Reviews: Dog Medicine

A Stunning Memoir; Poignant and Revealing

Dog Medicine takes on the stigmas surrounding mental illness and medication, with Barton bluntly crediting SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, used to treat depression), with saving her life. It also addresses contributing environmental factors. The grace with which Barton navigates her complicated and often abusive relationship with her brother bespeaks great authorial maturity. Her fluctuations, all of which are marked by both self-examination and internal turmoil, may serve as a compelling model for those who are battling any variation of depression. The raw, poetic flavor of Barton’s prose eases her delivery.

A very specific hero also receives his due in the book. Bunker Hill, the retriever puppy with whom Barton feels an instant, soul-level connection, runs throughout the work as the figure who buoys her when she’s most at risk of relapse. He is born on the day she breaks down, is the first desire she’s willing to name after accepting her depression, and is her companion through the risky new adventures she undertakes. “Our meeting felt something like…two universes colliding, two hands clasping,” she writes, and this sense of connection proves life-saving to both dog and owner.

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A Heartfelt Page-Turner, With Writing of Clarity and Precision

Barton writes with simple clarity and precision about her depression and its effects on her life, and about her bad choices in relationships with men. Her relentless drive toward self-destruction was eventually healed by her crucial, life-changing relationship with her dog, Bunker. Through the memoir, the author shows a captivating ability to observe the interplay of external events and her inner life. Along the way, she discovers, through Bunker’s unconditional love, her own capacity for self-realization. When a medical issue threatens to cripple or even kill Bunker, readers will wonder whether the dog—and Barton herself—will survive.

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Can the Love of a Dog Be as Potent As an Antidepressant?

It’s not a secret that our dogs bring us joy. But it’s more than that — numerous studies cite physiological benefits. People with pets get sick less and recover faster. Pet interaction tends to lower anxiety levels in subjects, and thus decrease the onset, severity, or progression of stress-related conditions.

In Dog Medicine, Julie Barton takes this a step further. She writes about how a debilitating depression that was eluding doctors, therapists, and prescription medication, was helped by only one thing: the adoption of a golden retriever puppy whom she name Bunker.

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One of the Most Moving Books I Have Read

Dog Medicine is one of the most moving books I have read. EVER. The author has bared her soul for readers and taken us on the self-discovery journey with her from a complete breakdown through a grueling recovery. It is a heart-wrenching trip. There have been others who have shared how a dog in their lives have pulled them out of grief or helped them through alcohol recovery, but I have never read a book that was this raw with emotions. As a reader I felt I was making this journey with her.

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Magical, Hopeful, Moving, and Loving

There are few books that capture the immense weight of major depression to such a devastating level; and fewer that almost magically rescue that wounded narrative into a hopeful and loving story. Barton’s style is simple, honest, and captivating. It openly airs the full brunt of a lifetime of debilitating mental pain, and creates for new growth in recognizing the beauty and loving acceptance of the natural world and those who love us most unconditionally—our pets.

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Elegant and Loving; Anyone Who's Loved a Dog Will Relate

Anyone who’s ever loved a dog (or a cat, or a bunny, or any pet) will relate to Piedmont author Julie Barton’s memoir. While in her twenties, living in New York with a decent apartment and a career others might envy, Barton fell into a serious depression. Her mother, responding to Barton’s strange and desperate phone call, brought Barton back to her hometown in Ohio, but nothing lifted her despair. That’s until she adopted a retriever puppy she named Bunker. Barton examines incidents that led to her depression and how the bond with Bunker helped guide her through it, using elegant, loving prose.


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People We Love: Julie Barton

Julie Barton’s Dog Medicine is probably one of the toughest reads I’ve encountered, and I mean that in the very best way possible. I saw myself so clearly in Julie’s memoir of mental illness and the road to recovery she found through her golden retriever, Bunker, that it would probably be easiest for me to tell you about how often I didn’t cry. This book is real — real hurt, real healing, and real love. That love being between a woman and her dog.

We don’t give enough credit to the animals in our lives, despite how much they mean to us. Connecting with them creates a relationship so simple and unconditional that we often forget to regard it, but not Julie. Seeing that relationship articulated so beautifully in Dog Medicine made me want to scoop up all the important pups in my life (eternal gratitude to Dodger, Reno, and Lila) and hold them forever. We all have a Bunker in our lives, and I’m so grateful to Julie for telling us about hers.


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A Heartwarming Tribute to the Healing Power of Animals

Barton expresses a supernatural harmony between herself and Bunker.  Before their predestined paths converge at a breeder’s rural farmhouse, Barton uses astrological imagery to link her depressive inability to get up off her kitchen floor to her Golden Retriever puppy’s young life: “the second day of Bunker’s life and my second day on the floor, there was a partial solar eclipse…No light for me.  No light for Bunker.”  The celestial darkness both she and Bunker experience begins to fade with a waxing moon the night of their meeting.

Bunker becomes Barton’s best medicine, and his need for daily care and exercise pulls her from the depths of mental illness. A heartwarming book, Dog Medicine serves as a tribute to the healing power of animals.



