In 1987, the Cooper River Bridge Run was 10 years old, radio station WTMA switched from "classic rock, roll and soul" to country, and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley was elected to his fourth four-year term.

Late that year or early the next, in the crowded Leeds Avenue building that housed the John Ancrum SPCA, a dog named Chichi caught the eye of Charlestonian Frances Hutson, who was looking for a companion for her mother, Laura Frost.

"I took one look at him and said, 'That's it,' " Hutson said. "Look at him. How could anyone leave him?"

At the time, Chichi was thought to be at least 2 years old. That means he's now somewhere around 24.

Now owned by Frank Pavich, 37, of New York City and recently determined by a blood test to be a full miniature poodle, Uncle Chichi is gaining national attention as possibly the Oldest Dog in the World.

After a story about him ran in The New York Times in July, Chichi was invited to make an appearance on "Good Morning America," where Pavich mentioned that the pooch eats a diet of Halo Spot's Stew. When the dog food company, which is co-owned by celebrity Ellen Degeneres, heard about it, they donated 10,000 meals from the Halo line to the shelter of Pavich's choice.

Of course, that was the John Ancrum SPCA, which in 2007 was renamed the Charleston Animal Society and two years ago moved to a new facility at 2455 Remount Road, North Charleston.

Pavich and Hutson brought Chichi "home" to the shelter on Tuesday for the delivery of the food and the presentation of a "Top Dog" medal from the folks at the society.

But it's not clear whether Chichi is indeed the oldest dog in the world.

When asked who had declared him that, Heather Greenfield, a spokesman for Halo dog food's public relations company, asked, "Do you know of one that's older?"

According to the 2010 Guinness World Records, the title belonged to Otto, a Dachshund-terrier mix from England who died in January.

A Website called reported on June 10 that Pu (short for Pusuke), 25, of Sakura, Japan, may be recognized in the 2011 Guinness book as the oldest dog. According to a newspaper there, Pu was born in March 1985, and it can be proved via a registry that tracks local pets' births and deaths.

There is no paperwork to support Chichi's claim.

"Unfortunately, when we moved, we shredded any paperwork that was over 10 years old," said Animal Society spokeswoman Kay Hyman, who didn't work for the society when Chichi was adopted.

"His early life is shrouded in mystery," Pavich said.

Chichi's history is an oral one, left up to Hutson. She knows she adopted Chichi about a year before her mother became bedridden and unable to care for him.

The dog then went to live with Hutson's niece, Jane Maybank Grigorieff. That's when he picked up the moniker "Uncle."

"My brother reasoned that he was my grandmother's child, so he was my uncle," she said. She kept him for several years, but when he growled at her new baby in 1996 during a trip to Los Angeles, she gave the dog to family friend Pavich.

"Chichi was a little guy with a big personality," she said. "I knew Frankie would be wonderful with him."

Pavich now lives in New York with his new wife, Janet Puhalovic. The couple are taking Chichi to Croatia with them in a few weeks for their big family wedding.

"He rules the house with an iron paw," said Pavich, a television producer who often takes Uncle Chichi to work with him.

Now blind and nearly deaf, Chichi has weathered some life-threatening illnesses but manages to survive.

"He goes up and down," Pavich said. "He got sick a few months ago and we almost lost him, but since then he's been stronger than ever."

Poodles are "genetically predisposed to be long-lived," Hyman said. According to, poodles usually live 12 to 15 years. They are also described as "an intelligent, joyful, companion dog" and easily trainable.

Pavich said he has not tried to teach his old dog any new tricks, but the pooch used to play fetch for hours on end and still musters the energy to play with toys from time to time.

"He used to sit on command, but that was about it," he said. "And he doesn't do that anymore."

Instead, Uncle Chichi is carried most places in a canvas shoulder bag.

"It's a dog's life," Pavich said.