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MA:

What's the longest recorded life span of a dog?

-- Mr. B, the net

The yap-yapping in the Guinness record book offices must be deafening. But they had to know, when they started keeping lists of old living things, that turnover would be high and a continual stream of applicants a necessity. They recently had to scratch off the books a 27-year-old border collie from England. The owners claim to have fed it lentils all its life. Perhaps the gaseous pup finally exploded. Who knows. Anyway, in 2003, out with the old oldest living dog, in with the new oldest living dog: a 27-year-old beagle from Virginia, the current titleholder. But sniffing around the Guinness offices, peeing on the wastebaskets and chewing on the rugs, is a feisty 29-year-old contender, another collie from England. If he really is the age his owners claim-- Guinness is checking references and running fingerprints-- the old whippersnapper will chase the not-old-enough beagle right out of the book and become the new King of Krochety Kanines. Better yet, assuming he can keep breathing until he's 30, he will become the world's oldest dog of all time-- living, dead, or otherwise. The present record is 29 years. Another border collie. The world's oldest dog show is Westminster-- 128.

Clearly, if you have trouble maintaining long-term relationships, border collies are not for you. The elves have never had a goldfish that's lasted more than three days, so we thought that would be a reasonable alternative. Until we found out that if you treat 'em right, a goldfish can live for decades; 43 is the oldest goldfish submitted to the Guinness folks for certification. And it was one of those won-it-at-the-fair-in-a-plastic-bag, Elaine-Benes-in-the-parking-garage fish that usually don't have a chance in hell.

If I don�t mention it I'll be accused of being a catist. The Guinnesses' oldest-ever cat lived to be 34. For comparison, average cat life is 16 years; small-medium average dog life 15 years; big average dog life 10 years.

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