Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself by Julie Barton

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

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 so raw with emotions. As a reader I felt I was making this journey with her.

Readers are introduced to Julie Barton as a twenty-two year old, recent college graduate living in New York City and working for a publishing house. At first glance, it would seem that this would be a story of a young person finding her way in the world. However, we soon learn that Julie moved to New York to be with a boyfriend who has moved on to another leaving Julie beyond devastated. We also learn of the horrors of Julie’s childhood that have left her emotionally scarred and full of self doubt, unable to cope with even the most minor of bumps life hands out. We see Julie lying on her kitchen floor unable to move even though she has nearly started a fire. And then, Julie phones home and her mother arrives.

Shortly after we meet Julie and join her on her journey, we are introduced to Bunker Hill, a Golden Retriever who is going to become ever so important in Julie’s struggles. It seems that on the very day that we found Julie falling apart in her kitchen, Bunker Hill is born. It will be a while before the two meet, but the ground work is there.

This book breaks a lot of writing rules. The point of view jumps from the first person narrative of Julie in the present to the flashbacks of her live growing up. It switches to the third person for readers to follow Bunker. The time shifts around a lot as well. That said, the quality of writing is superb and the narrative is well laid out. I’m not sure if this book was written as a sort of therapeutic exercise to help exorcise the demons once and for all or as a guide book for others who suffer from debilitating depression or as a “by the love of a good dog I am saved” type book but for whatever reason it was written, it will become a classic. Dog Medicine should have a wide range of appeal. Dog lovers, people who struggle with depression or family members of people with clinical depression will all find solace in Dog Medicine. And if none of those things fit you? It is still a darned good read.

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