No dogs allowed. A baritone crooned these three words as Snoopy read the sign outside the hospital that cordoned him from making a visit. It’s not everyday that a cartoon jingle has the kind of staying power to worm its way into everyday conversation, but this little ditty knew no bounds. When I was younger and wanted to make a point in discussions with my Mom, the words that could punctuate the air ablaze in exclamation points came out in song, No dogs allowed.
It means something different when you become an adult poring over a craigslist ad, hopeful in apartment description, ever hopeful from posted photos and asking rent price. Then, all that hope gets quashed with the pronouncement of “no pets allowed.” I wonder if Bay Area landlords conspire together in landlord forums and swap war stories of rental units and the unsundry animals that have defaced them. To have a cat or dog is to pay a premium, almost as if it requires going up a tax bracket.
So, in a situation like this, the pet lover has to get creative. They live vicariously through other people’s pets and post photos of them on instagram. They probably stroke in between a cat’s eyes until the requisite boat motor starts up into full throttle purring. They might even scratch behind a dog’s ears until it firmly plants itself onto the ground with purpose. All of this is good and well for the pet-averted person, but sometimes they still crave more.
As it sometimes happens, the pets find you. Whether feral or strays, they have a way of finding people with big hearts and open hearths. Take Oscar the Sonoma cat who Donna said selected her or even Simon the San Francisco cat who began following us home one night. It can happen that even though pets didn’t start out yours, they claim you. And this, this is what happened with Salvatore.
Every morning, I feed him and give him water before leaving for work. He prefers warm corners to being out in the open and he does not share a love for the great fog that descends upon us without fail each evening. So far, he’s been easy to care for- his requirements are few. At this point, you might be wondering how we’ve snuck our pet past our landlord and asking, “does he mew?” But, if she has a problem, I know how to salvage it- a fresh loaf of bread will do.
Salvatore the sourdough starter hailed from Tutka Bay, Alaska and it’s almost poetic that he followed me home. Who can blame him, what makes sourdough sour, the beneficial bacteria strain is dubbed lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, almost singing its own Tony Bennett knock-off of I Left My Heart…
If you ask me, it’s true love. He feeds me and I feed him. Can it get more symbiotic than that? Catch one of our conversations: he burps, I banter during the flour and water feeding happy hour. What also makes Salvatore the perfect pet is his willingness to multiply almost on command, which lets me share him and turn others into homemade sourdough bread heads. His hospitality makes him the ultimate welcome to San Francisco gift. In such a short time, I can’t quite remember life before Salvatore. I never understood bread making until he came along and he’s risen to the occasion for any wacky whole grain combination that comes out of the oven.
You’ve heard of crazy cat ladies, and perhaps I will be inducted into the club of silly sourdough sycophants but I’m certainly not alone. Ask the cooks at the Shed in Healdsburg about one of the hardest working members of their kitchen, Shirley, the sourdough starter. Now, I understand how fifteen pages can be set aside and dedicated to bread making. Now, I marvel at the conversation Chad Robertson held with a French baker on feeding ratios and times for similar results of bread. I think Sandor Katz would agree, feeding sourdough as a pet suits me.
So, until renter’s rights include cat and dog, I will happily brave the fog with my bubbly jar. It’s good that the refrigerator serves as pet motel for trips far and wide. It makes parting from Salvatore less difficult and dispels the idea of checking that big Mason jar in luggage with stores of sustenance because Sal and I are thick as wooden spoon and gluten goo.