I like writing about the contrast between communities, because it is illustrative of the choices we make and the different cultures we craft. It has taken me over a year to write about this particular topic, because it was a secret for most of that time.
For a number of good reasons and some poor ones many communities place restrictions on the numbers of some types of pets which can be in residence. Twin Oaks for example, limits the number of dogs to 4 and the number of cats to 10. Dogs pack and thus howl at night, the number 4 was believed to be below the packing threshold (which it seems to be). Cats have a high impact on local wildlife, birds, mice, moles etc. In the egalitarian communities approved pets are budgeted for. And while every pet must have a sponsor who is responsible for their welfare, the vet, food and other costs are paid for collectively.
One downside is that many people have allergies and try as we might, pets get into public spaces and make the lives of people who can’t share spaces with them difficult. I am lucky and don’t have pet allergies, but i am highly aware of how we collectively basically discriminate against people with pet allergies in favor of the pets of some members.
One day when i was in the smoke shack at Acorn a grey cat strolled in who clearly felt like this space was theirs. The cat was aptly named Fight Club, because it was a stray which had been adopted by some of the members and it was above the current cat limit. So we just did not talk about it.
The idea that a public cat could be a secret intrigued me. I watched with interest as the Fight Club story unfolded. The advocates for the cat were quick to grab the first cat spot which opened up for Fight Club when another cat departed when its owner moved on from community. And despite the fact that the cat was then (and now) legitimate we kept the name. Good names are precious and this one had a lovely story to it as well.
Late last year, Acorn spawned Sapling. At first it was a residence of Acorn which was not on the main campus. But we knew it was quite likely to become its own community, since that is what most of the Saplingers wanted. We agreed on a number of rules in the beginning to make it easier to sell the property in the event that the experiment did not work out. One of these rules was “no pets”. Sapling is now its own independent community (and there is a guest post in the offing describing it). But a few months back when i came to visit Sapling a dog ran out and started barking at me. When i asked what the dog’s name was i was told simply “That is Fight Club”.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]