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Preparing for Your Dog’s 60th Birthday

Julee Meltzer

My dog’s getting old. Her name is Lilac and she turned 12 on New Year’s Day and from what I‘ve read (on the Internet of course), she won’t be around for much longer. I’ve spoken to other owners of German Shepard dogs and they tell me that I’m lucky to have one reach 12 years of age. While I don’t necessarily feel very lucky, I do understand that when it comes to longevity, large breeds simply don’t live as long as the smaller breeds. Thus, while it’s not uncommon for a Miniature Poodle or a Pekingese to live to 16 or more, Great Danes rarely make to their seventh birthday.

There are numerous theories as to why size matters so much but at the end of the day — it doesn’t really matter since there isn’t anything you can do about it. I’ve thought about the possibility of getting a smaller breed next time but when I play the movie in my head, I just can’t make the transition from a 95 pound guard dog to a 15 pound Poodle that can sit in my lap. I have friends with small breeds that feel the same way about getting a big dog. They’re quick to point out that as a full-time RVer — small dogs make a lot more sense. They take up less room. You don’t have to carry as much food. They shed less (or not at all) and last but not least, when you have a small dog, you don’t have to worry about your dog scaring people.
Of course when it comes to our pets, practicality tends to fly out the door. Instead, we usually end up sticking with what we’re comfortable with. So if and when I’m able to muster up the courage (or the foolishness) to get another dog — it’ll probably be another German Shepard.

This reminded me of another German Shepard dog that seemingly never has to contend with the issue of growing old. His name is Rin Tin Tin.
In 1918 – less than two months before the end of World War I, American serviceman Lee Duncan found a litter of pups in a bombed-out dog kennel in Lorraine, France. Two of the pups were named after the woolen dolls called Rin-tin-tin and Nénette that French children frequently gave to American soldiers as good luck charms. Lee Duncan returned to the United States with both pups when the war ended but Nénette died a few months later. Rin Tin Tin, on the other hand, settled in nicely at his home in Los Angeles. Rin Tin Tin’s first starring role was in Where the North Begins (1923) where he played alongside silent screen actress Claire Adams. The film was such a huge success; it was literally credited with saving Warner Brothers from bankruptcy.

After appearing in several movies, Rin Tin Tin got his next big break when he starred in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, an ABC television series that ran from October 1954 to May 1959. Of course the star of the show was actually Rin Tin Tin IV. The current Rin Tin Tin (no kidding) is twelfth in line (from the original) and frequently makes personal appearances across the U.S to promote responsible pet care.
And, there are lots of books about Rin Tin Tin, including a very popular one, “Rin Tin Tin: The Movie Star”. Here is the description from

Rin-Tin-Tin, a German Shepherd, an icon of the 1920s and early 1930s, was as famous a movie hero as Rudolph Valentino or Douglas Fairbanks. His athletic feats astonished audiences – he could scale an eleven-foot fence, leap over chasms, and climb trees. His acting brought tears, laughter, and amazement. At train stops, when he was on tour, crowds gathered to give him ice cream. Thousands of children wrote him fan letters, and he answered with a paw-autographed photograph. This book is a biography of both Rin-Tin-Tin and Lee Duncan, his owner and trainer. It places their lives in the context of their times, especially France, where they met, and Hollywood, where Rin-Tin-Tin became a star. At the heart of the book are the questions: “Why did a dog, at that particular time, become so famous?” and “How much of the legend of Rin-Tin-Tin is really true?”

Rin Tin Tin even just won the American Humane Society 2011 Legacy Award!

Sooooo, if a puppy that was found in a bombed out dog kennel in France in 1918 can go on living forever, why not my dog Lilac? After all, it’s really just a matter of finding a puppy that resembles my current dog. Plus, by keeping the same name — I could even save a little money by re-using the same ID tag. Of course, with a dog that never gets old, the possibilities are endless. Movies. Television. Maybe even a lucrative reality TV show. So the next time someone asks me how old my dog is --- I’ll tell them that she’s just getting started.