Max and Adora
by Robert Stuhldreer ARCM LTCL LLCM RGN
Founder member and trustee for Akita Rescue and Welfare (UK)
Blue Cross Education Programme volunteer
(15th February 2011)
Max and Adora, two wonderful Akitas from Islington in North London, help their owner Robert Stuhldreer to promote a responsible image of pet ownership and create a better understanding of the Akita breed.
Max, now aged 12 years, was the very first Akita in the UK to successfully pass the Kennel Club Good Citizen Gold Award and in 2009 he won the Kennel Club Good Citizen Class at Crufts (a class promoting responsible dog ownership) which was a wonderful way to end his very distinguished show career. Adora, aged 11, has also successfully passed the Kennel Club Good Citizen Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards.
As a passionate but realistic Akita owner I strongly feel that certain breeds are given unjust and unfair media coverage. Unfortunately Akitas have fallen foul of uneducated media sensationalism to a large degree. Through the work that I do I hope to try and redress this imbalance. Akitas have been used for a variety of purposes. Historically, in their native Japan, they have been used as hunting dogs as well as in the fishing industry helping to herd fish to shore. Sadly the negative image as a fighting dog is one that has followed the breed over several centuries. It is unfortunate that the many positive things that people are doing with Akitas across the UK may not be reported on; however, it only takes one incident with an irresponsible owner and the whole breed can be demonised and thrown into disrepute. This is why my dogs and I, and many other people like me, work so hard to promote a positive but realistic image of the Akita breed. For me this promotion is done through the many educational, fund-raising, celebrity and media events that we attend.
BIG DECISIONS - Why Akitas? Coming originally from deepest, darkest Rutland, a very rural environment, I have always lived with Border Collies and English Springer Spaniels. I still have two wonderful Border Collies, Eve (aged 13) and Roxy (aged 7).
My youngest brother, who still lives in Rutland, has a working English Springer Spaniel called Jake. However, I saw my first Akita, a stunning silver brindle, in my local park over 13 years ago. I was blown away by this incredible dog and spent a long time talking to his owner. After that I spent over a year researching the breed, attending dog shows and talking to exhibitors and breeders before choosing my beloved Max from a breeder in Suffolk. Adora came to live with the family when she was aged 2 years. She was in RSCPA kennels in Essex and I had been asked to do a temperament test on her to assess her suitability for re-homing. When I met her there was an instant bond between us and a very short time later Adora became a much loved member of our family. Now, I can’t imagine life without an Akita in it (or perhaps I should say Akita Inu).
AMBASSADORS - Several years ago a group of dedicated Akita enthusiasts, myself included, decided to form an Akita specific rescue and welfare organisation (Akita Rescue and Welfare UK ) to help counteract the ever growing number of Akitas in the UK that find themselves, generally through no fault of their own, in need of re-homing. Akitas are a stunning breed but their good looks can play a huge part in their downfall. Many people are tempted to buy a pup without proper research into the breed. Many novice or inexperienced owners then find that they may have a psychologically and physically very strong and challenging dog on their hands. If one has any chinks or deficits in one’s “training armour” please be assured an Akita will spot them immediately and exploit them. This is why I stress time and time again that Akitas are definitely not for novice or inexperienced owners. Even for me, and I would classify myself as an experienced dog owner/trainer, I found owning my first Akita and training him to be a steep learning curve. Sadly not everyone may have the experience, time or tools to be able to take an Akita onboard. However the positive aspects of the breed far outweigh their more challenging aspects. If one did a Google search and entered the word “AKITA” one would see time and time again such words as: loyal, dignified, stubborn, courageous, stubborn, aloof, protective, stubborn, devoted oh, and did I mention the word STUBBORN? They also have an incredible sense of humour which only their most trusted family members will see. As the royal dog of Japan and a designated Natural Treasure in their own homeland they will not show this wonderful side of their nature to strangers. Max and Adora are two of the three Breed Ambassadors for the charity Akita Rescue and Welfare (UK) and they attend many high-profile events across the UK. Along with our trustees and volunteers they continue to help raise awareness of the breed and fund-raise.
RAISING AWARENESS - Adora and Max work very hard to ensure that people understand just what owning an Akita entails. As an Akita owner I was contacted by the distributors of the film “Hachi-A Dog’s Tale” several months prior to its UK release. They, as well as many Akita enthusiasts, were concerned that with the release of the film there might be a heightened demand for the breed following the somewhat “chocolate box” image of the dog portrayed in the film. The General Manager of the Empire, Leicester Square, also a very experienced Akita owner, had reservations that the film could encourage unscrupulous and backyard breeders looking to make a fast buck. With this in mind Mr Bush very kindly invited Akita Rescue and Welfare UK, along with their Breed Ambassadors, Max and Adora, into the cinema to be on hand to talk to the public to give them a realistic image of the breed. It was a very successful event.
HELPING OTHERS - Max and Adora also help other people. They are both Blue Cross Education Dogs.
Through this charity’s incredible programme they both go into schools and youth organisations to teach children how to act responsibly towards and safely around dogs. It’s an incredibly rewarding thing to be involved in and Max and Adora bounce around like juvenile kangaroos when I get their Blue Cross coats out. They really love their school work. In the past I have worked as an Animal Welfare Officer for a London based charity and mainly through this both Akitas have been very actively involved in a therapeutic capacity, visiting Day Centres, hospitals, Mother and Toddler groups, hospices, nursing homes and residential care homes. In fact we visited a care home yesterday (Valentine’s Day) to see a lovely lady who has known Max and Adora for many years. When they spotted her they just made a beeline for her and rested their heads on her feet. The ultimate Akita accolade! They don’t actually have to do anything other than just be there. To have a dog sitting calmly at one’s feet and enjoying being stroked has an incredibly beneficial and therapeutic effect for all concerned. It’s wonderful to hear people, especially those suffering from Alzheimer’s, re-calling their own beloved dogs and fond memories long gone.
TWO OF A KIND - Max and Adora are no strangers to stardom. Adora starred as Sandy in the London run of the musical “Annie”. Probably the only Akita ever to have starred on a UK stage. She was also voted Dogs Trust “Dog Star in the Making” in 2010 at their Annual Honours Awards Ceremony. Both Max and Adora have also represented the Akita Breed at the Kennel Club’s very prestigious “Discover Dogs” in London for the last eight years. Within the last few weeks they have been jointly awarded the “Unsung Heroes” trophy for the many years of work that they have done and still continue to do. This was an incredible honour. Never ones to let fame (sadly never the fortune) go to their heads, Max and Adora have a busy schedule over the next few weeks. We’ll be talking to over 200 children at a local primary school on Dog Safety and supporting The Blue Cross at Crufts in March. We’ll be there on Sunday/Utility Day (13th March 2011) so if you’re there please come and say “hello”.