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Remembering President Lincoln and My Leader Dogs

February 12, 2020



Remembering President Abraham Lincoln and My Leader Dogs


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Are you wondering what connection my second Leader Dog Heather has with President Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we honor today (February 12)? Well, let’s go back in time—not 211 years, but only thirteen and a half years.


Despite the pouring rain on that summer day in 2006, my second Leader Dog, Heather, and I walked (with my sister) from the Visitor Center in Springfield, Illinois, to the home where President Abraham Lincoln and his family lived for 17 years before moving to the White House. When my guide dog and I entered the historic home, I promptly took out the paper towels from my pocket and began to dry Heather as well as possible. All guests were dampened; however, fortunately, the park ranger (who was our excellent tour guide) did not seem to mind. Did my Yellow Labrador fit right into the historical setting ? Perhaps, she did because while in Springfield, the Lincolns enjoyed the companionship of a yellow dog named Fido.


After touring the main level of the Lincoln home, we were given the opportunity to walk up the stairs where President Lincoln had walked. The tour guide emphasized that the one place we could be certain that we were touching where Lincoln’s hands had touched was the banister of the stairway. As one of my hands grasped the wooden handrail and my other hand was on the harness handle of my guide dog, my Yellow Lab and I ascended the stairs while I became choked up with emotions. Holding the hands of history and freedom, I ascended those stairs with tears in my eyes. Of all the stairs we climbed at my workplace (a technical college), of all the stairs my Leader Dog and I climbed elsewhere, the ascent to the second floor of the treasured Springfield home with my Heather is the most memorable to me.


Considering all the Lincoln sites to visit in Springfield, Illinois, the Lincoln Home National Historic site was my favorite. Five years later, I made the same journey with my third Leader Dog, Zoe. Someday, I hope to return to Springfield to tour the Greek Revival house of the Lincolns again and to pay my respects once more at the

awe-inspiring Lincoln Tomb. I want the privilege of walking up the stairs where President Lincoln walked and hold the banister that he touched—this time with my fourth Leader Dog, Willow, because I never tire of appreciating the special freedom of being able to go with my guide dog into any public building in the United States—even the historic home of one of our greatest presidents.


POST-SCRIPT: What a year 1809 was! Not only was President Abraham Lincoln born in 1809, but also Louis Braille (January 4) and Edgar A. Poe (January 19) were born in 1809.


Wishing you many memorable walks through history,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 12, 2020, Wednesday




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  1. joanmyles permalink

    Fabulous! Holding hands with history and freedom…I am right there with you, dear Alice! *children dancing**sunrise in mist*

  2. Happy birthday, Heather! Springfield is a wonderful place to visit! What a nice remembrance of your visits there.
    Jenna, Nick, and Harper

    • Hi to all!  Many thanks for reading this post and sending a comment!

      Happy Valentine’s Day to the three of you!

      Alice and Willow

  3. Dear Alice,
    Thanks for sharing our memorable times in Springfield, Illinois—the Land of Lincoln. I also enjoyed visiting the second story law office where Abraham Lincoln and his partner practiced law. The guide at the Old State Capitol who reenacted stories from Lincoln’s time was very convincing! I’m thankful that we were able to make those trips with Leader Dog Heather and later with Leader Dog Zoe. Lincoln would have been pleased to have such dedicated dogs in his home!
    All the best to you and Willow!
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–Thanks for adding some of your remembrances of our Illinois travels to and from our Indiana home.  Also, I know that you and your little students will be discussing the presidents of the United States this week–especially President Lincoln and President Washington.

      Happy Valentine’s Day, and enjoy Emmy’s basketball game–Alice and Willow

  4. Susan M McKendry permalink

    Alice–Thanks for sharing these memories. I remember reading (or hearing you tell) of one of your visits to Springfield because when we visited there, as I climbed those stairs, I thought of the wonderful connection: Lincoln was the great emancipator, guide dogs give great independence to visually impaired people, and our country has laws that permit guide dogs to go where other dogs are not allowed to go. I did think about this as I went up and down the stairs holding the handrail, and I even shared some of those thoughts with our tour leader later (along with the same information I share with every National Park Ranger I’ve met–if I had to live my adult life over, I’d have chosen to become a National Park Ranger).–Sue

    • Sue–Thanks for reading and commenting on this post.  I do appreciate your sharing a little about your visit to Lincoln’s Springfield home.  How very interesting that you would have liked to have been a National Park Ranger!  I am sure you would have been an excellent one!  The teaching aspect of being a tour guide has always appealed to me.

      Happy Valentine’s Day to you and John–Alice and Willow

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