Before he had Fala, our nation’s best-known Scottish terrier, President Franklin Roosevelt had another Scottish terrier named Meggie.
In fact, Meggie — along with the Roosevelts’ other dog at the time, Major, a German shepherd — rode along with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on a six-hour car trip to the White House after FDR was first elected.
“Someone will have to take the dogs and the car to Washington,” Mrs. Roosevelt said, “and I shall enjoy doing it myself. I love to drive.”
Meggie was 8 years old when she arrived at the White House. The Associated Press reported that she was “very fat,” hated baths, liked to sleep in fireplaces, and made a big stink any time Eleanor Roosevelt was around. Meggie was said to go everywhere with the First Lady, even press conferences — where she would bark to announce her presence.
“Terrorized the Housemaids”
According to Stanley Coren in his book The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events, Mrs. Roosevelt refused to let anyone discipline Meggie, and the dog pretty much was able to have full run of the White House living quarters.
Meggie “terrorized the housemaids by chasing them down the halls and biting at their brooms, mops and dusters,” Coren writes.
A March 1933 article from the United Press said, “Meggie is strictly a ‘one-person’ dog” — that one person being Mrs. Roosevelt. The article went on to call the dog “possessed of plenty of nerve and fighting spirit.”
Even Major, a former police dog, “knows better than to pick a scrap with her,” the article continued.
“Have You Been a Naughty Dog?”
When word of the little dog’s rambunctious behavior got out, newspaper reporter Bess Furman decided to get to the bottom of the story. During an interview with the president on more pressing matters, Furman asked about FDR Meggie’s reign of terror. Roosevelt responded by laughing and saying, “I am not with her all the time. Perhaps you had better ask her about these reports.”
Because Meggie was right there in the room, Furman patted the sofa seat next to her, and Meggie jumped up beside her. “Meggie, have you been a naughty dog?” the reporter asked the dog, adding: “Come now and confess to the public what you have really done.”
Yes, She Has Been Naughty
Right on cue, Meggie gave the reporter a sharp bite on her nose!
The First Lady, “eager to make amends,” recounted columnist Alice Hughes, “offered to cover the story for The Associated Press, for whom Bess was working. In the pressure of the moment, the AP rejected the offer. Afterward, they could have bitten themselves with chagrin over failing to have a story covered and signed by the wife of the president of the USA.”
Several reports say Eleanor Roosevelt banished Meggie from the White House after the incident, sending the Scottie to stay with a family friend in late December 1933.
“The president and Mrs. Roosevelt decided that they did not have the time to enjoy their pets in the White House,” says the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Then again, other pets would go on to join the First Family — including, of course, the famous Fala.