Hachiko is not the only devoted dog the world has known but his story is one of the most famous because many countries shared in Japan's tribute to man's best friend.
HACHIKO - MORE THAN A LEGEND
There are breeds of more ancient history, those with a more genetically pure background, and many have an equally fascinating history. There is however, no breed possessed of more character, loyalty, and cultural significance than the Akita dog and Hachiko exemplifies these qualities even today.
The character of the breed was exemplified in a dog known simply as Hachi-Ko. The big fawn dog was a familiar figure at Shibuya station. His owner, professor Uneo, commuted daily to Tokyo University. Hachi-Ko escorted him to the train station every morning, returning each evening to meet his beloved master.
Most commuters took the dog's daily presence for granted but when his master suffered a heart attack in May of 1925, they were immeasurably saddened by the plight of the faithful dog. No doubt, many wished for a way to tell the dog that his master would never again arrive on the train because every day, the big Akita met the train and watched hopefully as the passengers stepped down from the train. Hachiko's disappointment was painful to watch and they took pity on the dog as he became more depressed.
Commuters brought him food and the station master provided a soft bed, but Hachi-Ko took no comfort in their attentions. Professor Ueno's former gardener took the dog in but it was not Hachi-Ko's home and he spent more and more time at the station. Dr. Itagaki, a veterinarian and good friend of professor Uneo, provided medical attention as required. Hachi-Ko grew older.
By 1932 the press had picked up his story and a bronze statue was commissioned in honor of his fidelity. The Society for the Preservation of Japanese Dogs unveiled the statue of Hachiko in April of 1934. Shibuya Station commuters and onlookers were impressed, but the old dog was not. He died the following year at twelve, not old for an Akita but Hachiko was very old, too lonely for too many years.
When the war broke out a decade later, the huge bronze statue was melted down and converted into munitions. Sadly, the area where it had stood was devastated by bombing raids. When the war ended, the courage and loyalty of Hachi-Ko became a national symbol. School children saved their coins and wrote letters about the famous dog. Little by little, funds were raised. The son of the original sculptor was located and he agreed to erect a new statue of Hachi-Ko. Commuters approved. The world was still dealing with the tragedy of war but somehow, the fact that Hachi-Ko was "home again" brought some measure of reassurance that all would be right with the world.
The watchful statue became a meeting place for businessmen and held significance for lovers. It was in fact, young students of Tokyo University who finally realized that something wasn't right. There was one more thing that must be done in order that Hachi-Ko might finally be at peace.
In 1983 the students carried a bust of Professor Ueno from the school and placed it next to the statue of Hachi-Ko . Man and dog were finally reunited and in the respectful and simple ceremony, a story of undying loyalty received a postscript.
And Hachi-Ko was happy.
Reference:  Photo by Meg Purnell-Carpenter / excerpted from World Of The Akita by Barbara J. Andrews
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