Dog Medicine, How my Dog Saved Me from Myself

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.

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15 thoughts on “Dog Medicine, How my Dog Saved Me from Myself

  1. Cathy Armato

    This sounds like a great read. Dogs can definitely be the best medicine. I’m glad Julie and Bunker have helped each other heal and move forward.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
  2. Dolly the Doxie

    Whoa this was a tough read for me. But I understand how dogs help you with depression first hand and I’m glad Julie found help with her dogs. I so sorry about Chipper and hope you are doing okay. Sandra and Dolly

    Reply
  3. Hindy Pearson

    Thanks for sharing and for the recommendation. There really is no limit to the healing nature of our relationships with animals, if only more people realised that. The other day when I was out in the park with Jack we met an older man who we started talking to. Long story short he was very lonely, his wife was too afraid of dogs to have one and because he was so desperate for one he would walk through the park every day playing with the dogs he met. It made him feel so much better, less alone and although his story made me sad I liked knowing he found some company in the animals he so dearly loved.

    Reply
  4. Cathi

    This is one book I will have to add to my Thanksgiving reading list. Your review gave enough info to get the gist of the story but left me wanting to read more. Thanks for the great review!

    Reply
  5. Amelia Johnson

    I can understand this story very well. My life would not be the same without a dog. Anytime a dog has passed away, depression over the loss would lead me down a sleepy, uninspired path. Dogs are definitely essential for living a life full of gusto.

    Reply
  6. Joely Smith

    My daughter suffers from acute depression and anxiety. Her dog is her therapy dog and is always there when she is sad. My cat, Tibet is known to our entire family as the healer cat. If someone is sick and at our home she lays with them until they are better. She has literally saved my life more times than i can count because when I have low blood sugar due to type 1 diabetes she forces me to wake up to eat a snack! Animals are AMAZING! This book sounds VERY intense and honest! I will check it out!

    Reply

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