Akitas are considered to be among the most loyal of all dogs, and anyone who has heard the amazing true story of Hachiko won't disagree.
In January 1924 a professor at the Japanese Imperial University brought home a two-month old Akita puppy. Dr. Ueno named the pup Hachiko.
The following year was a wonderful time for Hachiko and his new master. Akitas are large dogs, and Hachiko grew to be over ninety pounds. This beautiful white dog accompanied Dr. Ueno to the Shibuya train station every morning, where Dr. Ueno would say goodbye to Hachiko and head to the university. And every day when Dr. Ueno returned home Hachiko would be waiting for him at the train station and the two would go home together. Anyone could see the powerful bond between the large Akita and his master.
If things had continued like this, the story would still be one of admirable faithfulness from a dog to its master. But that was not the fate of Dr. Ueno and his loyal Akita Hachiko.
May 21, 1925 was like any other day for the pair. In the morning, Professor Ueno left Hachiko at Shibuya Station. But when Hachiko returned to Shibuya Station in the evening, his master was nowhere to be found. Though Hachiko waited, Dr. Ueno never showed up.
Dr. Ueno had died from a stroke earlier that day.
Akitas are very loyal dogs and do not bond easily with new people. Hachiko was sent away to another area of Japan where there were relatives of Dr. Ueno's who could take care of him. Because Hachiko had only belonged to Dr. Ueno for a little over a year, they probably hoped that the Akita would make a new family with them. But Hachiko didn't care. He ran away from the family and returned to the train station to wait for his master. The family realized that they couldn't keep the big Akita dog from heading to Shibuya Station everyday, so they gave Hachiko to Dr. Ueno's old gardener who still lived in the area.
Every evening Hachiko would return to Shibuya Station and wait for Dr. Ueno to get off the six-o'clock train. And every day, Hachiko was disappointed. Still, he never missed a day of hoping that his master would return to him.
The commuters noticed the Akita waiting every day at the station. Some of them had known the pair when Dr. Ueno was still alive, and everyone who heard of Hachiko's story was touched. People petted him and gave him food. Months passed, then years. Still Hachiko kept his vigil. A newspaper heard of the dog's story and Hachiko became a Japanese celebrity. To commemorate his loyalty, a statue of the Akita was erected at Shibuya station. Hachiko was even present at the ceremony!
Despite the people's loving intentions, Hachiko basically lived as a stray. He would call no place home except where Dr. Ueno was, and since Dr. Ueno was nowhere, Hachiko had no home. He lived on the street, fought other dogs, and ate scraps and handouts. Hachiko got sick with worms and mange, but because so many people admired him he was given treatment by a veterinarian. Hachiko became an old, scarred dog, with one ear up and one ear down, and no longer looked like the purebred Akita that he was.
It was March, 1935 when Hachiko finally died. The old Akita was found in a Shibuya street. He had waited for his master for almost ten years. Many people were saddened by Hachiko's death, but others say that he was finally at peace and could go with his master wherever it is we go when we die. Hachiko's story of loyalty touched the hearts of many people all over the world. In Japan, his statue at Shibuya Station is still a popular meeting place. There is even a ceremony to remember Hachiko every year on April 8. A Japanese movie, Hachiko Monogatari, was made in 1987 and was considered a smash-hit.
This year, Hachiko will hit the big screen for the second time. The movie stars Richard Gere and is called Hachiko: A Dog's Story. Richard Gere plays the part of Dr. Ueno, and a Japanese Akita named Forest will play the part of Hachiko. Besides Richard Gere, Joan Allen and Jason Alexander will also have parts in the movie. A Dog's Story has some big differences separating it from the true story. For one, the movie is not set in Japan, but in Rhode Island, and in the movie Hachiko is originally a stray. Still, Hachiko: A Dog's Story will touch people's hearts and hopefully inspire them to discover the true story of this loyal Akita dog.