We live with a 9 year old female Akita.

Akita’s are a canine breed that was created in Japan.

Once, when she was younger and took longer walks, we passed a man returning from Temple and, as often happens with people, he stopped to remark on her presence. (She weighs in at a fit 120 pounds). What he said to me was not just that I had a beautiful dog but did I know that a dog is a gift from God?

Though I am agnostic the sentiment of a miraculous relationship with other animals, especially this dog, seems evident. And the 15,000 years of co-evolution with our human species does give us a unique history of mutual alliance.

What makes an Akita interesting is that the story of canine DNA establishes them at nearly most like the wolf. They are very independent in nature and are a loyal member of the family pack only insofar as if you are not the leader they will intervene on your behalf – an extremely dangerous prospect.

At about a year old her puppy frolicking at the dog park turned serious and people were afraid she would hurt their dogs. In our apartment building, she had bitten 2 of our neighbors’ dogs – not all her fault and not fatal. Still, we had to learn to control her. Fortunately, the last incident happened while the other owner knew were at a training school and gave us some leeway (and an expensive veterinary bill).

You could say that raising her has given our family a life lesson in animal nature that another breed, let alone, species, probably wouldn’t.

The responsibility is different than owning a “pet”. In other times the whole idea of breeding is to make animals useful to ourselves as protection, territorial claims and workers. Modern dogs aren’t all that different – as companions, accessories or even strangely, extensions of ego. But I think our companion taught us a little about wild animal instinct in the best way – that respect and nature are the practice and reward and friendship of a lifetime. That mastery is the diligent awareness of navigating life together.

As she gets older she seems comfortable to trust her welfare with us. Imagine how difficult it is to ambulate around the human landscape as an animal.

She still adores the neighborhood kids and howls a greeting to most people who stop to pet her, wary of some who approach her tentatively. But when it comes to all but one, very large mastiff who was her playmate, she would just as soon avoid dogs as dominate them.

It is her nature. We are just glad that there‘s room for that version of wildness to exist in our world.

– Steve Mitsch