World's Oldest Dog Ready for 21st Birthday
Chanel, a Daschund-mix, is set to celebrate her 21st birthday in May. The dog has been cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living dog (Photo Courtesy of Denice Shaughnessy)
World's Oldest Dog Ready for 21st Birthday: She struggles to see, hear and even walk down the street, but Chanel, a 20-year-old Daschund, is still able to enjoy the finer things in life. As one of her owners, Karl Shaughnessy, said, "this dog is a real work of art."
PORT JEFFERSON STATION, N.Y. -- She's 20 in human years, or 140 in dog years, making Chanel the Daschund the oldest living dog, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Chanel, who turns 21 in May, was awarded the honor last spring.
"She's the oldest dog we have ever seen," said the dog's veterinarian Phillip Zangara, of the Roosevelt Animal Hospital in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y. "She is defying every odd right now. I'm surprised at just about everything about her."
As an elderly lady, Chanel lives a low-key existence; she rarely leaves her owners' suburban Long Island home, let alone tiled kitchen, and struggles with getting around on her own.
She suffers from cataracts, as well as poor hearing; recently, her body mass has begun to deteriorate. Yet Chanel's physical ailments are relatively minute, given her advanced age.
"She's an old lady," explained one of her owners, Karl Shaughnessy, 44, a former New York City police officer. "You treat her like you would treat your grandmother. You have to treat her that way. You keep her sweater on at nighttime."
Aside from the occasional ear infection along the way, Chanel remains as healthy as could be, with Zangara signing off on her vital organs as in perfect condition.
"She has the body of a 6-year-old," Zangara said.
Shaughnessy's wife, Denice, adopted Chanel from an animal shelter in Virginia when she was just 6-weeks-old. Denice, then 30, was serving as a court reporter in the Army. She rescued Chanel for her 12-year-old daughter, but the dog quickly took to Denice, instead.
Chanel has always been athletic, Denice Shaughnessy says, recalling how they used to run three-to-four miles a day together.
Nearly 21 years later, Shaughnessy and Chanel still enjoy walks around the neighborhood -- but now, Chanel often has to be carried.
"We don't have to take her outside to 'go,' and we don't take her out at all in the wintertime," Shaughnessy said. "We try to protect her as much as we can."
Just two years ago, Chanel accompanied the family on a road trip to Georgia -- it's only been in the past two years, they say, since the dog really began to slow down.
Scoring Chanel a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records was something the family used to joke about as she aged, Karl Shaughnessy recalled.
"When she turned 18 or 19, we wrote an e-mail to them, and they said, 'We won't do anything until she is 20.' Then, when she turned 20, we had to get a letter from the vet, and three letters from people who have known her since she was a puppy," Shaughnessy said.
"It's actually amazing," he said of the dog's age. "I remember when the [Guinness] certificate came and thinking, 'Wow, 20-years-old. Can she make it to 21? And here we are, just a couple of months away."
When the big birthday arrives, Denice Shaughnessy vows to have a celebration, to honor the dog "who has been my companion for so long," she said.
Even though she is turning 21, Chanel won't be likely to toast to her longevity with a glass of champagne -- let alone 21 shots.
By most standards, Chanel has led a typical, canine life -- albeit perhaps one that is a little pampered. She feasts on both dry and wet dog food, but also relishes in people food; the Shaughnessys tend to boil chicken, or whole wheat pasta for her, with a little bit of butter, when the mood strikes.
"Up until a year or so ago, she would eat table food," Karl Shaughnessy said. "Baloney, liverwurst or ham, whatever she felt like chewing on. Now, she won't do the ham, but she will eat the liverwurst. She is pretty finicky.
"This dog is a real work of art," he concluded.
In the summertime, because of her cataracts, Chanel is outfitted with a pair of "doggles," or tinted goggles designed for dogs, when she puts around the backyard. When it is especially sunny, Chanel will also don a small sun visor around her furry head.
She still has "a calm disposition," Denice Shaughnessy says, though as the dog has gotten older, she has proved less tolerant of people infringing on her personal space.
"She doesn't like to be bothered," Shaughnessy said. "She doesn't like to have her face washed. She doesn't let anybody hold her except me nowadays."
Though her body has slowed, Chanel's chops remain up to snuff, Karl Shaughnessy says jokingly.
"If you try to wash her face or clip her hairs underneath her jawline, she will snap at you, and even at my wife, which is something she never used to do," he said. "She's caught the vet before. Definitely has not lost a step in those jawbones."
Zangara, though, apparently takes the occasional swipe in stride.
Most Daschunds live to be around 14 to 16, the vet approximated. He said that the smaller the dog, the longer the life, but that general rule of thumb only partially explains Chanel's longevity; she is, after all, nearly 30 pounds.
"Good genes" and quality home care are the only two factors that could partially account for Chanel's long life.
"The Shaughnessys, their life revolves around this dog," the veterinarian said. "She is a little queen on a pedestal. TLC, it's hard to quantify that.'
Denice Shaughnessy says she has thought about what she will do when Chanel's age begins to really catch up with her, and whether she would have to eventually put her down.
She hopes she will never have to actually face that challenging and emotional decision.
"I absolutely love her so much, and I am really just hoping that when it is time to go, she just goes in her sleep," Denice Shaughnessy said.
Though of a considerable age, Chanel has yet to give some formerly lauded "oldest dogs" a run for their money.
In September, a Labrador mix named Bella died at the age of 29; and in 2003, a dog named Butch lived until he was 28. The oldest dog ever recorded was Bluey, a sheepdog from Australia, who lived to be 29.
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