If you’ve ever spent time on State Street, you’ve probably seen some of the unusual people that hang around down there. But there’s something even more unusual, and considerably more meaningful, than your run of the mill beggars, tourists, and street entertainers. It involves interspecies cooperation, and is known by those who have seen the popular youtube video about it simply as the man with the dog, the cat, and the rat. In reality, this astounding street act is more than just an act, it’s an authentic portrayal of love and acceptance across all boundaries.
Meet Gregory Pike and his furry entourage: Booger, Kitty, and Mousey. Every day he walks around State street with Booger, the dog, on a leash. On top of Booger sits Kitty, who holds on to the harness around Booger like a saddle. On top of Kitty sits Mousey (who is really a rat), wrapped closely around Kitty’s neck. Its obvious the bond between these animals is deep â€“ they all accept one another as members of the same family, regardless of their species. Greg has been spreading this message of peace, respect, and tolerance for eight years, and has become an integral member of Santa Barbara society, known and loved by our community.
Hailing from a small town in Colorado, Gregory Pike has been studying animal habitats and psychology for about 30 years. He has worked with animal rescues and rehabilitation centers for mountain animals, and has a diverse background in animal training.
â€œI’m a legend in my own mind,â€ he jokes, as he explains how his interspecies group came about, â€œIf it ain’t been done before, I’m gonna do it. As long as it’s humane.â€ It all started about nine years ago, when â€œSomeone said it couldn’t be doneâ€ â€“ no one believed a dog, cat, and a rat could all become best friends. Greg simply had to prove them wrong.
â€œThe dog raised the cat — I used her gestatation period to raise the cat like a puppy. She chose Kitty from the litter, so she thinks it’s her baby.â€ The cat was then raised around all sorts of small animals, and treats the rat as if it were its own sibling. With the rat, â€œit’s all about food.â€ Rats, it turns out, are very open to interspecies pairing, as long as they aren’t threatened and are properly taken care of. While it seems odd for the cat and rat to be stacked on top of the dog, Pike explains that it is the animals â€œsafety zoneâ€: It is where the cat and rat feel most at home and protected by their surrogate mother. Of course, it also helps Pike and his pals walk around a little faster, as well as avoid possible rat or cat tripping incidents.
â€œI understand animals and why they do things. I understand some of the barks, and the meows, and what the different ways they do it mean. I’m not a Doctor Doolittle, but I know what they’re asking for.â€ Not surprisingly, Greg also has some insights into what makes people tick as well, and with his act hopes to be able to catch the attention of people to pass on his messages of peace and humanity to the human species.
â€œAnimals are simple, people are complicated. People wanna see something different, something unusual, something cool. But there’s gotta be a message behind it.â€
Pike’s message comes from the simple reality of what he and his animals have accomplished together. It proves that all animals, regardless of their most vicious tendencies towards each other, can be kind and caring toward one another. Obviously these animals are able to do something we humans simply have not completely managed to do.
â€œPeace can happen anywhere — if they can do it why can’t people? You know, they’re just â€˜dumbâ€™ animals, but now, who’re really the stupid ones?â€
While currently residing in Santa Barbara, he hopes to someday soon open up and run a free pet adoption and rescue center. This is one of the main reasons why he keeps a can out for money. Eventually, the money will be going to help wild animals and pets, as well as bring animal shelter issues to the attention of more people in America. In his hometown of Telluride, Colorado, the non-euthanasia, regulated adoption policies have worked so well there are never any strays left in their shelter for long periods of time.
â€œIn Bakersfield thousands of animals a month are put down. A thousand animals a month, that;s ridiculous,â€ Pike says noting that it costs cities thousands of dollars a month to pay for euthanasia of animals, when they could be making money for shelters through adoption and more effective advertising of animals in shelters. But even with such extraordinary goals, he refuses to accept money if it seems burdensome upon others, stressing that its more important to spread the thought of a friendlier, more tolerant world than to make money.
â€œI do survive on what I get, but I don’t want it to be about the money. When I see people digging for money, I tell them, if its that much work, I don’t want it. I don’t want you to work for me; I just want you to come up and take a picture and enjoy this. The message is always more important.â€
With the help of friends, Greg is planning a website (coming soon at www.thedogcatrat.com) which will become the main source of income for his free animal rescue, shelter, and training center. He is also currently looking into hosting a radio show on local Santa Barbara radio station KTYD (99.9FM) to go further with his plans. He hopes to start the program in his home state of Colorado, and through his successes spread the ideas of more humane treatment and non-kill shelters for animals into other states, as well as to give kids a chance to visit with him and learn more about the love possible between all species.
But for the moment, Greg will continue his daily trips down State Street, bringing his amazing animal trio with him and letting people stare dumbfounded at what he has accomplished. When it comes down to it, it is the simple pleasure of bringing something different and meaningful to people that keeps him going, regardless of how much money gets thrown in his cup by the end of the day. Clearly, this man is no longer just a legend in his own mind.