Break out the Kleenex for this one.
Most dog names are pretty logical. We call a dog with spots Spot. We call a dog that likes to steal food Bandit. We call a dog that’s our buddy … Buddy.
But what about Fido? It’s become almost a generic term for “dog,” but how did this unusual name gain its place of prominence in the pet world?
It all comes back to one very special dog who displayed incredible loyalty, even as his world was falling apart around him.
The name “Fido” is a bastardization of the Latin word “fidus,” meaning loyal or faithful. As such, it’s been popular in countries that speak Romance languages. But it wasn’t until the 1940s that the name really took off in the popular imagination.
The inspiration was a street dog in the town of Luco di Mugello in Italy’s Tuscany region. He was found wounded in a ditch by a worker named Carlo Soriani sometime in the fall of 1941.
Soriani took the wounded mutt home and he and his wife nursed it back to health. Soriani was so touched by the dog’s affection for him that he named it “Fido.” When the dog recovered, he started following his new master to the town square every day to watch him board the bus to his job at a brick kiln in nearby Borgo San Lorenzo.
After seeing his master off, Fido returned home. In the evening, when Soriani returned by bus to the square, he was greeted by the dog romping about, barking with joy. Every workday for two years the duo repeated this routine.
That all changed on December 30, 1943. The Allies targeted the industrial center of Borgo San Lorenzo, where Soriani was working, with a vicious bombing run aimed at smashing vital parts of Mussolini’s infrastructure.
One hundred and nine people were killed in the assault. Carlo Soriani was one of them.
The bus came back to Luco di Mugello that night without Fido’s master. The dog looked around in a panic and even jumped aboard the bus to search between the seats. Eventually he headed back home to Soriani’s widow, who must have known what happened to her husband.
Fido came back to the town square the next day. And the next. For 14 years, every time the bus from Borgo San Lorenzo pulled into the station, Fido was there in hopes of meeting his master. The little dog never gave up on the man who saved his life.
When the people of Luco di Mugello noticed Fido returning to look for Soriani every day, they adopted him as their unofficial mascot. The mayor waived the annual tax on pets for Soriani’s widow, and also allowed Fido to wander around without a muzzle (as was required for the town’s other dogs).
After the war ended, a journalist named Amilcare Giovannini visited the town and was taken with Fido’s touching story. He wrote a piece on the dog to great reaction.
It wasn’t long before Fido was an international celebrity. A statue was erected in his honor, and newspapers as far away as Tokyo shared his story. In pounds and kennels around the world, Fido started becoming more and more popular as a name.
Towards the end of his life, Fido became too weak to make the walk to the bus station. One day in June of 1958, he woke with new energy and left the house at his usual time. Soriani’s widow figured he was simply resuming his old routine.
But Fido never made it to the bus stop that day. He was found on the side of the road by two students who immediately recognized him and brought his body home.
The little dog’s death was national news. La Nazione devoted four columns to his life. The newspaper La Domenica del Corriere honored his death by hiring the artist Walter Molino to paint the dog in his final days, looking sadly at a bus driving away.
Fido was buried just outside the cemetery where his master lies, the two finally reunited after so long. Their story epitomizes the incredible bond dogs have with their owners, and whether they know it or not, Fido owners pay tribute to that pooch’s incredible loyalty.