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Video: Meet the world’s oldest dog

By
TODAY contributor
updated 5/6/2009 10:13:10 AM ET 2009-05-06T14:13:10

They say every dog has its day, but this one has had more than most: Chanel, a dachshund mix, is going to be celebrating her 21st birthday (that’s 120 in human years, according to Chanel’s veterinarian). And though she wears “doggles” for cataracts and gets cold easily, there’s life in the old dog yet.

The birthday girl, looking sporty in a pink sweater and the trademark red goggles she wears because of her cataracts, visited the TODAY show set in New York Wednesday with her owner, Denice Shaughnessy.

“She’s doing fine,” Shaughnessy said of Chanel. “The vet says he’s never seen a dog her age do so much.”

Actually, he’s probably never seen a dog her age period, at least not one whose age has been certified as the oldest living pooch on the planet by Guinness World Records.

Legal to drink
The TODAY crew had some fun with Shaughnessy and Chanel, whose wire hair is entirely white with age.

Meredith Vieira joked that now that Chanel’s turning 21, “She can drink whiskey out of a toilet.”

Matt Lauer took advantage of the fact that Chanel is a “wiener dog” to tease Vieira. At the equivalent of 120 years old, he told his co-host, “that makes [Chanel] the oldest hot dog I’ve seen since that barbecue at your place.”

Chanel might not have gotten her place in Guinness World Records had it not been for Denice’s husband, Karl Shaughnessy, who was paging through the record book one day and realized he didn’t see a category for the oldest dog. He called Guinness and sent in Chanel’s birth certificate showing her birth date: May 6, 1988.

On Wednesday on TODAY, one of Chanel’s early 21st birthday presents was her official certificate as the world’s oldest living pooch. She’ll be listed in the 2010 edition of Guinness World Records, scheduled for publication this October.

Dog food company Dogswell is throwing a private birthday bash at the New York Dog Spa and Hotel for Chanel and her family and friends, complete with a giant doggie birthday cake.

Although Chanel is unfazed by her celebrity, the Shaughnessys’ three grandsons are excited to have a world-record holder in the family.

A dog’s (long) life
Impressive as her accomplishment is, Chanel has a way to go to catch the all-time record for canine longevity. The oldest dog ever whose age could be verified was Bluey, an Australian cattle dog that died at the ripe old age of 29 years, 5 months in 1939.

Still, Chanel is undeniably remarkable. At almost 21, she’s in fine fettle, still likes to play, and has just a few physical issues that can be expected at an age that translates to 120 for a human. (Veterinarians say that the first year of a dog’s life is equivalent to 15 years of a human’s. The second year is equal to 10 human years. After that, every year is five human years.)

TODAY
Chanel’s owner, Denice Shaughnessy, was a single mom and a soldier when she adopted the dog from a Virgina shelter more than 20 years ago.
She always wears a sweater or T-shirt when she goes out, even in summer, because she tends to get chilled easily. Chanel also has cataracts and has to wear goggles with tinted lenses to protect her eyes when she goes out. She’s got a bit of a benign tumor on one hind leg, and wears booties to protect the limb.

She also keeps odd hours and gets up in the middle of the night to get a drink, then has to search for her bed. Chanel actually has two doggie beds and alternates nights sleeping in them.

Chanel is a finicky eater who loves chicken and multigrain pasta — regular pasta just won’t do — mixed in with her dog food.

Shelter dog
Denice Shaughnessy was a single mother and a soldier in the U.S. Army 21 years ago when she went to a shelter in Virginia looking for a dog for her daughter, LaToya. She fell in love with two dachshund-mix pups and wanted them both, but couldn’t afford to pay $50 in adoption fees. So she took one of the pups, paid $25, and named the dog Chanel.

Slideshow: It was a dog’s (long) life Life threw some curveballs at Shaughnessy. Some months after Chanel joined the family, her house burned down; fortunately, everyone got out safely. Later, she was having financial problems and had to sell her car because she couldn’t afford to pay for the insurance. She and LaToya were reduced to living on macaroni and cheese, which they shared with Chanel.

While she was in the Army, she was stationed in Germany and then at West Point in upstate New York. Later, she moved to California to care for her ailing grandparents. No matter where she went or what her circumstances, Chanel was always there.

Finally, Denice met Karl Shaughnessy, fell in love and got married. They settled on Long Island and Denice got a job as a secretary at the Rocky Point Middle School. She has had three other dachshunds over the years.

Chanel has outlived them all.

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