Having posted my recollections of A Cat Called Room 8, allow me to recommend a canine-themed book as well. I’ve just finished reading Martha Sherrill’s Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain (Penguin, 2008). Sherrill, a long-time staff writer for the Washington Post, has written a marvelous book about a remarkable man, Morie Sawataishi. Morie is the heart and soul of this book, but it’s just as much about the dogs he loved (and presumably still loves–by the end of the book Morie is 90), the Japanese snow country in which he thrives, the conventions he challenged, the rules he broke to save the akita from extinction as a breed, and the legacy he leaves behind for the dog world.

I won’t give too much away–except to say that Sherrill describes Morie in a respectful, unvarnished way, and that one of the strongest threads weaving through the book concerns the conflicts that often arise between Morie’s communion with the akitas (and with the people who live within their orbit) and his life as a husband and father. His wife Kitako, for instance, almost leaves him when he brings home (in violation of Japanese law at the time) his first akita puppy, since the family, in post-WWII Japan–is just about starving and feeding the pup places even more stress on their food supply.

Morie is a man with a calling. Whether you love akitas or some other breed, Dog Man is a book worth reading.

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