America’s First Pets

Would it surprise you to learn that in the stately White House in Washington, DC, with its Greek-inspired pillars and pristine green lawns, our presidents and their families kept dogs, cats, and canaries? But what if we told you that they also kept raccoons, mockingbirds, turkeys, cows, goats, snakes, horses, ponies, bears, a donkey, a bobcat, a goose, and a pygmy hippo. They did and for the next few weeks, Squirrels at the Door is going to feature sweet, silly, and sometimes outrageous stories about those pets.

The White House, Washington D.C. Photograph by Francis Frith, ca. 1880. Created 1880. Contributors: Francis. Frith. Work ID: gvtebnhk.

And Larry, our mascot squirrel, wants me to remind of the two squirrel pets, both named Pete, that President Warren Harding (he was president for two years after World War 1) and President Harry Truman (he was president toward the end of World War II) kept.

  • President Harding’s Pete ran around during meetings with President Harding’s staff and was actually a female squirrel—she had a litter of kits.
  • President Truman’s Pete would cool off at the drinking fountain in the park after he followed President Truman around the lawns.

BTW, we can only show you pictures of President Harding’s pet squirrel. The pictures of President Truman’s squirrel Pete are copyrighted and we cannot show them without paying the owner. Larry says his image is copyrighted and that will be 50 cents.

Author: Kathleen Vincenz