Best Pet Viewing - 2005
Start by taking BART to 16th and Mission streets, then hoof it up 16th to Valencia; stay on the east side of the street and head south. After about a block, look for Valencia Street Books (569 Valencia, 552-7200). You'll know you've found it when you see a good-size sign on the door that reads "Please close the door! Kitty inside." Do like the sign says and watch for Grumble, a tiny, golden, skittish feline. She'll play with you, but the chances for actual petting are slim. Pry yourself away and continue down Valencia, crossing over at 18th Street to blink at the big caramel cat that often suns in the window of Amore Animal Supply (696 Valencia, 436-9788). A block and a half farther, the 826 Valencia pirate supply store (642-5905) is home to the crown jewel of this tour: a fish tank/minitheater, complete with five authentic velvet-covered theater seats and a large, lighted, saltwater tank featuring Karl the Porcupine Puffer Fish and friends. A few doors down enter Borderlands Books (866 Valencia, 824-8203). Steel yourself, for here is no ordinary bookstore cat; Ripley looks more like E.T. or Yoda than a regular kitty. She likes people fairly well, though, and her wrinkly little head is softer than you'd expect. Finally, around the corner, just off Valencia at Ruby Gallery (3602 20th St., 550-8052), if you're lucky you'll find the eponymous pug in a fancy basket behind the counter. The shiny black dog is happy and outgoing, prone to hand kisses and running back and forth. Now you're smack between BART stops -- better turn around and do the whole thing again in reverse.