President Warren Harding and his wife Florence were great animal lovers. Their White House family included two dogs – Laddie Boy and Old Boy – several canaries, and even a squirrel, named Pete.
Pete would eat right out of peoples’ hands. He lived on the grounds of the White House and could be seen scampering through the halls of the White House, and even attended press conferences and news briefings.
“In the earlier stages of the Harding administration, Laddie Boy nosed his way among the correspondents, sniffing shins here and there…Pete has lately taken on these duties. At the conference last Friday, Pete entered the executive offices before the meeting was in session, ran nimbly to and fro during the proceedings, and was one of the last to leave,” reported a tongue-in-cheek correspondent in 1922.
Interestingly, the same paper reports that “Pete” was actually a mother of a litter of kits who lived in a nest on the grounds. Perhaps “his” name should have been Pauline? It is likely that after President Harding’s unexpected death, Pete returned to living solely on the grounds.
Harding wasn’t the first President to own a “Pete the Squirrel” – President Harry Truman also kept a pet squirrel named Pete.