FDR seated on the porch at Top Cottage in Hyde Park, New York. Fala is under the table: photo by Margaret Suckley, 2 June 1941 (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)
Those window frames were employed by another priest, the geometry teacher, to illustrate the theories of Euclid. But as illustrative as they were, they were never to be touched. A prohibition rooted in good cause; in one moment of free-form intra-class jostling, during a teacher's absence from the classroom, one of the windows had been detached from its hinges, and plummeted thirty feet down to the pavement below, where a student, properly attired in his school uniform (sweater, tie), happened to be standing; and only God knows if he ever knew what hit him, as the falling window sliced his brain in half.
But to get back to the subject at hand. The non-human living creatures recalled now from childhood encounters, and summoned to the dispassionate sessions of remembrance, were mostly bugs. These had evidently not been made in the Image of God, so that one could impunity stub them to an abrupt demise on the city sidewalks. Often they would appear to attempt to elude this fate, for example by dashing into the cracks between sections of sidewalk. This added degree of difficulty raised the business of stubbing them out from mere idle play to something approaching the level of art. In the environment under discussion, that was not, admittedly, a department in which the bar of attainment had been set at a particularly elevated level; but best always to begin with modest goals in any endeavour.
And then, perish the memory, those poor turtles in the shoe box. With American flags on their backs. The horror. It's almost a relief to recall that a similar negligence swiftly resulted in their passing.
This memory spiral is descending toward circles that probably do not bear revisiting... let us therefore abbreviate it.
Thankfully the development of the distressing animal-phobic symptom-set was interrupted dramatically by a single event, the gift of a 78 rpm RCA Victor recording of The Story of Fala. The actor John Garfield narrated. A wonderfully moving record it seemed, then. Shocking discovery: dogs are probably wonderful creatures.
I had had little experience of dogs. An aunt who dwelt outside the city had married a dog-lover. Once, at their home, another gift: a carefully wrapped package containing a clothbound volume, bearing on its dust jacket a picture of a huntsman and his dog and the cover, and the title: The Story of a Dog. Upon being opened, however, it was revealed to be a faux book: the pages had been cut away, and out leapt a rubber hot dog on a spring coil. Cruelty, magic, devastation.
But enough about all that. Because, now, as if by magic, voilà, Fala is here. He's just under the table. Look hard and you'll see him.
Fala rolls over for his supper in the White House study: photographer unknown, 1943 (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)
President Roosevelt in his wheelchair on the porch at Top Cottage in Hyde Park, New York, with Ruthie Bie and Fala: photographer unknown, 1943 (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)
FDR at a picnic on "Sunset Hill" near Pine Plains, New York. Fala is four months old. The doll next to the president is a handmade shaker doll made by Mary Garretson of Rhinebeck, New York: photographer unknown, 8 August 1940 (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)
Fala photographing the photographers at the White House: photographer unknown, April 1942 (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)
Franklin D. Roosevelt's dog Fala, listening on the radio to the president's campaign to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America: photo by Associated Press, 23 September 1944
...the president took added pleasure in the arrival of a new puppy named Fala, a gift from his cousin Margaret Suckley. He had longed for a puppy for years, he told his cousin as he lifted the little Scottish terrier into his arms, but Eleanor did not consider the White House a proper place to bring up a dog. Roosevelt had had pets before, but Fala became his friend in a way no other pet had been. Fala accompanied the president everywhere, eating his meals in Roosevelt's study, sleeping in a chair at the foot of his bed. Within a few weeks of his arrival, the puppy was sent to the hospital with a serious intestinal disturbance. He had discovered the White House kitchen, and everyone was feeding him. When he came home, Roosevelt issued a stern order to the entire White House staff: 'Not even one crumb will be fed to Fala except by the President.' From then on, Fala was in perfect health.
During the last week of December (1941), twenty-six nations at war with the Axis had negotiated a declaration of unity and purpose. The document, entitled 'A Declaration by the United Nations' ... was signed in the president's study at 10 p.m. As the invited guests gathered round, Eleanor's friend, Mrs. Charles Hamlin, recalled, 'It was as quiet as a church in the study -- not a whisper, the only sound came from Fala who was stretched out sleeping heavily -- oblivious of the momentous happenings.'
-- from Doris Kearns Goodwin: No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (1994)
The Secret Service reported that, try as they might to keep the President's trips secret, two things invariably gave away his presence. The first was the construction of the ramps that his wheelchair required. The second was his Scotty dog, Fala, who often traveled with him. Fala, like any other dog, would insist upon being taken for a walk when the train came to a stop. The sight of a closed train standing at a siding, heavily guarded by military sentries, as a Secret Service agent walked a little Scotty dog was a dead giveaway to any American of the 1940s. Fala was as much a celebrity and as well known as any other member of the President's circle. It is no wonder that the Secret Service code name for him was 'The Informer.' They could eliminate the ramp with an on-board elevator, but they could do nothing about Fala.
-- from Hugh Gregory Gallagher: FDR's Splendid Deception (1985)
Fred D. Fair was the president's porter on the Ferdinand Magellan, the presidential Pullman rail car. 'I served him his meals, made his bed. We would serve the president highballs before dinner. Before the meal, I would fix Fala's food. He would never go into the dining room until you called him. We'd serve him in there. But you couldn't serve Fala yourself, oh no. You had to hand it to the president, and he'd feed Fala out of his hand. Many times, I remember dignitaries and other important folks waiting for their supper until Mr. Roosevelt finished feeding Fala.'
-- from Remembering Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Washington Post)
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 had out and out 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.
-- Campaign Dinner Address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, Washington. D.C.., 23 September 1944 from The Presidential Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944.
BORN: April 7, 1940
DIED: April 5, 1952, and was buried in the Rose Garden next to the sun dial near his master on April 7, 1952
He was so popular that he received thousands of letters from people. He even needed to have a secretary appointed to him to answer his mail. One letter dated August 5, 1947, was from a poodle named Abigail. Fala chased a skunk once, which was very unpleasant for everyone. The poodle scolded Fala for not acting with more intelligence and dignity. Abigail hoped that Fala would never, ever let that unfortunate incident be repeated.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library