Fala, the Amazing Presidential Dog

Few pets have been as beloved as President Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier Fala. A gift from his cousin Daisy, Roosevelt, named the pup after his Scottish ancestor John Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, shortened to Fala. He came to FDR trained for tricks: to sit, roll over and jump. A foodie at heart, Fala nearly died young from overeating in the White House kitchen, so the president insisted on personally supervising Fala’s meals.

 

FDR took Fala on trips to the family estate in Hyde Park, NY and Warm Springs, GA where he received polio rehab. Fala travelled on the presidential train car the Ferdinand Magellan on the Southern Railroad through the Hometown beats of Duluth, Norcross, the Brookhaven area, Ponce and Midtown Atlanta.

 

In the 1944 election Fala became an issue when critics said the president spent government money on him. “He has not been the same dog since,” Roosevelt said in a speech, and the audience howled with laughter. “Fala resents the attacks,” FDR quipped, adding he too “resented libelous statements about my dog.”

 

Fala was with FDR at Warm Springs in 1945 when he died and returned with the presidential entourage to Hyde Park, NY, continually looking for his master. Standing with the family at the funeral ceremony, he heard and saw West Point cadets raise rifles and fire three times in salute. After each volley Fala barked.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt cared for Fala for 5 more years until, suffering from deafness and failing health, he died two days before his 12th birthday. He is buried with Franklin and Eleanor at Hyde Park along with Chief, the German shepherd dog who had preceded Fala. In Atlanta at Lynwood Park in Brookhaven, Fala Drive is named after this amazing presidential dog.

 

–Dr. Paul Hudson