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Short Leash

A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance

Janice Gary

Publication Year: 2013

Janice Gary never walked alone without a dog by her side. But it wasn’t always that way. She didn’t distrust solitude when, at nineteen, full of bravado and naiveté, she headed out west to fulfill her dream of becoming a rock star. In the heady days of women’s liberation and the post-hippie revolution of the early 1970s, she believed she could do anything, be anyone. But all of that changed in the course of one horrifying night, when she was attacked and raped on the streets of Berkeley. Forget the big dreams—now, her only goal was to make sure what happened in California never happened again. Unable to walk alone, she adopted a gangly stray pup with biscuit-sized paws and named him Barney. But after Barney was attacked by another dog, he became extremely protective, making it difficult to have him around other dogs. So it became for Janice nearly impossible both to go out without Barney and to go anywhere with him. Then, after years of being a prisoner to her fear and Barney’s defensiveness, Janice risked taking Barney to a park near the Chesapeake Bay. There, she began a remarkable transformation that allowed her to step out of the self-imposed isolation that held her captive for three decades and into a world renewed with possibility.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

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October 1991 - Savannah Georgia

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pp. 1-2

FORTY- FIVE POUNDS OF MUSCLE AND FUR PULLED ME DOWN A DARK ROAD with no sidewalks, no lights, and barely any shoulder to speak of. The dog was a stray I had found three days before— a smelly, exuberant hulk of a pup who had captured my heart the moment I saw him. I paused for a moment and reeled the cord in just enough to keep us in the beam of my husband’s flashlight. The ...

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Chapter 1. October 2001

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pp. 3-6

...rolled up. There’s nothing left to do except get out of the car. But I don’t. Instead, I sit there, staring out the windshield at the woods beyond the park-ing lot, my right hand squeezed into a fist around fourteen keys, a string of beads spelling “s.o.b.,” a solid brass circle, and a Big Boy juggling a ham-unlock— an office at a job I no longer have, a house in a city I don’t live in ...

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Chapter 2. Fall 2001

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pp. 7-12

...after that. And we keep coming back until three weeks of walks have piled up behind us. One morning, as we drive into the park, I see a new banner on the entrance gazebo announcing the upcoming Halloween Barkin’ Bash. It’s a dog party, complete with costume contests, prize giveaways, and free treats, but it’s a party we can’t attend. I make a mental note to stay far away ...

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Chapter 3. November 2001

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pp. 13-18

...bearings. On my boat, there’s always a compass and GPS to guide me. But here, there’s only the sun and my approximation of where the water is— the water being the Chesapeake Bay, which always tells me where I am.The road ends at the South River, so I figure we must be heading north. Or is it east? I mentally map the contours of the park, searching for the river ...

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Chapter 4. The Southern Love Puppy

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pp. 19-26

...temperatures climbing into the high fifties. As soon as the car turns into the park entrance, Barney presses his head between the bucket seats and leans against me as if saying, Good choice, my friend— I’m with you on this one. My eyes are fixed on the view outside the windshield, but when I glance over at I pull into the lot and park in our usual space near the meadow, making ...

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Chapter 5. Dr. Barney and Mr. Hyde

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pp. 27-32

...drove ten hours north up I- 95 to visit my sister in Baltimore. The big city was baffling to him with its sidewalks and tiny plots of grass, so my sister brought us to a small park on the industrial side of the harbor. We strolled along the water, watching enormous container ships glide past while seagulls flew above our heads, surveying the area for fish and garbage scraps. Halfway ...

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Chapter 6. Winter 2002

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pp. 33-42

...just the threat of two inches of frozen precipitation can trigger area- wide school closings. But last January, a blizzard descended over the Chesapeake region, dumping twenty- three inches of snow in a forty- eight hour period. As the snow fell and fell, I hunkered down in the house baking cookies and hoping that the power wouldn’t go out. Finally, the storm drifted out ...

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Chapter 7. The Four-Legged Crutch

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pp. 43-46

...puppy, a striking black and white boy with one brown eye and one ice blue one who was to remain in Ohio with my mother until I could send for him. When I left, Sundance was a tiny thing. But upon my return I was greeted by a six- month- old, thirty- pound monster who terrorized the entire family.One afternoon, not long after I came home, he grabbed a piece of bread ...

