This Was Bob Ross' Secret Passion

Bob Ross is well known and beloved for the many years he spent hosting the soothing, mesmerizing PBS television show The Joy of Painting. Each episode consisted of Ross painting a landscape featuring what he referred to as "happy little" clouds, trees, and other representatives from the natural world while he held a gentle one-sided conversation with his audience.

The show also often featured segments in which Ross would sit in his backyard nature sanctuary, hold a wild bird or animal and discuss the creature with the camera. Two Inch Brush, a website devoted to Boss Ross and his work, has a page devoted to the many animals featured on The Joy of Painting, including a baby robin named Peep, a bluejay named Mr. Jay, a squirrel named Bobette, and many more. For a 1990 interview with the Orlando Sentinelthe reporter visited Ross's home in Maitland, Florida and described the animal "rehab center" in the back yard which at the time sheltered "two orphaned baby squirrels, a fox squirrel and a crow with a smashed wing." Ross noted, "I don't use the pool, but it sure makes a nice view for them," and even used the Jacuzzi as a home for an epileptic squirrel. 

Bob Ross really loved squirrels

Squirrels were a particular favorite of Ross. A 2020 article from the Washington Post quoted Joan Kowalski, president of Bob Ross Inc.: "We'd be walking along, and if there was a squirrel nearby, he would just sort of drop to his knees. And he had a way where they wouldn't scurry off. It was sort of his favorite, favorite thing."

Children's book author Robb Pearlman was inspired by the ongoing saga of one of Ross's squirrels, Peapod, who would drink from a bottle and hang out in Ross's pocket until he got old enough to leave the sanctuaryabout whom Ross once joked on his show: "We've turned him loose and he's got his own family now, a little condo in Miami, BMW, car payments every month..." In 2019, Pearlman teamed up with illustrator Jason Kayser to create the book Bob Ross and Peapod the Squirrelwhich features one of Ross's famous landscapes within the story.

Ross's affinity for squirrels reportedly went back to his childhood; he once described growing up in the woods of Florida and playing with animals because there weren't other children around: "That's why I like animals and little squirrels and raccoons and all those things so much, because they're very special, very special. And when I got old, I guess I didn't lose that.Bob Ross died in 1995, but his infectious love for the joy of animals, particularly squirrels, as well as that of painting, lives on.