Greeley residents now, and in times past, seem to have an equal interest in and attachment to the animals, or pets, that share their homes. The Greeley Tribune of Greeley’s early years mentions pets in competitions, as problems, and as trends.
The late 19th to early 20th century in Weld County brought annual Poultry and Pet Stock Shows. These lasted several days. Animal owners locally as well as from as far away as Denver, showed off birds and rabbits in what was called, in 1900, “The finest display of high bred birds ever exhibited in Weld County.” September set the scene for horseracing for which the winner would receive $100.
Local pets then and now have been “problems.” A bicycle-pedestrian accident occurred in 1900 in Ault. Marion Coffee thought two bike-riding boys were going to hit his daughter’s pet lamb. Trying to rescue the lamb resulted in Coffee being struck by a bike!
One 1902 day brought bad luck for local animals: a horse, Rock, fell into a ditch and drowned the same day that a heifer was hit by a train. Vernon McClosky was jailed for being unable to pay a $72.10 fine for killing the Meekers’ dog in 1902. His brother came to town, bailed Vernon out, and he quickly left Greeley.
Two Eaton neighbors of 1902 fought in court over their look-alike “bob-tailed” shepherd dogs. When one dog strayed or was stolen, each felt that the dog left “had” to be his. Dogs chasing others’ animals was a problem, too. Harold Decker’s Cocker Spaniel, Jack, was a neighborhood favorite except among the chickens he loved to chase and their owners. When a rooster fought back, in 1904, Jack became much less brave with feathered creatures!
Lost pets were no rarity in early Greeley either. It was reported that a stray dog followed a family home one evening and wanted to stay with them. Anyone wanting information on that dog was to contact the newspaper office. Lambs were known to stray as well and make new homes with neighbors’ flocks.
Some pets were talked about as almost fads or trends. Squirrels were brought from Omaha to Lincoln Park to reside there to entertain park visitors. In 1900, nests were placed in the park’s trees for the fox and gray squirrels to live in. By 1903, 40 tame squirrels lived in Lincoln Park. They were favorites of young and old; some squirrels picked nuts or popcorn out of park visitors’ pockets!
Ladies in the Orchard area raised lambs, to whom they gave exotic names, in 1901: “The pet lamb industry is getting thoroughly established in the valley.” 1900 newspaper articles encouraged the raising of geese and turkeys, giving all kinds of advice as to best breeds and feed for them. An article detailing an exhibition in England regarding pet mice was printed in 1893.
Written by Sheryl Kippen, former Education Curator