When a brown-and-white puppy called Bobi mewled into the world on 11 May 1992, Yugoslavia was tearing itself apart, LA was still smouldering from riots, the ink was drying on the Maastricht treaty, Sharon Stone was baiting Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct and REM were five months away from releasing Automatic for the People.
The late canine, who has died at the spectacular age of 31 years and 165 days, has not so much broken the record for the world’s longest-lived dog as shaken it violently from side-to-side, torn it to pieces, buried it and then cocked a triumphant, if elderly, leg over it.
Bobi, a Portuguese mastiff, or Rafeiro do Alentejo, shuffled off his mortal collar on 21 October in the Portuguese village of Conqueiros, where he had lived his entire life with Leonel Costa and his family.
One of the earliest tributes came from Guinness World Records, which said it was “saddened to learn of the death of Bobi, the world’s oldest dog ever”. Bobi was awarded the title of world’s oldest living dog in February this year, effortlessly snatching the crown from the paws of Spike the chihuahua, a young pretender from Ohio who was then a mere pup in comparison at the age of 23 years and seven days.
Until Bobi’s death on Saturday, the planet’s most ancient recorded canine was Bluey, an Australian cattle-dog who died in 1939 at the age of 29 years 5 months.
Bobi was registered in 1992 with the veterinary service of the central Portuguese municipality of Leiria, which confirmed his birthdate. His age had also been verified by a pet database managed by Portugal’s National Union of Veterinarians.
Bobi’s death was announced by Dr Karen Becker, a vet who met Bobi several times.
“Last night, this sweet boy earned his wings,” she posted on Facebook, alongside two pictures of a cheerful-looking Bobi.
“Despite outliving every dog in history, his 11,478 days on Earth would never be enough, for those who loved him.”
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Bobi’s exceptional longevity – his livestock-guarding breed typically lives for 12 to 14 years – is all the more remarkable given the less than propitious circumstances of his earliest days.
At birth, Bobi and his three male siblings were deemed surplus to requirements and were destined for a shallow grave before fate – with an eight-year-old Leonel Costa and his brothers – intervened.
“Unfortunately, at that time it was considered normal by older people … to bury the animals in a hole so that they would not survive,” said Leonel Costa.
When Costa’s parents went to dispose of the puppies, Bobi had the nous, or good fortune, to be hidden in a stack of wood in an outbuilding. Spared the shovel and the grave, he was then adopted by Leonel and his brothers and soon became part of the family.
Costa has attributed Bobi’s long life to the “calm, peaceful” environment in which he lived, to the fact that he always had the run of the land, and to the diet of the family’s dogs.
“What we ate, they ate too,” he said, adding that he did, however, soak Bobi’s food in water to remove seasonings.
Nature and nurture both appear to have played their part: Bobi’s mother, Gira, lived to 18, while another of Costa’s dogs, Chicote, made it to 22.
“We see situations like this as a normal result of the life that they have,” Costa said when his elderly companion scooped the title earlier this year. “But Bobi is one of a kind.”