Was Bobi the World’s Oldest Dog—or a Fraud?

“It is true that I am considered an expert on dog coat color,” Sheila Schmutz, an emeritus professor of animal and poultry science at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, told me. “At least in terms of genetics.” I sent Schmutz, who has published multiple papers about the coats of dogs and cattle, a selection of photos of Bobi taken in 1999, 2016, and 2022, and asked her whether the photos appeared to be of the same dog.

Schmutz wasn’t sure. In a few photos Bobi’s fur appeared to be red, while in another it looked like he had a brown coat. Brown and red coats, Schmutz assured me, are two very different colors. “I had my husband look at the photo set too and he agrees that we can understand why people don’t think it’s the same dog in all the photos, but it’s not absolutely clear to us,” she wrote. “Wish this were more clearcut …” she signed off her email.

For certainty, I would have to look elsewhere, and so I turned to Karen Becker, a veterinarian and author of The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier, and Longer. In several articles, Becker was credited as the person who broke the news of Bobi’s death, in a post on her Facebook page. I sent Becker a message through her website and waited for a response.

Becker, it turned out, was away lecturing, but I did get a response from her administrative assistant, Dana Adams, who was not impressed with the Guardian article casting doubt on Bobi’s longevity. “So much is incorrect,” Adams wrote. “Bobi never ate raw food, he only ate homemade cooked food, he’s a mutt not a purebred, and the lobby organization waited until the poor little guy’s cremation day to raise questions to Guinness about additional testing.”

Wait—what? A lobby organization? It was true that the GWR article about Bobi, and lots of the subsequent press coverage, had picked up on the detail that Bobi only ate “human food,” a factor that Bobi’s owner, Leonel Costa, cited as a reason for his dog’s unusual longevity. (Costa did not respond to WIRED’s requests for comment.) But Adams’ reference to a lobby organization seemed to be suggesting that there were dark forces behind these doubts. I pressed her for more details.

“Well, those of us in the pet space know it never goes well when you threaten a multi-billion dollar empire,” Adams wrote to me. “The Guardian article made it clear this is about the concerns vets have if people do what Leonel did and feed a home-cooked diet … Bobi directly threatens this entire industry.” Attached was a screenshot of the world’s top 10 pet food manufacturers, as ranked by petfoodindustry.com. Topping the list were Mars Petcare Inc., Nestlé Purina PetCare, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

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