Thursday, January 16, 2014

Short Leash

Over the course of a dozen years or so, I walked my dog, Jenny, a "flashy fawn" Boxer, in the park on a regular basis, until she was no longer able to do so.  Jenny loved to take walks.  She was my protector and most reliable walking-friend, and with her by my side, I never worried as we trudged through the wooded areas of the park.  Jenny lived to be 14 1/2, which is quite old for a boxer, and I believe some of her longevity was due to our walks.  One morning she smacked her head hard against the back of my truck while trying to jump into the back of the SUV for the drive to the park.  When we got there, I saw that she had an egg-like bump and a gash on top of her head.  She still wanted to walk--she was ready and willing.  Instead, to her disappointment, I took her straight to the vet, who stitched up her head wound (she was still woozy from the anesthesia and looked like Frankenstein  when I brought her home).  The point is that dogs love to go on walks with their owners, in almost all circumstances.  Our puppy, a Chihuahua and Terrier mix, Daisy, already adores walks in the park.  In fact, when Daisy sees my car in the driveway, she gets excited and heads toward it if she's outside because she thinks that we may drive to the park for a walk.  Walks are grand adventures to dogs, a chance to roam and gambol and explore together.

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
Daisy,  2013





23 comments:

  1. Nice review, Suko. Do walking is indeed an adventure both for the dogs and their walkers! I like the pix of your dogs. The downside of dog walking is a possible attack by other dogs. My bichon dressed a red sweater,was attacked by a rowdy dog who had escaped his fenced yard. Makes me wish he had been as big a dog as that Lab-Rottweiler mix!

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  2. This sounds charming! It was a sad day for me when Milou could no longer go for walks.

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  3. What a nice review, It sounds like a story I would probably enjoy. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. This sounds like a special story. I enjoyed your review. My previous dog was a Shepard/Lab mix (whitish/cream color). She had a mild temperament, but children used to ask me if she was a wolf.

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  5. I loved this post and your reflections on Jenny. I hope Daisy brings you just as much happiness:)

    This book sounds very moving - I appreciate learning about it through your post.

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  6. Lovely review. Thanks for sharing your dog-walking experiences (as a cat person, I don't share those too often). Reminds me of a friend who is a boxer lover; she would definitely appreciate this book!

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  7. Oh I love the photos of your dogs!! My Layla would walk with bleeding paws I think (not that I would let her of course). If I even go to my sports sock drawer or start putting on "play clothes" or get my tennis shoes out of my closet, Layla goes nuts. She's ready, willing, and able any time I want to go :)
    Enjoyed your review!

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  8. Great review Suko.

    I have heard very good things about this book in several places. I also love animals and they can do a person a lot of good so I think that there is likely a lot of truth underlying this book.

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  9. Although I don't have a dog (I have a cat) I am touched by stories with them in it. I once read a fiction novel where the main character had a dog that was very much a part of her life and the story. When that dog died in the story, I was in tears.

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  10. I'd never heard of this book. Thank you. I'm adding it to my list. Snowdoll was attacked more than once by dogs in our neighborhood and I know how scary it can be for everyone involved. We haven't taken Holly out on walks with much success so we'll have to get that happening. I'd love to walk them both every day.

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  11. Whoops! Full of typing errors I thought I'd delete and try again.

    Such a moving post, reading it brought back so many memories of walkies with our dog, Peg, who is sadly no longer with us.

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  12. Sounds like a great book! I have two dogs that I love, but that I need to walk more. I'm hoping as I finish this semester and the weather gets warmer, that we will have time for family walks!

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  13. Sounds like a very moving book even a cat lover would enjoy.

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  14. I'm not a dog lover : the great one afraid me and in France they are numerous to walk without leash. But I like your post and understand the bundles between them and their owners. Thanks, Suko !

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  15. I just picked up a copy of this book - can't wait to start reading!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

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  16. This sounds like a really enjoyable read! Books like this make me miss having a dog...at some point we will be ready for one again but I think that it will be when my kids are a bit older. What a great review!

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  17. My mother just lost her dog this Christmas, due to the silly dear thing eating a pair of tights! After several surgeries to no avail, the dog went to Puppy Heaven. All that to say it is indeed heartbreaking when we lose our pets; we become so attached to them! I love dog stories, so thanks for sharing about this one.

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  18. Nice review Suko. Jenny sounds like she really enjoyed those walks with you and it's great that now Daisy does as well. She's just too cute. Love the photos and thank you for sharing about Jenny.

    Short Leash sounds like a wonderful memoir for dog lovers.

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  19. Sounds like the perfect book for you! Great review!

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  20. I love the snippet about your dogs and they look so cute! I am not into memoirs much... and I am not sure I want to read this one, honestly. Anything like a 'Marley and Me' would appeal to me more. But what a lovely review, Suko.

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  21. This sounds so good...how did I miss the tour for this one?!

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