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Dogs, donkeys a part of LJ history

Editor’s note: In anticipation of the La Jolla Pet Parade and Festival on May 16, Carol Olten, the historian for the La Jolla Historical Society, combed the archives for stories about pets of the past. Here’s what she found.

Dogs and donkeys were the prominent pets in La Jolla’s early history, when there were only dirt paths and a population of about 200 people.

Donkeys became popular animals to be hitched to carts to pull children around the beaches, especially one particularly beloved animal named Rags. Rags belonged to no one in particular, was fed by everyone and seemed happy to pull any cart to which he was hitched.

Running free

In La Jolla of the early 20th century, dogs played freely in the streets long before leash laws and ranged from mutts to those highly pedigreed. An Irish setter named Rajah became a legend around La Jolla much like Rags, taking himself for walks and going into bank lobbies where he lounged on the plush furniture.

Rajah also was notorious for trying to get into the Casa de Manana when it was a fancy resort hotel, but its proprietress, Isabel Hopkins, repeatedly kicked him out.

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Other canines regularly sighted around La Jolla included a small dog that followed photographer Leopold Hugo around on outings to photograph billowing clouds and crashing surf. Another regular sight was the cocker spaniel named Red accompanying local literary scribe Walt Mason on daily walks around the village.

Royalty comes to town

In the 1920s, La Jolla often was host to aristocratic European cafe society, and a number of royals were known to visit bringing canine entourages. Among them was the Princess de Montyglyon, a Belgian countess with lineage to the Holy Roman Empire who traveled with four Samoyeds, two collies and two chow chows, all of whom were show dogs.

(The princess’s famous Moustan sammy was the first of the breed registered in the American Kennel Club studbook and had been given to her by Russia’s Grand Duke Nicholas, brother of the czar.)

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Unfortunately, the La Jolla Historical Society’s archival animal file does not include a picture of the princess and her dogs. But there are other visual gems.Sheepdogs and tabbyThey include a photograph, circa 1910, of two huge English sheepdogs dressed in bonnets pushing a wicker baby carriage and another, of similar vintage, showing Simon, the revered tabby of the Anson Mills family, cuddling peacefully in the living room.(Ironically, history does not record a rhymin’ Simon poem about the family cat by the Mills’ daughter, Ellen, who was a poet and literary scribe, but we do have Ms. Mills’ poem about La Jolla dogs recorded for posterity.)

In 1937, La Jollans organized the first Pet Pooch Parade, followed by a second a year later, to showcase their canine collection. Cups were awarded in various categories, and the parade was the lead story on the front page of the La Jolla Journal newspaper carrying a banner headline: “Pet pooch parade at Playground next Sunday afternoon.”
Records do not exist as to what pooches attended.Even a tombstoneBesides numerous photographs of early La Jolla pets, the La Jolla Historical Society also has a marble tombstone that once marked the grave of Queenie, the beloved dog of the Hal Higgins family that died in 1930. Higgins for many years was the chauffeur for Ellen Browning Scripps and lived on Eads Avenue.History also fails to record whether or not Scripps or her half-sister, Eliza Virginia, had pets. We do have records, however, that after Ellen Browning Scripps’ death in 1932, her Rolls Royce was given to a La Jolla gentleman named Charles T. Mason, who owned two Great Danes, a St. Bernard and several Airedales. He drove the dogs around in the open Rolls--a familiar and conspicuous La Jolla pet sight.