This month we pay tribute to “Murray the Outlaw of Falahill,” or simply “Fala”as he was more commonly known to his adoring fans. The beloved Scottish Terrier of Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Fala was arguably the most famous pet that ever lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. A celebrity in his own right, Fala had his own “secretary” on the White House staff who answered the many thousands of cards and letters he received annually.
As the constant and devoted companion of FDR, Fala travelled the globe extensively and met many world leaders, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Mexican President Manuel Ávila Camacho. He dutifully charmed and entertained them with the tricks he had learned as a puppy, the most impressive of which was curling his lip into a smile. Fala loved to travel alongside the president on trips by train, car or boat. He was often photographed on these excursions which added to his growing fame.
Fala was considered an unbeatable political weapon. In a September 1944 Democratic presidential campaign speech, Roosevelt addressed accusations that he had purposely left Fala behind on the Aleutian Islands while on tour there and sent a U.S. Navy destroyer to retrieve him at an exorbitant cost to the taxpayers:
“These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch and, being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I’d left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or 20 million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself … But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog.”
After FDR’s death in 1945, Fala went on to live with the widowed Eleanor at Val-Kill in Hyde Park. It was a well-deserved retirement for the pup. He spent his final days chasing squirrels and playing in bucolic pastures and lived to a ripe age of 12.
We are happy to report that the memory of Fala lives on. A beautiful statue of him sitting beside FDR is featured in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. He is the only presidential pet to be so honored.
They say there are dogs in heaven, so no doubt Fala is sitting at the feet of his beloved master.
Happy 79th Birthday, Fala.