Dog Diaries #13: Fido

Part of Dog Diaries

Author Kate Klimo
Illustrated by Tim Jessell
A stray dog's moving tale about life with Abraham Lincoln—our sixteenth American president and a true animal lover!

Meet Fido—a "yaller" mutt who was Abraham Lincoln's constant companion and pampered family pet at the time he was elected President. Smart, friendly, and frightened of loud noises, Fido was uniquely positioned to witness American history . . . when he wasn't trying to hide under a piece of furniture! Young readers will hear from Fido about Abraham Lincoln's love for all creatures (great and small), his unique methods of child-rearing, his most famous speeches—including the Emancipation Proclamation—and the tragedy that cut short his life.

With realistic black-and-white illustrations throughout and a fact-filled appendix including information about Abraham Lincoln the animal lover, animal cruelty laws, and more, this is historical fiction for middle graders who don't realize they like historical fiction!
 Abraham Lincoln was my man and I was his dog. That’s the long and short of it. Lincoln had lots of dogs. This ain’t about them. This is about me, Fido. I like to think I was his favorite. The Lincoln Dog, they called me in my heyday. But before I met him, I waren’t nothing but a tramp, living on the streets. 
 
Fact is, me and Lincoln looked alike. We were, the both of us, raw-boned and big-eared and, if I do say so myself, homely as the day is long. 
 
 The morning we met, I’d been trussed up tight in a burlap sack, captured by a gang of ne’er-do-well boys. I didn’t know what they had in mind for me. But I can tell you right now, it waren’t good. I could tell by the sound of their wicked laughter. Low-down and mean it was.
 
I’d no one to blame but myself. They’d lured me into an alleyway with the promise of bacon. I should’ve known better. My mother would have told me, Son, when you see a band of idle boys coming at you, run in t’other direction. But Ma was gone, squashed flatter than a johnnycake by a lumber wagon. Before I could get me my taste of bacon,those bad boys had me in a feed sack with the string drawed up tight, quicker than greased lightning.
 
Let me go! I barked till my jaws ached.
 
Suddenly, I heard a voice. It was high and twangy, like a country banjo. “What are you boys proposing to do with that there wriggling sack?”
 
 The boys knocked off laughing. I heard them shuffle and mumble. “Bringin’ home a rooster for Ma’s cook pot,” one of them said.
“Is that a fact?” said the man. “Rare rooster you’ve got there that barks like a dog.”
“Boys,” I heard one of them whispering to another, “we’re in hot water now.”
The man went on. “Don’t you young ’uns know that all life is sacred? An ant’s life is as sweet to it as ours is to us. How would you like it if somebody stuffed you in a sack?”
“I reckon we’d hate it, sir,” one of the boys said.
“Then you’d best drop that sack and be off. And the next time I catch you red-handed, I’ll tell your folks. And if they don’t tan your hide, I will. Hear me?” 
 
“Yes, sir, mister!” And they dropped me.
Next thing I knew, the man was laying open the sack. He squatted on his heels and stared down at me. I was shivering so bad I thought my teeth would crack. In my brief life on earth, humans had done precious little to win my trust. I looked in this one’s eyes. They were pale as a rainy day. He smelled of timber, woodsmoke, river, milk, barn, and what else? I took a deeper whiff. Sadness! He smelled like a man weighed down by a great sadness.
I leapt into his lap. Propping my paws on his chest, I wagged my bushy tail. Cheer up!
Some dogs might have been afeared of his looks. His face was long and narrow, with sunken cheeks. His hat was tall and dusty. But that smile? It lit up his face like a lantern in the wilderness.
 
“I’ve found me a little yaller pup, looks like!” he declared, scratching my back. “A good little dog, too, I can tell.”
 
 Even a tramp like me knew that word. Good. But was I anything like good? I knew I wanted to be. Ma always told me to be. But she also said there waren’t nothing like a man to bring out the best in a dog. Was this the man for me?
I licked his face until he laughed so hard he fell over backward. “I know some fine young lads who will be pleased to meet you.”
He climbed to his feet and wrapped me in the old shawl from around his neck. It smelled of man sweat and hair oil. Down the street he strode on legs so long I got dizzy when I looked down.
We passed a lady coming t’other way. The man tipped his tall hat. “Good day, Mrs. Melvin.”
The lady stopped and grinned. “Well, now, I see you’ve rescued another of God’s creatures.” 
 
