Hachikō 忠犬ハチ公: A Story of Loyalty, Loss, and Finally, a Happy Ending

March 8th of this year will mark the 80-year anniversary of the passing of one of the most loyal dogs in all of history, and will give rise to a new statue in honor of the bond between a remarkable dog, and his beloved human.



Hachikō was born at the end of 1923, the eighth pup in a litter of Akita Inus. When Hachikō was 8 weeks old, Hidesaburō Ueno, who worked as an agricultural professor at the University of Tokyo, brought the young puppy home. He named him Hachikō, a play off of the number eight (hachi means eight in Japanese), after his place in the litter.

The two developed a deep bond, and when Hachikō was about six months old, he began joining Dr. Ueno’s other two dogs in their daily routine: at rush hour, the three dogs would trot over to the Shibuya train station to greet Dr. Ueno as he returned from work.

One day the following year, the professor did not return on the train. He had suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage while at work. Hidesaburō Ueno was only in his mid-fifties when he died on May 21, 1925. After Mr. Ueno’s passing, his wife and their other two smaller dogs moved in with their adult daughter, who was a new mother. Hachikō went to live with their long time gardener, who was able to accommodate the very large dog – Hachikō weighed around 90 pounds!

Hachikō continued walking to the train station on his own every single day after Mr. Ueno's death. He was undeterred by the initial irritation of many commuters and local vendors. Eventually, he became a well-loved fixture of the station, and people began bringing him food and treats. Some kind people even took him for medical care throughout the years. He was also visited frequently with great affection by Mrs. Ueno.

Seven years into his daily vigil at the train station, Hachikō became a media sensation. A few years later, in the last year of his life, he was present at the unveiling ceremony of a statue in his likeness at the station.


{  Photograph of of Hachikō, taken shortly before his death in 1935  }

Hachikō passed away in 1935, of terminal cancer and a heartworm infection. Hachikō's death was met with great sadness all across Japan. Hachikō’s story of loyalty and perseverance has been an honored national symbol ever since, and his statue at Shibuya Station in Tokyo attracts countless visitors every year. Every year in Japan since 1936, a ceremony is held at the station to honor Hachikō’s memory.

Hachikō spent nine years, nine months, and fifteen days in total waiting for his beloved professor to return. 


In 1987, a movie was made about Hachikō, entitled ハチ公物語, The Tale of Hachikō.  The film was a great success in Japan. In 2009, an American remake of the film was also made, called Hachi: A Dog's Tale, starring Richard Gere. Although both movies are good fictional tales, I personally believe the real story of Hachikō is the very best one. There are a few interesting non-fiction books about Hachikō, and even more children's books about his story. Many parents appreciate the lessons these special children's books teach children - from demonstrating the power of loyalty and friendship, to instilling the importance of respect and affection for other animals.

This year, on the 80th anniversary of Hachikō’s death, a very special new statue will be unveiled at The University of Tokyo. The recently revealed clay prototype shows a joyous Dr. Ueno and Hachikō reuiniting. The statue is the purest visual of the deep bond between dog and human. Dr. Ueno is bent to greet Hachikō, and Hachikō is jumping up to his friend. The statue's theme is a great contrast from many previous sculptures of Hachikō, which usually show him sitting still, upright, and dignified - alone and stoic. The new statue is full of warmth and love, and will finally allow Hidesaburō Ueno and Hachikō to be together again, after 90 long years.



{  Photos of clay prototype courtesy of The University of Japan  }


Interesting fact:

A former student of Mr. Ueno ended up becoming an expert in Akitas. In a survey that he conducted of the Akita breed, he discovered that Hachikō was one of the remaining 30 or so purebred Akitas left in Japan. Japanese Akitas are one of the most ancient domesticated dogs still in existence, making Hachikō one of the most famous dogs of all time to come from an ancient bloodline.


Sources:

The Hidden Life of Miles & Emma

One of the best parts of having a dog in your life are the hidden parts of your life together. There are lots of routines that are commonly discussed among dog owners: the unnerving experience of your dog staring at you as you get dressed, or use the toilet, for example. The little quirks of your relationship that no one else experiences can be awkward, but, they can also be hilarious, and very special. I've decided to make this a little ongoing series, and I really hope you'll share your weird/special stories in the comments section.


