I have grown up with dogs all my life and it’s amazing how ‘human’ they can be. I remember Jack, who used to hide in a corner and start shaking when an argument broke out at home. They always knew when we were angry.
They also knew we were going away when they saw us packing our suitcases in the house and they wagged their tails excitedly at the sound of the car engine when any of us were coming home.
That’s when I realised how in tune they were with our lives and our emotions. It made me wonder if they could be sad too because they were always so happy to see us.
As it turns out, something quite remarkable happened when I was about 12 years old. My mother saw our Great Dane digging up soil (something she had never seen him do before).
She rushed out into the garden to tell him off until she realised he was burying one of our other dogs, which had passed away that morning.
My mother couldn’t believe the scene she had stumbled on. The dogs were all gathered round our Great Dane in a semi-circle to witness the burial of one of their ‘family members’. Incredibly, none of them ate when she put their bowls out at the usual time.
It would be arrogant to think that only humans have the capacity to grieve because all the dogs didn’t touch their food bowls that day.
(Shot of the real-life Hachiko)
The incredible story of Japan’s most faithful dog, Hachiko, is a moving example of how loyal dogs can be. When a movie starring Richard Gere was made about Hachiko, unsurprisingly, I went through several layers of my tissue box when I watched the film.
The story was so simple, yet poignant. Hachiko’s owner was a professor in the University of Tokyo who used to take the train back every evening from work. Hachiko would be promptly waiting at the Shibuya train station to welcome him back, and the pair would walk home together.
No one is sure how Hachiko knew what time it was but he was always waiting at precisely the right time for his owner to return from work.
This routine carried on for about a year until his owner suddenly suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died at work. His dog, Hachiko was faithfully waiting for him at the train station, not knowing that his owner would never come back.
Hachiko was given away, to be looked after by another family but he kept breaking out and was showing up again and again at his old house. He realised after some time that the owner was no longer living there so he went to wait for him at the train station every evening at that precise time.
Hachiko was seen every evening without fail at the Shibuya train station for almost 10 years, until his death. No one knew where he went in the day but he would always make it to the Shibuya train station by evening, waiting for the same train his owner used to return from work on.
News of this incredible dog spread throughout the nation. The Japanese people were moved by Hachiko’s loyalty and built a bronze statue in honour of him, a year before Hachiko died. Interestingly, Hachiko himself was present during the unveiling ceremony. There was even a Japanese film made about Hachiko in 1987, years before the one made recently starring Gere.
The Shibuya train station is one of the busiest train stations not just in Japan, but the whole world and the legend of Hachiko lives on. His memory is etched forever in our hearts and minds. In fact, the exit he was always seen at is called the “Hachiko Exit”.
It is stories like this including so many of my own real-life ones, growing up with dogs, which have fostered such a deep-rooted respect for them. They give so much and demand so little because they are truly unconditional creatures.
I was telling someone just recently, that it doesn’t matter how many red carpets I’ve walked on because nothing makes me feel more accepted or more of a ‘VIP’ than being greeted by my dogs when I return home. No matter how bad your day has been, they are always there for us, with no judgment and their tails wagging, at the first sight of you.