Haichiko : a dogs life
When Ronnie gives a presentation at school about a personal hero, he tells the story of his grandfather and his dog, Hachiko. Parker Wilson, a professor of music who commutes to nearby Providence, Rhode Island, finds a lost puppy on the station platform in Bedridge and takes him home for the night. (The audience sees that it was freighted from a Japanese monastery to the United States and that the basket’s tag was torn in transit.) The puppy remains unclaimed, and the two grow close while he takes it everywhere with him. Ken, a Japanese professor friend, tells Parker that the dog is a breed called an Akita and that the Japanese character on his collar tag is the number eight—”hachi”. Parker’s wife, Cate, eventually warms to the dog—but Hachi sleeps outside in his own shed. One spring morning, Hachi, now grown, digs under the fence and follows Parker to the station. He refuses to go home; Parker misses the train. He leaves Hachi with Cate and gets the next one. That afternoon, Hachi hears the train horn and jumps the fence. Parker is surprised to find Hachi waiting for him and even more surprised to learn that he has not been waiting all day. The dog somehow knew when Parker was due home. A daily routine begins: They walk to the station together, Hachi goes home, and he returns when Parker’s train is due, at 5 p.m.
Parker tries in vain to train Hachi to do normal dog things like fetching. Amused, Ken explains that Akitas cannot be bought. If Hachi fetches, it will be for a special reason. When their daughter Andy marries Michael. Hachi is in the family wedding photo. Eventually, Andy announces that she is pregnant. One winter morning, Hachi behaves strangely, but then follows Parker to the station with a ball, and, to Parker’s delight, fetches it for the first time. After they play for a while, Parker puts the ball in his pocket. Hachi barks and barks and watches the train leave. Parker is holding the ball when he suffers a fatal stroke in his classroom. Hachi waits. At 9:30 p.m., Michael comes to get him. From his shed, Hachi watches the family. While Parker’s human friends and family gather at his funeral, Hachi goes to the station to wait. Cate sells the house and moves away. Hachi goes to live with Andy and Michael and their baby, Ronnie. One day, he escapes and follows the train tracks to Bedridge. Andy and Michael find him and bring him home, but Andy realizes the dog is pining and opens the gate. He licks her hand—and runs. Every day at 5 p.m., Hachi waits for his best friend. The hot dog seller, Jasjeet, and others feed him. After a reporter writes a story about him, people send cards and money to the station. Ken reads the piece and comes to town to help, only to learn how the community loves Hachi. Ken speaks to Hachi in Japanese: He too, misses his friend. On the tenth anniversary of Parker’s death, Cate returns to visit her husband’s grave. Ken is there, too. She is moved to see a now-elderly Hachi taking his usual position at the station. At home, at Christmas, Cate tells the ten-year-old Ronnie about Hachi and Parker, while the dog slowly settles in place. We see flashbacks of Parker and Hachi together, and then a last passenger pauses in the door. It is Parker, who calls “Hachi!” The old dog raises his head, and we see him run to Parker’s embrace. A bright light fills the screen and Hachi lies, motionless, his waiting over. The camera pans up to the night sky as Ronnie tells his class that Hachi and his grandfather taught him the meaning of loyalty, that you should never forget anyone you have loved. The class applauds. At the school bus, Ronnie is met by his dad and a tiny new puppy which they’ve also named Hachi. The film ends with Ronnie and the puppy walking down the same tracks Hachi traveled years ago.