Author: Janice Gary
Published: August 2013
Publisher: Michigan State University Press
Format/edition: Trade paperback
Source: A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Receipt thereof bears no influence on my opinion nor this review.
It’s hard to believe that a walk in the park can change a life – let alone two – but for Janice Gary and her dog Barney, that’s exactly what happened.
Gary always walked with a big dog by her side and had ever since being attacked on the streets of Berkley as a young woman. For years, she relied on her beloved Husky to help her navigate the world on her own. Then he succumbed to canine cancer, leaving Janice alone and vulnerable once again. Enter Barney: a goofy, gangly stray Gary discovers wandering loose in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot. With biscuit-sized paws and a big, blocky head, the pup promises to grow into her biggest protector yet. And he does – but after an attack by a vicious dog, Barney becomes overly protective and barely manageable. Walking him anywhere becomes almost impossible; but walking without him is unthinkable.
It’s only when Gary risks bringing Barney to a local park on the Chesapeake Bay that both their lives change forever. There, Janice faces her deepest fears and discovers the grace of the natural world, the power of love and the potency of her own strengths. And Barney loses the leash of his own fears. Beautifully written, Short Leash is a moving tale of love and loss, the journey of a broken soul finding its way toward wholeness.
Short Leash is the story of one such love, a mutual admiration society consisting of a petite lady and her large lab/rottweiler cross whose delight in the simple pleasures of life can teach so many of us a valuable lesson.
At nineteen Janice is attacked on a dark street. Years later foggy nights, footsteps behind her, the rustle of leaves, the dark, or being alone on a street terrifies her. Justifiably so. She still feels a victim. She's tried therapy but the best therapist she finds is a large black dog with an eternal grin and a penchant to explore.
Our relationships with our pets aren't just that of master and servant, owner and owned. They are very much a part of the family and, in most cases, are our best friends, our confidants, and our most loyal companions who will never let us down. For Janice, Barney is all that. Their daily walks, on a short leash because Barney has issues with other dogs, allow Barney the much desired adventures and slowly pull Janice beyond her comfort zones. She explores new trails, reluctantly at first, with Barney in the lead. As he explores sights and scents, Janice notices the changing hues in the leaves, the new berries and flowers, the beauty in the sky overhead. She begins to see things differently and the short leash she has self-imposed upon herself slowly lengthens. Where fear once was, peace now resides.
Gary's writing flows like liquid gold, spilling over the pages in an illustrious fashion. The imagery of her words and phrases conjure up the scenes and transport you to her side. You are with her on the walks, you travel back in time as she recalls scenes from her past, tragic and pleasant, allowing you to get to know the whole person she was and is. As Gary grows through her experiences and situations, you can feel it as tangible as the soft fur of a puppy. She truly has a gift.
When you look upon the photo of the two of them below, Janice Gary and her beloved Barney, the love and adoration is so very evident. That's what dogs do for you. That's the face of peace and true happiness. Barney was instrumental in bringing that face forward. Together they found their paths.
Meet the author:
Janice Gary is the author of Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance, which was chosen as a “Groundbreaking memoir” by Independent Publisher and a New Pages “Editor’s Pick”. She is the recipient of the Christine White Award for Memoir and the Ames Award for Personal Essay. As a writing coach, she helps others writers find their unique voice and stories. In between her work and appearances for Short Leash, she blogs at janicegary.com.