Add this to the questions I’d love to ask a 1905 Santa Rosan: “What is a pet?” As a followup, I’d ask, “what do you consider to be animal cruelty?”

There are few mentions of pets in the 1905 newspapers. No pets were sold through classifieds, no notices appealed for help finding missing animals, no merchants advertised sales on feed. Except for the little Newman’s Drug Store ads for “Dent’s Dog Remedies,” you’d hardly know that anyone here had domestic pets at all.

What we can glimpse about pets in that era comes from news stories; we learn that some city residents kept raccoons because one got loose the year before on Cherry Street and a frightened neighbor thought there was a burglar on the roof, and another escapee was shot out of a tree by a policeman. Like today, people were tender-hearted; witness the couple on Fourth Street who tried to nurse back to health a paralyzed chicken.

Also like today, dogs were regarded with special affection. In all the reportage of the Battle of Sebastopol Avenue, the only true “human interest” story described Bum, a dog that became the mascot of the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway, catching rides back and forth as workers competed for his/her attention. But at the same time, dog poisoning was one of the most common crimes of the day. Or was it a crime in 1905? I recall no mention that police ever investigated, much less nabbed anyone for the killings.

But 1905 attitudes towards cats were considerably less sympathetic, judging from the final item below. At first I thought it must be a hoax, given both the unspeakable cruelty and the jokey writing style; the unlikely name of the perpetrator seemed like another clue. “John June?” Sure enough, however, a man by that name is listed in the 1905 Cloverdale directory, employed in “restaurant and livery.” Warning, cat-lovers: go read something else instead. Seriously.


“Bum” is the mascot of the electric railroad men and he is well known all over the system between this city and Petaluma. Bum is a dog picked up by one of the train men and duly installed as the canine pet of the road. He travels first on one car then on another, passenger or freight, and does not care what is is as long it is a ride. There are [sic] some good natured rivalry among the men as to which can lay claim to being “Bum’s” favorite, but so far doggie has evinced a rule to have all friends and no favorites. The men have taken up a subscription among themselves and have raised a fund sufficient to buy “Bum” a collar that will be one of the finest in dogdom. Director Frank Brush made “Bum’s” acquaintance the other day and incidentally learned the bit of history connected with the electric’s dog.

– Press Democrat, January 12, 1905
Long Time Without Food

Mr. and Mrs. S. Enders have a chicken at their home on Upper Fourth street which laid on its back, wedged between a fence and woodshed for an entire week, without food or water, and still lives. The night the chicken disappeared the family heard a noise and the barking of the dog, but could not locate the fowl. After a lapse of a week little Ralph Heim discovered the chicken laying with its feet pointed to heaven, and it was rescued. Special attention is being given the chicken at present, to nourish it back to full vigor and health. This is probably the longest instance on record of a fowl going without food and water and surviving. The animal’s limbs are apparently paralyzed.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 6, 1905
John June a Cloverdale Scientist Slaughters Citrus City Felines

Like the Geyserville dogs the Cloverdale cats are said to be mysteriously disappearing. The night warblings of backyard felines are becoming things of other eves and the bold mouse is pleasuring without fear.

The Citrus City cats are being sacrificed in the cause of science. John June, the owner of a restaurant, a livery stable, a hotel and a teething baby, is said to have been catching the Cloverdale monsters, skinning them while alive for the purpose of securing and applying the electricity in the fur to the jaw of his sick infant. Several physicians in turn called to treat the child but it is said their directions were not followed by the man with the monthly name and more cats failed to return to their home kitchens at dawn.

Finally Mrs. Prescott, representing the Humane Society, investigated the cat pelts lying around the June premises and swore out a warrant against the stable-keeping feline-electro scientist on the ground that he was committing a misdemeanor in not securing medical attendance for his sick child. June concluded to drop the study of electro science and skinning cats and sent for a physician to treat the infant.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 9, 1905

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