Hachi : A Dog’s Tale

Even though I knew the story in advance I was not prepared for the ending of this movie. I love dogs, I have had a dog who was my best friend for 11 years until she died. All the sadness of losing her came rushing back to me and I was an quietly sobbing by the end of the movie. Ok, I was bawling my eyes out. They should have warnings on these kind of movies. Hachi : A Dog’s Tale is a 2009 American movie  based on the true story of a faithful Akita Inu, the titular Hachi. It is a remake of the 1987 film Hachi-ko, literally The Tale of Hachiko. It was directed by Lasse Hallström, written by Stephen P. Lindsey and stars Richard Gere, Joan Allen, and Sarah Roemer. Hachi is portrayed by three Akitas named Chico, Layla, and Forrest — each playing a different period in Hachi’s life and his home.

A 11 year old boy, Ronnie, is telling the story of Hachi in his class as a project about ‘My Hero’. A young Akita pup is sent from Japan to the United States, but his cage falls off the baggage cart at an American train station, and by mistake the tag address is ripped apart. He breaks out of his cart and roams the station of the town where he is found by college professor Parker Wilson. Parker tries to leave the pup at the lost & found but the station manager, Carl (Jason Alexander) does not want to keep him there, so the professor takes him home. His wife Cate does not want to keep the pup at their home, so Parker promises to find a home for the Akita the next day.

However he has no luck in finding space for the pup at the local pound and has flyers posted about town. 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 the number 8, which signifies good fortune. Parker names the puppy Hachi and bonds with the dog. Parker attempts to play fetch with Hachi, but he refuses to join in. Meanwhile Cate receives a call about someone wanting to adopt Hachi. After seeing how close her husband has come to Hachi, however, Cate tells the caller that Hachi has already been adopted.

A couple of years pass by and one morning when Parker leaves for work Hachi follows him to the station. where he refuses to leave until Parker walks him home. That afternoon Hachi sneaks out of the house again and walks to the train station, waiting patiently for Parker’s train to come in. Parker relents and this becomes a daily routine for them – every morning Parker walks his dog to the station and after the train leaves Hachi goes back home. In the evening when Parker comes back on a returning train Hachi will be waiting for him patiently and the two walk back home. This becomes a familiar sight to a lot of the store owners, vendors and other commuters who greet Hachi in affection on seeing him. 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 the ball with him. Worried that he will be late for the college, Professor Parker leaves on the train despite Hachi barking at him. At work that day Parker, still holding Hachi’s ball, is teaching his music class when he suddenly suffers a fatal heart attack and dies. Meanwhile Hachi waits for several hours at the station but does not see his master. Finally Parker’s son-in-law Michael comes to bring Hachi home. The next day, Hachi returns to the station and waits, remaining all day and all night. As time passes, Cate sells the house and moves away from the town and Hachi is sent to live with her daughter Andy, her husband Michael & their new baby boy Ronnie.

However at the first opportunity Hachi sneaks out and heads first for his old home but on seeing complete strangers there he goes to the station once again waiting for Parker, eating hot dogs given to him by Jasjeet, a local vendor. Andy arrives soon after and takes him home, but lets him out the next day to return to the station, saying she wants him to live with them but will understand if he wants to leave. Hachi licks her hand goodbye and goes off. For the next 9 years Hachi goes to the station waiting in the same spot for his master and at night sleeps under an old abandoned train. His story makes it to a newspaper, that profiles his loyalty and snaps photos of him waiting in his spot. 10 years after Parker’s death Cate returns to the town and goes to her husband’s grave where she meets Ken. Arriving at the station, she is stunned to see Hachi, old, dirty and weak, still maintaining his vigil. Overcome with grief, Cate sits and waits for the next train with him.

At home, Cate tells the now ten-year-old Ronnie about Hachi. A feeble Hachi returns to the train station later that night and lies down in the snow to die, dreaming of past days with his master. His dreams include a vision of Parker once again coming through the train station doors to greet him. Hachi is then shown alone one last time lying on the snow with his eyes closed before the camera sweeps upward into the night-time sky. The movie then returns to the class room as Ronnie is winding up his story on why Hachi is his hero. His story has clearly moved his classmates, some of whom are in tears as they clap. Ronnie then leaves for home where his father is waiting for him with Ronnie’s new puppy, another Akita also named Hachi. The two then head for a walk down the same tracks where Parker and Hachi spent so many years together.

The closing cards reveal information about the real Hachiko, who was born in 1923. After the death of his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, in 1925, Hachiko returned to the Shibuya train station the next day and every day after that for the next nine years. The final card reveals that the real Hachik0 died in March, 1934. But actually Hachiko died in March 8, 1935, not in 1934. A photo of his statue in the Shibuya train station is the last image shown before the credits roll.

I haven’t cried after watching a movie in years. This is only movie number 3 that has done that to me so far. When the final scene of Hachi just before he dies and he has visions of meeting Parker and spending time with him – that did it! I miss my dog, my Shawny, so much even 8 years after she passed away. This movie is for dog lovers everywhere and movie lovers. If don’t even get a lump in your throat by the end of your movie, please call the mortuary cause you are dead inside! 9 outta 10 for me! :_)

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