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Fala

Bronze sculpture of a seated Sottish Terrier dog.
Sculpture of Fala, by Neal Estern; National Park Service photo.
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Fala, the Scottish Terrier, was quite possibly America’s favorite presidential pet. So popular, in fact, that his statue receives a prominent position next to the statue of his owner, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the third room of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The bronze statue of Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, Fala’s full name, is the only presidential pet honored in such a way.

Franklin Roosevelt had several pets, but only Fala, named after a family ancestor, would quickly become the president’s favorite. So endeared was he that he remained at the president’s side and a common fixture at the White House until the Roosevelt’s death in 1945.

Often photographed in or near the White House, the public quickly fell in the love with the little terrier. Fala was featured in an MGM documentary about a typical day in the White House and was even the subject of FDR’s famous “Fala Speech,” given to the International Teamsters Union on September 23, 1944. In the speech, the president, referring to attacks from Republican leaders, said, “Well, of course I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them,” forever humanizing the president’s beloved First Pet.
Man in white trousers, white shirt, and tie sits near the ground. He has a black Scottish Terrier dog in his lap. A classic car and a statue are in the background.
President Roosevelt and four-month-old Fala on a picnic near Pine Plains, N.Y. on August 8, 1940 (National Archives and Records Administration photo).
Fala was just as devoted to FDR as the president was to him and the two were rarely apart for long. They travelled together on ships and planes to countless meetings, speeches and engagements around the world. So famous was Fala that U.S. soldiers during World War II would often ask each other the name of FDR’s dog as a password to prevent German infiltration within their lines.

After the passing of President Roosevelt in April of 1945, Fala went to live with FDR’s widow, Eleanor, at Hyde Park, N.Y. until his passing in 1952. A memorial for America’s favorite little terrier can still be seen today at Hyde Park where he is buried next to Franklin and Eleanor and visited by thousands of dog lovers every year.

The statues of Franklin Roosvelt and Fala were sculpted by Neil Estern of Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. The scultped depiction of the president was inspired by photographs of Roosevelt at the Yalta conference. At the request of Michigan Sentaor Carl Levin, a member of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Commission, Estern agreed to add Fala, not “to be frivolous but rather to portray the human side of a great man.”

Last updated: February 28, 2021