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Chapter 8. March 2002

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pp. 47-50

...stomping through the Mid- Atlantic with wind gusts of up to thirty- five knots, knocking down power lines and snapping tree branches as if they were twigs. In the park, I stay close to the tree line, grateful for what shel-ter we can get from the windbreak. As we walk, I hear odd sounds in the woods— soft, baleful moans, and groans that sound like rusty hinges on a ...

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Chapter 9. Spring 2002

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pp. 51-58

...it’s not as cruel as it is cranky. When Barney and I get out of the car, a cold, light rain spits out of a sullen sky. It’s not pretty, but it is quiet— no cars, no people, no dogs. This is the saving grace of crappy weather— it keeps most We head toward the forest by the picnic area and follow the tree line. Even though the foliage is minimal, it acts as a pretty good rain break. ...

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Chapter 10. Summer 2002

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pp. 59-66

Ah, summer. Soft, warm, and sleeveless. Just the way I like it. As Barney and I walk down a shaded stretch of park road, the trees bend over our heads in slow, green waves. Breathing deeply, I try to capture this moment: the blue sky, the sweet air, the dog at my side. In less than an hour I’m to leave for the residency portion of the writing program, so this will be ...

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Chapter 11. Random Acts

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pp. 67-74

...as I drag myself out of bed, slap on some makeup and get my dog into the car. By this time, it’s almost noon and I’m sleep- deprived, overcaffein-ated, and thoroughly disgusted with myself. Normal people get up in the morning, even if they have slept badly. Normal people accomplish things by lunchtime. Normal people don’t obsess that their life is going to hell ...

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Chapter 12. Fall 2002

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pp. 75-78

...terms— faces without features, signs made of squiggly lines. What looks like a can of peas on a supermarket shelf could just as easily be soup or beans. As school gets underway and the essay about my father starts to take shape, it becomes apparent to me that my writing is just as fuzzy as my eyesight. The writers I admire the most make their words come alive with descriptive ...

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Chapter 13. Winter 2003

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pp. 79-82

...breaking point. Each year, I try escaping to warmer climes, but more often than not winter follows me. In Jamaica, the northwest winds incite the sea to madness, whipping the waves into ten- foot walls of destruction. Barbados isn’t much better, sunny but windy, with that angry, frothing sea. Bahamas, cold and again, windy, the water uninhabitable. It was nice the week before, ...

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Chapter 14. Spring 2003

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pp. 83-92

...mass of panting, whining Ohjoyohjoyohjoyyou’rehome dog. But instead, I’m greeted by my mother, who has been watching Barney while I was gone. She sighs with relief that her firstborn has made it home in one piece after traveling to Florida for a work- related conference. “Really, to go that far,” “I’m fine,” I say, turning my head in an effort to divert her Revlon “Really ...

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Chapter 15. Summer 2003

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pp. 93-100

...“Yep. Just what I thought,” the ophthalmologist says. “Floaters.”Looking past the chart glowing on the wall, I see my life go downhill “It happens with age,” the doctor says. “What you’re seeing is dried- up gel from the eye’s viscous fluid. Your eyes will get used to it. Eventually you The first time I noticed the spots I thought I was seeing things. Barney ...

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Chapter 16. Fall 2003

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pp. 101-106

...bellows of Barney’s panting. This is the third time he’s woken me tonight. “Shut up!” I yell into the dark. The sound stops for a moment in reaction to my voice. Then it begins again followed by a noxious cloud of dog fart. “Jesus, Barney.” I grab the sheets and turn in the opposite direction of the dog bed. Barney gets up and repositions himself on the cedar- filled cushion. ...

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Chapter 17. Melting

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pp. 107-110

...the park. There’s a chill in the air that hasn’t been there before, and for the first time this season, I notice how bare the trees are, how completely the colors of fall have been replaced by the brown nakedness of bark and tangled undergrowth. In the space between the trees, I can see much further into the Clarity is my mission today. Yesterday, Barney’s doctor called and said the ...

