By Laura McAlister
What’s the secret to a long life? If you ask Joe and Jan Akin, they’d say lots of love, petting and boiled chicken – or at least that’s done the trick for their dog, Peanut.
The Hoover couple thinks their Labrador-dachshund mix just might be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, dog in the state and possibly nation. Though they don’t know Peanut’s exact age, they believe she’s at least 20 years old but more than likely 21. That’s almost 150 years old in dog years.
“Our vet told us that there was a dog that died in Russia that was 25 years old,” Joe said. “He was supposedly the oldest. The vet said they’d never heard of a dog in Alabama more than 19 or 20 years old, so Peanut probably is the oldest in the state.”
Dr. Brad Murphy at Vestavia Hills Animal Clinic, Peanut’s veterinarian, said it’s rare to see a dog as old as Peanut, especially since she is part labrador – a breed that typically has a lifespan of 14-15 years. The fact that Peanut’s a mix breed, and a small dog, could be in her favor, he said. While he can’t be certain Peanut’s the oldest dog around, he does know he hasn’t seen may older.
“I’ve been practicing since 2000, and I think the oldest I’ve seen is maybe 20,” he said. “We don’t see many over 18.”
According to the Guinness World Records website, the organization honored a 21-year-old dachshund named Chanel in 2009 as the oldest dog, though many readers disputed the fact.
It could be hard for the Akins to prove their dog’s age as well. Peanut was a stray, and the vet they originally took her to when they brought her home in 1989 doesn’t keep records that far back.
But the retired couple remembers distinctly when Peanut hopped her way into their hearts.
They weren’t really looking for a dog, but as Jan said, she’s a sucker for a stray. Her employer’s son was attending school at the University of Montevallo, and some of his friends needed to find a home for a dog they’d been keeping.
“Peanut would stay with these girls at night, but finally the apartment said they couldn’t do that anymore,” Jan said. “The people I was working for told me they had this dog and were going to have to put him in the humane society, and well, I just couldn’t stand the thought of that.”
The Akins already had a dog at the time, but that didn’t stop Jan from going to pick up the stray.
Joe wasn’t sure what to expect. He had been told it was a small dog, maybe nine months to a year old. He suspected she might be one of those frou-frou dogs he had no interest in, but when Jan arrived home and the young dog hopped out of car, it was love at first sight.
“She had a kind of longish body and short little legs,” he said. “She looked just like a peanut. That’s when she got that name. She’s really just been an excellent dog.”
Sure, Peanut has slowed down some in her old age, but watching her prance and hop around the Akins’ backyard, it’s hard to believe she’s more than two decades old.
She’s a little hard of hearing, and Jan is certain her sight is not what it used to be. But other than that, Joe said Peanut’s got a clean bill of health. Age hasn’t changed her demeanor either. She still loves a good belly rub and a run around the yard.
Now, Peanut lives mostly outdoors on the Akins’ back porch, since she is more accident prone in her older age.
The Akins got her a crate on the porch and surrounded it with window screens, so the birds and other critters won’t bother her. The crate is left open, so she can come and go as she pleases in the fenced backyard. When it gets cool, Joe has a special heating light outside the crate that keeps her warm.
Jan and Joe can only guess the secret of their furry friend’s longevity, but both agree it must have something to do with lots of love and lots of petting, and maybe a few table scraps, as well.
“She loves boiled chicken,” Jan said. “And some mornings I fix her scrambled eggs.”
“She probably lived most of her first few years off table scraps, none of that fancy dog food,” Joe added. “And lots and lots of water. She drinks lots of water.”