NPS Martin Van Buren
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  • Fala - Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

    Fala stands on a lawn.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt had many canine companions over the years, but one in particular truly captured the heart of the President and the country. FDR was given a Scottish terrier puppy named “Big Boy” by Mrs. Augustus G. Kellogg of Westport, Connecticut. Roosevelt, however, found a name he thought more suited the pup, 'Murray the Outlaw of Falahill', after a Scottish ancestor. His nickname became Fala, and before going to the White House, was taught numerous tricks by Roosevelt’s cousin, Margaret Suckley.

    He spent most of his time at the White House and also joined the President on regular trips to Hyde Park, New York, and Warm Springs, Georgia. Fala slept in a special chair by Roosevelt's bed and every morning was brought a bone with the President’s breakfast tray. A notorious beggar, Fala would woo White House staff into giving him more food until he became sick at which time Roosevelt directed the staff to not do so. Outside the White House, Fala was so famous that a secretary had to be appointed to answer his thousands of letters in fan mail.

    Traveling nearly everywhere with Roosevelt, Fala was the subject of a major rumor. During a visit to the Aleutian Islands, a rumor started that Fala was accidentally left on one of the islands and that the Navy had to send a ship back to retrieve him. This prompted the President to give his “Fala Speech” to defend his dog and clarify the rumor as false. However, Fala was known to cause mischief. During a voyage in the West Indies aboard the Tuscaloosa, sailors were laid on their backs with their bare feet exposed. The small dog caused quite a stir as he swiftly moved down the line licking and tickling the feet of the sailors.

    After Roosevelt’s death in 1945, Fala resided mostly at Val-Kill with Eleanor Roosevelt until his death on April 5, 1972, just two days shy of his twelfth birthday. Fala was buried in the Rose Garden not too far away from Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt…a fitting final resting place for a very good boy.

    Photograph of President Franklin D. Roosevelt with his dog Fala at a picnic on "Sunset Hill" near Pine Plains, NY. Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum
    Eleanor Roosevelt walking Fala. Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum.