A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance
“When I opened the delightful cover and began my walk through the seasons with Gary and Barney, I entered sacred space. I will long remember this beautifully told story, one that so captured my attention, my emotions, and my sense of reverence for its layered splendor of language, place, reflection, and images. Short Leash is a treasure.” – Mary Jo Doig, April 2015
Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance, takes the reader on a walk in the park that becomes an extraordinary journey spanning three decades, one continent and a world of possibilities.
2014 winner: Two Silver Nautilus Awards
2014 winner: Eric Hoffer Award for Memoir
2015 winner: Sarton Women’s Award for Memoir
EXCERPT FROM SHORT LEASH
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 dog stopped straining and walked by my side. “Good boy, Barney”, I said, even though I was pretty sure he had no idea that “Barney” was his name.
We walked into the night, past the ranch-style houses, past the sewer ditch filled with singing frogs, around the bend where the road curved and the shoulder widened. Once again, the dog pulled ahead, testing the limits of the retractable leash. I pressed the button to stop the cord from reeling out, but just as my thumb hit the lever, the plastic coiling unit fell out of my hands and bounced against the pavement. The reel began spinning like a maniac, gobbling the cord faster and faster until it reached Barney’s heels, startling him so much that after a sharp yelp of surprise, he took off like a rocket. I ran after him, but he ran faster, terrified of the plastic monster clattering behind him like a string of Chinese firecrackers.
I could hear Curt laughing behind us. “It’s not funny,” I shouted back at him. Maybe it would be if I wasn’t so terrified of the dog getting hit by a car
Finally, I got close enough to step on the bouncing unit. Scooping it in my hands, I pulled on the line of cord, reeling Barney in like a big fish. The rest of the night I kept the leash locked in tight, afraid of what would happen if I let it go.
You cannot reason with a dog. I wish I could have told him that the faster you run, the louder it gets; that it’s nothing – really – only a square of plastic containing a cord, but you can’t explain such things to a scared animal. Or a scared person. Nothing is more terrifying than the ringing steps of an invisible pursuer.
How loud is a ghost? Let me tell you. As loud as a firecracker. As loud as tin cans tied to a dog’s tail. Louder than a scream. As loud as time and memory can make it.