Dog Man – Martha Sherrill
If 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. In 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 a little when I pick up stories that are supposed to be about a single topic like dogs, 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 so much about Japanese culture during WWII and after, specifically in the mountain areas. A place I can imagine little is written about.
Each chapter is about a special dog in Sawataishi’s life and how that impacted his own life. 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, and also if you have an interest in history and hearing personal tales of what it was like trying to survive in a troubled country during WWII.
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 mountainous 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 us 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. Today the real Japanese Akita is very different from the American Akita. The bred traits are vastly different in regards to shape and form of the dog. But in general, even in Japan, the Akita has lost much of his dominant and brave spirit that Sawataishi spent a lifetime trying to perfect. In truth, the deterioration of the breed’s spirit is a shame and I feel Sawataishi’s sadness at its loss.
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.