By Julie Barton
Julie appeared well on her way to a successful career as an assistant editor. But suicidal thoughts kept crossing her mind, steeling her energy. Depression sunk in as she passed out on the kitchen floor while boiling a pot of water. She awoke coughing, turned off the burner, and then passed out again.
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The next day, Julie awoke long enough to call her mother and tell her about her breakdown. Her mom dropped everything to drive nine hours from Ohio to rescue Julie and bring her back home.
Back at her parent’s house, Julie continued sleeping for weeks, while we learn about her childhood. She had a very abusive older brother, Clay, who beat her often, threatened her life, and insulted her. Her mom seemed distant and unaware of Clay’s cruelty, while her dad spent most of his time at work. Clay grew out of his abusive behavior in his late teens, while Julie turned inward. Her mind produced an endless string of negative self-talk and her boyfriends agreed.
Julie always felt best when she had a dog. Her first experience with a dog was with Midnight the cocker mix, when she was a young child. Midnight hid under the bed trembling whenever Julie and Clay fought. When Julie was nine, her family got Blarney, an Irish setter puppy. When he was two, Julie watched him run in front of a school bus and run over.
Her parents encouraged her to see a psychiatrist as her depression lingered. Julie realized her situation was dire and felt that a puppy could help save her. Within a few weeks of starting anti-depressants, she adopted a golden retriever puppy.
Bunker had also chosen Julie and they developed an immediate bond. Julie now had responsibilities to house train and teach him. She could no longer linger in bed for hours each morning.
Their bond deepened as Bunker sensed her moods. His presence helped her to counteract her negative thoughts. Bunker brought “judgement-free listening and wordless faith.”
“I took a deep breath and felt the blackness loosen its grip. Dog medicine. I’d found it, and I swallowed it hole.”
As Julie recovered, her parents to encourage her to find an apartment and a job. She decided to act on a distant friend’s request that she move to Seattle and share a home with two guys. Her mom encouraged her and she drove Julie and Bunker thousands of miles across the country. Julie had an aunt in Seattle who could help with the transition.
As Bunker grew, several episodes occur where he hurt himself and could barely walk. He recovered by the next day, so Julie wasn’t concerned until it seemed to happen more often. The vet told her Bunker had the worst case of hip dysplasia he had ever seen and that she should euthanize him.
Bunker felt like air to Julie and she could never face putting him down. Even though she had little money, she decided to do the expensive and painful surgery on each of his hips. Julie and her housemates help her scrape up some of the money with a fundraiser. She saved and borrowed the rest.
While Bunker is recovering from his first surgery, Julie has a one-night stand. This threatened her blossoming relationship with one of her housemates. It also disappointed the friend who had invited her to Seattle. Depression starts to threaten Julie again. But this time she defeats her degrading self-talk, and owns up to her mistakes. She manages to salvage her relationships while Bunker heals from his surgeries. Bunker helped Julie through her depression and she gave him a new lease on life.
I liked this book, especially learning how depression can leave you very helpless. Bunker was an incredible dog that held a special bond. Not all dogs can do this. But I’ve often felt that dogs have a special medicine in their selfless love for their owners.
I give this book five out of five stars.