Ko Akai Kuma
(Little Red Bear)
I just called him
October 22, 1995 - July 13, 2009
Kuma was a shiba inu breed of dog. I first saw a shiba inu while I was watching the Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon when it first opened in theaters in San Antonio, Texas, in early 1973. The scene with the shiba was when Jim Kelly, the tall, black karate expert with the big afro and wearing the burgundy color suit with a yellow turtle neck, is riding in a small boat across the harbor in Hong Kong on the way to the island where the marital arts tournament was to be held. As he is riding in the boat, various scenes in the harbor are shown. One scene shows a shiba prancing around on a sampan as if he owned it. I always remembered that scene. Any time Enter the Dragon is shown on television, I always switch to it to see that one scene and then switch back to the channel I was previously watching, since I have no desire to see the fake fighting again.
I saw shibas again when I visited Japan in the 1990s. After I retired from the Navy, one of the first things I did was purchase a shiba. Kuma was the last in his litter; for some reason no one else wanted him but I loved him from the first time I saw him.
Kuma was a faithful companion and protector for almost 14 years; we were together practically 24 hours a day. Each dog has the instincts of the canine, has characteristics due to its breed, and then has its own personality. I've had many other dogs over the years, but Kuma had a unique personality. Although he was not aggressive, he was very dominate (every dog he met knew he was alpha), would not allow another dog to sniff him, did not want to be held, never backed up from a confrontation (he would jump to the side, but never backward), and he loved to guard. Every dog he met immediately knew Kuma was the top dog.
Toward the end, Kuma lost his mojo and other dogs just ignored him. Although he still looked healthy from the outside, his body wore out on the inside. He fought to be a dog until he could no longer continue and then he relied on me to give him peace. It was the worst day of my life, but I was his protector and it was my responsibility to guide him on his last journey.
Although I have had other dogs and I have another dog now, Kuma will always have a special place in my heart.