Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Akita - The Samurai of Dogs

I am an animal lover and with my tendency to be visually attracted to things (just like men), my eyes were ‘glued’ to this white slanting-eyed dog photo featured in April 2008 Newsweek. It looks so cute I wish I could cuddle him…Geramnya. The dog, one of prized and loyal Akita dogs, belongs to Morie Sawataishi.

Morie-san, known as “The Man Who Saved The Breed” in Cathleen McGuigan’s article, an engineer at one of Mitsubishi’s power plant, has been saving Akita dogs from extinction for the past 64 years. During the WWII, keeping a dog is considered unpatriotic and due to Akita’s lustrous fur (a double coat, with a dense straight undercoat, and a thick outer coat), they were slaughtered as the fur was used as lining for Japanese soldiers’ jackets and the meats to feed starving families.

Named after Akita Prefecture in northern part of Honshu Island, Akita dogs are among the world’s ancient breeds in the world and were beloved by samurai warriors. Can you see the samurai-ness in Akita? (can’t help but missing for SY@SG, a descendant of samurai clan).

Akita was catapulted to fame when Hachi-ko, an Akita, continued to wait for his owner’s 4 o’clock commuter train at Shibuya Station every day for 9 years, after the noted professor died from stroke at his office in 1924.

Dubbed the most loyal and faithful dog, Hachi-ko was honoured with a bronze statue at the busy station and a postage stamp. His stuffed and mounted remains are displayed at the National Science Museum of Japan. A film based on Hachi-ko will be released tentatively this year, with Richard Gere in it (OMGGGG…my favourite actor - as he has that cute eyes ..!sigh!). A book titled “A Dog Man : An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain” on Martha Sherrill’s account of Morie-san and his endless passion for Akita, was released in April 2008.

How did his passion for Akita bloom? The Japanese Government used the story of Hachi-ko to promote loyalty to the emperor during the WWII and when the first Hachi-ko statue was melted, Morie-san was disturbed. Who would be as loyal as a dog if there were no dogs left?, Morie-san thought.

Morie-san, who died in October 2008 at the ripe age of 91, owned 100 Akitas - not for a toy and not for sale. Morie-san looks to his brave, loyal Akitas for qualities rapidly vanishing in his country. As a small-time pet owner, I see certain characters in my cats (all of stray-cat breed, I constantly ‘annoy’ my 4 permanent residents and 10 illegal immigrants with excessive cuddles) that make me love them wholeheardtedly. Look here for more on Morie-san.

Helen Keller received Go-Go, an angel in fur as she called it, the first Akita puppy to be brought in US, during her speaking tour in Japan.

For me, having read Garfield’s Good-Life Guide in RD, I am more like my cats hehhehehe – read : lone ranger (since I’m no gossiper, I don’t support cliques for popularity and utmostly, I can be extremely happy when I am alone – well who needs company when I got a good book and I can blog my heart out), looks snobbish (but once you know me, I am definitely not, really), I don’t like to be suffocated with attention, love and hugs (either I cry or I run away because these seem to signal me that I’m so hapless, helpless, hopeless, insincere when I do something good, etc).

On this note, I hope more people will have more compassion towards animals, especially those stray animals. Gandhi once said that “ the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Personally, I feel that we Malaysians fail miserably in that aspect. It pains to see that we rather throw away something edible than feeding these often hungry animals. We kicked them just because they entered our compounds. Have we ever thought why the stray dogs chase us? Local councils shoot them like it is so much fun seeing death.

Could you please be good to these animals? Would be as compassionate as these animals? They never abandoned their ‘kids’ – unconditional love, loyalty and compassion. They risk being kicked, knocked down by vehicles, to find food for their hungry offsprings – do things wholeheartedly, committed, resourceful. They will treat you kind once, yes even just once, you ever be kind to them.

Being connected to another living being is one of the best’s life experience.

p.s. The dog in the photo with Morie-san is Shiro, one of Morie-san great companions, who passed away in Autumn 2007. That reminds me of Sin Chan's little white dog.
p.p.s. I lost my beloved Yuyu when I moved from PI to PA more than 4 years ago. Looking at Shiro, I see Yuyu - physically and emotionally. Despite being a male, he tended to Mulan like his own 'kid' and took care of her when i was away at work. Overprotective of me, I had to 'menyah-bau' myself after meeting friends (which include guy friends who smoke) because he would 'vocally bashing me up'. Since PA was new to him and as advised by my sis, an avid, emotionally-charged sister, Yuyu and the other Fab 4 were kept in the cage for the time being but I couldn't help feeling sad when Yuyu 'meowing', pleading to roam free this new place. After that fateful night, i never saw Yuyu again and I can say, I never stopped searching for him until today. Yuyu, wherever you are, you are always in me...

1 comment:

Walt Schonauer said...

I too love the breed . I have had three thus far and also a Shiba Inu .
My love and respect for the Akita breed runs deep . I miss my dogs , each and every one of them . They filled my life with joy beyond belief. Soon I will have another pair as I feel a dog must also have a companion . My favorite color is fawn with black tips . This was the color of my first Akita and she was a female . A true bond between man and a dog of stature is a beautiful thing .