Do black pet owners live longer than black non-pet owners?
Why I chose to participate in the Dog Aging Project
Answering a two-hour questionnaire divided into 11 sections wasn’t exactly the most exciting way to start my morning. However, the Dog Aging Project caught my attention from a Science Daily post and I wanted in!
I miss my first two dogs. As much as I adore my Hound mix (who just turned 1 years old on Friday), my laptop wallpaper is still the last photograph I took of my German Shepherd on New Year’s Day from 2014. She died so abruptly (9 years old in human years) that I often catch myself staring at my current dog, hoping I never have to deal with the lack of warning signs again.
I’d had another dog for 13 human years before that. With him, I knew the news would come sooner or later. The life spans of Labrador Retrievers (10 to 12 years) and German Shepherds (seven to 10 years) are widely documented—although the aging process starts to slow to five-year increments for larger dogs. However, someone telling you how long a dog will live still doesn’t make you anymore prepared for it actually happening. He was clearly aging; she was not. He died of old age; she died of cancer and no one knew she had it. I know that’s why her death hit me harder.
Both times when I heard the news, an icy feeling took over my body. As I walked into my parents’ basement, looking for a furry, four-legged figure running my way, they never surfaced. “Lonely” has never been an adjective I’d use to describe myself, but both times I got that news of pet deaths, there was no other word that made more sense. If I could do anything to help dogs age longer in a healthier way, sign me up. As an African-American pet owner, I think it’s important for us to participate in these kinds of dog aging studies—for mental, physical, financial and residential reasons. Here’s why.