Lessons from Hachi

Lessons from who? OK, I never heard of Hachi either until last night when I watched a few minutes of a movie on television. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is a 2009 film starring Richard Gere. It is based on a true story of a dog whose loyalty to his master, even long after he died, has amazed so many.

I did not watch it all for at least two reasons: one, life is busy and I don’t often watch entire movies, and two, it was a real tear-jerker. I am not sure about others, but I at least got quite choked up about it for some reason. It was too painful to think about a dog so loyal to his master that he spent the next ten years after his death waiting every day for him to return at a train station.

Whether rain or snow or hail or sun, the dog was there every day, waiting patiently for his beloved master. While we can tell an adult or even a child about the death of someone, we cannot reason with a dog. So it was a heart-breaking story of a fiercely loyal dog who eventually died while waiting for his owner to get off the next train.

It is based on a real life dog Hachiko in Japan. Here is part of his story:

In 1924, Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo, took Hachiko, a golden brown Akita, as a pet. Ueno would commute daily to work, and Hachiko would leave the house to greet him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued the daily routine until May 1925, when Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, while he was giving a lecture, and died without ever returning to the train station in which Hachiko would wait.
Each day, for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachiko awaited Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station…
Hachiko died on March 8, 1935 at the age of 11 based on his date of birth. He was found on a street in Shibuya. In March 2011, scientists finally settled the cause of death of Hachiko: the dog had both terminal cancer and a filaria infection.

hachi 2The 2009 film offers a modern American twist to the tale, but the same pathos and emotion are fully on display. I for one got quite teary about it for some reason. Indeed, call me a sentimental old fool if you like – even now as I write about this story tears are welling up in my eyes.

But there are some obvious spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from this story. Two main lessons of course can be offered here. The first is about us and our relationship to God. Are we as loyal and faithful to our Lord as this dog was to his owner?

Do we pine after God not just once in a while but on a daily basis? Do we miss God greatly when we are away from him? Does our heart break when God seems absent? Do we start going to pieces when a day goes by without communion with our heavenly master?

I would say Hachiko puts most Christians to shame when it comes to dogged determination (pun intended), fierce loyalty and daily devotion. Through thick and thin, through snow, hail, sleet and rain, this dog went to the station every day in hopes of seeing his beloved master.

The second obvious spiritual lesson to be drawn from this story may be even more important. God is even more devoted to us, his beloved. He too longs for us, yearns for us, craves to spend time with us, and desires the best for us. He so very much seeks a love relationship with us, but we so seldom feel the same way.

I would say that the Parable of the Prodigal Son is a terrific illustration of all this. We know the father saw his prodigal son from a distance, and then ran to meet him. But how long did the heartbroken father have to wait for that day? How many days, weeks, months or perhaps even years did he have to wait?

Every day he would have looked down the road, hoping and praying for his long-lost son to return. Every day his heart would be broken as he waited patiently for any sign of his wayward son. Thankfully in his case the son did finally return.

As we find in Luke 15:20: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” What a day of rejoicing that must have been. And so it is when any prodigal comes back to God.

But for poor Hachiko that day never came. He died waiting in vain for his beloved owner to return. That God’s heart breaks for the lost is found throughout Scripture. The prodigal son story is just one example of this. The story of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem is another.

As it says in Luke 19:41-44:

But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”

And again in Luke 13:34: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

So three groups of people can take heart from the story of Hachiko. Those who are not yet reconciled to God through Christ still have time to do so. God waits with open arms as did the father waiting for his lost son. The same with those who were believers but have drifted away. You too can return and find the father’s embrace.

And those who are believers must rekindle their love for God. They need to ask themselves just how much they love their Lord, how loyal they are to him, how much they pine for him every day. Let the life of one faithful and committed dog teach us some very important spiritual lessons here.


[1133 words]

5 Replies to “Lessons from Hachi”

  1. Loved the film. Saw it years ago. My wife loves watching me when the tear-jerking gets at me – whatever the film.

  2. Dear Bill,
    Thank you for this article.
    I haven’t seen that movie, but I have owned a few dogs and at present we own 2 Kelpie dogs. I have drawn similar lessons from the dogs I owned and also from other people’s dog stories. I think dogs must be one of the most wonderful creatures God ever created for loyalty and love. Once bonded with their owner their greatest joy seems to be to be just with you, preferably touch you by parking themselves against your feet when you sit down. I often ask myself: “Do I have such an all consuming desire to be in God’s presence?” I fear the answer is no. My dogs have set the example. And of course, God’s love for us is still infinitely greater. The book of Israel’s prophet Hosea is a good example of that, and the greatest demonstration of God’s love and loyalty of course is the story of Calvary.

  3. And another parallel from this that speaks to many I’m sure – the many Christian parents daily pining, praying and longing for the return and reconciliation of their own prodigals.

  4. Thanks for this parable from creation Bill. As you say there is a rebuke to Gods’ people, Hebrew and Christian. Isaiah 1:3 – The ox knows its’ master, the donkey its’ owners’ manger… Israel does not understand… Instinct in the animal rebukes heart forgetfulness in the Image of God. That must be why I weep at the sight of the animal. Come again O Lord and ask the question we need to hear – Do you love me more than these? Now I must find that movie. Cheers!

  5. Hi, Bill

    After reading this beautiful story, we think of how pets bring joy, unconditional love, whilst often teaching us a thing or two along the way, and I couldn’t help but mention this.

    At the moment there are several petitions to end the “Yulin Dog Meat Festival” in China. If people go to “Change.org” they will see a search icon, or browse feature. Just key in the above festival title, and you can sign the petition.

    I wasn’t going to look at the pics, or videos, but I caught an image and couldn’t believe my eyes, so had to look (unfortunately). It’s something I will never forget. If I don’t say something on behalf of these poor animals, I will feel horribly weak. It would be a crime not to speak up.

    I implore you to write an article about evil and free will, Bill. If you wouldn’t mind. And at the same time draw your readers attention to this petition, and the plight of these poor animals who are at the mercy of senseless, horrific torturers. This is their lifestyle. Their culture. It doesn’t have to be. It is up to us, and their leaders to force a change.

    I don’t understand how God can just “stand by” and allow these depraved acts to occur. Whilst I was upset, I couldn’t help but think… even HE accepted countless burnt offerings… were the animals killed humanely in OT days, or were they set alight whilst alive for an offering? I know I’m upset. You’ll have to forgive me. Unless you see these images, you can’t possibly understand the extent of the torture these helpless, defenseless creatures face.

    And I know humans are subject to unspeakable cruelty too. I know we have free will. God doesn’t intervene. On the other side of the fence, they say He is sovereign over everything. How is that possible?

    There was an image of a golden retriever, laying in her own blood, tied to a pole, with one leg severed, and a man standing over her cutting off another leg. The report said she suffered all limbs being cut off, whilst conscious, and was then skinned alive, then boiled alive. There are images of dogs trying to crawl out of pots of boiling water, after being skinned!!

    God help me, I can’t understand such harrowing cruelty.. I was so upset, my teeth started chattering.

    If people Google the event name, they will find “highlights” in the form of these pictures. It’s a celebration. 10,000 dogs a year are tortured. They’re just the ones mentioned at this festival. The idea is to make the animal suffer as much as possible, all for the sake of tastier meat, and the men believe they will become more viril.

    I know this is shocking – but people need to be made aware of this. For change to occur we need to shock.

    I know you can do it, Bill. Fashion an article, and make it a theological lesson on Good vs Evil.

    “For evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *