Helen Keller (1880-1968), the legendary speaker, author, and political activist who overcame deafness and blindness, made an often-overlooked contribution to American dog lovers; she introduced the Akita breed to the United States.
Upon her visit to Japan in 1937, Keller became familiar with the Akita, and she was so impressed that she mentioned she would like to have one some day. Within a month, she received one as a gift. This dog, Kamikaze-go, sadly died from distemper eight months later. In that short time, he had made such an impression on Keller, that she wrote, “If ever there was an angel in fur, it was Kamikaze. I know I shall never feel quite the same tenderness for any other pet. The Akita dog has all the qualities that appeal to me – he is gentle, companionable and trusty.”
Upon hearing of Kamikaze’s untimely death, the government of Japan presented Keller with a replacement. The new dog, which was a brother to Kamikaze-go, was named Kenzan-go. She received Kenzan-go in July 1938.
Kamikaze-go and Kenzan-go are credited as the first two Akitas in the United States. Within a year of Kenzan-go’s arrival, a breed standard was established for dog shows. It was the conclusion of World War II, however, that Akitas really began to multiply in the USA. Soldiers who had served in Japan shared Keller’s fascination with the breed’s loyalty and charm.
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