Dogs are known for being loyal companions – but we've never met any as faithful as Hachiko, an Akita from Japan who spent 10 years waiting for his master.
If you’ve ever seen the canceled-before-its-time (but now revived!) show Futurama, you’ll probably remember Bender, the alcoholic robot; Leela, the beautiful one-eyed captain; and Philip J. Fry, the bumbling pizza delivery boy who was cryogenically frozen for a thousand years before joining the Planet Express intergalactic mail delivery team. But do you remember Fry’s loyal, loving dog, who waited for his master until the end of his life? If you didn’t think a cartoon character could make you cry, it might be time to reevaluate after you watch this heart-wrenching scene.
Now, of course, Fry’s dog never really existed (nor did the murderous Killbots, luckily), and you might scoff at the idea that any canine could really exercise such supreme loyalty. After all, your dog forgets that you’re alive whenever your sister stops by bearing bags of Pupperoni. And while it’s true that most animals are more loyal to their meals than to their masters, we know of an amazingly faithful dog that could be a real-life counterpart to Fry’s ever-loving pooch: Hachiko, an Akita from Tokyo.
Hachiko was brought to Tokyo in 1924 by his owner, a college professor named Hidesamuro Ueno. Each day, when Ueno left for work, Hachiko would stand by the door to watch him go. When the professor came home at 4 o’clock, Hachiko would go to the Shibuya Station to meet him.
Though this simple act alone shows a tremendous amount of loyalty, that’s not the end of it: The following year, Ueno died of a stroke while at the university. Hachiko didn’t realize that he was gone, and so the dog returned to the train station every single day to await his master. He became such a familiar presence there, in fact, that the station master set out food for the dog and gave him a bed in the station. Even so, Hachiko never shifted loyalties –every day at 4 o’clock, he hopefully waited by the tracks as the train pulled in, searching for his best friend’s face among the people getting off.
Hachiko’s love for his master impressed many people who passed through the station, including one of Ueno’s former students, who became fascinated by the Akita breed after seeing Hachiko. He discovered that there were only 30 Akitas living in Japan, and began to write articles about Hachiko and his remarkable breed, turning the world’s most loyal dog into a household name, and creating a resurgence in popularity for the Akita.
Hachiko died in 1935, after 10 long years of waiting for his master. But the dog would not be forgotten –a year before his death, Shibuya Station installed a bronze statue of the aging dog, to honor its mascot. Though the statue was melted down during World War II, a new version was created in 1948 by the son of the original artist. Go to the station now, and you’ll be able to see the bronze statue of Hachiko – still waiting, as ever, for his master to come home.
Want to learn more about Hachiko and the amazing Akita breed? Watch Hachi, the movie based on his story (co-starring Richard Gere), or check out these great books: