We bred our first litter in 1989, after several years of studying, joining Akita clubs in England (where we lived until 1987) and in the USA, then eventually purchasing our dogs (one at a time!), studying some more, showing them to their championships, studying, talking, listening, attending seminars, studying pedigrees, doing health checks, studying… and eventually we bred our first litter. Frankly, my opinion is that no one is qualified to breed for the first several litters, because experience is one of the best teachers and you obviously don’t start out with experience!  A real Catch 22 situation!   We were no different, but I think we had beginners luck in many respects. We were plagued by longcoats initially, but had no actual health problems for several years. And our beautiful coated puppies, with the exception of our beloved Tigger who we kept, were placed in pet homes with spay/neuter agreements, which of course is required for all pets.

Our first actual health problem was in 2001. A dog we had bred was diagnosed with SA at the age of five. This was truly devastating; I had only vaguely heard of this disease, and read frightening bits about it. I didn’t even think I knew anyone that had produced it, let alone imagined one of our own dogs would ever get it. It came from a breeding of our lovely Scarlet to an outside dog that was totally unrelated to ours – NiaMinda Catcher In The Rye.  There were eight puppies in that litter.  Besides the one with S.A. (Ryder), a couple littermates developed other immune-related issues over the years, and one had a genetic structural problem called luxating patellas, another first for us. All were loving and beautiful, making it even more tragic.  We didn’t own the male that developed SA, but we do own his litter brother, our beloved Comanche. We had bred Comanche years before his brother was ever diagnosed with SA, and had even done an inbreeding with him and his mother “Scarlet” (litter now over 12 years old), but even though she had to be a carrier, no trace of SA has ever surfaced in any of the puppies in Comanche’s three litters (or any other of our breedings). However, as soon as we heard of the diagnosis of his litter brother, Comanche himself was neutered, as was Scarlet.

Comanche lived to over 14 years old and was one of our most adored house pets.  All seven of Comanche’s siblings were also neutered because of the diagnosis of SA in their littermate, Ryder, showing a great deal of courage and ethics on the part of their owners.  It was sad for us to see that Catcher’s owners, having proof he was an SA carrier (and he actually had produced it before our litter with Scarlet, which we only found out later from those litter owners), he was continually used at stud. This is exactly how our gene pool is fouled.

Although we have never produced SA in any of our breedings except the one, we acknowledge that it is accepted by experts as a simple recessive gene, meaning that both parents have to be carriers to produce it. That is why we spayed Scarlet immediately – she was a carrier. Her parents are Joey and Sealy.  Looking back, it is almost certain Scarlet got the gene from her father Joey, since there are multiple reports of ‘skin problems’ in Joey’s background. Apparently Joey himself was never bred to an SA carrier, since he never produced it, but you can see how the gene is passed on from one generation to the next by carriers, and all you need is two carriers somewhere down the line and you’ve got SA in your litter.

This situation continues to haunt us as we move from one generation to the next.  We will do our best to make this kind of information available to the public in an effort to spare anyone else the heartbreak that goes with the diagnosis of such an insidious disease in a beloved family member.

We will continue to add any genetic diseases we produce to this list, in the hopes that the information provided may be of help to someone else. We were blindsided when it happened to one of our dogs, and that made it even harder. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact us. We believe that honesty can and will be the salvation of our wonderful breed.