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Thursday, April 18, 2024
Chico is the man: Nearly 22-year-old pup dines on steak and chicken daily
Chico is nearly 154 in dog years. Dave Van de Laar

Esther Battista’s family pet Chico is almost 154 years old. In dog years.

Even among Niagara-on-the-Lake’s famously aging populace, that is far older than any other resident.

Battista’s family got the Bichon Frisé when she was just 11 years old and now she’s turning 32, married with a baby — and Chico is still a part of the family.

His exact age is unclear.

Records from examinations of Chico’s molars during one of his first veterinary visits estimate he was born in October 2003, making him almost 21. But Battista says he is even older.

Because in February 2003, when her family got Chico through an ad in the Toronto Star, the breeder said he was already two to three months old, making him nearly 22 in human years.

But one thing that’s for sure, he is one old dog.

Bichon Frisés have an average lifespan of about 14 years, according to the Bichon Frisè Club of America but there have been media accounts in the U.K. and Florida of the breed living to 18 or 20 years.

And Wikipedia claims “there are reliable records in various North American surveys” documenting Bichons living up to age 21.

Which makes Chico a super senior canine citizen.

Now enjoying his twilight years, Chico still lives with Battista.

“My parents got him for me. He was a family dog but he was always my dog,” she said.

In 2020, when she moved to Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake from Brampton with her husband Justin Palaio, Chico came along.

Battista chalks up Chico’s long life to his sociability.

“He’s a really good dog. He’s always loved being around people,” she said.

While in his old age he tends to keep more to himself, Chico has always been playful and loving toward other dogs and people.

“It’s funny because in the last two years I would say dogs interact with him differently. They’re a lot more careful. It’s like they know he’s old,” she said.

At home, Chico enjoys cuddling.

“He loves his comfy bed. If you put anything on the floor that’s comfy, like if you were to drop a sweater or anything that’s soft he will just assume that’s for him and he’ll go lay on it,” Battista said.

Like most older dogs, he sleeps a lot. His hearing is diminished and cataracts compromise his vision.

In the two or three hours a day Chico is awake, he loves to be pampered. The 10.5-pound pup will take short walks around the house and outside in the morning and at night.

Chico also happens to have a pretty special diet for a family pet.

“He’s a very picky dog,” Battista joked. 

No ordinary dog food for this guy.

Since he was a puppy, Chico has eaten homemade meals, including steak and dark meat chicken.

“He’s never really eaten kibble,” Battista said.

“They’re good cuts of meat, too. Some of his steaks are what I eat,” Palaio joked. 

As a senior, Chico gets a bowl of milk before bed every night. 

He may not walk up the stairs any more, but bundled in his favourite sweaters and cuddled up with his family on the couch, Chico is still just like a pup at heart — even at 154. 

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