Peruvian saint or petty criminal? Either way, the cash is flowing in
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By Peter Jamison
Ever been mistaken for a Peruvian holy man? Gregory Pike, the wandering showman who has brought his unusual animal act to Fisherman’s Wharf, lays claim to that distinction. He says tourists from Peru have been struck by his resemblance to a figure of legend who, like Pike, traveled in the company of a rat, perched on a cat, perched on a dog. But the 45-year-old Pike — whose dog-cat-rat stack has made the rounds on innumerable TV news broadcasts and YouTube spots — makes no pretenses to holiness. “I’m not a saint,” he says. “I’m a man. I make mistakes.”
On Halloween, Pike was arrested for crack possession. A mistake? Guess again.
Pike says he was smoking pot in an alley near the Tenderloin last Friday when he was approached by San Francisco Police officers. By Pike’s account, the officers were frustrated that he didn’t have identification, and found a crack rock “on the ground” near him. Officials with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Pike was booked on Oct. 31 for felony narcotics possession, and released on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
According to Pike, the charges are bogus — he says he uses no drugs other than marijuana — but he was pleased that a judge chose to release him on recognizance Tuesday after a hearing on his case. “I said, ‘Look, I’ve never been away from my animals more than an hour. You go on YouTube, you look for dog-rat-cat, you’ll see me.’ I think he’d probably seen it, the way he reacted.’”
That’s right: Pike’s arrest broke up the family. He says he was on his way to check into a pet-friendly motel in the Tenderloin when he was busted, and had left his companions — Booger, Kitty and Mousey — at Stogies tobacco shop on the wharf. A veritable Ben Jonson comedy of drugs, pets and homelessness ensued. The cat escaped to Frank’s Fisherman, a knick-knack shop across the street; when the tobacco shop closed, the dog and rat were picked up by another local character, known among merchants as Cat Man for reasons unrelated to Pike’s merry band; Finally, Cat Man restored the trifecta by picking up Kitty from Frank’s. “The guy had the other two,” recalled Ron Brown, the store’s co-owner. “It seemed like they should be together.”
Pike was unhappy when he finally retrieved his animals; he said he had granted custody of them in his absence to a neighborhood balloon peddler, and not Cat Man. But now the quartet is back together and back in business. And business is brisk. Ambling wharfgoers regularly dropped dollar bills into Pike’s bright orange donation bucket throughout Thursday afternoon. He claims to bring in about $100 per day. “We’ll flag him down and he’ll exchange cash for ones so we don’t need to go to the bank,” Brown said.
Pike, who has pleaded not guilty to the narcotics charge, says he has engaged the services of a city public defender. Looks like those dollar bills won’t be going towards legal fees.