Widener University in Chester, PA has dug down deep to find tragedy within tragedy, an Inception of tragedy, for an art gallery exhibit opening this month. Here's what they came up with: There were twelve dogs on the Titanic. And nine of them died.
Granted, even if all twelve of those dogs had been born on board (they weren't—though one of them was "a baby" Pomeranian, oh, my God), they would be 700 in dog years by now. I just can't shake the feeling, though, that, if we'd encountered them running around a park, wagging tails, chasing sticks, every one of those pups would have been fluffy and friendly and really liked us.
The aforementioned baby Pom, Lady (henceforth: baby Lady, Pomeraney) was wrapped in blanket and brought on board a lifeboat (in secret) by her owner, Margaret Hays, of New York City. Hays had recently bought her in Paris.
Also doggy-paddling (or, anyway, life boating — these first-class dogs aren't tryna freeze) their way to safety: Sun Yat-sen, a Pekingese belonging to Henry and Myra Harper (of the Harper & Row publishing family) and one other non-baby New York Pomeranian, name unknown (let's call her "Sugar").
And, now, the time has come for tears.
Among the dogs that didn't make it: a toy poodle belonging to a woman named Helen Bishop, a Fox Terrier named Dog, whose owner was either awesome or an asshole, an Airedale named Kitty belonging to millionaire John Jacob Astor, and a French Bulldog named Gamin de Pycombe, which is not a dog's name.
But, of course, no tale of the Titanic is complete without an almost inconceivably heart-breaking anecdote. Here's that story:
50-year-old Ann Elizabeth Isham was traveling with her Great Dane, who had to be kept in the ship's kennel as he was too large to spend his days in her cabin. Isham visited him there daily. As she was being boarded onto a lifeboat, Isham asked that she be allowed to bring the dog too. (I'm sure the other lifeboat passengers would have loved that).
Her request was denied. The dog was too large. Isham got out of the lifeboat. You can guess how this ends. The exhibit's curator, Dr. J. Joseph Edgette, explains:
"Several days later, the body of a woman clutching a large dog was spotted by crew of the recovery ship, Mackay-Bennet, and dinghies were dispatched. Eyewitness accounts by crew and ship's log confirm the sighting and recovery, and the body recovered is assumed to be Miss Isham."
How incredibly depressing.
On a more capitalist note, the children of Philadelphia coal magnate William Carter apparently made bank on the doggie deaths, since their father had taken out insurance policies on their pets before setting sail. Carter's daughter Lucy received $100 from Lloyds of London for her King Charles spaniel. His son, Billy, made twice that for his Airedale.
And, as the children lay in bed, hugging those thick billfolds close to their chests, and trying to remember what it felt like to have a warm puppy body breathing softly at their feet, they knew in their hearts that love is worthless and money is everything.