Girl on a Leash
by Betty Lim King
Lenoir, NC, 1999, 224 pp, $19.95 (paper)
Memoirs of a dysfunctional Chinese girl who moves from Asia to Europe to America and finds salvation in her dogs.


ll my life I was on a leash
     I lived in three regions of the world: Asia, Europe, and America. Each was a phase of my life. In each I was on a leash, a leash that was transmuting in magical ways, affecting me profoundly. Whoever was at the other end guided and shaped my thoughts, desires, and purposes; gave joy or sorrow, healed my injuries -- and filled my life.
     As I traversed the world I made an inner journey from torment and destructive fixation on self to empathic rapport with other selves. Dogs became salve for psychic wounds, the leash of a conduit for strength and sustenance for the spirit.
     My earliest recollections were of being tightly reined in by an iron code of inflexible rules. The Confucian leash was taut, unyielding. It gave a sharp tug with the slightest deviation or dissent, much as in the non-Confucian China of today. In the Chinese family that is a given. It is its virtue, and its flaw. Faced with modernity, the family retreats and assumes a rearguard defense mode, becoming even more intolerant.
     Much as the code maintains stability, it also promotes backwardness. It is a social order that stifles rather than fulfills. All too often, it causes pain and unhappiness.

     Schooled in the liberating ideals of democracy, I could not reconcile yin and yang contradictions in the family. I was a misfit, a maverick. As such I suffered unbearable inner conflict. Before me stretched the prospects of a slow, wrenching slide toward the edge and oblivion.
     Fortunately, one gentle being after another came into my life and turned me around. They tugged me out of limbo onto a new existence, calmed my torment, and straightened out my life purposes and aspirations.
     The leash now carried a positive emotional charge, and began to convey joy. At last I had a constant companion by my side. Together we were a binary star system, Sun revolving around Sun, one reaching out to the other in ineffable and mysterious ways. Krishna came in many guises: from Poodle to Borzoi to Jack Russell -- and mutts.


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