walkLEX: Remembering Smiley Pete

Smiley Pete Plaque - Lexington, Ky.
Smiley Pete Plaque - Lexington, Ky.
The dog's grin resembled a human smile and so he was given the name "Smiley." During the mid-twentieth century, downtown Lexington had a roving landmark. Smiley Pete.

Of course, his other nicknames gave a more perceptive look at what Smiley was really up to. Magnificent Mooch. Canine Con Man. Panhandling Pooch. Yes, Smiley Pete new how to work it.

Smiley Pete Plaque - Lexington, Ky.And he did. With a daily routine of hamburger and waffles for breakfast from Brandy's Kitchen (Main & Limestone) followed by a bowl of draft beer from Turf Bar (122 North Limestone). A little bit later, chocolate was needed from the Short & Lime Liquor (figure it out). The Panhandling Pooch finally would eat a dog treat and water from Carter's Supply (339 West Short) before retiring for popcorn at the movie theater operating at the Lexington Opera House. According to a 1950 Lexington Leader report, Smiley would also make the trek to U.K. where he would enter a classroom only to yawn at a professor's lecture.

Local police turned a blind eye to Smiley Pete, even as other strays were regularly rounded up. Only in 1949, during a rabies scare, was Smiley "incarcerated" by his friends in quarantine at a veterinary clinic on Southland Drive.

At the age of 14 (that's 98 in dog years), Smiley Pete died in June 1957 and he was buried by his human friends at 904 North Broadway under a marker which reads "Pete - Our Dog - A Friend to All and A Friend of All." Another plaque was placed closer to the dog's old stomping grounds at Main & Lime in front of Welch's Cigar Shop. The plaque was removed in 1990 but replaced close to its original location at the courthouse plaza.

Smiley Pete is also remembered annually by an award given by the LFUCG to those who make "people feel good about being downtown." Live on, Smiley!

Sources: BizLex; local.lexpublib.org; LuAnn Farrar (H-L)