Although this is a movie with Richard Gere, it is definitely NOT about Richard Gere. Rather, this is about an Akita, adopted by a kindly professor. This is not an animal tale where the dog “speaks” through creepy animated lips. It is a movie with simple themes: grief, canine loyalty, progression of time and death. I am not spoiling the movie (the trailers show much of the plot) by saying that the dog is “adopted” by Richard Gere”s character. Gere and the dog develop a special relationship, one not shared by Gere’s wife (played by Joan Allen).The dog waits outside the train station each night for him to return from work. One day, he does not return, and Haichi just waits…..and waits.

“Hachi” is based on a true story from the 1920′s, and this movie is a remake of a 1987 Japanese movie called “Hachiko Monogatari”.

I can’t say the movie is a blockbuster. In fact, it by-passed the theaters and went straight to DVD. “Hachi” is very sentimental, but not the kind of sentimental one usually sees in these types of films. It is not gushy nor will you hear swelling music or slo-mo scenes of Haichi and his master cavorting on the beach. Gere “shines” during his time on screen, and supporting characters played by Erick Avari and Jason Alexander give solid performances. I found Joan Allen, as Gere’s wife, to be somewhat distracting. But, for anyone who loves dogs, and believe animals exhibit the human feelings of loss, this is a three-hankie can’t be missed.

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I love dogs. I own a dog. Often, I like him more than about 90% of the people I know. I also enjoy books about the relationships between men and their dogs. Especially when the gruff guy shows a kinder, gentler side to his personality as a result of the actions of his dog.

One of the best “guy/dog” books I have read is “Merle’s Door” by Ted Kerasote. It is a wonderful true story that is sensitive without being sappy.

Although I love the “guy/dog” books, I know that they will never end well. The dog always dies.
About two-thirds of the way into the book, the guy finds “a lump” on the dog’s leg, or the dog develops this phlegmy cough. You know you are pages away from uncontrollable sobbing…. by both you and the guy.

So, it was with delight that I picked up the latest book by Dean Koontz noted for his suspenseful raw thrillers. Koontz and his wife, following years of consideration, adopt a three-year-old golden retriever from Canine Companions, an organization that provides service dogs to those in need. The dog was on “early retirement” as a result of an elbow surgery. The book, a memoir of his 9-years with the dog, is about as far away from his usual shocking tales as one can get. I knew Koontz had an affinity for “goldens” as they are characters in many of his books, and his book jackets show a picture of him with a “golden”.
Koontz delights in the mundane, day-to-day activities of “Trixie” to the point of some degree of boredom from this reader. It is also could be a little uncomfortable for the reader when he refers to Trixie as “my little girl” or tells her “your mom and I are so proud of you”. But maybe that’s because you do not expect that form of emotion from someone whose stories are otherwise so dark and chilling. Koontz also takes anthropomorphism to an extreme, but as a dog owner and lover I found it acceptable.
This book definitely shows another side of Koontz, and in the end…..I sobbed uncontrollably.

 

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