On September 23, 1944, Roosevelt opened the 1944 presidential campaign in Washington, D.C., speaking at a dinner with the International Teamsters Union. The half-hour speech was also broadcast on all U.S. radio networks.In the speech, Roosevelt attacked Republican opponents in Congress and detailed their attacks on him. Late in the speech, Roosevelt addressed Republican charges that he had accidentally left Fala behind on the Aleutian Islands while on tour there and had sent a U.S. Navy destroyer to retrieve him at an exorbitant cost to the taxpayers:
After addressing pertinent labor issues and America’s status in World War II, Roosevelt explained that Republican critics had circulated a story claiming that Roosevelt had accidentally left Fala behind while visiting the Aleutian Islands earlier that year. They went on to accuse the president of sending a Navy destroyer, at a taxpayer expense of up to $20 million, to go back and pick up the dog. Roosevelt said that though he and his family had “suffered malicious falsehoods” in the past, he claimed the right to “object to libelous statements about my dog.” Roosevelt went on to say that the desperate Republican opposition knew it could not win the upcoming presidential election and used Fala as an excuse to attack the president. He half-jokingly declared that his critics sullied the reputation of a defenseless dog just to distract Americans from more pressing issues facing the country.
“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 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 … But I think I have a right to resent, to object, to libelous statements about my dog”
Roosevelt was indeed attached to his dog. Fala, a small, black Scottish terrier, accompanied Roosevelt almost everywhere: to the Oval Office, on official state visits and on long, overseas trips including one to Newfoundland in 1941 during which Fala met British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Roosevelt’s cousin, Margaret Suckley, had given Fala to the president in 1940 when Fala was still a puppy. Although Eleanor Roosevelt disapproved of having a dog in the White House, Roosevelt adamantly kept the dog by his side. Fala slept at the foot of his master’s bed and only the president had the authority to feed him; the White House kitchen staff sent up a bone for Fala every morning with Roosevelt’s breakfast tray.
Fala was so popular that he became the subject of a series of cartoons
After FDR’s death, Fala lived with Eleanor and, when the dog died in 1952 at the ripe old age of 12, he was buried near the president at his family home in Hyde Park, New York.
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.
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