(Faithful readers of this blog will no doubt be saying to themselves, “Yep, I knew eventually McClarey would write about Lincoln’s dog!” )
One hundred and fifty years ago the Lincolns in Springfield, Illinois were making preparations for their move to Washington. One sad task for them was to find a new home for their dog Fido, who had been a member of the family since 1855. Mr. Lincoln was an animal lover, and Fido, a mustard colored mutt, often accompanied him as he went around Springfield. When they went to the market Fido would bear a basket in his mouth. The dog could be seen waiting patiently outside of the barber shop while Lincoln’s hair was cut. Fido was an inside dog, and seemed to think that a horse hair sofa in the house was his own personal domain.
Lincoln hated to part with Fido, but the dog was terrified both of cannon fire and trains, and he decided that Fido would have a hard time dealing with the train trip to Washington. Fido was placed in the care of John Roll and his family. Roll was a carpenter friend of Lincoln’s who had helped Lincoln remodel his house. He had two young sons for Fido to play with. The Rolls were asked never to scold Fido for coming into the house with muddy paws, to never tie Fido up in their yard alone, and to allow him into the house when he scratched on the door. The Lincolns gave the Rolls their horse hair sofa so that Fido would feel more at home. Shortly before they left Springfield, the Lincolns had a photo taken of Fido, an image of which is at the top of this post.
The Lincolns received a report on Fido from Rolls on December 27, 1863. “Tell Taddy that his (and Willys) Dog is alive and Kicking doing well he stays mostly at John E. Rolls with his Boys who are about the size now that Tad & Willy were when they left for Washington.”
After Lincoln’s funeral the Rolls brought Fido to the Lincoln home and he greeted mourners there. Sadly, Fido did not escape the streak of tragedy that beset the Lincoln family, and he was killed by a drunk man just a few months after Lincoln’s death.
John Roll wrote about the tragic incident:
“We possessed the dog for a number of years when one day the dog, in a playful manner, put his dirty paws upon a drunken man sitting on the street curbing who in his drunken rage; thrust a knife into the body of poor old Fido. He was buried by loving hands. So Fido, just a poor yellow dog met the fate of his illustrious master – Assassination.”