Akita dog Umeko (1 year old, female) is a famous signboard dog of Liquor Shop Takahashi, a liquor store in Kosaka Town, Akita Prefecture. Umeko’s popularity skyrocketed when a video of it acting as a cashier was posted on the store’s Twitter page. Moreover, she has been appointed as an “Akita Police Officer” by the local Kazuno Police Station, which gives her more chances to appear on television. As a famous Akita dog with multiple titles, we wondered how Umeko spends her time every day. We followed Umeko for an entire day earlier this month and recorded her daily life to find out the answer. (Reporting by Kamada Kazuya and Fujioka Maki)
At 4:50 a.m., just as we arrived at the owner’s home, Mrs. Takahashi Nobue, located behind the liquor store, Umeko started barking at us. Mrs. Takahashi and Umeko usually start their morning walk at around 5 a.m., so we thought we had arrived with time to spare. But Umeko’s barking felt like she was urging us to move faster, “You’re late! Come on, hurry up!”
According to Mrs. Takahashi, she usually takes Umeko for a walk at around 6 a.m. in the winter, but she moved the time up during the summer months to avoid the heat. These days, Umeko always wakes Mrs. Takahashi up when it is around 4:30 a.m. “I can’t pretend to be asleep all the time, so I have to get up and take her for a walk earlier and earlier,” she says with a witty smile.
“Umeko is very timid and tends to bark at people she just met.” Mrs. Takahashi continued, “But she will get used to you soon after some time together.” Just as she mentioned this, Umeko calmed down not long after starting the walk.
Usually, they walk through Kosaka Central Park in the center of town and then walk alongside the banks of the Kosaka River. In addition, they also pass by the Kosaka Mine Office, the Korakukan, and other tourist spots. The course is slightly different every day.
During the walk, Mrs. Takahashi stops to give Umeko a treat from time to time. She says it’s a reward for not barking when they pass other people. “Sometimes, if I forget to give her a treat, she’ll look at me as if she was saying, ‘Hey, did you see how I behaved well and held back from barking?’ and ask for the treat,” Mrs. Takahashi added.
As the walk continued, they were about to go down to the bank of the Kosaka River. One thing worth noticing was that Mrs. Takahashi would check the area repeatedly to confirm whether there is anything around. “Recently, bears have been spotted in this area, and it’s very concerning,” she explained. She also brought a bear bell and a radio for safety measures.
The morning walk takes about 40 minutes. When they got back home, another dog in the family, Bibi, a six-year-old female Maltese-Poodle mix, had been anxiously waiting for their return.
The relationship between Umeko and Bibi is somewhat subtle. Umeko looks like she wants to be friends with Bibi, but Bibi is a little scared of Umeko, who is much bigger than her. Whenever Umeko tries to get close to Bibi, she runs away immediately. However, Bibi soon returns and tries to approach Umeko. If Umeko gets closer, she runs away again. This scene occurs repeatedly.
To describe the situation between Umeko and Bibi, Mrs. Takahashi referred to a famous American cartoon. She concluded, “Umeko and Bibi are the Tom and Jerry of the Takahashi family.”