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In 1999 a book was published entitled Henry Forever: The Gift of Life. It was about a Newfoundland dog who lived 17 years, 7 months. Many in the Newfie dog community were raving about Henry and the book about his life. Of course I had to have a copy. I opened the book as soon as it arrived and as I read the acknowledgement I came across the following passage:

Henry’s date of birth is stated as December 6, 1980. There is no longer any paper work available to verify this.

That did it for me! The book went straight to the bookshelf and has stayed there until I pulled it out to write this column.

Recently several people re-posted a video on Facebook about a 17 year old Newfoundland dog. It was an interview from the webpage of integrative (holistic) veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker on the mercola.com medical advice website. This caused a lot of excitement for many Newf fanciers on Facebook and the chart below explains why:

Chart developed by Dr. Fred L. Metzger, DVM, State College, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of Pfizer Animal Health

As you can see in the chart, 17 years for a giant breed dog like a Newfoundland is off the scale. For dogs over 90 lbs the comparison to human years ends at the dog age of 16 which is equivalent to 123 for a human. No one was more excited than me. Up until now I had only seen evidence of Newfs living to age 15 and only very rarely. Finally this was the break through that I have been waiting for. I found the breeder’s website; she is a renowned US breeder and the interviewed person was her partner. Then I found a reference on the site to the Newf in question, Katie, and her date of birth and date of passing. This girl it turns out lived a remarkable 15 years, 10 months but far short of 17 years. The breeder’s partner must have been having a bad day or he may just be bad at math.

These are not the only claims of 17 year old Newfs; I often get people telling me that they have or know of such a dog. I put such claims in the same category as I do for the many stories that I hear of a 300 pound Newfs.

So what is the oldest verified age that a Newfoundland has reached? Well it turns out that the chart is accurate and so far 16 years is it. Besides Katie, I have found two other Newfs that have lived to 15 years and 10 months; both of whom were listed in the Newfoundland Club of America’s list of nominees for the Oldest Living Newfoundland for 2013.

However there are breeders who are striving to achieve even more longevity for our breed. Of course, longevity by itself is not an appropriate goal. It has to be a sound longevity. Being alive without quality of life is hardly desirable for man or beast. Some of the ways that breeders are tackling the challenge of increasing sound longevity include diet, slowing down growth, slowing down the rate of maturation and ensuring that their breeding stock carry longevity in their genes.

Interest in senior Newfs (and their health) is certainly increasing based on the web pages being created for them and the activity therein. Hopefully this will spur more breeders to add sound longevity to their objectives. This all leads me to predict that in the next decade we shall have a 17 year old Newfoundland dog.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Newf News

January/February 2016