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Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain Hardcover – February 28, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Morie Sawataishi had never owned a dog, but in 1944, when the Japanese man was 30 years old, the desire for one came over him like a sudden... craving. During WWII, snow country dogs were being slaughtered for pelts to line officers' coats; working for Mitsubishi in the remote snow country, Morie decided to rescue Japan's noble, ancient Akita breed—whose numbers had already dwindled before the war—from certain extinction. Raised in an elegant Tokyo neighborhood, his long-suffering wife, Kitako, hated country life, and his children resented the affection he lavished on his dogs rather than on them. The book brims with colorful characters, both human and canine: sweet-tempered redhead Three Good Lucks, who may have been poisoned to death by a rival dog owner; high-spirited One Hundred Tigers, who lost his tail in an accident; and wild mountain man Uesugi. To Western readers Morie's single-mindedness may seem selfish and Kitako's passivity in the face of his stubbornness incomprehensible, but former Washington Post staffer Sherrill (The Buddha from Brooklyn) imbues their traditional Japanese lifestyle with dignity, and Morie's adventures (he is now 94) should be enjoyed by dog lovers, breeders and trainers. B&w photos. (Mar. 3)
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One day in 1944, in the midst of World War II Japan, with people suffering and starving around him, Morie Sawataishi heard something troubling. The country people of Akita Prefecture were killing their dogs and selling their pelts to the military in order to line the winter coats of officers. The Akita dog, already dwindling in numbers as it fell out of favor, neared extinction. When an acquaintance offered him a puppy, Morie could not resist buying her and later purchased a male for breeding after he was able to verify the existence of only 16 other Akita dogs. Sherrill tells the story not only of the salvation of an ancient breed of dog but also of the complicated man who loved them and of his Tokyo-born wife, who had to learn country ways and how to love dogs. Throughout the book, the changes in postwar Japan are woven into the narrative, along with tales of Morie’s Akitas. --Nancy Bent