Monday, November 16, 2015

NOLA Street Dogs

We recently came across the tale of two famous New Orleans street dogs, Mike and Boozer. One hung around the Central Business District, the other habituated the French Quarter. In May 1914, Home and Country's traveling correspondent wrote:

"Down on St. Charles street, just a little distance from Canal, we will find 'Mike.' Everybody speaks of Mike when they pass him, although he is an old white dog brought to New Orleans on board an ocean liner as a special guest of the Captain, some years ago. Mike was born in London some twenty-three years ago, and has visited every port in the world.(1) To every cheery 'good morning' or 'good evening' of the passerby, Mike responds with a thump of his stubby tail on the sidewalk, a blink of one of his bleared [sic], old eyes or a nod of his battle-scarred head in much the same manner as a centenarian to whom the world is bound to show respect. We will get better acquainted with Mike some of these days. Maybe he will tell us some stories of how strange seaports appear to a dog. In the 'vieux carre' we will have to visit 'Boozer.' At one time 'Boozer' was appropriately named, for he drank not less than fourteen strong milk punches every day. Then, like a lot of other good fellows, he commenced to miss a good many of his old pals among the men who visited his master, and he began to feel strange and out of sorts. The change in 'Boozer' was so marked, that the doctor was called in and the whole trouble was laid to the door of the milk punches. As a result 'Boozer' went to the whiskey cure. He stayed there for twenty-eight days and came back a total abstainer. Next to Mike, he is perhaps the best known canine character in New Orleans. There are two factions in the city each of which will insist that one dog or the other is entitled to the medal; Mike, owing to the fact that he is the only dog in New Orleans to have been arrested and kept in a cell for fifteen days like a human, convicted of disorderly conduct; and 'Boozer,' because he is the only dog in the country to have taken the whiskey cure."(2)

If you are now wondering whether this story is a bunch of hogwash, you may be interested in a little more background information.

Mike was a favorite of the Central Business District, friend to the NOFD, saloon owners and countless messenger boys. His haunts included St. Charles and Perdido Streets. His early years in New Orleans were spent at the Klaw and Erlanger Theatres; he later circulated with the American District Telegraph runners. When a late life attack rendered him incapacitated, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals administered strychnine and he was buried in an unmarked grave.(3)

Boozer was a French Quarter regular, adopted by J.J. Brauning, proprietor of the Greenwall Cafe at Dauphine and Iberville Streets. Boozer had arrived in New Orleans as a puppy, in the company of New York tourists who decided they could not care for him and subsequently passed him on to Brauning. When automobiles began to appear in the section, Boozer adopted a fondness for hitch-hiking. When the dog's health began to decline dramatically, Brauning took Boozer to a Burgundy Street veterinarian who offered to administer the so-called "Keeley Cure." When Boozer died in May 1915, Brauning buried him and marked the Dauphine Street grave with a marble slab.(4)

BTW, Tulane University Libraries maintain important book collections named for former New Orleanians Charlee Lachatte and Little Awful Annie.

(1)Some claimed his origins to be a Third Ward saloon.

(2)"Rambling around the 'Vieux Carre' and the New New Orleans." Home and Country X:8 (May 1914): 5-31, 31.

(3)"Mike, Most Famous Dog in New Orleans, Leaves His Beaten Paths to Meet Death." The Times-Picayune 26 May 1914.

(4)"Boozer Fills New-Made Grave Found in Dauphine Street." The Times-Picayune 9 August 1916.

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