Fido: Lincoln's Beloved 'Yaller' Dog

Fido became famous in history as a very special dog of Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln loved animals. Matthew Algeo, author of Abe & Fido, says "Animals had always played a central role in Abraham Lincoln's life. As a young man, the kindness he showed them was practically unique on the frontier. At a time when pulling the heads off live geese was considered a perfectly reasonable way to pass the time, Lincoln preached that all living creatures were deserving of tender mercy - even ants."

Fido joined the Lincoln family in Springfield, Illinois five years before their move to the White House. He was a floppy-eared, mid-sized, yellow-colored dog. According to Algeo "He'd [Lincoln] always had a soft spot for what, in his country accent, he called 'yaller dogs'."

Lincoln loved Fido and, what was not so common then as it is today, he treated him as part of the family. Fido was allowed in the house, and would follow Lincoln around town as he ran errands and attended to business. He was a constant fixture in town and was often seen carrying a newspaper or some other object in his mouth for his master.

When elected president, Lincoln decided with great sorrow to leave Fido behind with a friend in Springfield. Fido was afraid of trains, and the fireworks and cannon blasts during the victory celebration terrified him. Lincoln did not want to stress his dog on the long train ride to Washington DC, or put him through the constant pomp that surrounded the presidency.

Lincoln left Fido with John Roll, his wife and their two young boys. He gave the family Fido's favorite resting place, a seven-foot horsehair sofa, and asked that they agree to the following requests: They were to let Fido into the house whenever he scratched on the door, they were to never scold him if he tracked mud into the house, they were to never leave him tied up alone in the backyard, and they were to give him scraps of food from the table. The family agreed, and they also agreed to give Fido back to them when they came home from Washington DC.

The Roll family took good care of Fido. After the president was assassinated in April 1865, they took Fido to the funeral procession in Springfield so the dog could say good-bye to his master. Within the year of Lincoln's death, Fido died at about the age of ten. Mr. Roll wrote of Fido's sad fate:

"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."