true story occurred in 1987. It typifies the Akita's loyalty and
explains why Akitas have secured a special place in my heart. Their
devotion is unquestionable when the bonding is strong; their
intelligence is remarkable, and each of you with an Akita living in
your home know they have a marvelous sense of humor and fun. They
are sensitive and intuitive to their families, seeming to read one's
mind. In other words, this is a singularly unique animal that we, as
guardians of the breed, must protect and value for all of their
Kuma was a large,
4-year-old, brindle male when he first came into ARSA. Unlike most
other Akitas, Kuma came to us because of the death of his owner, a
man of 36 who died unexpectedly of a heart attack. While Kuma's
owner was alive, the man and dog were devoted companions sharing a
deep love for each other. The man's free time was spent with Kuma on
walks, hikes- all the things a dog enjoys, activities that cement
the human/dog bond.
Kuma had been placed in a home immediately or had been allowed to
remain in his own home with the man's wife, the dog may have
eventually adapted to the loss of his beloved owner. But the man's
wife had never wanted a dog and admittedly was jealous of the time
her husband spent with Kuma. As an act of revenge or perhaps, simple
indifference, she brought Kuma to ARSA as soon as her husband was
From the first
day with rescue Kuma was deeply depressed. The confusion and sudden
changes in his life must have been unimaginably frightening for him.
Adding to his distress, Kuma was now in a kennel surrounded by
strangers and other Akitas.
to penetrate through his apathy, but slowly during the next few
months Kuma deteriorated. He lost weight but barely touched his
food. His coat became dry, brittle, unhealthy looking as his broken
heart affected his health. He was unresponsive to affection or
attention though he seemed to favor one ARSA volunteer--Stephanie.
Stephanie and the other volunteers worked hard to bring Kuma out of
his depression, to interest him in a new human relationship, but he
continued in a state of unhappiness--he was pining for his owner.
Kuma's tail had ceased to wag, his ears never went back in greeting,
and he did not solicit attention but accepted it with resignation
when he was petted or brushed. We all felt a sense of failure; it
was the first time we were actually unable to penetrate the barrier
of indifference Akitas can use as a cloak for their feelings.
One day, Kuma
went into his kennel house and refused to come out. Any attempt to
force him out resulted in growls. Stephanie was called and arrived
to take Kuma to the vet to see if there was some miracle medicine to
help him through his depression, or perhaps he was suffering from an
Kuma went with
Stephanie maintaining a subdued silence during the drive. As she
walked him outside the veterinarian's office, he showed no
enthusiasm for the walk or his surroundings. He followed Stephanie
when she brought him into an examining room. The dog remained quiet
while Stephanie discussed his case with the vet. They agreed it
would be best to run a complete blood panel to see if his declining
condition was physical. The focus of the conversation was to try in
some way to stimulate his appetite to keep him alive--Stephanie
offered to take him home with her if that would help.
When the vet
and two assistants attempted to place Kuma on the examining table,
he became extremely hostile. In spite of a muzzle and four people
trying to subdue this dog, Kuma fought with incredible strength.
Finally, the vet called a halt to forcing Kuma onto the examining
table. He was placed back on the floor where his heavy breathing was
the only sound in the room.
the vet discussed Kuma's behavior and situation at great length.
Looking at Kuma, the vet told Stephanie he felt the dog did not want
to live without his loved owner. It was time to be unselfish and
truly humane by letting Kuma go.
Stephanie tried to think it thorough to make the right decision,
Kuma quieted down. His eyes on Stephanie, he waited. It was
difficult not to feel a sense of failure. It was even more painful
to decide to kill a young, otherwise nice Akita simply because he
was unhappy. Once again, the vet pointed out that Kuma had already
made the decision to die. Stephanie finally agreed to put him to
As soon as
Stephanie voiced her agreement to euthanize Kuma, the dog's tail
began wagging! He knew! He absolutely knew! Without any fuss at all,
he allowed himself to be lifted onto the table. As Stephanie gently
removed his collar, Kuma leaned forward and kissed her face, his
tail wagging enthusiastically for the first time. As he was
injected, he stared at a spot beyond the vet, his tail wagging
furiously, ears flat back in typical
adoration. Stephanie could never prove it, no one can, but the big
Akita behaved as if his owner had finally arrived to take him home.
together now for eternity and we know that at last Kuma is happy. He
was one of those Akitas who did not want to live without his special
person and rather than prolong his suffering, we let him go. If ever
you have a moment of doubt that the dog you loved and lost will be
there, wherever "there" is, Kuma proved it's true--there will be a
whenever an abandoned
Akita dies in a shelter, or when an ARSA dog dies while waiting
for a home, I pray for the dog's soul to enter the light. I claim
as one of my own so the dog will have someone to wait for. I believe
the Akita waits with Mandy, Kody, Tootsie, Patty, Rocky, Kato, Toshi,
and the countless other Akitas abandoned to streets and shelters.
Most of you feel as I do, you have never met an Akita you could not