Contributed by Yoko Sakamaki, a Resident of Normandy, France – Yuki, Fulfilling the Role of Passing onLife

  • 2024-05-24
  • 2024-05-24
  • NEWS
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Yoko Sakamaki, a writer and photographer who has been raising Akita dogs in the nature-rich region of Normandy, France, for the past nine years, contributed an article about her life with her dogs. Here is her story.

Our female Akita dog named Yuki passed away at the end of last year. She was the first Akita dog we ever owned in our home in the northwestern part of Normandy, France, and she taught us the greatness of this breed.

Clockwise from top left: Dai, Yume, Yuki, Tama, and Tomo, a three-generation family (photo taken in 2023).

I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was an autumn day in 2015 when we welcomed two-month-old Yuki from a breeder near the town of Lille in northern France. She nestled at my feet, her tiny body fitting perfectly, looking up at me with eyes full of curiosity yet anxiously.

I thought, “You have become part of our family now.”

Filled with affection, I gazed endlessly at the puppy I was keeping for the first time.

Although her body quickly grew, her gentle nature remained as when she was a puppy. In France, people sometimes describe Akita dogs as “cat-like dogs.” Yuki spent most of her time sleeping, much like the cat that had lived in our home before her. Her stubborn personality was genuinely characteristic of an Akita dog.

Being new to keeping an Akita dog, training her was a challenge. Yuki would not return when called; she only listened when she felt like it. However, her appetite was always strong, and she suddenly became more understanding when treats were involved.

At the end of the same year, we welcomed Kai, a male Akita dog two and a half months younger than Yuki, and our Akita dog family grew to two. Two years later, Yuki became pregnant with Kai’s puppies, and by the beginning of 2018, she had given birth to four plump puppies. Yuki handled her first delivery and rearing with surprising skill, and Kai also became a great father to the pups.

Our Akita dogs became a family. I captured the puppies’ growth over the two months from birth until they left for their new homes in the photo book, “Akita Dog Parents and Pups” (SHOEISHA Co., Ltd).

Mother and daughter Yuki (left) and Yume (right) co-parenting (photo taken in 2022).

In the spring of 2019, just a week before Yuki’s second childbirth, Kai died suddenly of a disease transmitted by ticks. We decided to keep one of the female puppies born and named her Yume. Yuki and Yume were joined by a new male dog named Dai, whom we introduced to the family, increasing the number of Akita dogs in our home to three. This event was covered by Akita Inu News and published in the New Year’s Day 2020 edition.

In the summer of 2022, Yuki and Yume each gave birth a few days apart, and mother and daughter jointly raised their pups. We decided to keep one of Yume’s puppies and named it Tama. At the same time, we welcomed a male puppy named Tomo, and our Akita dog family grew to three generations, totaling five.

Later, Yuki retired from breeding, and in the autumn of 2023, only her daughter Yume gave birth. Looking back, perhaps due to her progressing illness, Yuki did not help raise the puppies but spent her days peacefully watching her lively little grandchildren grow.

As the puppies left for their new homes, only one remained. By then, Yuki’s sleeping hours had become exceedingly long. When taken to the veterinarian, she was diagnosed with lymphoma. Given a prognosis of at most two weeks to live, she passed away quietly that night, as if a candle’s flame had been gently blown out. She was eight years and four months old.

Yuki diligently caring for her puppies (photo taken in 2022).

Today, dogs live longer lives, and eight years may seem short. However, death eventually comes to everyone. Thus, how we fulfill our given lives within a limited time becomes a genuine question for humans and animals.

As our first-generation Akita dog, Yuki gave birth to thirteen puppies. I am proud of her for fulfilling her role as a life-sustaining being so thoroughly. Even after Yuki’s departure, her grandchildren are expected to be born in our home within the year.

Yoko Sakamaki is a writer and photographer living in the Normandy region of France. She has authored several books on the country’s interiors and food. In 2019 and 2020, she held exhibitions of her photographs from her book “Akita Dog Parents and Pups” at the Akita Inu no Sato (Odate City). Currently, she is offering these exhibition photos through an Instagram giveaway @normaninuneko.

>Where Dogs Connect Akita and the World

Where Dogs Connect Akita and the World

Akita Inu (dogs), with their fluffy coat, round eyes, and an adorable tail that curls up, are now famous worldwide. Akita dogs have a strong body and are best known for their loyal personality. The number of Akita dogs raised overseas continues to increase. In Akita Prefecture, the Akita dog's birthplace, there is an active movement to utilize them for tourism promotion. Akita Sakigake Shimpo, entitled "Akitainu News," will circulate various domestic and international information about Akita dogs. The goal is to connect the world and Akita through Akita dogs.