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American Book 370334 Dog Man


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About the Author

Martha Sherrill is a former Washington Post staff writer known for her penetrating profiles of people, both famous and obscure. Her award-winning writing has appeared in Esquire and Vanity Fair, among other publications. She is the author of The Buddha from Brooklyn, a work of nonfiction, and two novels, My Last Movie Star and The Ruins of California. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son.


The dog man of the title is Morie Sawataishi, famed breeder and champion of akitas. While working as an engineer for Mitsubishi in far northern Japan during World War II, he became fascinated by this hardy dog breed, one of the oldest in the world. Because of wartime shortages (many of the dogs were eaten or used to make fur vests for the military), the breed had dwindled to just a few animals. Sawataishi illegally kept one hidden, and, as soon as the war ended, he began working to strengthen and expand the breed. His fame and that of his dogs soon spread, and his champions were winning dog shows around Japan. After retirement, Sawataishi continued working and living with his dogs, hiking in remote mountains, and even hunting bears. Vanity Fair and Esquire contributor and novelist Sherrill (The Ruins of California) offers great insight not only into one man and his dogs, but into an older, rural way of life unfamiliar to Westerners for whom Japan symbolizes fast-paced urban life and the latest technology. Recommended for pet and Asian studies collections in public and academic libraries.--Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Dog Man is a peerless tale of a life's work unfolding, written in prose so spare, rare, and beautiful it took my breath away...Written with equal parts rigor and grace, Dog Man captures something near the knotty essence of the human bond with dogs."
-David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

"A spellbindingly beautiful and affecting story. Sherrill...extends the story so deeply that it seems to stand for choices in all our lives."
-Washington Post

"A portrait of Japan few outsiders see...A quirky story of heroism, defiance, and dedication. A fascinating slice of cultural history."
-Los Angeles Times

-The New York Times

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