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.

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