RIP Sparky, the Sociable Sidewalk Cat of Precita Avenue

Sparky the cat, on his perch in front of the cactus house on Precita. Photo courtesy of Ryland Moore.

This article was written by Bernalwood’s cub reporter, Miel Lappin, age 10. This is her first  Bernalwood story. 

Sparky was the “sidewalk cat,” the cat everyone looked forward to seeing, the one who just stood there, unafraid of the dogs and people who loomed over him. Sparky was the brown and black striped cat who lived in front of the cactus house. I remember when I first met him.

“This is the cat I told you about!” my step-mom exclaimed. “But, I thought his house was the green one with the cacti” she commented.

“I’m going to try to lead him back home,” I said, determined. Sparky was lying in front of a house up the street. I bent down, and let Sparky sniff my hand, he didn’t really seem to care about it. I decided to try petting him. He purred. That’s when I slowly started walking away, and to my surprise, he followed! I walked him all the way back to the cactus house, and he seemed to recognize it. He jumped onto his banister, content.

The first time when Bernalwood’s cub reporter met Sparky.

When Sparky died, it was devastating. His owners made a beautiful R.I.P sign, hung it on a tree outside their house, and told people to write notes on the little card hanging below.

There are so many nice notes, ranging from “He made my walk to work fun,” to “Best and most handsome mayor of Precita Avenue.” Who knew Sparky was so well known?

Sparky’s owner, Neighbor Leslie, told me Sparky was born in the cactus house, in a dresser drawer with four other siblings, and he lived there his whole life. Sparky died after he was attacked by a dog. The dog was being walked, and when he saw Sparky, he lashed out. Sparky died at age 16.

Neighbor Leslie says she knew it was a risk letting Sparky hang out on the sidewalk, but she also knew Sparky needed to be outside in order to be happy. “Sparky was in the world, 100 percent,” she said.

It was my dad who pointed out the Lost Cat signs a few months ago, the first time Sparky went missing. That’s how we learned Sparky’s name. Luckily, he came back that time.

The second time though, we weren’t so lucky.

Sparky was like a neighbor you often see, but don’t know very well. Most people just enjoy having him there, they don’t need to know about his personal life. When Sparky died, it was like that neighbor who you were friendly with, moved out. Mornings are never going to be the same, because there is no neighbor to greet, and no Sparky to pet.

24 thoughts on “RIP Sparky, the Sociable Sidewalk Cat of Precita Avenue

  1. Condolences. It is awful that he was attacked by a dog, whether it was on leash or not. I hope the dog owner is contrite about what happened.

  2. I love cat stories like that. Thank you for sharing that. We live on Eugenia in Bernal Heights and had 2 visiting cats for years until someone claimed them.(a small all black one and a large black and white and they were friends.) For years they would wander in our house through the old cat door, curl up on a chair or on the back of this one sofa that gets the sun light and even stay the night occasionally. sleeping on our bed. Someone was feeding them we could tell, so we never gave them food.. We first met them in our garden as they would hear us working back there and come over ; we have a water stone we kept filled for them and they could hear the hose running when we watered and know we were back in our garden , probably filling the water stone ,. and come for a drink.

    • I’m sorry he was killed by a dog. I left that out in my first email; that the cat was attacked is awful, but what the neighbors did was wonderful.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about this, he was my favorite neighborhood cat, I always called him “cactus cat” RIP Sparky.

    • Not to mention….negligent grossness, for being willing to own, but not train and control, a dog who would even consider doing such a savage thing to a kind, peaceful, affable person like Sparky.

  4. Oh man, Sparky was the sweetest. Whose dog did this? Ten bucks says it was one of the people who spent $2million+ on one of the recently flipped houses on Precita. And not just to stretch this as a particularly violent metaphor for the neighborhood’s gentrification…

    • That assumption seems like merely a prejudicial leap. But twenty bucks says it was someone who had their face buried in a phone instead of taking adult responsibility for their unleashed dog; instead of turning off the simulated reality on their screen and instead engaging in the real world of aliveness all around them; instead of being available to savor the unpredictable but genuine treasure of a sweet neighbor like Sparky and risk feeling an emotional transaction with a living being right in front of them, instead of numbing themselves with the counterfeit, safe stimulus of pixels.

    • The worst part of San Francisco right here, is you JM. Turning a lovely tribute to a neighborhood pet into some kind of prejudiced political statement. Give it a rest.

  5. Thanks for the lovely tribute to Sparky Miel! My family loves this article and we’ve shared it with a bunch of our friends. It’s nice to hear from the neighbors regarding their affection for our wacky cat. A heartfelt meow!

  6. Thank you for the lovely story, hope to read more of your work very soon. I’ve lived here on the south slope for 24 years and have enjoyed our sidewalk and garden cats all these years. What charms me most is the various names people have given them as they stop to chat with a sunning feline. Several years back, Mr. Richland’s demise was also by an unleashed dog, it was so very sad. RIP Sparky aka the Mayor of Precita Ave, Cactus Cat, Mr. Friendly… and RIP all our deceased sidewalk cats.

  7. Thanks so much for this lovely memorial. Warms my heart.
    Sadly this is the 2nd time that I know of when a dog, with owner nearby, attacked and killed an elderly cat.
    There was an ancient cat who sunbathed daily on steps on Richland Av. until a couple of years ago.She greeted me but I never learned her name. After she disappeared I learned details of her demise.
    Please, this is one more reason a leash in an urban setting is important.

  8. Thank you, Miel, for this tribute to our most handsome, fearless and friendly mayor of Precita Ave.
    Aren’t we fortunate that Sparky not only brought so many of us the pleasure of his company, he brought us together in our mutual appreciation of him? I enjoyed meeting his family, the kindly neighbors on either side of his green house as well as other Sparky appreciators stopping by to commune. I’m so glad that his humans let him do as he wished, however risky, by being outside. It was his choice, and in letting him make it Sparky and all of us benefited.
    In Sparky’s honor, perhaps we can keep his friendly and “100% in the world” approach alive in our neighborhood. And maybe this practice of kindness in remembrance of Sparky will help to spark a ‘Courageously friendly revolution’ in San Francisco and beyond. Thank you, Sparky. We loved you, we miss you and we remember you. To Sparky! Hip Hip Hooray!

      • Aren’t we lucky, Nancy? 100% alive! Just like Sparky was. While his death is tragic, I choose to remember his inspiring life. Living is risky and will always end in death so let’s live fully, and Kindly, like Sparky did.
        I tried to post some of the Sparky photos I have but wasn’t able to do it here. I wonder how many great photos there are out there of him. Maybe we’ll get a string of them going elsewhere on the blog in tribute.

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