Yet another trickle in the constant flood of Lincolniana, this book reports on the qualities of the quadruped that filled the job of Lincoln family dog.
It is an old publishing yarn that the most salable books deal with the 16th president, medical practitioners or dogs. To guarantee a best-seller, title a book “Abraham Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog" or, in the trade, ALDD. Reporter and pop historian Algeo (Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport, 2014, etc.) eschews the services of the doctor but tracks the dog’s life from the day in 1855 when Lincoln picked him up on a street in Springfield. The future president had engaged in hunting as a boy, but he soon gave up the practice. He was, it seems, an animal lover, while Mary Lincoln, on the other hand, had a bit of canine phobia. The lucky dog, no longer prey to dog catchers, was named Fido and became the prototype of all subsequent faithful Fidos, ministering to his master’s bouts of melancholy and frolicking with the Lincoln boys. Algeo reports on Honest Abe’s whiskers as well as his milking and marketing chores, and he notes how Lincoln bought medicine for Fido even as he ruminated about slavery. The author reintroduces us to a familiar cast of supporting players: good friend Josh Speed, Billy the Barber and law partner Bill Herndon. When it became apparent his master would run for president, “Fido’s carefree life would be forever changed,” and the 1860 campaign “would be sheer misery for Fido.” The dog remained in Springfield when the family moved to the White House. Not long after his former master was assassinated, Fido was killed by a knife-wielding drunk.
This lightweight book is all about the dog, and, though more entertaining than the allegorical ALDD might be, it remains Lincoln-lite.