“Now, Mother Melvin, you know I can’t help myself.”
The lady shook her head fondly. “Aren’t you the one who ruined a brand-new suit wading into the mud to save a pig in distress?”
“I do confess I’m partial to pigs, ma’am. My favorite pet as a child was a pig. But I favor little yaller dogs, too.”
“I wonder what your Mary will have to say about that,” Mother Melvin said. “Cats she’ll tolerate. But everyone knows the little woman is afeared of dogs. I daresay she’ll be fit to be tied.”
“Over a little yaller pup?” He looked down on me, his eyes twinkling. “What say you, Fido?”
I wagged and panted. Fido? Who’s that?
“That’s your new name. Fido. From the Latin fidelis, meaning ‘faithful.’ You’ve got the makings of a faithful dog. A proper Lincoln family dog.” 
Tales of a Fourth Grade Fantasy Writer
It all began in the fourth grade when my best friend, Justine and I--inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia, Curdie and the Princess, The Wonderful Journey to the Mushroom Planet, the books of E. Nesbit (and countless other works of fantasy recommended to us by our imperious rouge-cheeked librarian, Mrs. Thackeray)--embarked upon a fantasy epic of our own. We wrote our epic in multi-colored inks (Justine had gotten this nifty set of colored plastic quills for her birthday) in a series of classic black and white composition notebooks, whose white spaces we colored in so that every time we touched them, we got rainbows on our fingertips. I can’t remember the plot but I do know that it featured a cast of unicorns, elves, fairies, and an evil magician whose name, Pezlar, was inspired by our favorite candy. Our characters lived on islands that were shaped in their own likenesses; for instance, the unicorns lived on an island shaped like a unicorn head, where there was, naturally, a Cape Horn and a Beard Bay. Whenever we had writer’s block, we simply drew maps. We were writing (and drawing), not so much for posterity as to conjure a world that, we fervently hoped, would one day open its magical portals and take us in. The world shimmered with latent magic and we lived our days in a state of heightened expectation. When would the magic reveal itself?

Those Magical Oldsters
Taking our cue from the Professor in the Narnia books, Mary Poppins, and Mrs. Pigglewiggle, old people were especially magical to us. Ike Raff, the grumpy old man who owned the cigar store; Charlie Hicks, the seven-foot-tall homeless man who marched in the Memorial Day parade in a full Cherokee regalia, and even the scary Mrs. Thackeray were, we suspected, distinguished emissaries from magical lands. To their credit, they played it straight when, with burning intensity, we asked them such questions as, “Where do you really come from?” and “How did you get here?” “Did you fly, teleport, or use a traveling spell?”

Step right up to the Museum of Magic
Magical talismans were vitally important to us. We collected beach glass, horse chestnuts, antique buttons, old coins, and even a green crystal doorknob. And, yes, we had our own Museum of Magic that we set up in Justine’s side yard, which was just across the street from the beach. I say we set it up. I’m not sure we ever had any paying customers. We were raising funds so that we could buy the fabric to make long hunter-green capes with hoods. These were the outfits we planned to wear when we passed through the magical portals. We must have raised the funds somehow, because we actually stitched up the capes on my mother’s sewing machine. How proud we were of them! So you can imagine how crushed we were when we wore them into town one day and somebody asked us which 4-H troupe we belonged to.

Magical Portals
We looked everywhere for them: Mr. Raff’s cigar store (where we would later buy our Beatles fan mags), an old wooden boat house down at the beach, an abandoned rococo-baroque Victorian mansion near my house just bristling with magical possibilities.
One Friday night, before our favorite TV show, Twilight Zone, came on at 9:30, we took a candle and some matches and made a pilgrimage to the Victorian mansion. It was a cold and windy night, I recall, and when we spied a broken window off the porch, it seemed to say to us, “Trespass, please!” With lit candle, we solemnly walked from room to room, searching for the portal. When we got to the third floor landing, the candle suddenly flared up and then guttered. We screamed and tore out of that place back to my mother’s warm, safe kitchen. Magic, we concluded, was sometimes a pretty scary proposition. We steeled ourselves and determined to make a return trip to the ruined mansion. We never managed that second trip because a wrecker ball rolled in and leveled the site of our closest brush with magic. A branch of the U.S. Post Office took its place and, although we never attempted to break in (Federal Offense!), we did loiter in the foyer, searching for magical signs among the Wanted Posters and the public notices.

