The Akita, a Japanese breed of dog, is particularly known for its fierce and steadfast loyalty.  Originating in Japan, the breed almost died out during World War II when Akitas were killed for meat as well as for fur to line jackets.  It’s also believed that many Akitas died so that they would not fall into the hands of the western world.  The term “man’s best friend” rings especially true for the bond these Japanese dogs share with their masters. 

I myself own an Akita which I consider a once in a lifetime dog.  I suspect I will never feel as close a bond again with another dog as I do with her.  Topping out at 90 lbs for male Akitas, these dogs were used to hunt elk, boar, and bear and they won’t back away from any challenge.  If you meet an Akita it’s a good idea to wait for an introduction from the owner.  I highly doubt my Akita would ever bite, but she can be quite intimidating, and she’s a bit unsure whether she needs to guard me from strangers.  Much like the breed itself, she has small, erect ears and a curled tail.  Akitas are often confused with Siberian Husky’s and Alaskan Malmutes, partly because the coloring can vary on an Akita, especially in the US.

The most famous Akita of all time was named Hachiko.  He was born in 1923 and his owner, a professor at the University of Tokyo named Hidesaburo Ueno, adopted him a year later.  Hachiko and Professor Ueno would walk to the train station each and every morning.  The dog would find its way home, then return to meet Ueno every evening at the precise time his master would return home from work.  They did this for a year and four months (such a short period of time), but then Ueno died from a cerebral hemorrhage at work.  Hachiko never gave up searching for his master, and went faithfully to the train station each morning and night.  The entire country of Japan, known itself as fiercely loyal, celebrated this dog and his perseverance and even put up a bronze statue at the Shibuya train station.  Helen Keller was even given an Akita on her visit to Japan.

As I sit in my office, my Akita is lying in the day bed looking out the window, but nevertheless keeping guard over me.  The entire story of Hachiko makes me wonder how much we could accomplish if we only shared the Akita’s dogged determination.