On a freezing Sunday night 99 years ago, the legendary RMS Titanic sank in the north Atlantic on its maiden voyage.
Movies, books and articles focus on the 1,513 people (68 percent of the people aboard) who perished.
Among them millionaires John Jacob Astor IV, businessman Benjamin Guggenheim and Macy’s owner Isidor Straus and his wife Ida.
Denver millionaire Margaret “Molly” Brown survived, earning the name the “unsinkable” Molly Brown.
But who would think of paying today’s equivalent of $50,000 if they couldn’t bring their dog along too? No one. So naturally the Titanic had excellent kennel facilities.There was a daily parade of dogs walked on deck by a member of Titanic’s crew. A dog show had even been planned for Monday evening, April 15, 1912.
Information varies about how many dogs were on the Titanic, but estimates run 10 to 12, including a a champion French bulldog, a Pekingese, a chow, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, two Pomeranians, two Airedales, a Great Dane and three dogs of unknown breeds.
Before the Titanic disappeared below the waves, a passenger went below and released the dogs from the kennels. Frou Frou, a little dog owned by Helen Bishop, had been staying in her owner’s cabin. She was locked in when the ship sank.
Only the Pekingese and the Pomeranians are believed to have survived. Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild apparently carried her Pomeranian on board Lifeboat 6 — the same one that carried Molly Brown. Margaret Hayes, 24, who was traveling alone, tucked her Pomeranian under her coat and boarded Lifeboat 7. Publishing scion Henry Sleeper Harper, 48, traveling with his Pekingese Sun Yat Sen, wife Myra, a manservant and an Egyptian dragoman, all escaped on Lifeboat 3.
One woman, 50-year-old Ann Isham, who had been living in Paris with her sister for the prior nine years, refused to get into a lifeboat without her Great Dane. Two days after the sinking, passengers on the German liner Bremen spotted a woman floating in her life jacket with her arms wrapped around a large dog.
One of the most haunting stories is that a black Newfoundland named Rigel who reportedly saved the lives of people in a lifeboat, who were too weak to signal a searching ship of their presence. The dog who was swimming in the water searching for its owner, a crew member, barked sharply and brought in help to the lifeboat passengers. While the story was published in the New York Herald on April 21, 1912, there has been no documentation by eyewitnesses that it happened.
True or not, it’s not hard for anyone who knows dogs to believe it.
As we pause tonight to remember the tragedy let us not forget the dogs of the Titanic.