Gregory Pike could be called a modern-day folk hero. For the past 10 years, the 50-year-old has traveled with his pets across the country, from Key West to New York to San Francisco to Santa Fe. And every day, no matter where he ends up, he takes his three animals –- a dog, a cat, and a rat –- out for a stroll through town.
Under normal circumstances, his beloved pets might be at each other’s throats –- or even try to eat one another. But Pike’s dog, cat, and rat get along so well that when they go out, the cat rides on the dog’s back, and the rat rides on the cat’s back. Then the improbable trispecies pyramid calmly sashays down the street, stopping to pose for the occasional photo. Thanks to the popularity of his four-legged friends, Pike is known all over the world as the “dog-cat-rat guy.”
What, you don’t think this setup is possible? Well, neither did Pike. In fact, the whole “dog-cat-rat” act started off as a bet one day more than a decade ago, when Pike was chilling with friends in a park in Telluride, CO.
“We were just talking about what was impossible, and I came up with the idea,” he says. “It kind of started out as a bet and turned into something pretty cool.”
He adopted his dog, Booger, from a shelter in Telluride, while he discovered his cat, Kitty, under a building along with her littermates after their mother had died. He found homes for the other kittens but kept Kitty, with whom Booger shared a special bond. The rats, meanwhile, have come and gone, but Booger and Kitty are comfortable with them and do not view them as prey. Rather, Pike insists, the trio is more like family.
“The dog raised the cat,” he says. “The cat thought the dog was her mama. They’re family. Even the rat. It will crawl up under the cat’s chin, and the cat will use it as a pillow or start licking it.”
One of the most common questions Pike hears from curious passersby is how he gets the animals to stay stacked, and his first response is usually, “Super Glue!” But the truth is simpler, if harder to believe: The cat prefers to ride.
“People don’t realize that you can’t make a cat do anything, and if you hurt a cat and it ever gets away from you, it ain’t coming back,” he says. “People say, are they gonna run away? And I say, why run when you can ride?”
Pet stack aside, there’s also the enigma of the man himself, who has forgone every possible traditional route and instead travels from coast to coast hauling three hand-built trailers –- living quarters, bathhouse, and tool shed -– behind a 1939 Allis Chalmers tractor. His one-of-a-kind rig gets only 10 miles per gallon and travels at a maximum speed of 10 mph, allowing him to log approximately 80 to 100 miles per day.
Like many people, he’s struggled to find steady work –- he picks up the occasional roofing job –- so he has focused the majority of his energy on helping people. He has the tools to do major engine repairs on the side of the highway, for example, or change a fellow traveler’s tire.
He also stops regularly so people can photograph his unusual vehicle -– and then they find out he’s the dog-cat-rat guy. Because he’s been featured on multiple television shows, in magazines, and numerous places online, Pike estimates that “out of six billion people on this planet, probably about half a billion know who I am.”
And he might be right. Here’s a video of the trio in action that has gotten nearly 10 million hits:
He says his fame was unexpected, particularly in the early days — one day a friend was canoeing in the Yukon and found a tabloid washed up on shore that featured a full-page story of Pike and his pets. He has also been pleasantly surprised that his dog-cat-rat act has inspired people. A U.S. soldier he encountered one day told him that photos of Pike and his pets helped keep him going while he was stationed overseas.
According to Pike, that’s the real reason he’s still doing the dog-cat-rat thing: to provide hope and happiness in a messed-up world. He says the years have been a struggle -– but it’s a “happy struggle.”
“Somebody has to go around and show people that nothing’s impossible, and that we’re still a free country, and we need to think about the possibilities of peace and working things out,” he says. “I’m glad I’ve got the dog-cat-rat, because I’m not only surviving, I’m making people happy to survive. How many people can say that?”
After more than a decade on the road, Pike is heading back to Telluride to allow Kitty, who’s 11, and Booger, 12, to relax. But as long as cat, dog, and rat are able, he still plans to take them out for their morning and evening walks.
“My dog earned her last few years to be in her favorite spot,” he says. “She always loved the high altitudes and the cold, so I’m going to go back and stay. I’m happy for what I did, and I’m glad I touched people. I have no regrets.”