|ICHI-BAN'S LADY MATAGI ("LADY") 1992 - 2006: By
the time our first Akita, Ichi-ban, was about 18 months old, he was grieving
badly each day when both of us left him to go to work, so we decided the
solution was a companion, and soon found a female puppy - our Lady. She
was about 12 weeks old when we brought her home and already feisty, but
she was still overwhelmed by all the changes. Long story short, we introduced
her to Ichi-ban, and confidently explained that he was not to hurt her.
He smelled ALL OVER little Lady while my husband held her, and once he started
to lick her, we decided it was safe to put her down. At first, he tormented
her by knocking her over when she tried to run around the house, but he
never once in her life hurt her. Within a very few days he decided she was
his, and that was the beginning of the two of them sticking together through
thick and thin, caring for and taking care of each other, and standing together
against the world. It was a wondrous thing to experience.
Even though Lady became Ichi-ban's cohort, she most definitely was her own dog. As soon as she got big enough to protect herself, she set about paying him back for the torment he inflicted on her when she was a pup. She would sneak up on him while he slept and bite his ear, or sometimes she'd just jump on him, and then take off like greased lightning. Either way, she got what she wanted, which was a hearty game of chase and play fighting, which she absolutely reveled in. Even though shy and anxious in new situations, she was nothing but happy and joyful at home. They weren't allowed on the furniture, but she'd sneak onto the loveseat by the living room window, and watch whatever caught her attention. She resembled nothing more than a huge overgrown cat when she did this, and she was so cute we couldn't bring ourselves to make her get down. She was definitely a "daddy's girl." and had the most beautiful, expressive face. She was also very stubborn, nearly always getting her way, and would make her displeasure known if she didn't. There was a time when we left the dogs home at night, which she didn't like in the first place, but then a thunderstorm came up as well. She hated thunderstorms! Her displeasure was readily apparent when we returned home to find a hole dug into the floor by the door, the front corners of our couch chewed off, and the fabric ripped off the back of it. Once the shock wore off, there was noting we could do but laugh!
Lady was a typical Akita in some ways and atypical in others. She was a great watch dog which was standard Akita, but she barked freely when she felt it was called for which is not standard Akita. She was ALL Akita in that she was a frequent and determined hunter. We have a lot of vegetation around our property, and thus a lot of small animals. Nothing was safe from her, and we never knew what surprises awaited us in our yard. Once we found the remains of a mole (notably the teeth and front paw) in her feces, and on another occasion found a pile of gray fur, and what we believe was the jaw bone and part of the tail of an opossum lying in the yard. There's no doubt she was the terror of our wildlife, even into her old age. When she was over 12 and nearly crippled, she treed a raccoon. My husband finally got her to come in the house, and I examined her finding blood on her muzzle and in her mouth. It wasn't hers. She was also typical Akita in that training her was a real exercise in patience! She only cooperated until she got bored and decided she was tired of our silly little games! We finally reached a compromise in which she did what we wanted her to as long as she didn't feel it was too much of an imposition.
We didn't find out until she was about three that our little girl had severe hip dysplasia. This was made worse by a torn ACL she'd suffered earlier in life. Even with the three surgeries she had to correct the ACL, her knee / leg was never right again, and of course her hip dysplasia continued to worsen as well. We medicated her as well as we could with what was available at the time, but I know she was still in near constant pain. She was brave and a real trooper for as long as she could be. She was my hero and inspiration.
As was bound to happen, we lost Ichi-ban before we lost Lady. Once she realized he wasn't coming home, she became sad and withdrawn. Just when we'd begun to think she might not come out of it, she unexpectedly met my husband at the door one day and, looking up at him, stepped on his foot with her paw, and "smiled" at him. When he bent to pet her, she waggled her entire back end. That was her message to us that her mourning period was over, and she was happier and more active after that. We got to keep Lady for another two years, and every single moment was precious. She was strong, intelligent, brave, faithful, endearing, unique, loving, and she overcame her medical problems until the bitter end. Her coming to us made us complete, and our loss of her scarred our hearts forever.