Faithful Family Pets: Researching Dogs Named Fido

I was reading an article in Reader’s Digest by Brandon Specktor (“Unlikely Legacies of U.S. Presidents.” Reader’s Digest November 2015, pages 176-182) that credits Abraham Lincoln’s dog Fido as the poster dog that made that name “synonymous with the family pooch” across the country.

I wondered how common Fido had been as a dog’s name before President Lincoln’s time. To get a read on that I went to GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, since they let me search across millions of pages of daily newspapers from across the country, starting from 1690.

I quickly found hundreds of old newspaper articles about dogs that were named Fido from the 1700s down to today. From the serialized children’s stories that routinely appeared in the old newspapers – to news accounts – it was common for the family dog’s name to be Fido.

Fido was everywhere.

For example, here is an early newspaper article about a dog named Fido living in Boston in 1791 – and he was missing.

missing dog ad, Independent Chronicle newspaper advertisement 1 September 1791
Independent Chronicle (Boston, Massachusetts), 1 September 1791, page 3

Time and time again the news accounts referred to the faithfulness of Fido, the family dog.

Like this story of Fido traveling over 300 miles to be with his family that had moved.

montage of a newspaper clipping about a dog named Fido, Marietta Journal newspaper article 9 November 1893
Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 9 November 1893, page 1

It seems that a family from Reynolds, Georgia, had moved to South Florida.

article about a dog named Fido, Marietta Journal newspaper article 9 November 1893
Marietta Journal (Marietta, Georgia), 9 November 1893, page 1

The dog “much prized by the family” had “followed hard by until he reached Jasper, Fla., a distance of nearly 300 miles.”

There the family made camp in Jasper for the night and in the morning they prepared to leave – but couldn’t find their dog Fido.

They continued heading further south in Florida without their family pet.

What happened to Fido?

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The article continues that the dog – after finding the family had left Jasper – returned all the way to their former home in Reynolds, Georgia. “He found the old home desolate…[and] went to a neighbor’s house where he had often hovered around the hearth. They recognized the dog, emaciated in form, and gave him food.”

They contacted the dog’s family down in Florida and “imagine the surprise and joy of his owner when informed of the dog’s safe return to his [Georgia] home.”

Stories of faithful dogs traveling hundreds of miles to be with their family have been published in newspapers for centuries.
Dogs and families bond.

When you write the stories of your family, be sure to include the story of Fido the family dog too. Don’t let your family’s pet stories be lost.

Find them.
Document them.
Put them into your online family history so that they will be easily found by the family for generations to come.

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