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Fala: FDR's Favorite Pet

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Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala in Washington D.C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala in Washington, D.C. (1943)

Picture courtesy the Franklin D. Roosevelt Public Library.

Fala, a cute, black Scottish terrier, was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's constant companion in the last years of his life.

Where Did Fala Come From?

Fala was born on April 7, 1940 and given as a present to FDR by Mrs. Augustus G. Kellog of Westport, CT. After a short stay with FDR's cousin, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley, for obedience training, Fala arrived at the White House on November 10, 1940.

Fala's Name

As a puppy, Fala had been originally named "Big Boy," but FDR was soon to change that. Using the name of his own 15th century Scottish ancestor (John Murray), FDR renamed the dog "Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, which quickly became shortened to "Fala."

Constant Companions

Roosevelt doted on the little dog. Fala slept in a special bed near the President's feet and was given a bone in the morning and dinner at night by the President himself. He wore a leather collar with a silver plate that read, "Fala, the White House."

Fala traveled everywhere with Roosevelt, accompaning him in the car, on trains, in airplanes, and even on ships. Since Fala had to be walked during long train rides, Fala's presence often revealed that President Roosevelt was on board. This led the Secret Service to codename Fala as "the informer."

While in the White House and while traveling with Roosevelt, Fala met many dignitaries including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Mexican President Manuel Camacho. Fala entertained Roosevelt and his important visitors with tricks, including being able to sit up, rolling over, jump up, and curl his lip into a smile.

Becoming Famous and a Scandal

Fala became a celebrity in his own right. He had appeared in numerous photographs with the Roosevelts, was seen at major events of the day, and even had a movie made about him in 1942. Fala had become so popular that thousands of people wrote him letters, causing Fala to need his own secretary to respond to them.

Republicans even used Fala to slander President Roosevelt. A rumor was spread that President Roosevelt had accidentally left Fala in the Aleutian Islands during a trip there and had then spent millions of taxpayer dollars to send a destroyer back for him. FDR answered these allegations in his famous "Fala Speech." In his speech to the Teamsters Union in 1944, FDR said that both he and his family somewhat expected malicious statements to be made about themselves, but that he had to object when such statements were made about his dog.

FDR's Death

After being President Roosevelt's companion for five years, Fala was devastated when Roosevelt passed away on April 12, 1945. Fala rode on the President's funeral train from Warm Springs to Washington and then attended President Roosevelt's funeral.

Fala spent his remaining years living with Eleanor Roosevelt at Val-Kill. Although he had lots of room to run and play with his canine grandson, Tamas McFala, Fala never quite got over the loss of his beloved master.

Fala passed away on April 5, 1952 and was buried near President Roosevelt in the rose garden at Hyde Park.

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