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Learn about Lexington’s town dog, Smiley Pete

A plaque featuring a dog.

See the Smiley Pete plaque downtown on Main Street by the courthouse. | photo by the LEXtoday

You may have spot-ted a plaque featuring a grinning dog on the corner of Limestone + Main Street and asked yourself: What’s this dog’s story? Today, we’re barking the tail of Lexington’s town dog: Smiley Pete.

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A newspaper clipping featuring Smiley Pete. | photo provided by Bob Welch

1943 | Pete is born.

1944 | Pete leaves his owner and moves to Lexington where he sets up on the corner of Limestone + Main (where the courthouse is now located).

1944-1949 | Many attempt to adopt Pete, but he prefers to wander downtown and beg for food from local shops, earning him nicknames like the Canine Con Man, the Panhandling Pooch, and the Magnificent Moocher. His favorite food? Hershey’s bars.

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Smiley Pete with Robert Welch | photo provided by Bob Welch

1949 | A rabies epidemic forces Pete into quarantine at Del-Tor Clinic on Southland Drive for three months.

1952 | Pete becomes (an official) father. He and Patsy (a dog he met at the Del-Tor Clinic) have seven pups and each sells for $20… nearly $220 now.

1957 | Pete is diagnosed as “allergic to chocolate,” and the Lexington Herald + the Lexington Leader (separate papers at the time) ask Lexingtonians to stop feeding Pete Hershey’s bars.

June 17, 1957 | After being quarantined during another rabies scare, Pete dies of a heart condition. He is buried on North Broadway under a headstone that reads, “Pete—Our Dog—A Friend to All—A Friend of All.”

1958 | Local stores donate money to install a commemorative bronze plaque on Limestone + Main Street, reading “Smiley Pete missed by all.”

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Smiley Pete’s headstone can be found on North Broadway at the Fairlawn Property | photo by Marshall Peace

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Remembering Pete today

🐶 The Downtown Lexington Corporation gives an annual “Smiley Pete” award to “the organization, business, or individual that has a great impact on how people feel about downtown.”
🐶 Listen to the episode on Smiley Pete from Lexington Public Library’s “Tales from the Kentucky Room” podcast.

🐶 Read Pete’s full story at Smiley Pete Publishing, the local community publishing company named for him.

🐶 Flip through these fun historical photos from the Lexington Herald-Leader archives.

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