs in Early Los Angeles

Peter, a favorite dog of Rancho Camulos, ca. 1880s
Image courtesy Seaver Center for Western History Research

Downtown at Maple Avenue, just north of Washington Boulevard is a doggie day care place, Go Dog L.A. - large, open spaces for big dogs; a smaller-sized open space for the little ones.  I used to board my dogs there.  Two dog parks have come to be, too, in recent years, as the climb of downtown's resident population has necessitated amenities for their dogs.

The canine citizens in 19th century L.A. had the full run of the city.  In the summer of 1855, nearly five years after Los Angeles became a city of the United States, the Mayor and the Common Council passed revised ordinances that included ones to address public nuisances of pigs, hogs and dogs running loose.  A dog was required to wear a collar and a tag identifying its owner.  Collarless dogs risked being killed by the Marshal; the Marshal could then also track down the owner to recoup costs.  (Loose pigs and hogs caught were likely to be auctioned off.)

Harris Newmark recalled in his book Sixty Years in Southern California, 1853-1913, the first dog he had was killed as a result of stray poison by "evil-disposed or thoughtless persons, with no respect of the owner, whether a neighbor or not, and without the slightest consideration for pedigree, were in the habit of throwing poison on the streets to kill off canines, of which there was certainly a superabundance."

Newmark also wrote that wooden carretas, pulled by oxen, emitted a loud squeaking that was heard from a long distance - owed to the lack of factory or traffic noise).  The sound signaled to town merchants that a buyer was approaching.  A carreta might have one or more families on board.  The men would accompany their families on horseback, wielding a long stick to prod the wandering ox to stay the course.  Following the carretas were always "from 25 to 50 dogs, barking and howling as if mad."  (The 1855 ordinance set the speed limit for riding or driving a horse, mule or beast of burden at no more than five miles an hour.)

I found a factoid from a secondary source (a form used to nominate El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park for the National Register of Historic Places):

  • The City of Los Angeles in 1870 had 5,700 people, 110 saloons, and 4,000 dogs.
In the winter of 1881, a mustang was left untied in front of a house in the upper end of town.  The young horse made a dash, and by the time he raced down Main Street at 50 miles an hour, with half of the town's boys in tow, along with "something less than 200,000 dogs".  (Perhaps an exaggeration by the newspaper report.)

The Avila Adobe with two boys and their dog, ca. 1890s
Image courtesy of the Seaver Center

Boy and his dog at Laguna de Toluca, today's North Hollywood, ca. 1900
Image courtesy of the Seaver Center
A dog rests by house near Garvanza, today's Highland Park-South Pasadena, ca. 1900
Image courtesy of the Seaver Center
Numerous dogs abound in this Fiesta Scene, by Alexander F. Harmer, ca. 1885
Image courtesy of the Seaver Center
Favorite dog, Peter, again, riding with Ulpiano del Valle, ca. 1890.  The del Valle's were rancheros of Rancho Camulos, in today's Ventura County, a place that inspired Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona.
Image courtesy of the Seaver Center
Group up in Elysian Park, along with their pup showing off its hind-legged stance, ca. 1905
Image courtesy of the Seaver Center

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