Friday, June 25, 2010

Travels with FDR & Becoming President

FDR and Fala were rarely seen apart and they often traveled together. One of Fala’s first notable trips with the president was in 1941 aboard the Prince of Wales when Roosevelt and England’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter, which brought the country closer to being involved in World War II. Shortly after his trip, Fala was named president of the Barkers for Britain, a sub-group of the Bundles for Britain organization.

Bundles for Britain collected clothing, blankets, money, and other donations to aid the British people after the aerial bombing by Nazi Germany and the U-boat attacks on shipping ports, which caused a large shortage of supplies.
Barkers was a way for dog owners to support the aid mission and sold memberships. Dog members were given an official Bundles for Britain dog tag which they could proudly wear on their collar.
Local Barkers chapters were created all over the country and more than 30,000 memberships were issued in about seven months at 50 cents a piece. Nearly 1,000 dogs in Australia also became
members. Fala was issued tag number one and signed membership certificates with his paw print. The president of Bundles for Britain, Mrs. Wales Latham wrote Fala thanking him for the efforts. “The first dog of the United States and a great leader of all loyal American canines, his voice in loud barks for the courageous people of Great Britian,” she wrote.

Fala also accompanied the president on many defense plant inspection trips and in 1943 he visited Mexico’s President Avila Camacho. The next year, Fala traveled to the first Quebec Conference in August of 1944. While he was at the conference, he wasn’t able to ride with the president but rode with the Secret Service in an open car following Roosevelt, Churchill, and Canada’s Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. The next year, Roosevelt and Fala went to the second Quebec Conference where Roosevelt and Churchill discussed the impending failure of Germany, and later traveled to Honolulu.

More information on Fala and the Barkers for Britain can be found on the National Archives website.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fala Roosevelt

Fala Roosevelt, from
President Franklin Roosevelt had 11 dogs during his years in the White House, but his black Scottish terrier Fala was the one that most remember and is often considered to be one of the most famous and celebrated dogs in history. People often tried to give the president dogs as gifts when they discovered his love of canines, but many were not accepted and returned. One gift he did accept was a puppy from his sixth cousin Margaret Daisy Suckley. Suckley and her children had named the puppy Big Boy, but Roosevelt renamed the puppy after a Scottish ancestor “Murray the Outlaw of Fala Hill” and called him Fala. Stuckey trained Fala before he went to live at the White House.

Fala and President Roosevelt became inseparable and were not often seen apart. Eleanor Roosevelt disapproved of dogs living in the White House, but the president was adamant and the dog stayed. Fala attended press conferences, played outside the Oval Office, and often attended cocktail hour with the president. He made himself at home and slept at the foot of the president’s bed in a chair with a navy blanket. The Secret Service agents who guarded the president on out-of-town trips nicknamed Fala “the Informer” because where ever he was the president was not far away.

The White House staff and other guests often tried to give Fala treats and snacks, but too many snacks once gave him digestion problems which sent him to the hospital. After the incident, Roosevelt was the only one to feed Fala when he was home to prevent future ailments and obesity. The little dog had to do a series of tricks—roll over, shake hands, and beg—before he would get his dinner. On another occasion, a camera crew came to the White House to shoot footage of Fala for a film about the “First Dog.” The film crew gave him bacon as treats for his tricks, but made him sick. Rehearsing the tricks every day proved to be successful because the president would often have Fala do tricks at the beginning of meetings with dignitaries.

Fala is my favorite of all of the presidents' pets. This is just the first post of many. Check back for more on Fala.

Sources for this post and subsequent Fala posts are from:
  1. Geoffery C. Ward, Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship Between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1995. 134.
  2. Margaret Truman, White House Pets. New York: David McKay Company, Inc. 1969. 71.
  3. History. “FDR defends his dog.” September 23, 1944. (accessed on April 9, 2010.)
  4. Mark Derr, “Fala, the Presidential Dog.” The Bark: dog is my co-pilot. (accessed on April 14, 2010).
  5. The U.S. National Archives & Records Administration, “Fala and the Barkers for Britian.” Winter 2006, Volume 38. Number 4.
  6. Biography of Fala D. Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. (accessed on April 14, 2010.)
  7. Charles MacDonald, A Time for Trumpets: the Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge. New York: Harper Perennial, 1997. 226.

            Tuesday, June 22, 2010

            Dogs on Capitol Hill

            The Washingon Post posted an interesting article and slide show about some of the dogs that go to work daily on Capitol Hill.

            "They are the ultimate Capitol Hill insiders, privy to high-powered meetings between lawmakers and lobbyists, able to just saunter into congressional offices -- no appointment necessary. Want this kind of access? Tuff.

            We're talking about dogs. A couple of dozen -- dozen -- roam the halls of power in the Capitol every day."

            Friday, June 18, 2010

            Looking at History with Pets

            I've always loved animals and have had pets, but it wasn't until recently when I started researching for a graduate school class, did I realize how often pets are involved in and often shape politics. Many of my classmates didn't take my research seriously until I gave my final presentation and then they were amazed at my findings.

            I found a lot of great resources throughout my research, but none all in the same place. I hope that this blog as a useful resource on the pets have been involved in politics and some that have changed the lives and the political careers of their masters.