Salem Reads 2021 gets underway Jan. 22. (Courtesy/Salem Public Library Foundation)

Eric O’Grey was overworked, overweight, depressed and sick when he got a surprising prescription from his doctor: get a dog.

O’Grey went on to adopt Peety, a dog who had also seen better days. The two formed a tight bond that changed both their lives.

“Walking with Peety,” the 2017 memoir penned by O’Grey, is now included in the annual Salem Reads program that kicks off this week.  

Now in its fifth year, the Salem Reads program encourages residents around the community to read a book and discuss it through a variety of events over the next month that includes a documentary movie, panel discussions and art exhibit.

The program is put on by the Salem Public Library Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization that supports library and literacy programs.

“Walking with Peety” events start on Friday with an interview with the author on KMUZ 100.7 at 9 a.m.

In addition to interviewing O’Grey, radio host Joel Zak will also speak with local artists participating in an art exhibit at the Elsinore Fine Art Gallery from Feb. 3 through 25.

Kate Van Ummersen, executive director of the Salem Public Library Foundation, said it’s the first time Salem Reads has done a memoir.

She said the light and happy tale and appealed to people selecting the featured book.

Van Ummersen said the book lends itself to outdoor activities, like taking your dog for a walk in Riverfront Park.

She’s hoping that people who haven’t been able to participate in the past will be able to join the virtual events happening throughout February.

“I’m hoping that more people will participate because there’s more comfortable ways to be involved with it,” Van Ummersen said.

A Zoom talk with O’Grey will be held on Feb. 4 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Two days after that, the Willamette Humane Society Society and Marion County Dog Services staff will discuss adopting a pet.

The deadline to enter a furry best friends photo contest is Feb. 15. There will be prizes in the following categories: pets in clothes, pets in nature, pets and their people, pets at home, and pets with their animal friends. Judges will narrow the entries to a Top 10 in each category, with the final decision made by public voting in late February. Visit salemlibrary.org for a link to the online entry form.

A full schedule of events is available on the Salem Library Foundation website.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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