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Barks and Books

Local animal lovers read local Short Leash writer

Short Leash author Janice Gary found relief from trauma in her rescued dog, Barney, and together they found strength to overcome their fears.

If you read Marley and Me and cried like a baby, we may have the book club for you.
    The readers in this club carry their passion about animals into their taste in books. They’ll read any animal-themed book. They started on The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and The Pitbull Placebo by Karen Delise.
    This month the young, unnamed group — mostly Anne Arundel County SPCA volunteers — is reading local memoirist Janice Gary’s Short Leash.
    In these readers, Gary has her natural audience.
    Her canine sidekick, Barney, was a rescue from the Annapolis SPCA shelter.
    Short Leash is a comeback story for both dog and human. Together Gary and Barney recover from what she calls “undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.” A once free-spirited 20-something, Gary became cautious after an assault. Her burley Lab-mix satisfied her need for protection.
    But Barney was dog-aggressive, scaring off potential threats like the dog that attacked him when he was a pup.
    The two grew into a codependent pair.
    They could stay home, avoiding both people and dogs. Instead they went on walks.
    Slowly but surely, through these therapeutic walks they recovered. She began to trust strangers and not fear every wind whisper, every stick breaking. Barney too, became okay with his status as a dog, willing to sniff and be sniffed by other dogs.
    Their life-changing experience was a story Gary needed to share. At Goucher College, she earned an MFA in creative writing. Short Leash followed over five years. Gary now teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College.
    Meet Gary and SPCA book club readers November 30 at book signings (11am; 2pm and 7pm) at Barnes & Noble, Annapolis Harbour Center on November 30. Each copy bought that day brings $3 to the Annapolis and Anne Arundel SPCA, whose volunteers also do gift wrapping for donations all day.
    On December 7 (1pm), Gary talks on Walking Out of Fear at Celebrate Recovery, 513 Center Dr., Severna Park.