A lesson from Fido: man's best friend

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Dec 01, 2003


Jake and Lynn Osborne
What do the words Fido, fidelity and confidence have in common? Can you find the root word in these terms? If you have decided the root word is "fid," you are correct. It is derived from the Latin term, "fidelitas." You Latin buffs may recall its meaning - "faithful."

Most of us recognize Fido as a common generic name for dogs. The name assumes new meaning when we understand that it means faithful.

What is the relationship between Fido and fidelity? Webster's Dictionary's definition of fidelity is "the quality or state of being faithful or loyal." The poet Horace penned, "Fidelity is the sister of justice." James Parton wrote, "Fidelity is seven-tenths of business success." The Radio Corp. of America (RCA) ingeniously used an illustration of a dog (presumably Fido) carefully listening to a phonograph to symbolize the term "hi-fidelity," a faithful reproduction of musical sounds.

What about the term confidence? Have you ever made a pledge to keep a conversation or pledge in confidence? If so, you have faithfully pledged to be true to your word. Here again, Fido can be used symbolically inasmuch that one reason dogs have such a close bond with their masters is that they wag their tails (not tales) instead of their tongues.

Likewise, in terms of our associations with others, confidence or faithfulness to our words is the foundation of continued friendship and trust.

Trust is built upon confidence in one another's integrity. We can trust the principle that "the one who is faithful in least, is faithful also in much" (Luke 16:10).

Faithful friends and associates are beyond price; their worth is more than money can buy. Likewise, as veterinarians, one of the most important tools in our diagnostic and therapeutic armamentarium is the confidence of our clients in our competency and our character.

Is there more to the relationship of Fido, fidelity and confidence than the root word "fid?"

In response to that question, please complete the following sentence. "It has been often said that man's best friend is the ____."

Yes, the dog is widely acclaimed as man's best friend. They have a universal reputation of being faithful to their masters. Perhaps if we faithfully follow their example, it will be more often said that man's best friend...is man.

EpilogueThese thoughts are penned as a heartfelt tribute to Jake (August 23, 1990 - Oct. 15, 2003), our loyal Dalmatian. He elevated the meaning of being a faithful friend to a level beyond our ability to describe. If, during his final hours, he were able to put his thoughts to the pen, I sense his message would be:

"I was abandoned and sent to die all alone,

Then you reached out and gave me a home.

As one of the family, you treated me as treasure;

In return my life's goal was to bring you pleasure.

In response to my love, I could readily tell,

You valued my life and my welfare as well.

Through times happy and sad, I was faithful to you.

To me you were loyal and trustworthy too,

Let me live on, now that we must part,

In your mind, and especially your heart.

I love you."

Jake

Dr. Osborne is professor of medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota.