ST. PETERSBURG — Joe Slatton of St. Petersburg wasn't impressed when he learned NBC's Today show had featured what it deemed the world's oldest living dog at 21.
Slatton says that at the time the show aired May 6, he was most likely out walking his 23-year-old Shih Tzu, Smokey.
"My wife told me about the show," Slatton said. "Of course she knew, too, that Smokey was way older than that dog on TV."
The show featured Chantal, 21, a dachshund mix. She suffers from cataracts and gets cold easily, said her owner, Denice Shaughnessy of Long Island.
NBC declined to comment on the discovery of an older dog.
Smokey, golden brown with all his hair, is not only older, but more active. He loves his walks and has his own wardrobe.
Slatton, 78, and Mary, 76, his wife of 55 years, took in Smokey nine years ago when the dog's former owner moved to a place where she couldn't have a pet.
Records at the VCA St. Petersburg Animal Hospital show Smokey was born Jan. 18, 1986. That was two days before the first federal Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated and 10 days before the space shuttle Challenger disaster.
"Of course he shows signs of age," said Slatton, a retired manager for the Thom McAn shoe company. "He went deaf at some point and he needs about 15 hours of sleep to recharge his batteries."
With their five children out of the house, the Slattons showered their love on Smokey and his stepsister Little Bit, a Shih Tzu of 11.
"I wouldn't know to what specific thing I could attribute his age to," Slatton said. "I guess it's just a combination of a healthy Pedigree diet and loads of exercise."
Even in old age Smokey has discovered new things.
"I started taking him to the Home Depot, and he has been really enjoying looking at the appliances there," Slatton said.
Smokey, weighing in at 19 pounds, is seen at his current veterinary clinic as nothing short of a four-legged miracle.
"For sure he's the oldest dog I have ever worked with. And he's in great shape," said Brooks Ohman, a technician at Gulfport Veterinarian.
But Smokey's got a long way to go to become the world's oldest dog ever.
Bluey, an Australian cattle dog that died in 1939, holds the Guinness World Record at 29.5 years.