Adolescence Rears Its Ugly Head
Looking back on those years, I see that, for us, magic was a kind of pagan belief system. It was both an affirmation of and an escape from life. But maintaining our belief system was not always easy. It was often downright burdensome. We had our rituals to observe, and our obligations, too. (We held weekly classes for our stuffed animals in the faerie arts, complete with lesson plans and demonstration models). Our beliefs isolated us from the other kids (who already suspected we were more than a little bit tetched). There came a time when a kind of low-grade dread began to steal over us; dread of the day when, like Susan Pevense, we would wake up and want to wear lipstick and stockings. And of course, that day did dawn, slowly enough to be agonizing. It started with the Beatles. We simply redirected all that magical intensity in the direction of the Fab 4. Instead of believing in portals, we believed we would one day not only get to meet them, but get to marry them (Justine, John; me, Paul). After that, it was a just small step to wearing lipstick (well, Mary Quant lip gloss, in any case), stockings (fish net), mini skirts (tweed and veddy British) and, before we knew it, we were looking back on our days of magic with patronizing fondness.

Reader, I Wrote
When I grew up, I still wanted to write but writing for children seemed, well, childish. I determined to be a writer of Adult Books, and succeeded (on a very modest level). But what can I tell you? The lack of magic in the adult world, as much from a reader’s standpoint as a writer’s, eventually got to me. I missed the magic, and years later, here I am, drawn back to its portals. I even find myself believing again. I believe that the world in which we live, the world of consensus reality, is but one small room in a mansion full of rooms. I believe that writing and reading are two surefire ways to get access to the other rooms. And nowadays, it is my sole ambition to grow up to be one of those old people who just might be mistaken for a distinguished emissary from a magical land.
Do I fly, teleport, or cast traveling spells?
The answer to all of the above is yes! View titles by Kate Klimo
TIM JESSELL'S work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibitions, receiving the Society's Gold Medal Award. He is also the winner of AdWeek Magazine's Illustrator of the Year. His work can be seen in the bestselling series Secrets of Droon, Superhero Christmas (written by Stan Lee of Marvel Comics), and covers for the reissue of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Newbery Honor Books. Tim has been a guest speaker to professional graphic communication groups and enjoys speaking to student groups as well. View titles by Tim Jessell

About

A stray dog's moving tale about life with Abraham Lincoln—our sixteenth American president and a true animal lover!

Meet Fido—a "yaller" mutt who was Abraham Lincoln's constant companion and pampered family pet at the time he was elected President. Smart, friendly, and frightened of loud noises, Fido was uniquely positioned to witness American history . . . when he wasn't trying to hide under a piece of furniture! Young readers will hear from Fido about Abraham Lincoln's love for all creatures (great and small), his unique methods of child-rearing, his most famous speeches—including the Emancipation Proclamation—and the tragedy that cut short his life.

With realistic black-and-white illustrations throughout and a fact-filled appendix including information about Abraham Lincoln the animal lover, animal cruelty laws, and more, this is historical fiction for middle graders who don't realize they like historical fiction!

Excerpt

 Abraham Lincoln was my man and I was his dog. That’s the long and short of it. Lincoln had lots of dogs. This ain’t about them. This is about me, Fido. I like to think I was his favorite. The Lincoln Dog, they called me in my heyday. But before I met him, I waren’t nothing but a tramp, living on the streets. 
 
Fact is, me and Lincoln looked alike. We were, the both of us, raw-boned and big-eared and, if I do say so myself, homely as the day is long. 
 
 The morning we met, I’d been trussed up tight in a burlap sack, captured by a gang of ne’er-do-well boys. I didn’t know what they had in mind for me. But I can tell you right now, it waren’t good. I could tell by the sound of their wicked laughter. Low-down and mean it was.
 
I’d no one to blame but myself. They’d lured me into an alleyway with the promise of bacon. I should’ve known better. My mother would have told me, Son, when you see a band of idle boys coming at you, run in t’other direction. But Ma was gone, squashed flatter than a johnnycake by a lumber wagon. Before I could get me my taste of bacon,those bad boys had me in a feed sack with the string drawed up tight, quicker than greased lightning.
 
Let me go! I barked till my jaws ached.
 
Suddenly, I heard a voice. It was high and twangy, like a country banjo. “What are you boys proposing to do with that there wriggling sack?”
 
