If you follow me on Facebook you already know that my oldest dog, Akane, collapsed last night, lost bowel and bladder control, and was in such intense pain that I had to rush her to the vet for euthanasia around 5:45 PM. My vet and his support staff were willing to stay a little late for us, and I am eternally grateful that I had a strong relationship, so that they were willing to help us when we needed it most.
However, my story with Akane obviously didn’t start with her death, although I feel overwhelmed with grief and sadness right now. She gave me much more during the twelve and a half to thirteen years we spent together.
Akane came into my life May 2001, just a couple of months into my stint as a volunteer with Charlyne’s Pound Puppies. She’d been pulled from Town Lake Animal Center (back when the location was still animal control for Austin) by another volunteer, and after a noisy but relatively uneventful meet and greet with Suzuka and Miki the dog who would become Akane came home for foster. Within the week this bug-eyed, petite little ACD x (which I was convinced wasn’t even a real breed until I researched online) had decided I was her human and had no interest in anyone else. I had been debating getting a cat or a third dog for a few months, and much to my roommate’s dismay after Aka refused to engage with any potential adopters at PetsMart I opted to fill out the paperwork then and there and officially make her mine.
The biggest issue upon adoption was coming up with the right name. Akane’s shelter name was Gretchen, which I do like, but it didn’t seem to fit such a tiny girl. My first two dogs had Japanese names, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go that route. Because her coat was a much darker red than the other two Akane nearly became Odile, after the black swan in Swan Lake, but it just didn’t fit. Akane means “red cloud,” and even with it’s popular association with a Ranma 1/2 character I decided it was the best choice for my new girl.
My impulsivity in adopting Akane came back to bite me many times. She was only eight months older than Suzuka and Miki, so she and Suzu had some bad fights over dominance and position in the household. I wondered many times in the first several months if I’d made the right choice in keeping Akane, but I never could get myself to give her up either. Due to my inexperience and mishandling of the issues between her and Suzu Akane developed a fiercely protective streak regarding me and developed some dog aggression issues towards new dogs in the household and reactivity on walks. I also was totally unprepared for her exercise needs although over the years we finally reached a good place.
With some probing at TLAC I discovered that I had been Akane’s third home in nine months, which explains why her natural cattledog instinct to bond to one person or family honed in on me so quickly. She’d been adopted out and somehow ended back at TLAC as a stray and was nearly euthanized before Susan pulled her but was saved at the eleventh hour by a TLAC microchip. Honestly, knowing all these things probably played a huge factor in why I refused to give up on her even when she made me want to tear my hair out and scream.
I had to keep Akane separated from Perdy the entire time they were both alive because the deep seated hatred between them had provoked fights that nearly killed Akane a couple of times (Akane was about twenty-five pounds; Perdy hovers between fifty-five and sixty); Akane was usually the instigator because she had no common sense about which dogs she attacked. Her feisty nature demanded that she keep going no matter what.
Akane loved very few dogs whole-heartedly; the bulk of her affection was reserved for me and trying to make me see that I should only need her. However, she worshiped my male dog, Miki, and she adored my friend, Bernita’s, little corgi/sheltie mix, Romany. Somehow Aka and Romy became soul sisters, and they’d play and cuddle in ways I rarely saw. Her love for Miki was a little more obsessive and often utilized dominance humping and barking in his face to get her way. This legacy has been passed to my six year old ACD x, Patience, who now humps both Suzu and Miki to get attention.
Until she blew out her rear right ACL at twelve Akane ran a couple miles a week with me and ran behind my bicycle several mornings a week. She loved to be moving, and she was a great running companion since her steady pace made keeping going easier.
Akane taught me important lessons about managing dogs and their personalities, how to love them even when they’re sometimes awful, and how to appreciate the dog you have, not be upset about the dog you wanted. Most importantly in the past month and a half she taught me the importance of knowing when and how to let go; last night was the last gift of love I could provide for her.
Akane passed peacefully in my arms and was gone within seconds of the injection; her body was so worn out that she just wanted to be free of it. She looked like she was sleeping, and I know she’s with Romy again (Romy passed a few years ago) running and enjoying as many treats as she wants without anyone fussing about food allergies or weight gain.
To steal from the musical Rent if I measure my time with Akane in love we spent several lifetimes together. I miss my cranky, feisty girl, but I can find peace knowing that she’s whole again and no longer in pain…besides I have to take care of the other four dogs and the three cats. Their lives didn’t stop because my heart is currently breaking.