Remembering the Titanic’s dogs a century later

Most of the historical inaccuracies cited by experts after James Cameron’s Titanic was released 1997 had to do with the structure of the ship or the stories of the people on it. However, it has seldom been noted that an important group of passengers was left out of the movie altogether: There were a dozen dogs aboard the Titanic when it disembarked on its journey across the Atlantic. First class passengers were allowed to have dogs aboard, and the ship had its own kennel, and each day they were walked en masse on the ship’s promenade. The Rothchilds and the Astors were among the wealthy families who were traveling with their pets.

It’s believed that at least four dogs lived: Two Pomeranians and a Pekinese were among the survivors.

The fourth survivor is thought to have been first officer William Murdoch’s Rigel, a Newfoundland, which is a breed bred to withstand cold waters. The story, which is the subject of its own recent ebook, has been disputed, but, legend has it that, while his master was going down with the sinking ship, Rigel found himself swimming along one of the lifeboats crammed full of weakened humans awaiting assistance.

By the time the rescue crews reached the site of the sunken ship, those on board the lifeboat had become too weak to shout back to the rescuers. Thankfully, Rigel was still by their side, and he began barking  until the rescue teams came by and saved those on the lifeboat.

Dr. J. Joseph Edgette has been researching the Titanic for over twenty years, and has some fascinating stories to tell about its four-legged passengers. He recently shared this tale about one of the dogs who, unlike Rigel, did not survive:

“One particularly sad story involves a Great Dane owned by 50-year-old Ann Elizabeth Isham. Miss Isham visited her dog at the ship’s kennel daily and when she was evacuating, asked to take him also. When she was told the dog was too large, she refused to leave without him and got out of the lifeboat. Several days later, the body of a woman clutching a large dog was spotted by the crew of the recovery ship.”

 

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