cover image Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain

Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain

Martha Sherrill, . . Penguin Press, $25.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-59420-124-0

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)