My Obsession with Miles’ Teeth

I have a secret (well now not secret) obsession with Miles’ teeth. I never cease to be amazed by them! I think they are glorious! When Miles was about a year old, I went to a natural history museum, where they had a large display of predator skulls. I remember scanning over each one, and looking at the size of the teeth relative to the size of the skulls. I could not find an animal whose teeth-to-skull ratio was greater than Miles.’ Quite simply, Welsh terriers have extremely impressive teeth. Being an avid bone chewer, Miles also has the most beautifully white teeth. It might be strange (I don’t deny that), but I am very proud of my little predator’s big teeth.


{ My favorite Miles teeth picture from when he was sleeping one time. }


{ "What is so interesting?" }



Blame the Fart On…

It is a long running common joke that people blame their farts on “the dog.” But in Miles and my world, this scenario is reversed. Miles definitely, full heartedly blames me for anything unsavory to come out of his body. If he has gas, he sniffs the air, and then stares at me, sometimes with a full-on pointer foot directed at me. This is particularly hilarious if we have friends or family over. Miles is like a pointer dog, dramatically communicating, "THIS IS THE CULPRIT!" His squinty-eyed disgusted sniffing is the best.


 { Miles' rule: "If it smells bad, it wasn't me." }


Jaywalking

In the small town that I grew up in, jaywalking was taken very seriously. You simply did NOT even entertain such a thought. When I moved to the city, I was astounded that not only do people constantly jaywalk, but that here, it is pretty much required at times. I was so used to standing there, waiting my turn, even in extremely low-traffic areas. The idea of this routine city jaywalking was crazy to me.


Many years later? I have become absorbed into city life. I don’t bat an eye when a mentally unstable bum bolts up to me and informs me that I am a (insert terrible insult here) and then rushes off. I am used to following the current speed of traffic when driving now, rather than observing a set speed limit. And finally, I am now an avid jaywalker. Miles is a Wildman in his own right, but, he does not like it when his loved ones are put in danger. So naturally, Miles HATES it when I jaywalk. He’d have no problem rushing into the street on his own time to catch a squirrel, but if I do it? He barks at me urgently begging me to stop, and he frantically tries to block my path. He become inconsolably worried.


{ Miles is very concerned with my safety routines as a pedestrian. }


Household Danger Zones

Miles is not afraid of bringing the outside world into our house -- he greets all guests with a wagging tail, and immediately offers them his most prized possessions. Even if it is the plumber. But to Miles, our household is not without its own internal hazards, that can put both dogs and humans at great risk. He believes the dishwasher is an evil black hole, that swallows perfectly good dirty dishes – and therefore, it might want to eat a person, or a dog. No extended limb is safe when the dishwasher's mighty door is ajar! Miles is not the kind of dog that tries to get into the dishwasher to lick things – for the first year of his life, he was extremely determined to keep his loved ones away from it!

To Miles, the shower is also a known source of great danger. Miles greatly dislikes being bathed, but he also worries greatly for my safety if I shower for too long. I typically shower very quickly. But the rare time I stand there for long, I can always count on opening the curtain to find Miles standing vigil outside. He isn’t willing to risk his own life on any sort of crazy rescue mission – but he definitely wants to know the moment I am safe.


{ A very sad Miles getting a very unwanted bath }


{ One time while holding vigil outside the shower
while I was in there, Miles fell asleep! }


I Don’t Nap Nearly Enough

(For Miles' taste!) I work from home, and in Miles’ opinion, my time would be best spent napping all day on the couch, with him sprawled out on top of my stomach. This happens almost never. Miles does not understand my I deprive myself so. And looking at him, relaxing as he does daily, neither do I...


{ According to Miles, couch napping is a mandatory daily activity }

The Many Faces of Miles


Ready for action! Miles' "game face." 
I love the excitement encapsulated in those beady little eyes.



Struggling to stay awake.



"Throw the ball!"



"No really... Throw the ball!"



Still as a statue... But don't let "the calm before the storm" fool you. This 
look means that Miles 100% intends to zip off after a cat in 5... 4... 3... 2...



Miles' casual-skeptical look.
One ear (sorta) on me, one ear on everything else (aka more interesting things).



He appears relaxed and focused... but...
Usually this look is accompanied by a healthy dose of laziness -
which explains the fact that Miles looks "relaxed" and "focused."
Never trust a calm Welsh Terrier?



Work it, Miles! 
(Miles knows when he is "working," and 
takes his professional life very seriously.)