Monday, July 1, 2013

Reviews: Three Loyal Dogs (Hachi, Shep, and Greyfriar's Bobby) (dogs, memoirs)

Three Loyal Dogs – Hachi, Shep and Greyfriar’s Bobby

Who doesn’t love a good canine loyalty love story? Here are three!

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (movie: 2009) and Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by Pamela S. Turner (2004), 32 pp., ages 4-8, $6.99, Houghton Mifflin. 

Hachi, starring Richard Gere, retells the remarkable story of a loyal, loving dog (a Shiba Inu).  Each day, the dog walks his owner, a professor, to the commuter train station and each afternoon, he meets the train, until one day, due to a heart attack at work, the man does not return. Hachi, however, waits for his owner’s return for more than 10 years even though the family tries to entice him home before eventually moving away.

The book Hachiko tells the original story set in 1930s Japan by a 6-year-old boy who actually met Hachiko the Akita. Simple color drawings, most of them with Hachiko somewhere on the page for young readers to find (!), make this a lovely book to keep and to kindle conversations of canine love, loyalty, waiting, and the subsequent love and attention of a nation.

Also for children, Hachiko Waits, by Newman (2006), 96 pp, ages 9-12, $6.99, Square Fish Publishing, and Hachiko: The True Story of The Royal Dogs of Japan and One Faithful Akita, by Chrystyn (2009), 53 pp, ages 9-12, $7.95, Phoenix Books. 

Shep: Our Most Loyal Dog, by Sneed Collard (2006), 32 pp, ages 4-8, $16.95, Sleeping Bear Press.

An American story of similar canine devotion began in Fort Benton, Montana, during the Depression. Shep, a sheepherding dog, lives a great shepherd dog’s life on the plains with his shepherd until the man suddenly becomes ill, dies, and his body is taken away by train. 

“And so began the great wait.” 

Shep stood vigil at the train station, greeting each arriving passenger train for many years until he died. The lonesome dog’s legend grew until the Great Northern Railway had to hire someone just to read Shep’s mail. Like Hachi/Hachiko, a statue now stands at the Fort Benton train station to honor one dog’s devotion and the love of a nation.

Also for adults, Shep: Forever Faithful, by Stewart Beveridge (2005), 319 pp, $14.95, Grove Creek Publications. 

And finally, in Scotland, the story of Greyfriars Bobby who guarded his master’s grave until his end. In 1961, Walt Disney introduced us to this Skye (no relation to the reviewer!<G>) Terrier who also is honored by a statue (in Edinburgh, Scotland). Check out Greyfriars Bobby by Eleanor Atkinson for a classical tale of this loyal pup. 

(This review first appeared in GRREAT News, May-Jun 2011.)

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