The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic is April 15. Numerous movies, TV specials, books, articles and museum exhibits have been created to help people understand how an “unsinkable vessel” did, in fact, sink.
From the Titanic’s conception to its first and final journey, the ship’s story still captivates people a century later.
More than 1,500 passengers did not survive that doomed voyage, but did you know there were at least 12 dogs aboard the Titanic that fateful night? Of the 12, three survived. The other nine were confined in kennels. Someone was kind enough to unlock the kennels as the ship was sinking and let them out.
When Rigel Barks, Ships Listen
Rigel, a black Newfoundland, belonged to the first officer, who went down with the ship. According to the Belfast Telegram, The New York Herald reported on April 21, 1912 that Rigel had gone looking for his master, but as the ship sank he was forced to swim for more than three hours
He didn’t find his master, but he did find a lifeboat full of survivors that was drifting toward the propellers of the Carpathia, the first ship to respond to the Titanic’s distress calls. The passengers were too weak to cry for help, but not Rigel. His barking caught the attention of Captain Rostron, who immediately ordered the engines stopped. The lifeboat passengers and Rigel were saved.
Had Rigel not been swimming in front of that lifeboat, barking his head off, the people on it may have perished in a rather gruesome way.
Rigel was adopted by Jonas Briggs, a seaman aboard the Carpathia.
Then There Were Three
The dogs onboard the Titanic were housed in kennels on the F Deck, and walked daily on the Poop Deck (pun intended?) by a steward or bellboy, according yahoo.com.
Only first-class passengers were allowed to have dogs. The three that survived were two Pomeranians and a Pekingese.
One Pom, named Lady, belonged to Margaret Hays and was carried onto the lifeboat in a blanket. The other Pom, whose name is unknown, belonged to the Rothschilds. The Pekingese, named Sun Yat-Sen, was brought on by the Harpers of the publishing firm, Harper & Row. It is thought they survived due to their size. Because they were small dogs, it was easy to sneak them onto the lifeboats.
Some of the dogs were insured and their owners, including William Carter of Philadelphia, who insured his daughter’s King Charles Spaniel for $100, and his son Billy’s Airedale for $200, received a payout on the dogs.
One dog parent, Ann Elizabeth Isham, proved her love for her dog had no bounds when she refused to leave her Great Dane, according newsfeed.time.com. When it came time to evacuate the ship, Isham asked if her dog could come with her. When the crew denied her request because the dog was too big, she refused to leave without him. She promptly got out of the lifeboat, choosing to stay with her dog, no matter what the outcome.
A few days later, it was reported that a female body was found floating in the water, clutching a large dog.
While there is no proof as to whether this story of undying love is true, it is worth noting that these people, while facing death themselves, had genuine concern for the well-being of their dogs. Even if Isham’s story cannot be confirmed, those of us with dogs know it to be true in our hearts.