2012-04-11 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets


This reprint of “Pets” Aug. 10, 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster: The headline read: “Ship’s Cat Found on Titanic Lifeboat Alive!” Oops, I forgot to say this discovery was on the supermarket newsstand merely two months ago. Believe it or not. Put your money on “not.” Remember This reprint of “Pets” Aug. 10, 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster: The headline read: “Ship’s Cat Found on Titanic Lifeboat Alive!” Oops, I forgot to say this discovery was on the supermarket newsstand merely two months ago. Believe it or not. Put your money on “not.” Remember the Titanic sank in 1912.

Tabloids know how to market. They bury bizarre cover stories so deeply that you can’t find them while stacking groceries at the register. You have to shell out $3.39 to get the scoop. The Titanic cat on the front page of the June 21 Sun was positioned above the latest Nostradamus prophecies. A wet kitty caught my eye. Curiosity reeled me in.

This was my first tabloid purchase in years. I was a better customer when teaching. I collected crazy headlines so my third graders could practice writing news stories. “The Man on the Moon Pouts like Elvis”….. “Giant Bat Shadows Cincinnati”- all silly sparks for young reporters. I pasted the headlines onto index cards, lest a risqué ad or story graced the flip side.


Titanic dogs. Titanic dogs. Take the following with a grain of kitty litter. It seems the cat account came from the Weekly World News (perhaps the Sun’s equivalent of the AP) stating last May a fishing vessel off the coast of Cape Cod sailed upon a lifeboat whose side said “RMS Titanic.” The first mate climbed aboard only to be greeted by a soggy orange tabby, later estimated by a vet to be about five years old. After the captain adopted the cat, he theorized this may be Jenny, the Titanic ship cat, frozen a century in an iceberg until recent divine intervention thawed her as a tribute to the famous ship. Was Nostradamus trapped in the iceberg too? Lets fact check this far-fetched feline:

According to a BBC site, there is a reference in Georgiou’s “The Animals Aboard the Titanic” taken from the Atlantic Daily Bulletin (the paper released onboard the Titanic) about a cat named Jenny, which reads: “Incidentally, the Titanic had her own pet in the shape of the ship’s cat, which stewardess Violet Jessop said was called Jenny. Ships’ cats were common in that period because of the presence of rats. While the ship was stored at Southampton, Jenny presented her keepers with a litter of kittens.”

By the way, Jessop (later a World War I nurse) survived the Titanic sinking. Someone handed her a baby as she was lowered into the lifeboat. The next day on the rescue ship-Carapathia, an unknown woman grabbed the child from her without saying a word.

Little more is documented about the original Jenny cat except a Titanic forum mentioning an interview that said a crewman saw Jenny disembark in Southampton carrying her kittens, and shipmates interpreted her desertion as a harbinger of bad luck. There is no evidence of Jenny’s color. Female ginger cats are relatively rareabout 20 percent of all orange tabbies- so the tabloid tale would have more punch if the Cape Cod cat’s rusty coat matched the true Titanic one.

As for dogs, there were 12 on the passenger list of the doomed ship. The very wealthy could afford pet passage. A first class ticket was $4700 (equal to about $50,000 today) and a dog’s fare cost half like a child’s. Only two Pomeranians and a Pekingese survived that awful April night. One Pom got on the lifeboat with her owner Mrs. Rothschild alongside the unsinkable Molly Brown, whereas Mr. Rothschild went down with the ship. A Chow, a Great Dane, a pair of Cavaliers, a champion French Bulldog and an Airedale (belonging to the ill-fated John Jacob Astor) were among the canines that perished.

And now back to fiction. For more than a decade I’ve had a “bone to pick” with James Cameron for breed misrepresentation in his blockbuster movie Titanic. When the film was released in 1998, friends warned me about a cameo of two Afghan Hounds (my breed) on deck with their rich owners. I can’t verify because I am still boycotting the movie. No one sees the dogs lowered into a lifeboat so viewers can assume they drown. I vowed never to see this Afghan tragedy. Sad dog stories a la Old Yeller put me over the edge.

You wonder, “How could she care more about these dogs than the 1,522 human casualties?” It might sound callous, but the drowned passengers are a given, a fact of history, and for the most part, they, unlike the dogs (and kids), boarded on their own volition. Dog victims, especially Afghans, or even the suggestion of their demise would put me over the edge.

Besides Cameron’s crew did not research breeds. They probably chose Afghans to denote class distinction between the snobbish and steerage. Although Afghans (or Salukis) are deemed the oldest purebreds known to man by virtue of a Sinai papyrus document from 3000 BC, there were no Afghans on route to the U.S. in 1912. The first ones arrived from England in 1926. A few years later Zeppo Marx helped popularize the breed here when he imported a pair to his Hollywood home.

Legend has it that Afghans were Noah’s canine choice on the Ark. So if these survivors of the Old Testament become victims of the sunken steamer, it’s more movie bad news than any Afghan aficionado could ever handle. Thankfully, history and logic show there is about as much chance of an Afghan on the Titanic as there is of the ship’s centenarian cat being alive near Cape Cod.

For Adoption at Last Hope Dog Center at 3300 Beltagh Ave., Wantagh: “Boo” came to Last Hope two weeks ago as an emaciated Aussie/Shepherd mix from an overcrowded Kentucky shelter. These rural dogs are often recovering from starvation. Boo can’t believe his new menu. One of the kind volunteers has been treating him to home-cooked chicken everyday. “Sakura” a lovely Akita, originally a stray from Babylon Shelter, is extremely friendly. Her name means “cherry blossom” in Japanese. Call 631-946-9528 for more info.

Male: “Foster” a handsome Pit/Mastiff; “Jack” and “Champ” Jack Russell mixes; “Ronnie”-Foxhound.

Female: “Hazel”-Beagle; “Serena”- Pit mix.

Reminder: Last Hope Supermarket Bingo, Sat. April 14 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Levittown Hall in Hicksville. Tickets are $8 in advance; $10 at the door. Call 516-935- 0503 or email cpryor7@optonline.net.

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