Just before Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to a third term as president, his cousin Margaret gave him a little dog to keep him company because Eleanor Roosevelt traveled so much. The country fell in love with the personable little dog, much as Americans today are enchanted with the Obamas’ new pup.
A new book by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk tells the story of Roosevelt and his beloved pet.
“First Dog Fala” is charmingly illustrated with paintings by Michael G. Montgomery.
FDR first met Fala in 1940. The president named the puppy Murray the Outlaw of Fala after a Scottish ancestor. Margaret kept the dog for a few months so she could properly train him to live at the White House.
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After Fala came to live with Roosevelt, he often rode on the president’s lap as FDR was pushed in his wheelchair by his assistant. The author does a good job explaining the president’s polio to readers in simple, clear terms.
Van Steenwyk writes about historical events, including the president’s declining health and Pearl Harbor from Fala’s point of view. But the serious events are always lightened by the presence of the little dog.
The last page of the book has a photograph of a portion of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. There’s a statue of a caped Roosevelt seated next to Fala. Fala’s brass head is shiny from all the petting he’s gotten.