Published On: Thu, Feb 16th, 2012

A lesson in true loyalty from a special dog named Hachi

By: Dale M. King

I don’t know whether to swear off dog movies because I get too emotional. I remember literally crying out loud at the end of “Marley and Me.”

My wife and I saw a beautiful film on cable the other night about the loyalty between a dog and his master, a wonderful movie that touched on the incredible love that dogs have for us – love that transcends time and measure. And we both cried incessantly.

The movie is called “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” and is based on a true story of a man and his dog in Japan in the early 20th century. The film was updated to contemporary USA and stars Richard Gere, Joan Allen and Jason Alexander, among others. I checked the Internet and found that Sony Entertainment never released the film in the United States, but rather, in the UK and Japan.

My wife and I were also touched by the fact that the movie was filmed entirely in Rhode Island; in particular, Woonsocket, the city immediately adjacent to the town where we lived, North Smithfield. In the film, a reporter shows up from the Woonsocket Call, the actual newspaper that covers the community, and the former sister paper to the Pawtucket Times, where I worked for many years.

The film focuses on the love shared by a college professor, Parker Wilson (Gere) and his dog. The pup is an Akita, sent from Japan. His cage falls off a baggage cart at an American train station. Wilson finds the dog and is immediately captivated.

Their affection grows until they are virtually inseparable. A Japanese colleague at the college translates the symbol on the pup’s collar as ‘Hachi’, Japanese for “good fortune.” Wilson Parker decides to call the dog ‘Hachi’.

One morning, Wilson leaves for work (he commutes by train) and Hachi sneaks out and follows him to the train station, where he refuses to leave until Wilson walks him home. That afternoon, Hachi sneaks out again and walks to the train station to wait patiently for Wilson’s train to come in. It’s a habit that continues – and to dog lovers, it is a wonderful sight.

One day, Wilson is in his classroom when he suffers a fatal heart attack. At the train station, Hachi waits patiently as the train arrives, but there is no sign of Wilson. He remains, lying in the snow, for several hours, until the professor’s son-in-law comes to get him.

Many things begin now to change. The family moves away. The professor’s daughter and son-in-law try to bring Hachi to their home. But he won’t have it, and after a goodbye kiss, he leaves.

Eventually, Hachi ends up living under a rail car in the train yard, going to the station every day to wait for his master. There is a particularly touching scene when Jason Alexander, the station master, tells Hachi: “You don’t have to wait any more. He’s not coming back.”

Over the years, Hachi is cared for by the station personnel, the hot dog vendor and others. The Japanese professor gives the stationmaster money to cover Hachi’s health expenses. And a Woonsocket Call reporter writes a story that makes Hachi famous.

For the next nine years, Hachi waits daily, in vain, for his owner. Years after Wilson’s death, his widow comes back to visit his grave when she catches sight of Hachi, now old and achy, still 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.

At that moment, the film goes to black-and-white. Wilson steps out of the train station door and he and Hachi are together again, presumably, in Heaven.

I know I’ve given away the plot, but you really have to see the movie – if you don’t mind crying. It’s well worth the tears.

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