Monday, March 19, 2012

Hachikō’s Loyalty

The words loyal and obedient have become synonymous with dogs, identified as a dog trait which all dogs are capable of regardless of who or what kind of a person their master is.

But as all dogs can exhibit degrees of loyalty and obedience, not all are capable of bringing loyalty and obedience to legendary heights – as Hachikō had done.

Famed for exhibiting remarkable loyalty to his master (extending that loyalty for years even after his master’s death) Hachikō’s story began with a simple “routine”, where he would wait at the Shibuya Station at the end of the day for Hidesaburō Ueno - his master who taught in the Agriculture Department in the University of Tokyo - to come home from work.

This went on until a day in May, 1925, when Ueno failed to meet Hachikō at the station. The master had suffered from cerebral hemorrhage during the course of the day, and died. Hachikō, however, continued to wait for his master’s return, going to the Shibuya Station everyday for nine years.

Loyalty and obedience brought to legendary heights, indeed.

Hachikō’s story attracted a lot of people, including growing interest in the Akita breed of dogs which Hachikō was a purebreed of. At that time, one of Ueno’s students conducted a study revealing that there were only 30 purebred Akitas left, and as Hachikō’s story of loyalty was told and retold, his determination and loyalty to his master grew into becoming a national symbol for loyalty, thereby propelling interest in the Akita breed as a whole.

Hachikō died in 1935 and it was only recently, in March 2011, when scientists were in agreement in determining the cause of his death: a filaria (worms) infection and a form of terminal cancer.

Today, variants in the Akita breed are defined by the prime types of the breed, Akita Inu (Japanese Akitas) and American Akita (American breed Akitas). Akitas are part of spitz breed of dogs, with roots hailing from the mountainous areas of Japan.

As a breed, Akitas are dominant and independent. They are very affectionate to masters and family members, but on guard with other strangers and, at times, intolerant of the presence of other dogs. They are known to exhibit cat-like attributes, like cleaning their faces after meals, and as Hachikō had shown, are known for their loyalty.

A number of short stories and full-length features, including a movie starring Richard Gere, have been made based on Hachikō’s loyalty.

If one thinks about it, Hachikō waited for his master’s return for nine years, going to the station everyday. Can we say that we know of anyone else exhibiting that kind of loyalty?

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