Christopher Lee


Give A Dog A Good Name – Fido Can’t All Be Bad

4th November 2012
In Sly Shulman’s bar across the street from my brownstone, I can see it from the window, there’s a man who always wears a brown and once cream I suppose stripe suit. He takes a beer slowly. He’s an observer of time and its intruders. He always knows something.  Couple of days ago he told me his ex is giving his (now her) dog Prozac.

For the storm, I assumed.  He shook his head.  No, not the storm. Her nerves. His ex fumbles her fingers and shouts at the coffee machine for hissing.  She thinks it’s hissing at her. That’s when the dog barks.

So the dog gets Prozac. He nods.  That’s about it. The dog gets Prozac. What sort of dog gets Prozac?  He takes a sip.  Shrugs.  He’s called Fido.  What sort of breed would you say it is? No breed, he says.  Just called Fido. Thing about Fido, you know it has to be a dog.  Ever heard a cat called Fido? No. Anyway that’s not the end of it.

Next day I’m in LA and picked up a headline in the Los Angeles Times about dogs called Fido. Now I have never actually met a dog by the name of Fido, but Abraham Lincoln’s dog was called Fido and if the stories run true, Lincoln’s Fido used to sit by him in Billy’s barber shop in Springfield.  The dog would never leave Lincoln’s side. Didn’t save him mind you, but there you go. Not all stories have movie endings.  But that’s not why I was thinking of Fido this past week.

As I said, I picked up the paper at the airport and there was this thing about Fido – all of them. Seems the ‘Times thinks all dogs (not just the 16th President’s) are called Fido – well since 1985 anyways. Or at least they are if they get a mention in the LA Times.  Don’t worry about the Prozac for a moment.  It’ll come.

The editors at that fine paper have been checking out what they think is a phenomenon of canine type casting. For the past 27 years dogs have been called Fido in 111 – that’s one hundred and eleven – headlines in the Los Angeles Times.

Baffling. But true. This came up when the paper ran a story that airlines could take dogs. Fido? And they ran a story that Prozac was prescribed for a dog with something of an excitable disposition. The headline said it: Fido’s Little Helper.  Then an anti-smoking campaign. The dog had a photo-op with a cute curly kitten – you could see where they were coming from: secondary smoking. The headline proved it: Do It For Fido and Fluffy.  No one actually said this was so heartbreaking that half LA kicked the habit, but it was implied that a lot did just that – for the day anyway.

The odd thing, is there’s no trace of any Fido registered in Los Angeles County.  No Dog Warden can remember taking in a Fido. No sleepless neighbor heard a midnight widow calling in a wandering Fido. Further research says that in the top 50 doggie names in the English-speaking world, Fido does not show.

A harmless tale to wag you might suppose except for one sad fact. After Lincoln’s death, Fido was taken to Springfield for the funeral and fussed over.  Patting the dog was like patting the President said one eloquent snuffling mourner and Fido responded just as he had for the most famous President ever.  He loved licking patting hands.  Anyway, one night, Fido came across a drunk asleep in the sidewalk’s shadow and started licking the unfortunate’s face.  The drunk woke in terror and saw a great open slavering jaw not an inch from his nose. He drew his knife and lunged. Thus the end of Fido.

Well, I happened to mention this to the guy at the end of the bar in the brown and maybe cream stripe outfit. He thought about it. Then hope died. He shook his head. A dog on Prozac was unlikely to savage even his ex. We both shrugged and took a sip. And then he paused, the bottle neck not three inches from his lower lip. He eyed me in the bar mirror. Maybe, just maybe he mused you can teach old dogs knew tricks.

It would make a good headline in the LA Times.


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