“Hey Fido, look at the calendar, will yez?”
Fido ambled over to the wall calendar and gazed. Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Weekend.
“And what’s this big red circle around Feb. 12?” he said.
“Why, you old big, red lug, it’s your birthday!”
“Hey hey hey hey! Time flies, huh? How old am I?”
“Fido, I really don’t know. Maybe six, maybe seven, maybe five. It’s because you were a shelter dog, and the very fine people there could only guess.”
“So how do you know it’s my birthday?”
“It’s a pure guess, Fido, but it seemed like a good one. We (I actually) gave you Lincoln’s birthday.”
Fido did a quick calculation.
“That would make me 203 years old!” he cried.
“No no no,” said I. “I just merely took the date of Lincoln’s birthday. In our house, Mr. Lincoln sat next to God.”
“So when was Fido born?” Fido asked.
I saw he was getting mighty confused. He has that crinkled-up nose thing when he reaches that point.
I hauled down some history books from the shelf.
Fido’s date of birth is unknown, I said to him, but it is believed that Lincoln’s beloved pet was born in 1855.
I read Fido some of the text.
“He was a floppy-eared, rough-coated, yellowish mutt of uncertain ancestry. It was common to see Fido, with a parcel in his mouth, accompany Mr. Lincoln as he made his errands around Springfield.
“When Mr. Lincoln stopped at Billy the Barber’s for a haircut, Fido would wait outside with the other customers’ pets. Fido loved attention and would put on a show of chasing his tail for anyone who happened by. Although just a mutt, the Lincolns treated Fido like royalty.”
“No wonder you like Lincoln! He treated Fido just as you do me!”
The story is that the Lincolns left Fido in Illinois, on account of the capital’s fireworks, cannon-fire and other loud noises which freaked him out.
“Well Fido, the Lincolns found a good home for him in Springfield, and even had his photograph taken before they left for Washington. He was the first presidential dog known to be photographed.”
I told Fido the rest of the story.
Mr. Lincoln looked for a good home for Fido and decided to give him to two neighborhood boys, John and Frank Roll. Both boys were very fond of Fido and promised to take good care of him while the Lincolns were in Washington D.C.
The Lincolns had several conditions that the boys agreed to. They were to never scold Fido if he tracked mud into the house on his paws. Fido was never to be tied up alone in the backyard and was to be let into the house whenever he scratched on the door.
He was also to be given scraps of food from the table. The boys both agreed that they would continue to spoil Fido.
“Gosh, though, he must have been happy to see the President and Mrs. Lincoln when they got home.”
“Fido, Mr. Lincoln never made it home. Long story.”
“So what happened to Fido?” Fido asked.
“A sad end,” I replied.
“One year after President Lincoln’s assassination, Fido was stabbed to death by a drunk man on a street in Springfield.”
Fido was horrified.
“But I should tell you, Fido, that your name is a very good one.
“The word ‘Fido’ comes from the Latin word ‘Fidelitas’ which means faithful.”
“Aww,” he said. “Sweet.”
“Happy Birthday, Fido.”
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George and Fido. Photo/Jesse Barlet