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First Pets: Four-Legged or Feathered Friends of President Franklin Roosevelt

By    |   Tuesday, 12 May 2015 09:30 AM

As the longest-serving United States President, Franklin D. Roosevelt led America through the Great Depression and played a major role in navigating World War II.

FDR also loved pets, and his family members cared for 11 dogs at various times during his 12 years in the White House, the most famous of which was Roosevelt's personal pooch, a Scottish terrier named Fala.

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Raised in a country setting, FDR spent his childhood with many dogs, including a white spitz, a red setter, a St. Bernard, and a Newfoundland, according to the FDR Library. On their honeymoon, the Roosevelts acquired Duffy, the first of their Scottish terriers.

Later, a Scottie (Meggie) and a German shepherd (Major) accompanied them to the White House during Roosevelt's first term, but one of the dogs bit a senator and by the end of Year One, he was sent to live in Hyde Park, New York.

The pet-less status changed in 1940, when the president received Fala as a gift from a Connecticut family through FDR's cousin, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley, according to the Presidential Pet Museum.

Originally called "Big Boy," Roosevelt re-named him "Murray the Outlaw of Falahill," after a Scottish ancestor.

The dog eventually became just "Fala," and would remain by Roosevelt's side for the rest of the president's life. The dog had a bone delivered each morning and slept in a special chair at the foot of Roosevelt's bed. He also traveled with the president on trips, according to the Museum.

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Though he didn't shape public policy, Fala rubbed paws with many foreign leaders, including England Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Mexico President Manuel Avila Camacho. Through his many adventures, Fala is arguably the most famous of the presidential pets.

One story details how Fala was accidentally left behind during a 1944 campaign stop in the Aleutian Islands for Roosevelt's fourth term. Roosevelt sent a ship to rescue the dog, which led to criticism that he used taxpayers' funds to fetch his companion.

During a speech following the controversy, Roosevelt said the people can criticize him and members of his family, but not Fala, and noted that because of the harsh words, the dog's "Scotch soul was furious."

Fala remained popular after Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945, and received thousands of letters. A movie about him was also made in 1942, and can be still viewed by visitors to the Roosevelt Museum and Library in Hyde Park.

Fala passed away nearly seven years after FDR, on April 5, 1952.

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As the longest-serving United States President, Franklin D. Roosevelt led America through the Great Depression and played a major role in navigating World War II.
franklin roosevelt, pets, president
Tuesday, 12 May 2015 09:30 AM
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