 The boys knocked off laughing. I heard them shuffle and mumble. “Bringin’ home a rooster for Ma’s cook pot,” one of them said.
“Is that a fact?” said the man. “Rare rooster you’ve got there that barks like a dog.”
“Boys,” I heard one of them whispering to another, “we’re in hot water now.”
The man went on. “Don’t you young ’uns know that all life is sacred? An ant’s life is as sweet to it as ours is to us. How would you like it if somebody stuffed you in a sack?”
“I reckon we’d hate it, sir,” one of the boys said.
“Then you’d best drop that sack and be off. And the next time I catch you red-handed, I’ll tell your folks. And if they don’t tan your hide, I will. Hear me?” 
 
“Yes, sir, mister!” And they dropped me.
Next thing I knew, the man was laying open the sack. He squatted on his heels and stared down at me. I was shivering so bad I thought my teeth would crack. In my brief life on earth, humans had done precious little to win my trust. I looked in this one’s eyes. They were pale as a rainy day. He smelled of timber, woodsmoke, river, milk, barn, and what else? I took a deeper whiff. Sadness! He smelled like a man weighed down by a great sadness.
I leapt into his lap. Propping my paws on his chest, I wagged my bushy tail. Cheer up!
Some dogs might have been afeared of his looks. His face was long and narrow, with sunken cheeks. His hat was tall and dusty. But that smile? It lit up his face like a lantern in the wilderness.
 
“I’ve found me a little yaller pup, looks like!” he declared, scratching my back. “A good little dog, too, I can tell.”
 
 Even a tramp like me knew that word. Good. But was I anything like good? I knew I wanted to be. Ma always told me to be. But she also said there waren’t nothing like a man to bring out the best in a dog. Was this the man for me?
I licked his face until he laughed so hard he fell over backward. “I know some fine young lads who will be pleased to meet you.”
He climbed to his feet and wrapped me in the old shawl from around his neck. It smelled of man sweat and hair oil. Down the street he strode on legs so long I got dizzy when I looked down.
We passed a lady coming t’other way. The man tipped his tall hat. “Good day, Mrs. Melvin.”
The lady stopped and grinned. “Well, now, I see you’ve rescued another of God’s creatures.” 
 
“Now, Mother Melvin, you know I can’t help myself.”
The lady shook her head fondly. “Aren’t you the one who ruined a brand-new suit wading into the mud to save a pig in distress?”
“I do confess I’m partial to pigs, ma’am. My favorite pet as a child was a pig. But I favor little yaller dogs, too.”
“I wonder what your Mary will have to say about that,” Mother Melvin said. “Cats she’ll tolerate. But everyone knows the little woman is afeared of dogs. I daresay she’ll be fit to be tied.”
“Over a little yaller pup?” He looked down on me, his eyes twinkling. “What say you, Fido?”
I wagged and panted. Fido? Who’s that?
“That’s your new name. Fido. From the Latin fidelis, meaning ‘faithful.’ You’ve got the makings of a faithful dog. A proper Lincoln family dog.” 

Author

Tales of a Fourth Grade Fantasy Writer
It all began in the fourth grade when my best friend, Justine and I--inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia, Curdie and the Princess, The Wonderful Journey to the Mushroom Planet, the books of E. Nesbit (and countless other works of fantasy recommended to us by our imperious rouge-cheeked librarian, Mrs. Thackeray)--embarked upon a fantasy epic of our own. We wrote our epic in multi-colored inks (Justine had gotten this nifty set of colored plastic quills for her birthday) in a series of classic black and white composition notebooks, whose white spaces we colored in so that every time we touched them, we got rainbows on our fingertips. I can’t remember the plot but I do know that it featured a cast of unicorns, elves, fairies, and an evil magician whose name, Pezlar, was inspired by our favorite candy. Our characters lived on islands that were shaped in their own likenesses; for instance, the unicorns lived on an island shaped like a unicorn head, where there was, naturally, a Cape Horn and a Beard Bay. Whenever we had writer’s block, we simply drew maps. We were writing (and drawing), not so much for posterity as to conjure a world that, we fervently hoped, would one day open its magical portals and take us in. The world shimmered with latent magic and we lived our days in a state of heightened expectation. When would the magic reveal itself?

