Dogs of the Titanic – Chester, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Chester, Pennsylvania

Dogs of the Titanic

The canine companions that got seats on the lifeboats, and those that went down with the ship. 

Our tragic romance with the stories of those on the RMS Titanic has led to intense research on every passenger that walked upon its decks. Some of those passengers walked them on four legs, and much like their human companions, some were lucky, and some were not.

Really, it wasn’t luck so much as size that determined which pooches made it to shore. While the exact number of dogs onboard is not known, there were at least 12 that were accounted for by historians, all companions of first class passengers. Most were kept in kennels, and sadly, even though some were released during the chaos, only 3 made it to the safety of the Carpathia, one only after the stubborn insistence of its owner.

A Pomeranian, name unknown, belonged to the famous Rothchilds, clothing magnates. While her master Mr. Rothschild did not survive, his wife Elizabeth Jane smuggled the dog onto lifeboat 6, undetected by anyone until they were picked up by the Carpathia. The crew of the Carpathia absolutely refused to take the dog onboard, but Mrs. Rothschild insisted, and didn’t budge until she and her furry friend were both safely deposited in New York.

Sun Yat-Sen was a Pekinese owned by Henry S. Harper, of the Harper & Row publishing firm. The Harpers had the dog with them in their stateroom, unwilling to keep keep him in the kennels. When trouble on the ship arose, the Harpers, their interpreter, and Sun Yat-Sen calmly boarded lifeboat 3. Asked later about his decision to bring Sun Yat-Sen into the lifeboat, he replied, “There seemed to be lots of room, and nobody made any objection.”

The third and final canine survivor was another Pomeranian named Lady. Lady had just been purchased in Paris by Margaret Bechstein Hays, who brought her new pet onto lifeboat 7. Allegedly another passenger passed and said, “Oh I suppose we ought to put a life preserve on the little doggie, too.” It is unknown if this was a good-natured joke before the seriousness of the situation had taken hold, or a passive-aggressive hint directed at Ms. Hays. Either way, Lady stayed, and made it to shore.

There is an undeniable bond between people and their pets, and the four-legged survivors of this tragedy show that bond, but nothing presents this love like the story of Miss Ann Elizabeth Isham and her Great Dane. Obviously too large of a breed to sneak onto a lifeboat underneath her coat, Ms. Isham’s doggie was doomed. 50 years old and single, Ann would not be separated from her closest friend and dearest companion. She refused to leave the ship without him, and was later found by recovery ships, arms wrapped around her dog as they floated together on the sea’s surface. Ann Elizabeth Isham was one of only 4 first-class women to lose their lives in the tragedy.

If you’re an animal lover but prefer the felines, you’re probably asking yourself, “What about the kitties? Weren’t there any cats on board?” Yes, apparently there were, at least through the first leg of the trip. The ship’s cat, who was brought along to control vermin and had given birth to a litter of kittens, disembarked, carrying her babies one by one to the pier in England before the ship started its journey across the Atlantic. Some feel this was a mystic animal premonition, although it could just be chalked up to Mama Cat seeking a more secure future on land for her little ones. Either way, no known cat lives were lost.

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