Julie Barton’s book Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me from Myself tells her story of becoming healed by sharing her life with a golden retriever named Bunker. I have written about therapy dogs and have experienced the lifesaving intervention of our little Pomeranian, Puffy, when my husband was recovering from heart surgery. A dog’s unconditional love, which sees beyond all handicaps and touches our soul, can bring us out of grief or misery. After many years of psychotherapy and the introduction of the drug Zoloft, Julie Barton’s recovery begins when she meets a golden retriever puppy.
Everyone has experienced depression in their lives to some degree. Julie Barton experienced it to an extreme degree, a depression so deep she would sit for days with her face between two pillows on a couch unable to move. She experienced clinical depression and only through medical intervention, and the love of a dog, would she emerge out of the darkness to have a meaningful life.
A Journey Out of Depression
Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me from Myself is for mature and young adult readers as it has adult themes and language; however, it is a book that is so well written and so spellbinding that it was hard to put down. Would Julie ever find true happiness and love? Would she find her sanity? What is the underlining cause of her depression? Is it just a twist of fate or destiny that two souls, those of Bunker and Julie, would heal each other over a span of a dog’s life?
Life changed for Julie in 1996. “The moon on June 26, 1996, the day Bunker came into my life, was 68 percent full and waxing. Moment by moment, it grew bigger and brighter. Bunker and I found each other when the moon was half full, the light half returned. We would begin the process of growing and healing together right alongside the moon: brighter each day, little by little.” That amazing quotation is the essence of this inspiring story. It is how depression, in anyone who has had depression knows, can only lift “little by little” each day.
“I couldn’t imagine treating myself kindly, with gentle understanding,” she continues, “but I could, without question, do that for my dog. Perhaps part of what began to save me was that I started creating this sacred, safe space where he and I met. In this space, there was no ridicule. There was no doubt or loneliness. There was no sorrow or anger. It was just pure, beautiful being. It was us looking at the world with wide-eyed, forever hopeful puppy wonder.”
Bunker Knew the Sadness
Bunker always knew when Julie was sad. He would sit on her feet and look up with wise old eyes. “Could this dog somehow sense when I was sad and comfort me?” Julie asked. “I had heard of seeing-eye dogs. I’d heard of dogs who could sniff out drugs in suitcases. But a dog who could detect sadness?” By embracing her sadness, in a safe place, Julie was able to confront sadness, accept it, and overcome it. She describes her first day without depression as bursting soap bubbles!
This book is about one person’s unique journey through depression. Everyone has their own story about depression and how to deal with it. What is unusual about this book is the time setting, with the dawning of miracle drugs such as Zoloft, for treating what wasn’t really recognized as a true mental disorder just a few decades ago.
Release from Guilt
Ten years ago, I remember listening to a sermon about how depression wasn’t a real illness. It was in the beginning of winter and my Nordic depression (seasonal affective disorder) was just kicking in. Many years later, after reading Julie’s book, I found a release from my guilt about being depressed.
Depression was beginning to make sense. It wasn’t just feeling sorry for myself; there was a chemical imbalance in the brain, which causes depression. I felt liberated and happy. I could see the bursting soap bubbles! To walk away from any life-changing illness, is to see the world in a different way. The sunrise is more beautiful, the colors of flowers are more vivid and even the air is richer in oxygen.
My depression disappeared during my ongoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. Why? I don’t know. But as with Julie and Bunker, I too have a support system of a loving husband, friends, a mischief of mice and rats to care for in my rescue, three cats, and one Beagle dog named Sonny. I am in my second year after cancer surgery and doing well.
Julie Barton is married and has two daughters. She is published in various magazines and journals. Dog Medicine is available on online bookstores. It is published by Think Piece and the book has recently been picked up by Penguin Books.