Those Magical Oldsters
Taking our cue from the Professor in the Narnia books, Mary Poppins, and Mrs. Pigglewiggle, old people were especially magical to us. Ike Raff, the grumpy old man who owned the cigar store; Charlie Hicks, the seven-foot-tall homeless man who marched in the Memorial Day parade in a full Cherokee regalia, and even the scary Mrs. Thackeray were, we suspected, distinguished emissaries from magical lands. To their credit, they played it straight when, with burning intensity, we asked them such questions as, “Where do you really come from?” and “How did you get here?” “Did you fly, teleport, or use a traveling spell?”

Step right up to the Museum of Magic
Magical talismans were vitally important to us. We collected beach glass, horse chestnuts, antique buttons, old coins, and even a green crystal doorknob. And, yes, we had our own Museum of Magic that we set up in Justine’s side yard, which was just across the street from the beach. I say we set it up. I’m not sure we ever had any paying customers. We were raising funds so that we could buy the fabric to make long hunter-green capes with hoods. These were the outfits we planned to wear when we passed through the magical portals. We must have raised the funds somehow, because we actually stitched up the capes on my mother’s sewing machine. How proud we were of them! So you can imagine how crushed we were when we wore them into town one day and somebody asked us which 4-H troupe we belonged to.

Magical Portals
We looked everywhere for them: Mr. Raff’s cigar store (where we would later buy our Beatles fan mags), an old wooden boat house down at the beach, an abandoned rococo-baroque Victorian mansion near my house just bristling with magical possibilities.
One Friday night, before our favorite TV show, Twilight Zone, came on at 9:30, we took a candle and some matches and made a pilgrimage to the Victorian mansion. It was a cold and windy night, I recall, and when we spied a broken window off the porch, it seemed to say to us, “Trespass, please!” With lit candle, we solemnly walked from room to room, searching for the portal. When we got to the third floor landing, the candle suddenly flared up and then guttered. We screamed and tore out of that place back to my mother’s warm, safe kitchen. Magic, we concluded, was sometimes a pretty scary proposition. We steeled ourselves and determined to make a return trip to the ruined mansion. We never managed that second trip because a wrecker ball rolled in and leveled the site of our closest brush with magic. A branch of the U.S. Post Office took its place and, although we never attempted to break in (Federal Offense!), we did loiter in the foyer, searching for magical signs among the Wanted Posters and the public notices.

Adolescence Rears Its Ugly Head
Looking back on those years, I see that, for us, magic was a kind of pagan belief system. It was both an affirmation of and an escape from life. But maintaining our belief system was not always easy. It was often downright burdensome. We had our rituals to observe, and our obligations, too. (We held weekly classes for our stuffed animals in the faerie arts, complete with lesson plans and demonstration models). Our beliefs isolated us from the other kids (who already suspected we were more than a little bit tetched). There came a time when a kind of low-grade dread began to steal over us; dread of the day when, like Susan Pevense, we would wake up and want to wear lipstick and stockings. And of course, that day did dawn, slowly enough to be agonizing. It started with the Beatles. We simply redirected all that magical intensity in the direction of the Fab 4. Instead of believing in portals, we believed we would one day not only get to meet them, but get to marry them (Justine, John; me, Paul). After that, it was a just small step to wearing lipstick (well, Mary Quant lip gloss, in any case), stockings (fish net), mini skirts (tweed and veddy British) and, before we knew it, we were looking back on our days of magic with patronizing fondness.

Reader, I Wrote
When I grew up, I still wanted to write but writing for children seemed, well, childish. I determined to be a writer of Adult Books, and succeeded (on a very modest level). But what can I tell you? The lack of magic in the adult world, as much from a reader’s standpoint as a writer’s, eventually got to me. I missed the magic, and years later, here I am, drawn back to its portals. I even find myself believing again. I believe that the world in which we live, the world of consensus reality, is but one small room in a mansion full of rooms. I believe that writing and reading are two surefire ways to get access to the other rooms. And nowadays, it is my sole ambition to grow up to be one of those old people who just might be mistaken for a distinguished emissary from a magical land.
Do I fly, teleport, or cast traveling spells?
The answer to all of the above is yes! View titles by Kate Klimo
TIM JESSELL'S work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibitions, receiving the Society's Gold Medal Award. He is also the winner of AdWeek Magazine's Illustrator of the Year. His work can be seen in the bestselling series Secrets of Droon, Superhero Christmas (written by Stan Lee of Marvel Comics), and covers for the reissue of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Newbery Honor Books. Tim has been a guest speaker to professional graphic communication groups and enjoys speaking to student groups as well. View titles by Tim Jessell

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