Town favorites come in all breeds!
San Francisco’s mid-19th century favorite the eccentric, Emperor Norton I, had two canine companions, the nondescript Bummer and Lazarus. Nevada City never had a royal figure, but it did have two canine favorites, town characters if you please. In the 1950s and 1960s, Grover and George were well known to most residents of the county seat.
They did not travel together, nor were they one person’s companion. I was lucky enough to have been on a first name basis with the two and had photographed them numerous times. Here are brief biographies of each.
Grover (last name and birth date unknown), a short-haired, light brown, manly boxer, was Nevada City’s foremost boulevardier, that is to say, he was the canine equivalent of a man-about-town.
He was without a visible income. However, many of the town’s caring citizens would pick up the tab for any number of Grover’s needs or foibles.
City Councilman Jack Brickell bought him his first collar with license attached. He repaid this kindness by promptly chewing through and losing said neckwear.
A few times (sans collar) he was picked up by animal control but was bailed out, usually within 24 hours. Once he was accidentally locked in a Broad Street cafe overnight. The result: one lemon pie and two loaves of bread were demolished. A collection taken from bistro patrons reimbursed the restaurateur.
His favorite lounging spot was on the seat of Art Gagliardi’s Nevada City Garbage Service truck. From his open-air perch, he observed the comings and goings of the daily throng. Here he held court, and here he would spend hours napping.
Everyone knew him and almost all who passed the parked truck would pause a moment to say hello or pat him on the head. Grover tolerated the attention, but would quickly return to his slumber.
Occasionally he would stand up, arch his back, stretch, yawn and then accompany Art as he picked up the discarded surplus from any of Broad Street’s finer restaurants. He rarely sampled the offerings Art quickly deposited in the open truck bin. He was ever the gourmand and had a regular dining routine.
Jim Sharpe on Gold Tunnel Drive would offer him meals, as did Al and Margaret Trivelpiece from the front porch of their South Pine Street digs. Grover had class. He would not go to the back door, which he considered the tradesman’s entrance.
Margaret once told me, “I remember Grover as a thoroughbred by heart, if not by breeding. I was proud that he picked me for a friend and our house as one of the many homes where his whims (and hungers) took him.”
Grover passed on from complications of an enlarged heart. No one knew his age or place of birth. Gagliardi claimed that survivors included at least 23 offspring. He was not monogamous.
His obituary appeared in a local weekly newspaper and concluded:
“There was a sadness in the bistros of Broad and Commercial Streets following Grover’s passing and … a vacant place on the front seat of Art’s garbage truck. No canine … (can) take the place of that lovable, devil-may-care … almost human, best friend to mankind whose presence among us has enriched our lives. Goodbye Grover, you are remembered!”
George arrived on the Nevada City scene some five years after Grover’s passing. He too, was a Broad Street habitue, but is remembered more as a serious gourmand than a man-about-town.
His favorite eatery was Pearl’s Cozy Spot on South Pine Street. Here he would wait patiently for the next course in his daily, day-long dining marathon.
According to his owner, Bob Dorey, George was born in North San Juan in 1967 of mixed parentage. His bloodlines included: one-half coyote, one-quarter shepherd and one-quarter collie. In the open green fields on the Ridge, he lived a happy, rural puppy hood.
At an early age he moved to Nevada City with Dorey, where he spent the balance of his urban life. George liked to travel, and accompanied by Dorey and traveling companion Jacques de la Montanya, toured the continent visiting Germany, France and Spain. George became an international favorite. He also enjoyed Canada.
Some winters were spent in Mexico, where George was nominated to an honorary membership in the Guadalajara Country Club. He was also a charter member of Nevada City’s exclusive Upper Broad Street Marching and Chowder Society.
George was 12 when he died in 1979, a victim of heart worm. There were no known next of kin and no services were held. The remains were cremated.
On a serious note, Dorey warned dog owners to be on the alert for heart worm and to check with a doctor of veterinary medicine for symptoms and treatment options.
Bob Wyckoff is a retired newspaper editor, an author of local history, a lifetime student of California history and a longtime resident of Nevada County. You can write him at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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