In 18th Century America, the humble squirrel was a desirable (and fashionable) pet! One young woman in Virginia was so distraught at the loss of her squirrel that she composed a poem for the Virginia Gazette (December 15th, 1768):
Relentless tyrant! Who could kill
A thing so pretty as my PHIL,
A thing so sprightly and so queer,
The pet I lov’d so very dear,
To rob me of the pretty elf,
I wish that he had dy’d himself
Where now, enraptur’d, shall I see,
My PHILLY skip from tree to tree!
Caper and gambol in the air
Suspended from the earth as far
As where the topmost shoot makes out,
There frisk, and dance, and turn about!
Then chatter at me (saucy thing)
And be so haughty as a King!
And though I sooth’d, and might entreat,
He’d pluck his acorns, sit and eat,
E’er he would to my arms retreat.
Then did I stroke him, scratch his head,
And in my bosom made his bed;
For my affection was and still
Is all engrossed by charming PHILL;
For him I mourn, for him I cry,
For him alone I daily sigh;
For him I’ve lost each night’s repose,
Nothing enjoying but my woes.
Oh could my squirrel but survive,
Ecstatick pleasure me ‘twould give;
But he is gone ! ne’er to return!
And useless ‘tis to sigh and mourn.
I’ll therefore seek another pet,
A husband I may surely get…
Image: Portrait of Deborah Hall (and squirrel), by William Williams (1766), from the Brooklyn Museum.