The True Story of The Coolest Dog the White House Has Ever Seen

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

January 8, 2014


(And his trusty sidekick, the 32nd U.S. President.)


In 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt received an early Christmas president of a Scottish Terrier puppy.


The President named him after his own Scottish ancestor, John Murray, aka ‘Murray the Outlaw of Falahill’.


Fala, as he was nicknamed, was so cute that White House staff couldn’t resist giving him treats. After getting sick from overeating, Fala was on a strict diet of one bone a day.


And the president personally fed him dinner every night.


Fala Becomes President

in 1940 Bundles for Britain was created to collect donated supplies for the UK. A dog chapter called Barkers for Britain started as a way for dog lovers to support the effort. For a 50 cent donation new members got an official Bundles for Britain collar tag.


As national president of Barkers for Britain, Fala got Tag #1 and often signed membership letters with his paw. He also got fan mail:


And racy photographs.


The program successfully raised thousands of dollars and the Bundles for Britain President personally thanked Fala for raising “his voice in loud barks for the courageous people of Great Britain.”

America Enters the War

When America entered the war, Fala did his duty and became an honorary Army private. And on important visits Fala was always well behaved (except once on the USS Tuscaloosa, when he found a line of sunbathing sailors and ran up and down licking and tickling their feet).


Fala often traveled with Roosevelt and even went to the 1941 Atlantic Charter Conference in Quebec. He entertained dignitaries such as UK Prime Minister Churchill and Canadian PM King with his tricks, including curling his lip into a smile.


The press loved Fala. (He’s quoted here as saying: “When the war is over there’ll be a nice, juicy beef bone every day for every dog.”)


And Fala loved the press right back.


The Fala Speech

In 1944 Fala traveled with Roosevelt to the Aleutian Islands. A rumor started that Fala was left behind and the Navy was sent to retrieve him at a cost of millions to the American taxpayers. (Click the photo to see the video.)


The president addressed this rumor in the famous “Fala Speech”.


“[They] 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 doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them.” -FDR

Fala is a Star!

Fala was so popular that he became the subject of a series of cartoons.


MGM even made two movies about him. One about his life at the White House, the other about his time at Roosevelt’s private home in Hyde Park.


Fala even wanted a “supporting role” in FDRs 4th Inauguaration.

Franklin Roosevelt Talking to Falla

On their way to the swearing-in, he jumped in the car and refused to leave. He had to be removed and afterwards sulked for two days.

Fala’s Retirement


In April of 1945, President Roosevelt passed away. Fala attended the funeral, walking beside the train carrying his remains.


After his death, Fala went to live with Eleanor Roosevelt at Val-Kill.


But Fala never forgot his friend. He would sleep in the kitchen where he could watch the front and back doors, waiting for FDR to return.


And in the minutes after FDR’s death Fala became agitated, crashed through the screen door and ran to the top a nearby hill where he sat growling and snarling. The Secret Service agents felt he understood what had happened.


Fala passed away two days before what would have been his 12th birthday. He was buried in the Rose Garden by the sundial near President Roosevelt.


In the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., Fala is immortalized next to the President. He is the only pet ever to be represented in a presidential memorial.

Article Sources:


FDR Library
National Archives

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

January 8, 2014

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