The story of the man who saved Akitas

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While Angelenos -- and celebrity trial watchers nationwide -- who lived through the O.J. Simpson trial may associate Akitas with the case, their presence reaches back centuries ago in Japanese culture, Martha Sherill writes in her latest book, ‘Dog Man.’

In this week’s Times Book Review section, Elizabeth Mehren, professor of journalism at Boston University and a former Times staff writer, says Sherill captures how ‘the legendary breed might have disappeared entirely without the single-minded determination of a hydroelectric plant manager named Morie Sawataishi in the high, rugged snow country of rural Japan.’

Set during World War II, the book chronicles how Morie helps rescue an Akita puppy from death while facing down criticism from his own wife who says the family is too poor to feed a dog.

Sherill, a former Washington Post reporter, richly and tenderly chronicles Morie’s life-long love affair with caring for the breed, but Mehren points out that the story at times reads ‘like something from the Post’s Style section on steroids.’

-- Francisco Vara-Orta