“I am at our little house in Virginia writing this. My daughter is sick in bed and I have been reading to her all morning — the strangest coincidence — a children’s book about Fala — The True Story of Fala.
“— She is riveted by it — and as I told her I was going to write you today — insisted on sending her own contribution — in case you wonder what this wrinkled piece of paper is. I must summon the assistance of Mr. West Wade and Bruce to answer all her questions about him.
“With my appreciation — and deepest good wishes always”
(Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum: Handwritten Letter From Jacqueline Kennedy To Eleanor Roosevelt Enclosing Note From Young Caroline Kennedy About Fala (2 Pages), May 31, 1962)
On Sept. 23, 1944, during a speech to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a recent political attack against his dog, Fala. He defended his dog’s honor by saying:
“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 doesn’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 had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself — such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.” (PBS)
The future president Franklin D. Roosevelt with his camera in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, while en route to Groton. His cousin Warren Delano Robbins can be seen on the right. 1897. (FDR Presidential Library & Museum)
Arguably history’s best known presidential pet was Fala, a Scottish terrier given to Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 by his distant cousin Margaret Suckley. Fala appeared in political cartoons, news articles, movie shorts, and even FDR’s campaign speeches. Secret Service agents called Fala “The Informer” because, during secret wartime presidential trips, the dog was instantly recognized while out on his walks. But this celebrity was put to good use in 1941 when Fala was named national president of Barkers for Britain. (National Archives)
Photo: FDR and Fala in the White House Oval Study, December 20, 1941.