Friday, February 17, 2006

Happy Whelpday: 25 Inches of Frosting

Harrigan is 17 today! That's the calendar's reckoning, by the way. Translated into dog years, he's up there with Methuselah and Pluto.
Here is a snap of birthdayboy and blizzardboy from this past Sunday's record snowfall.

People often say that you just multiply the calendar years by seven to get "dog years". Yet you also hear that small breeds have longer lifespans than large, bulky breeds. Therefore, the seven-to-one factor can't apply for all dogs.
Life expectancy at birth for a 2001 red-blooded American homo sapien is 77.2 years. (Man, I hope I hang on a little more. Three decades more, maybe?) So therefore, if you correlate the life expectancy of a particular dog breed and want to get "dog years" you'd create a factor that, when multiplied by the doggie's elapsed calendar years, would yield its "human age", based on the average life expectancy of that breed. There are several fallacies in this approach, but, what the hell, the nerd in me went ahead anyway and created a table to test the hypothesis:

BreedMean Height (Inches)Mean Weight (Pounds)Max Age (Calendar Years)Multiplier
supposedly longest lifespan
7.5 4 15 5.1
Dachshund 16 20 15 5.1
Beagle 14.5 23.5 15 5.1
Tibetan Terrier 15 24 15 5.1
Boxer 23.5 65 14 5.5
Bloodhound 26 100 12 6.4
Akita 27 97.5 12 6.4
St. Bernard 26.5 155 10 7.7
Great Dane 32 160 10 7.7
Irish Wolfhound
shortest :-(
31.5 120 8 9.7

First of all, Googling For Truth, you get significantly different numbers from different sources. ("Big surprise!" say all you experienced researcher-types out there.) My initial source was the AKC site, except they rarely talked about the weight of a dog. I ended up preferring the dogbreedinfo site better since it always listed statistics consistently, including the weight range. It also nudged the life expectancy a little higher than the AKC. Perhaps that's because a lot of the AKC standards were set in the late 1950's and maybe dogs are living longer now, with vitamins and satellite TV and stuff. Anyway, I had to revise my stupid table a few times.

So based on the TT multiplier of 5.1, Harrigan is 87! If I'd used the conventional 7-dog-year canard, he'd be 119. Which is ridiculous. He doesn't act like any 119-year old I ever saw profiled on Nova. He certainly has way more hair.

In case you were wondering, Pluto first appeared as a bloodhound in the 1930 Mickey Mouse cartoon "The Chain Gang". Soon thereafter he was adopted by Minnie Mouse. In 1931 he became Mickey's dog Pluto in "The Moose Hunt." That makes him 76 calendar years old and, for a bloodhound, at 486 human years, pretty damn impressive.

Still I'm sure the Pixar doctors will inject new 3D life into him, ani-fx gel light-gleam algorithms plumping up his formerly "flat" demeanor. The New Disney will bury Snow White and her antiquated dwarfs.

How to interpret my table:

1. Don't believe it. It is totally unscientific and may not resemble real life. Both Harrigan and my father (who is 93, sometimes puppy-like, and still covers several thousand miles a year) prove what exceptions can derive from love and positive thinking.

2. The stages of human life are not analogous to other species. For example, we humans spend much more time in adolescence (learning the rules of life) than other animals, relative to our entire time on this sphere. The important adjustments we need to make for social success are totally different from those for a dog (unless you're in Marketing).

3. Human medical treatment and life-prolonging technology far surpass that for other animals. Much veterinary medicine is still based on human instinct(!) and trial and error. There has not been the financial incentive to make medicine for animals a perfect science. That is simply a sad fact of animal life.

4. Animals do not by nature wage war or bear grudges. They wanna eat, that's about it. Essentially, a newborn doggie or kitty or gerbil is not out to nuke the different-colored other-coated dog or religion. Doggies are lovers, not haters. So "Survivor Puppy Island" would be pretty uncompelling, politics-wise. Though incredibly cute.