By JoAnn Dimon
On October 9, 2016, I attended the unveiling of the reproduction statue of HACHI-KO being installed at the Abbey Glen Pet Memorial Park. It was a great honor to be invited to represent Akita Rescues from everywhere. The ceremony was started by Japanese Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, who told the story of the Akita whose devotion to his master Professor Hidesaburo Ueno of the University of Tokyo, has inspired millions of animal lovers worldwide and is at the heart of Abbey Glen?s mission, which is to memorialize the unique and valued relationships that exist between man and animal.
A statue of Hachi-ko stands at the Shibuya station in Tokyo, where Hachi-ko waited faithfully for almost 10 yrs. It is estimated that 370,000 people pass thru what is the second busiest train station in the world, so he is admired daily by those many thousands of people.
Upon hearing that a new statue showing both Hachi-ko and the Professor had been commissioned, Abbey Glen's owners/brothers Derek and Kevin Cooke were so moved upon hearing this that the started inquiring about having a replica statue made for their site. Finally exclusive permission for a life-sized, bronze replica was granted, because Abbey Glen's mission fit perfectly with the statue's meaning.
Among those who paved the way for Sunday's dedication was Yumi McDonald, a Japanese-American writer living in Connecticut, who facilitated communications between the university and staff at Abbey Glen. McDonald is the author of "Reminiscence of Shibuya, 1929-1938". McDonald noted on Sunday that when the original statue of Hachi-ko was erected in 1934, "Hachi-ko was still alive, so he would be waiting for Professor Ueno next to his own statue. My mother said he looked really cute because he would be like a twin next to his statue."
Nearly 150 people attended Sunday?s dedication ceremony. Brad Cole of the Connecticut-based K-9 First Responder organization that relies on Akitas, attended with "Spartacus", an Akita Therapy Dog and K-9 First Responder, who visits and comforts the victims of accidents soon after traumatic events happen. Spartacus helped with victims of both Sandy Hook and the Boston Bombing. "Sometimes people are not ready to talk to anyone but happy to be with dogs," said Mr. Cole. "Akitas can comfort people just by being there."
I was able to speak to the crowd about Akitas and Rescue, describing how wonderful Akitas are and what good companions they make. But also about how the movie HACHI: A DOG'S TALE sadly made them a "trendy" dog to own, which means more of them are entering rescues because people did not raise them correctly. Everyone was surprised to hear that my organization, Big East Akita Rescue, Inc., rehomed 95 Akitas last year. And we are only one rescue in this country. Everyone is doing their part to help save our breed. We had over 20 Akitas at the event, and 17 of them were from my rescue work. Every one of them was well behaved and pleasant. I thank all my adopters, and my volunteers, for being outstandingly responsible owners. I was touched by a saying on the Hachi-ko memorial that read: "A true relationship is two imperfect brings that refuse to give up on each other." To me, that meant no matter how difficult things can get with our Akitas, we would rather work thru it than give up!