The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia

By Maurine H. Beasley; Holly C. Shulman et al. | Go to book overview
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FALA (7 April 1940, Westport, CT–5 April 1952, Hyde Park, NY).

Fala, the Roosevelt family’s best-known dog, was loved by both Franklin D. Roosevelt* and Eleanor Roosevelt. A Scottish terrier, Fala was a gift to FDR from his cousin Margaret Suckley* and arrived at the White House on 10 November 1940.

FDR named the terrier “Murray of Fala Hill” in honor of an outlaw Roosevelt ancestor whose home was Fala Hill in Scotland. The president and the dog were inseparable, and Fala accompanied FDR on trips both in the United States and abroad. When a false story was spread in the 1944 presidential campaign that a destroyer had been sent at great expense to bring Fala back from an Aleutian Island where he had been left by mistake, FDR responded with a speech that became famous. He declared that the dog’s Scottish soul had been outraged, making Fala a symbol of the Roosevelt administration’s ability to deflect criticism and speak personally to voters.

After FDR’s death, ER and Fala became close companions. Although FDR had bequeathed Fala to Suckley, she agreed to give the dog to ER after she asked to keep him. ER bathed Fala, had him do tricks, wrote about him in her newspaper and magazine columns, walked with him in the woods around Val-Kill,* and had photographs taken with him. On a trip to Campobello* Island, New Brunswick, in 1946, ER was refused a hotel room because Fala was with her, so she stayed in a cabin that welcomed pets.

Fala died just before he was twelve years old and, as FDR had requested, was buried in the rose garden at Hyde Park* near his master’s grave. Although she had not shed tears in public at FDR’s funeral, ER cried openly when Fala was interred.


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