Abe & Fido: Book celebrates Lincoln’s life and love for animals

On this day throughout history lots of powerful things have happened. In 1947, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier, by becoming the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. The sport had been segregated for more then 50 years.

On a related manner, on this day in 1865 Abraham Lincoln died from his assassins attempt from the previous day. He survived after the shooting for nine hours.

April 11th marked National Pet Day and Lincholn loved animals. His adopted pet dog who was the first famous Fido! In addition to many of Lincoln progressive ideas, animal rights were one of them. Lincoln cared for and was compassionate towards pigs, kittens, horses, game animals and his dogs.

Abe & Fido: Lincoln’s Love of Animals and the Touching Story of His Favorite Canine Companion (Chicago Review Press, April 2015) by Matthew Algeo explores Lincoln’s experiences in Springfield and his sometimes radical views of animal welfare. I have not finished reading the book, however, I wanted to share it with you on this monumental day.

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The book works to answer if there was a connection between Lincoln’s personal and political lives? Growing up Lincoln had a special relationship with the family’s pig. Although he tried to save it, the pig was eventually slaughtered. Lincoln refused to eat any of the resulting meat. Years later he is quoted as saying, “I never see a pig that I do not think of my first pet.” After shooting a turkey at a young age he said that he would never again pull a trigger on anything larger. He adopted the famous Fido about five years before moving to the White House.

This book touches on the growth of the pet industry and details about the research behind the animal stories that shed light on Lincoln’s personality.

The six chapters cover the last 11 years of Lincoln’s life. One section that I found particularly interesting was the history of the way people in the middle ages up to present day regarded ‘pets’. There was a shift from having them live outdoors to in, giving them human names and changing their role in the family to helpful hunter to critter companion.

After Lincoln would go to Billy the Barber, a black Caribbean immigrant, Fido would relax outside with the other customers’ animals. Until Lincoln became president, Billy the Barber kept Lincoln clean shaved. As I read further I am discovering that Fido becomes a local treasurer.

Dog enthusiasts and historians will find this book interesting.

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