29 May 2008

Dog Man

Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain by Martha Sherrill is, in its essence, a love story. The love story isn't simple. Mr. Sawataishi is in love with an ideal; the ideal of a perfect Akita dog embodying the point final of its breed and also spirit, the latter which has not been in his opinion well maintained by breeders in their rush to reconstitute the pure Akita form after the dilution of the war years. Ms. Sawataishi's love encompasses her children, and their father after a fashion.

The Akita is shown to good effect in the book as an intensely loyal and well-loved breed of dog. Similarly, Akita enthusiasts are also portrayed as heroic if a bit partisan; heroic in their efforts to bring back the dog to a good sized population from the low numbers they fell to in the 40's and partisan in favoring dogs of the Odate variety or of the Ginzo variety with unbridled exuberance.

Ms. Sawataishi's story is told tangentially. Her efforts to care for one town's children when their families faced hardship and her growth as a hostess and huntress made for the most interesting part of the book. Her husband is the dog man; but she is his helpmeet, nursing injured dogs and naming them and humanizing his otherwise dour and canine-centric life.

In the category of books about champion animals, this one would not meet the standard set by Seabiscut, which is my favorite animal champion book. But it was an engaging read, and informative about the nature of Akitas. For a dog lover, this is an enjoyable read. It even generates good discussion - check out Diane Rehm's interview with the author.

So - how many books are available about champion animals, anyway?