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Chapter 18. Winter 2004

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pp. 111-118

...as I pack item after item into a black suitcase. As usual whenever I pack, he’s very quiet. He knows whenever I put things in the rolling black box it Before the nosebleeds, before the Cushing’s, before the MRI and surgery date, my husband and I had booked a trip for the second week in December to Fort Lauderdale to see the annual Winterfest Boat Parade. Both Curt ...

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Chapter 19. Tuesdays in the Park

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pp. 119-122

March begins the way it usually does— cold and damp— before taking pity on the winter- worn with a sultry, sixty- degree day. Outside my window, green shoots push through the earth. Purple and white crocuses curl on their stems and long wands of bright yellow forsythia brazenly burst into bloom. Barney is blooming as well, showing no signs ...

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Chapter 20. Spring 2004

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pp. 123-128

...question takes me by surprise. I stare out the window of my analyst’s office, a light- filled room overlooking a beautiful garden, completely unlike the “Sort of,” I say. “A psychologist, I think. It didn’t last long.”The rape and its aftermath is not something I often discuss in therapy, except as an aside to a question about what I was doing in my twenties or ...

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Chapter 21. June 2004

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pp. 129-132

...of pre- operation days— slow but steady, no more falling, wobbly dog prob-lems, just stopping and starting as Barney does whatever it is a dog needs to do during a fine walk on a fine day. The pace is calming, almost meditative, and when Barney stops to relieve himself on a patch of grass by the side of the road, glints of gold at the base of the sea oats catch my eye, mirrors of ...

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Chapter 22. Summer 2004

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pp. 133-138

I’m fussing with Barney’s collar, trying to snap the prongs into the open links to latch it closed, but the metal refuses to yield to the pressure of my fingers. My hands flutter around his neck, ever more manic in an attempt to hook up the chain while he waits patiently, smiling that I’m going to the park smile while I curse at the collar and order the links to bend, goddammit, wishing ...

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Chapter 23. Next Steps

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pp. 139-146

...know if my package contains anything fragile or explosive. It’s a good ques-tion. Wrapped under the cardboard and brown paper is two years of sweat and soul: all one- hundred- and- fifty pages of the thesis, the story of my band years— or, at least my attempt at telling the story. By writing about it, I’ve revisited years of emotional turmoil, trying to understand why I was so hell- ...

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Chapter 24. Fall 2004

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pp. 147-152

...floor, legs splayed out against the white tile, head immobile as his big brown eyes follow my every move: the purse hoisted over the shoulder, the drawer opening, the keys in my hand. I look over at him and shake my head.“You can’t come, B. I don’t have time for a walk.” He fixes his sad eyes on my face. “Okay,” I say, and he immediately jumps up. “But it won’t be ...

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Chapter 25. Smoke and Mirrors

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pp. 153-158

CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. I can hear it, Barney’s hip clacking bone against bone as he walks ahead of me. In the quiet of winter, the sound seems louder than it is, amplified somehow against the emptiness of the woods. Clouds thicken above, capping the sky with a nickel- gray cover, but even in this grayness, there is color: the subtle blush of rust and pink on azalea leaves, the red coat of an ...

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Chapter 26. Winter 2005

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pp. 159-164

...surprise return of the robins who have winged their way north unusually early. I set aside a bag in the kitchen for old bread, and, when I have a good amount, I take it to the meadow near the park’s visitor’s center where the I usually avoid this part of the park. The long, grassy meadow attracts a high incidence of Frisbee- tossing dog owners who can’t seem to resist ...

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Chapter 27. March Madness

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pp. 165-170

...ney and I don’t get to the park until noon. The clouds bundle together in a snow pattern, but signs of spring are everywhere: fuzzy buds on bare branches, more and more birds in the trees. One of the most surprising dis-coveries I’ve made in four winters of walking is that budding doesn’t start in the spring. The process goes on all winter long, disguised as nubby bumps ...

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Chapter 28. Spring 2005

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pp. 171-180

One month after the official eq.scuinox, spring finally arrives in Maryland. It’s the kind of day poets write about, when buds burst into bloom and the world seems changed on an elemental level. The sun is no longer the shy star of winter solstice; it’s a glittering jewel, a bright stone swaying from a hypnotist’s hand as he says, Wake up, wake up, you are get-...

