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Hachi: A true dog's story

By Laverne Hughey
Sept. 21, 2013 at 10 p.m.


A few weeks ago, I was watching television when a movie came on about a dog, a real dog that lived his entire life in Japan. The version that was on TV was about Hachi, a real dog but in a different setting, not Japan, but the United States. This column was about Hachi a few months ago and I felt is should be repeated.

The story started in a class full of young students who are giving oral presentations about personal heroes. A boy names Ronnie stands up and begins to tell of "Hachiko," his grandfather's dog. Years, before, an Akita puppy is sent from Japan to the United States, but his cage falls off the baggage cart at an American train station, where he is found by a college professor, Parker Wilson, who is portrayed by Richard Gere.

Parker is instantly captivated by the dog. When a station employee refuses to take the puppy, Parker takes the puppy home overnight. His wife, Cate, does not want to keep the puppy, and insists that Parker take him back and leave it where he found it.

The next day Parker expects that someone will have contacted the train station but no one has. The train arrives and he sneaks the pup onto the train and takes him to work, where a Japanese college professor, Ken, translates the symbol on the pup's collar as "Hachi," Japanese for "good fortune," and the number eight. Meanwhile, Cate receives a call about someone wanting to adopt Hachi, but after seeing how close her husband has come to Hachi, she tells the caller that Hachi has already been adopted.

Parker attempts to play fetch with Hachi, but he refuses to join in. One morning Parker leaves for work and Hachi sneaks out and follows him to the train station, where he refuses to leave until Parker walks him home. That afternoon Hachi sneaks out again and walks to the train station, waiting patiently for the train to some in.

So, Parker walks Hachi to the station every morning, where he leaves on the train to go to his work as a professor. Hachi leaves after Parker's safe departure, but comes back in the afternoon to see his master's train arrive and walk with him home again. This continues for some time, Hachi doing this every day, until one afternoon Parker attempts to leave, but Hachi barks and refuses to go with him. Parker eventually leaves without him, but Hachi chases him, holding his ball. Parker is surprised but pleased that Hachi is finally willing to play fetch with him. At work that day, Parker, still holding Hachi's ball, is teaching his music class when he suddenly suffers a heart attack and dies.

At the train station, Hachi waits patiently as the train arrives, but there is no sign of Parker. He remains, lying in the snow for several hours until Parker's son-in-law comes to get him. The next day, Hachi returns to the station and waits, remaining all day and all night. As time passes, Parker's wife sells the house and Hachi is sent to live with her daughter, son-in-law and their new baby, Ronnie.

However, at the first opportunity, he escaped and eventually finds his way back to his old house and then to the train station, where he sits in his usual spot, eating hot dogs given to him by a local vendor. The daughter arrives soon and takes him home, but lets him out the next day to return to the station.

For the next nine years, Hachi waits for his owner. His loyalty is profiled in the local newspaper. Years after Parker's death, his widow comes back to visit his grave when she catches sigh of Hachi, now old and achy, waiting at the station. She gets emotional and sits next to Hachi until the next train comes. Hachi returns to the train station late at night and closes his eyes for the last time while remembering his time with Parker.

The film then shows Ronnie, back in his classroom making his conclusion of why Hachi will forever be his hero. Ronnie's story has clearly moved the class, with some students holding back tears, even those who had initially laughed at the beginning. After school, Ronnie sees his own Akita Inu puppy, also named Hachi, walk down the same tracks where Parker and Hachi spent so many years together.

The film was shown on the Hallmark channel. It is so moving and inspirational. Watch it if you have the opportunity, with plenty of tissue available. The movie is still shown on occasion, so, if you have the chance, do watch it.

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