Monday, September 27, 2010

Devotion and Understanding

Once upon a time--1923, actually, since this is a true story--a professor at Tokyo University, Dr. Eizaburo Ueno, got an Akita Inu puppy and named him Hachi.

Dr. Ueno was quite a dog lover, and Hachi returned the affection. Dr. Ueno shared his meals with Hachi, and Hachi would go to the train station to see Dr. Ueno off in the morning and greet him in the evening.

One day, a couple of years later, Dr. Uneo went off to the university as usual, but he died suddenly during the day and never came home.

Hachi, who had no way of knowing about Dr. Ueno's death, went to meet Dr. Ueno as usual and waited there until dark for his friend who never returned. Every day from then on, Hachi went to the station in the evening, and waited.

Even when Hachi was given to one Ueno' relatives in another town, he ran the eight kilometers back to wait for Dr. Ueno every evening. This went on for a year until finally the family gave Hachi to a friend who lived near Dr. Ueno's former residence. Hachi continued his nightly vigil for Dr. Ueno, every day, without fail.

For ten years after Dr. Ueno's death, Hachi waited at the train station for him, every evening, until he died in 1935.

Hachi became something of a celebrity in Japan, and there is even a statue of him at the station. While some people try to come up with mundane reasons for Hachi's behavior, most see him as the epitome of devotion and faithfulness.

Hachi's story also points out how hard it is to accept the mysterious disappearance of a loved one. If Hachi had been allowed to see Dr. Ueno's body, he would have understood what happened. Animals do understand about death, but no one thought to give Hachi the chance to know what happened to his beloved Dr. Ueno.

I wrote a while back about how, when one of our cats dies, we hold a viewing for the benefit of the other cats. I believe this is especially important when the cat didn't die at home. Watching the cats' behavior as they see their departed friend one last time leaves me with no doubt that they understand.

If only Hachi could have been given the chance to understand... When my time comes, I hope that my cats are given the chance.

With the thought that art imitates life, I offer the following video. It's only a cartoon, but it will move you.

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