Dog Man – Martha Sherrill

dogmanIf you love dogs as much as me, then you may be interested in this book. It spans the life of Morie Sawataishi, who almost single-handedly kept the Akita dog breed alive during WWII, when they were often being killed for their fur or eaten due to starvation. During a time of hardship in the cold Japanese mountains, he did what others called him crazy for and brought home an Akita puppy he could not afford. From this one dog, grew a generation of raising and showing Akitas.

I always worry when I pick up stories that are about a single topic that I will be incredibly bored. But Sherill surprised me, in that she wove a story that captures the heart of the mountain and the heart of a man. I learned heaps about Japanese culture during and after WWII. A place I can imagine little is written about.

Each chapter is about a special dog in Sawataishi’s life and how that impacted him. While this is definitely a book about a man and his love for his dogs, it is also about the hardship he and his wife lived through. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a love for dogs and learning about the origination of the Akita breed.

All you have to do is think of the story of Hachikō, the famous Akita who waited at the train station for his owner never to return. The loyalty of the breed is marked throughout history, and as such I feel this book does the breed justice. Originally hailing from the mountainous northern regions of Japan, the solid strength and spirit that was once cherished in the Akita was aptly portrayed. Today, it seems as if society prefers lap dogs who will snuggle with them at night, instead of champions who will take on a bear. Sawataishi talks often of his sadness at seeing the breeding standards change for the Akita over time. Presently, the real Japanese Akita is vastly different from the American Akita in shape and form. Sawataishi believes that the Akita has lost much of his dominant and brave spirit that he spent a lifetime trying to perfect.

You can buy the book on Amazon for $10.99 in Kindle.

Synopsis: At the end of World War II, there were only 16 Akita dogs left in Japan. Morie Sawataishi became obsessed with preventing the extinction of the 4,000-year-old Japanese dog breed. He defied convention, broke the law, gave up a prestigious job, and chose instead to take his urbanite wife to Japan’s forbidding snow country to start a family, and devote himself entirely to saving the Akita.

Martha Sherrill blends archival research, on-site reportage, and her talent for narrative to reveal Sawataishi’s world, providing a profound look at what it takes to be an individual in a culture where rebels are rare, while expertly portraying a side of Japan that is rarely seen by outsiders.

This entry was posted by thruthewords.

3 thoughts on “Dog Man – Martha Sherrill

  1. I was just loosely checking WP app, and found this post. I didn’t even expect I would find a story about Akita dogs written in English this way. I’m a dog lover, and definitely love Akita. I downloaded a copy almost immediately. I have heard of a similar story about Akita dogs in WW2 somewhere before in Japanese, and was always resentful at the fact that even nationalistic people are so igorant of what had been done to pure genuine Japanese Akita dogs, while the army shepherd dogs are honored as fallen, no offense intended to western dogs.

    Thank you for your review and for giving me this unexpected gift.

    • I am glad you enjoyed this post. I learned so much from Morie and Sherill’s retelling. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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