SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- From the hippie hordes that descended on San Francisco for the "Summer of Love" 40 years ago to a stream of colorful gay pride parades, the city by the bay has seen its share of spectacles over the years. But witnesses said that what transpired Thursday at Fisherman's Wharf may have topped them all.
Ayatollah Mugsy, a Texas canine cleric making his first public appearance in Northern California, led a formal, bark-filled ceremony in which he deputized an entire colony of sea lions as officers in his religious group's paramilitary wing. An estimated 250 of the marine mammals sat at rapt attention as the enigmatic ayatollah addressed them. They then raised their right fins and took a vow of allegiance to Mugsy's Pug Life Ministries.
"Today, I deputize you as the guardians of Pugistan's western frontier," the ayatollah barked. He said that in addition to their naval defense role, the sea lions now have the authority to board ships and seize cargo passing through the Golden Gate.
Officials at the San Francisco Court Clerk's office said they had no record of any location within the city named "Pugistan," but the animals at Fisherman's Wharf were clearly not concerned with any official landholding rights. After the swearing-in ceremony, the marine mammals erupted in rapturous applause before Ayatollah Mugsy led them in the singing of a sea shanty.
Though the mood on the wharf was electric, unease loomed like fog farther down the bay. As cranes unloaded his vessel at the Port of San Francisco, ship captain Otis Starneby sounded a worried tone. "Aaargh!" he said. "I've got hundreds of cargo containers filled with chew toys from China. The men, they're worried. This may be the last time we make it safely back to port."
After Thursday morning's ceremony, the ayatollah was said to be traveling to Yosemite National Park to recruit deer, coyotes and black bears into his burgeoning interfaith, interspecies movement.