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Chapter 29. Third Wheel, Sixth Sense

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pp. 181-184

...the street from the park and angle into an empty space directly across from the park entrance. While I stand by the open car door fumbling with Bar-ney’s collar, a man and woman begin walking in our direction from the far end of the parking lot. There is something familiar about them in an uncomfortable way, the man holding the woman too close, the woman ...

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Chapter 30. Summer 2005

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pp. 185-190

...degree weather is put him in a car that has been baking in the sun for the last half hour. So on a brutally hot afternoon, rather than park in the sun- filled gravel lot near the Orchard Trail, I pull into the one across the road where a shaded row of spaces hugs the darkest stretch of forest in the park.As soon as I let Barney out, he reels the leash out and heads straight for ...

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Chapter 31. Fall 2005

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pp. 191-200

...the Mid- Atlantic coast, much weaker than she was in New Orleans but with enough punch to dump tropical rains and a lingering low front on the Ches-apeake Bay area. Before we can even clean up the mess left behind, another hurricane glides up the Atlantic on its way to New England, bringing days and days of gray skies and sticky humidity. It’s one thing after another. Just ...

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Chapter 32. Going Back

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pp. 201-204

...driving around town taking care of one errand after another. By the time the gray clouds deepen into twilight, I’m still not done and Barney hasn’t had a walk yet. “Back in a few,” I tell him before dashing into the drugstore. When I come out, the air feels wet even though it’s only misting, not quite raining yet. I clip on Barney’s leash and pull my hood over my head, ...

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Chapter 33. November 2005

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pp. 205-212

...motion down the Twisty Tree Trail, sniffing a bush here, marking a tree here. There’s no one around, which gives me a perfect opportunity to try a little experiment. I have no idea anymore how much walking Barney can actually tolerate. So I let him loose on the trail to see exactly how long he can walk Barney takes his time, moving from one side of the path to the other, his ...

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Chapter 34. Winter 2006

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pp. 213-220

I’m in the vet’s office reading a six- month old copy of PEOPLE magazine (Celebrity tattoos revealed! J. Lo’s new perfume unveiled!). Mean-while, Barney does a little reading of his own, sniffing the air delicately until he finds the source of good news: bone- shaped vitamin tabs sitting in a bowl on the examining room counter. He can’t jump up and snatch a treat like in ...

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Chapter 35. February 2006

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pp. 221-226

...thigh. Looking down, Barney’s almond- colored eyes stare up at me, plead-ing under a furrowed brow. “Soon,” I say, resting my palm on the broad, flat space between Barney’s ears. He pushes his head into my hand, talking back Touch is our primary form of communication. If I ignore Barney for too long, he’ll wiggle his head under my unoccupied hand, flipping the palm up ...

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Chapter 36. Spring 2006

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pp. 227-232

...above the tree cover of the Twisty Tree Trail where it intermittently appears and disappears, wings fully spread to catch the currents on the breeze. At one point, the trees part to reveal a gray slice of sky into which the dark sil-houette once again glides into view. The bird kites downward on the wind, dipping low enough for me to identify the pale chest, dark head, and orange- ...

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Chapter 37. Summer 2006

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pp. 233-236

...sible to avoid it completely. Every time I go to the library or the bank or the drugstore, I pass by the entrance with its plantings of Russian sage and but-terfly bush, the white gazebo with the fancy fretting, the pale green cement pond shooting up its flume of water. It’s a constant reminder of my loss. I The second Tuesday in August, on my birthday, I stop by the drug store ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 237-238

...spent endless hours wandering down the roads of memory, struggling to find the voice and structure to the story I had to tell. And while I had to find that path on my own, the assistance and support of those who helped me along the way were invaluable in helping me to shepherd this project to This book would not have happened without the support and assistance ...


E-ISBN-13: 9781609173593
E-ISBN-10: 1609173597
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860726
Print-ISBN-10: 1611860725

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1st

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Subject Headings

  • Gary, Janice.
  • Authors, American -- 21st century -- Biography.
  • Dogs -- Biography.
  • Life change events.
  • Human-animal relationships.
  • Dog walking.
  • Self-realization in women.
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