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Meet Augie, the 20-Year-Old Golden Retriever Who Might Have Just Set an Age Record

The doggo’s recent birthday may be an all-timer for her breed

Augie and her three golden retriever "siblings" celebrate her 20th birthday in April (Steve and Jen Hetterscheidt, via Golden Hearts)
smithsonianmag.com

A golden retriever turned a whopping 20 years old earlier this year, potentially setting a new record for her breed, reports Nicole Pelletiere for Good Morning America.

The pup in question, “Augie,” lives in Oakland, Tennessee with her owners, Jennifer and Steve Hetterscheidt, reports Alicia Lee for CNN. The couple adopted Augie when she was 14 after she had been rehomed twice.

Despite some kidney problems and shakiness in her gate, she’s still perky in her record-setting old age, Jennifer Hetterscheidt tells CNN. “She’ll stumble now and then but as long as she can get a grip where she is, she can get up,” says Hetterscheidt. “Even though she's easy to care for, we watch her like a hawk every moment that we’re awake.”

According to Golden Hearts, a blog about golden retrievers, Augie is the first recorded golden retriever to reach the 20-year mark.

Its official. Let it be known that Golden Retriever, "August", is the oldest known, oldest living Golden Retriever! She...

Posted by GoldHeart Golden Retrievers Rescue on Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Guinness World Records tell GMA that they don’t monitor categories for different dog breeds. However, Augie would count among the oldest dogs ever recorded, according to their list. “If you stuck Augie on [the Guinness] list she’d be number 19 and there were no other, older golden retrievers,” Hetterscheidt tells GMA. "We don’t have proof, but we call it a preponderance of evidence."

Golden retrievers typically live to be about 10 to 12 years old, according to the American Kennel Club. According to Golden Hearts, anecdotal evidence exists for some golden retrievers living as long as 14 or 15 years old—but never 20.

Putting Augie’s age in a human context isn’t as simple as multiplying it by 7, as Jason Daley reported for Smithsonian magazine. Last year, a team of scientists announced a new way to calculate dogs’ ages that relies on their rate of DNA methylation: the process by which methyl groups “stick” to a mammal’s DNA over their lifetime, which can function as a kind of epigenetic clock. According to the formula, a 20-year-old dog would be roughly the equivalent of a 78.9-year-old human. A similar study published on Thursday also found that the rate of aging for dogs slows down after they reach maturity, Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman reports for CNN.

As Yasemin Saplakoglu reports for Live Science, domesticated animals tend to live longer lives than wild animals, in part because they face fewer predators and evolutionary pressures. Typically, small dogs like chihuahuas live much longer than large dogs like Great Danes, and scientists suggest that this may be due to rate of aging. Because larger dogs grow faster, they can be more prone to cancers, for one. Likewise, larger dogs tend to be more at-risk for musculosketetal diseases.

According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest dog on record is Bluey, an Australian cattle-dog who was put to sleep at 29 years old in 1939.

Augie loves blueberries and traveling in the family’s R.V., say her owners. She lives with three golden retriever “siblings”: Sherman, Belle, and Bruce. Her owners had planned to celebrate her milestone birthday with a 100-person party, but the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way—so they settled for a celebratory dog-friendly carrot cake, according to CNN.

“She’s a really sweet girl,” Steve Hetterscheidt tells GMA. “She’s kind of quiet now. She does a lot of laying around. She’s very alert and always paying attention to what's going on.”

About Nora McGreevy

Nora McGreevy is a freelance journalist based in South Bend, Indiana. Her work has appeared in Wired, Washingtonian, the Boston Globe, South Bend Tribune, the New York Times and more. She can be reached through her website, noramcgreevy.com.

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