Movie Review and Summary: Hachiko - A Dog's Story
Dog breeds: the Akita
If you fall in love with the Akita dog breed after watching Hachiko: A Dog's Story, please research the breed before running out and purchasing one. You might end up with a lot more dog than you bargained for. If you don't have much experience with strong, dominant dogs, there are plenty of other dog breeds that would be more suitable for you and your family.
Two nights ago, my daughter brought over a movie for me to watch: Hachiko –A Dog’s Story. I was already familiar with the tale. As a former Akita owner, I had read the history of the breed and had run across the true story of Hachiko. Since the real Hachi and his owner lived in Japan, I couldn’t figure out how Richard Gere, an American, was going to pull this off.
As soon as I began watching the film, I realized that it is an American re-telling. It’s set in the U.S., and all the characters are typical Americans. I guess that’s not important. Love and devotion transcend international boundaries and cultural differences.
Gere plays a college professor who finds a lost puppy wondering around a train station. When he can’t find the pup’s owner, he winds up keeping the dog. The professor’s Japanese pal identifies the puppy as an Akita and explains pertinent facts about the breed. He also suggests a name for the pooch – Hachiko, or Hachi, for short.
Hachi and the professor form an extremely strong bond. Every morning, Hachi walks to the terminal with its owner, and every afternoon at five, the dog returns to wait for the professor.
One day the professor doesn’t return from work. Hachi waits for hours, until the professor’s daughter comes to take it home.
Every day for ten long years, Hachi returns to the station in anticipation of its master’s arrival at the train station. Vendors and employees at the terminal feed Hachi, but the dog never accepts another master. Hachi finally dies at the terminal, still waiting for his beloved master.
My daughter told me to have some Kleenex on hand for the flick, but I scoffed at her warning. I knew the story, so I didn’t think I would cry. Actually, I was somewhat disappointed with the first part of the movie. It was pretty slow in places, and I guess I wanted to see more interaction between man and dog.
The ending, however, took me by surprise. It ended the way I knew it would, but the way the movie handled it was extremely poignant. It wasn’t so much sad as it was touching, in a bittersweet sort of way.
I think one problem with the film is how it will affect the viewing public. It portrays Akitas as big loveable teddy bears, even to total strangers. The typical Akita isn’t like this. Most are very wary of strangers and are generally one-person dogs. Even though Hachi remains loyal to the professor in the movie, he allows complete strangers to pet and hug him – atypical of most Akitas I’ve known.
The fear is that this movie will start an “Akita fad.” Uninformed dog enthusiasts will run out and buy an Akita, thinking it will grow up to be just like Hachiko. They buy a cuddly ball of fur and are taken by surprise when it matures into an alpha dog with an attitude. When they discover that they have a powerful, dominant dog, it might end up in a shelter or rescue, as many Akitas do.
I'm not saying that Akitas are a bad breed. For the right owner, they make wonderful pets and companions and are extremely loyal and protective. They need an owner who has some experience with dog handling and dog training, however.
My advice is to watch the film and admire Hachi’s undying loyalty, and then go home and pat your Lab on the head.
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