Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Hachi: Dogs, Loyalty, Attachment, and Hope

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

I recently rented and watched “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” starring Richard Gere and an array of Akita’s. The movie is based on the true story of an Akita who waited for his deceased master at the train station everyday for ten years until his own death. The original story took place in 1920s Tokyo and has been updated to the current day in some idyllic suburban town in the Tristate area or New England. The movie takes a long to time to wind up and we are exposed to a life too perfect. A comfortable and stylish old farmhouse in a friendly town where everyone knows each other, where dogs roam round unencumbered by leashes and the threat of cars. An impossibly functional family: loving husband and wife, well-behaved and beautiful daughter who gets married and pregnant in lock-step with the mainstream schema of the ideal family. Meanwhile this lost puppy becomes part of the family and fiercely attached to its owner, following him to the train station every morning, and showing up again at 5:00 PM anticipating his return. On the day his master suddenly dies, Hachi intuiting this, finally fetches a ball, something he would never do before.


I’d like to say that I transcended the maudlin and maintained a perspective of equanimity as I watched. As my aging Rhodesian Ridgeback lay next to me, his hulking form curled up, I was teary throughout and then let go into a wave of vigorous sobbing as the main action of the movie arrived. Hachi shows up at the train station every morning and waits all day. At night he goes to sleep under an abandoned train. He is fed by the staff of the train station and this is his life — for 10 years. Why was I crying so? A remarkable story about canine loyalty is one reason. What remarkable creatures. The film also reminded me poignantly of my own dog’s aging and impending demise sometime within the next couple of years (likely based on average life expectancies). Any image of an aging dog sends me into paroxysms of grief. There is something special about the grief we experience for a dog and this will be the subject of another blog entry and will be explored in a book at some point.

It’s also interesting to consider his loyal behavior as evidence of hope. His behavior of going to the train station does not extinguish as it should according to operant conditioning principles. A mouse would not continue to show up for a reinforcer that was not there, but Hachi has an attachment system in his brain and sufficient capacity for imagination to override the evidence that his master is not getting off that train. We, too, are creatures of attachment and capable of sustaining this type of evidence-defying and reinforcer deficient hope. We do so at our own peril: We stay in relationships that are unhealthy; we keep repeating the same destructive patterns in our life. All the while, there is hope based on memory that things might be different this time. We show up to the train station each day waiting. I counsel myself and others to Kill Hope in these situations. Unlike Hachi, we have the cerebral capacity to override our limbic/attachment drive to sustain hope (and this is limited to false hope). We need to confront the question: “Do I want to spend the rest of my life at the train station waiting?” That could be a deliberate choice or it may arise out of the unconscious pursuit of this deep but deluded conditioning. It’s a reflection on acceptance: Can we accept what is so?

  • http://louellabryant.com Ellie

    Dear Lion Dog, I suspect you could see in that movie what your friend Doc K couldn’t..the master actually getting off that train and patting his head. You sense what we can’t..because of genetics or conditioning. But I have a feeling that when you cross the big bridge Doc K will still see you curled up next to him on that weathered sofa and you’ll feel him reach over and pat your head. You have taught him important lessons and the grief to come will teach him even more. He has helped me see that this is so.

  • maria rossi

    This is another heartfelt story on the intelligence of these kind. speechless creatures. It is so sad that they can not reach the intelligence of human mankind. They do so in many ways if one can read their dog. I’ve learned to read body language and motions from multiple dogs I’ve had through my life and am amazed of their brilliance. As much as it hurts when the time comes to leave us and go to the Bridge my husband, son and I can’t imagine being with out multiple dogs filling our house. I have many pieces of my heart missing from this process. I had one exceptional German Shepherd that actually made my heart ache for many months when God needed her. I loved all my dogs in different ways but this one proved she loved me so much I will never forget her courage when she reached out to me in need of help. I sometimes think when it’s my time to leave earth it can’t be so bad because I know they are patiently waiting for me.

  • cinsere

    Very touching and beautiful review of this movie. I never got another
    dog when I lost mine almost ten years ago. And I lost my husband a
    short two years ago. What the author said about hanging on hoping
    and waiting opened my eyes. I see that I have been just kind of
    been suspended in some kind of space where I do function in life
    but am missing out on so many of life experiences. I am grateful
    for his review of the story in this movie. I sense in myself that
    I must make a decision about what it is I do with the rest of my

  • Janice Jacoby

    I am facing the death of one of my dogs. He was given a fatal diagnosis just a day ago. I had just put him down to rest after crying while holding him when I read this. I am also metaphorically waiting for a train to come. I have been for almost 20 yrs and reading this made me think about something that has become habit as much, if not more so, than hope.

  • teresa

    I have only seen snipit’s of this movie,but can tell it is a tear jerker!!That said we has human’s have loyality to our heart’s that often lead us astray!!Hoping that love will find us and remain loyal,is still one of the hardest command’s us two legged creature’s have yet to obey!!!For comfort in life we often turn to our four legged friend’s who love us beyond loyality,deal with our ugly,and allow us to confide a number of thing’s that we would not trust with another.When we learn to accomplish these task’s that come so easily to them,perhap’s we will then learn the true meaning of love,loyality,and freiendship!!!

  • http://www.areze.com/ Torrent Download

    I will never ever forget this film. A very touching film that made me cry and even my sis. Even I watch it for the nth times I will never get bored. To all the dog lovers please watch it. For sure you will cry. I fell in love with the movie.

  • http://www.areze.com/ Torrent Download

    I will never ever forget this film. A very touching film that made me cry and even my sis. Even I watch it for the nth times I will never get bored. To all the dog lovers please watch it. For sure you will cry. I fell in love with the movie.

  • lusGuirediems

    Hello. And Bye.

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