September 11, 2015 | Posted in 1st Doggies
American presidents, from the days of George Washington have enjoyed a reputation for being pet lovers. Of all the presidential pets, Fala stands out as one with a really striking personality and the amount of press that it got. Fala was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s pet Scottish terrier.
Fala was born on April 7th, 1940 and died on April 5th, 1952. He outlived his beloved master by seven years. He came into Roosevelt’s life as a gift from a cousin, who had already trained the little dog to follow basic instructions and also perform a few tricks. Fala was six months old then, the little black puppy quickly wove his way into the hearts of the Roosevelt family. Franklin was then embarking on his third term as president.
The feisty terrier was the owner of an impressive name – Murray the Outlaw of Falahill. In due course, it got shortened to Fala. The presidential pet was fed morning and night by his owner; the staff was under orders to not indulge him with canine treats. Fala’s small size played a role in getting him residence at the White House; the president’s bigger pet dogs were moved to prevent them from startling international dignitaries visiting the American president’s official residence.
Perhaps the most famous incident related to Fala occurred in 1944, when Roosevelt was campaigning for a fourth term. He made a detailed reference to his pet, who he said was being unfairly targeted by his Republican opponents. The issue began with Roosevelt’s opponents alleging that the president had left his dog behind on the Aleutian Islands and then had sent destroyers to fetch him back, at the cost of millions of tax dollars. Roosevelt’s humorous and poignant speech touched a chord with millions of Americans who heard it live over radio. It is believed that this “Fala Speech” played a role in Roosevelt getting a fourth term as president.
Fala was a celebrity in his own right and crowds would gather to see him whenever he accompanied the president on his visits, both within the country and abroad. Roosevelt, ever the shrewd politician, employed the pet dog to good effect for reaching out to people and humoring guests before the start of meetings. The tricks Fala learnt as a puppy served him in good stead; he used them to endear himself to the many he came in contact with.
Fala had an official biographer too. Her name was Margret Suckley. In 1942, a documentary was made on the life of the first dog. Fala received fan mail and “replied” to letters; a secretary was appointed for the task.
According to Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, Fala was never the same after his master left this world. In fact, there is an anecdote related to Fala’s behavior on the day Roosevelt died. He dashed out of the room moments after the president’s death and raced to a raised embankment where he stood still gazing into the distance.
The mutual love between Fala and Roosevelt is immortalized in this sculpture at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial in Washington D.C.