Work on the study started about four years ago. After funding was approved, scientific and research teams were formed, the database was set up, a bio-lab found to store the samples and a questionnaire was written.
The recruitment of volunteer dogs was expected to be done in two years, with most of it spent on verifying eligibility and participation. Page said it takes about four weeks to verify pedigree and health, and make sure a dog's owner and veterinarian will participate. So far, 200 dogs have accepted the invitation, and 600 others are on a waiting list.
Bureau, who also has a golden retriever client on the waiting list, said it's a privilege to be part of a groundbreaking study. Aside from researchers, participating veterinarians probably have the most work — they have to submit samples of blood, urine and hair during annual exams and report whenever they treat a volunteer dog for any reason.
Study leaders will not intervene or recommend any treatment, Page said. "We will work with the vets working with the pets. We will catalog all the things that happen, the medical history, the diet, environment and exposures."
The vets hope the study eventually will benefit humans. Researchers will pay particular attention to early onset obesity in dogs to see how it is related to diabetes, Page said.
Dog-years are a benefit to researching ailments found in both dogs and humans, because studying a dog for 10 years is akin to studying a human for 60 or 70 years, said Dr. Wayne Jensen, the Morris Animal Foundation's chief scientific officer and executive director.
"There are many examples where risk factors in dogs have also been found in people," said Jensen.
The study will also try to measure factors in a dog's life, such as how fun and an owner's love affect the animal's health and longevity. That will be attempted through questions about the number of children or other pets in the owner's family, the amount of time spent together — and the dog's sleeping spot.
Mesinger knows the answer to that one off the top of his head: "In bed, with my wife and I."