Fala: The Most Underrated Presidential Dog
1. Fala was born on April 7, 1940. The little Scottish Terrier was given to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an early Christmas gift by his distant cousin and confidante, Margaret “Daisy” Suckley.
2. Roosevelt named him ‘Murray the Outlaw of Falahill’ after a Scottish ancestor, and his nickname became Fala.
3. Fala officially moved into the White House on November 10, 1940, from then on he and Roosevelt became inseparable.
4. Every morning, Fala had a bone that was brought up on the President’s breakfast tray. In the evenings he was fed dinner only by the President himself. At night, he slept in a special chair at the foot of the President’s bed.
5. Fala accompanied Roosevelt everywhere, from his private home in Hyde Park, New York, to his favorite spa in Warm Springs, Georgia.
6. He also met with troops on an inspection tour of Army camps.
7. Fala was even on the scene of historical events like the Atlantic Charter Conference and the Quebec Conference. He met with dignitaries like President Manuel Ávila Camacho of Mexico and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of England (pictured).
8. It was on one such trip that a rumor was started that Fala had been accidentally abandoned on one of the Aleutian Islands and that the Navy had to send a destroyer to get him.
9. During the 1944 presidential campaign, Republicans accused the President of spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars to get Fala back. Roosevelt answered the attack with his famous “Fala speech.”
“These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I’d left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself … But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog.”
10. During his time in the White House Fala proved to be very popular. He even had a secretary appointed to him to answer the thousands of letters he received.
11. In April of 1945, while still in office, Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia, after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Fala attended the funeral, but it became clear to all around him that he was lost without Roosevelt.
12. After the President’s death Fala went to live with the Eleanor Roosevelt at her home Val-Kill. The two became inseparable companions.
In her book, On My Own, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote of Fala:
“It was Fala, my husband’s little dog, who never really readjusted. Once, in 1945, when General Eisenhower came to lay a wreath on Franklin’s grave, the gates of the regular driveway were opened and his automobile approached the house accompanied by the wailing of the sirens of a police escort. When Fala heard the sirens, his legs straightened out, his ears pricked up and I knew that he expected to see his master coming down the drive as he had come so many times. Later, when we were living in the cottage, Fala always lay near the dining-room door where he could watch both entrances just as he did when his master was there. Franklin would often decide suddenly to go somewhere and Fala had to watch both entrances in order to be ready to spring up and join the party on short notice. Fala accepted me after my husband’s death, but I was just someone to put up with until the master should return.”
13. On April 5, 1952, Fala passed away. He was buried in the Rose Garden of Springwood, next to a sundial not far from the grave of President.
14. As a testimony to the important role Fala played in the President’s life, a statue of him alongside Roosevelt is featured in Washington, D.C.’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
Fala is the only presidential pet with this honor.