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A Bittersweet Story, Memorable and Tender, Etched in my Heart

Thank you Julie Barton for sharing your touching story. Reading of Julie’s battle with depression was quite affecting. Depression is ugly, often glided over, reading this young woman’s downward spiral you understand its seriousness. I hope this story serves as a slap in the face to a term most are desensitized to. As she discloses her turbulent and abusive relationship with her brother you begin to grasp the origin of Julie’s pain. Her suffering and struggle with depression brought me to tears, in fact I cried through the entire book, yes, it impacted me greatly. No doubt Julie and Bunker were meant for each other, they really were each other’s salvation. As an animal lover, a dog owner, no wonder Julie and Bunker penetrated my heart, I understood their unbreakable connection. I applaud her for her candor in sharing the very intimate details of her life, her missteps and successes. Julie demonstrated the capacity of acceptance, to give and receive love, and forgiveness. I’m happy she finally found the peace, love and happiness she deserved. A bittersweet story etched in my heart, memorable and tender, with all certitude an unconditional love story.

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A Raw and Moving Memoir

Piedmont author Julie Barton delivers a raw and moving memoir about a dark period in her life during which, at age 22, she plunged into a severe depression. Family and therapy brought her back from the brink, but it wasn’t until Barton adopted a golden retriever puppy named Bunker that she began to fully heal. Dog lovers everywhere will recognize the deep bond that she and Bunker shared.

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An Ode to the Healing Power of Man's Best Friend

Dog Medicine tells how Bunker, a golden retriever, pulled its owner out of a depression that brought black moods and a little voice saying, “End it all”. Barton begins by painting a picture of her weakness concerning men: she preferred bad boys who loved and left to kind souls who cared for her. She was also a chain-boyfriender, never giving herself much time between relationships. The realisation deepens her crisis and comes at a time when she needs to be strong for the other male in her life. Her dog is diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia and the recommendation is that he be euthanised. The book is a good reminder of how pets can be a great distraction and help order one’s perspective. Dog Medicine improves chapter by chapter, beginning as a young adult’s book of lovelorn agonising and ending with deeper considerations.

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Pets as Therapists: Exploring Emotional Benefits of Dogs, Cats

Julie Barton was sitting on the couch one day with her head in her hands, utterly defeated by the severe depression that filled her with sadness and self-loathing, when she felt an unexpected warmth in her toes. Her fluffy red golden retriever puppy, Bunker, was sitting on her feet.

“He leaned against me, and it seemed to me to be very deliberate,” she says. “He looked at me like, ‘Are you better?’ or ‘Did that help?’ and I thought, ‘Either I’m going totally crazy, or he sees me.’ And I decided to do one hopeful thing, which was to trust that feeling.”

Barton’s new memoir, “Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself,” joins a growing list of books, both fiction and nonfiction, that highlight the role pets can play in emotional healing. While the iconic pets of the past — Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Benji, “That Darn Cat” — saved humans from physical dangers, the furry heroes of books such as the national best-seller “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him” (Hachette) and the novel “The Dog Who Saved Me” (St. Martin’s Press), help their owners fend off depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Science is moving in the same direction, with research suggesting that dogs bring down stress levels, encourage physical activity and reduce depression.

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A Moving Testament that Creates Empathy For People With Depression

Dog Medicine captures the roller coaster of recovery. Though sad and earnest, Barton also tempers her memoir’s darker scenes. One particularly humorous moment occurs when she considers taking Zoloft, “hoping for weight loss and skin improvements, but instead [finding] weight gain and loss of libido.” Barton begins treatment, but not without wondering: “There were others like me. But where?” A moving testament, Dog Medicine preempts audiences of animal lovers and those who struggle with mental illness from asking the same question.

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The Moving Memoir You Must Read

“I believe that when I was suffering most dearly, the universe sent me a healer in the form of a dog,”Julie Barton writes in the prologue of her moving canine love tale. In her early twenties, Barton seemed like any twenty-something woman working in New York—until the depression building up under the surface engulfed her. In childhood, her older brother had bullied her incessantly; more recently, her boyfriend had cheated. But nothing was harsher than her own internalized judgments:

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Does Your Dog Have a Soul?

Does your dog have a soul? Your cat? Can animals embody the divine?

A dog named Bunker kinda makes me think, yes, maybe. Julie Barton calls Bunker her soulmate. They were as emotionally close as a dog and a person can be. But, to hear Barton tell it, there was more than just friendship going on here between dog and human. There was healing.

In her fine memoir, “Dog Medicine,” Barton describes her sudden descent into severe depression and the golden retriever, Bunker, whose devotion became her salvation. That’s the way Barton tells the story: I’d add that Barton’s devotion to Bunker played no small part in her return to health and life.

Barton begins her book with “I hope you’ll see yourself in this book.” I don’t see myself in this book. I don’t have depression, not the major type anyway.

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Perhaps It Should Have Been Called 'Amazing Grace'

It’s the story of her struggle with clinical depression, and perhaps it should have been called “Amazing Grace”: Barton was lost, and now she’s found, and what found her was not God but a golden retriever named Bunker. It’s a harrowing story told with gentleness and wit. If the other books here are about how we can help our pets through rough times, “Dog Medicine” is about what they do for us. If we treat our pets like children, maybe it’s because they have the power to turn us into the responsible, loving people we want to be.

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