Published in 2013, Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance by Janice Gary, is the story of the author and a dog she found on the streets of Savannah, Georgia, an extra-large Lab-Rottweiler puppy she named Barney. Initially, the thought of reading this memoir appealed to me because of my many years of dog-walking. I felt that this memoir would probably resonate with me in a myriad of ways.
"A map in the beginning would have limited our horizons. Now it confirms them."
~ Short Leash, Janice Gary
In Short Leash, the author recounts her story in under 250 pages, over the course of thirty-seven chapters, which are dated from 1991 through 2006. We gradually learn that both the dog and the author suffered attacks, at different times and in different locations. Barney becomes "dog-aggressive" immediately after being attacked by a Shepherd, whereas the author needs more time to heal from her attack, and from other painful events in her past. Many years later in Maryland, she carries Mace in her pocket when she begins to take Barney out for walks on trails at the park near her home. She's vigilant and keeps Barney on a short leash, because of his aggressive behavior toward other dogs, and it's difficult for the author to enjoy the walks because of her fear and apprehension of dogs and people. Like Barney, she is also on a short leash.
"This is how the sole and the soul grow skin: by continuously walking through rough territory."
~ Short Leash, Janice Gary
In her memoir, Janice reveals a lot about her life, and focuses on the joy, trauma, and sorrow she's experienced. Her writing is beautiful and insightful, and she writes honestly about her thoughts and feelings. As a dog lover, I enjoyed the many "doggie details" in Short Leash, although it was heartbreaking when Barney's health started to decline--I was moved to tears at times. She also writes about the writing life, which will resonate with writers. The author feels guilty when she can't take Barney out for walks due to her writing (which demands great, somewhat unpredictable periods of time and concentration), although Barney does seem to take this in stride. Her writing and her walks with Barney are both important, and help her to heal from a painful past. She describes a "Muse Tree" in the park that inspires her writing, and also more generally, the sights and scents of nature in the park which delight and inspire both the author and Barney. (I, too, love nature, and relish the exquisite scents of the park that I walk in.) Walking with Barney, she pays attention to Barney's instinctive dog-wisdom, which entices her to slowly but surely let go of fear, face adventure head-on, trust her feelings, and enjoy her surroundings. A wonderful and hopeful memoir, Short Leash will appeal to dog lovers, writers, and readers who simply enjoy inspiring stories and memoirs.
Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book. For additional reviews, please visit the other stops on TLC's Short Leash book blog tour.
Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcomed.
|Jenny, 1997 - 2012|