I did it, Bunker. For You.

293810_10150907956054505_982279222_nIn 2012 I wrote a journal entry about how I was trying to write a book about my relationship with my dog Bunker. I did not want to trivialize our relationship or anthropomorphize him. I didn’t want to write a basic dog-love story, because that’s not what happened. The truth is, when I was suicidal, the only hopeful thing I could think to do was find a dog. Somehow I knew that as much as people around me might not understand, finding the right dog could help save my life, help me learn to live again, help me learn to identify good, healthy love. I was right. All of that did slowly happen, and I am forever grateful.

About five years after Bunker’s death, when I could finally think about him without crying, I set out to write our story. Below is the journal entry from when I was in the depths of book-writing, when the task of capturing our relationship with words felt like climbing four Mount Everests with no oxygen. One week from tomorrow that book will be out in the world and the gift of our extraordinary relationship will continue to sustain and fulfill me.

Thank you, Bunker. I did my best. I miss you every day. I love you, buddy.

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The 2012 journal entry

Author Interview with Sweatpants & Coffee

“When you’re depressed, people think that you can’t do anything, so they ask very little of you. In a way, you start to feel like they don’t trust that you’re capable of anything. By giving you space or letting you rest, they’re saying in the subtext, “You’re not well enough to do much right now.” This, of course, can backfire and force you to sink further. Bunker came to me with so many gifts, but also with so many essential needs: love, food, water, training, consolation, exercise, discipline, and I knew that he didn’t doubt that I could show up for him. I never once doubted that I was the one who could give this dog the best possible life.”

This is a quote from an interview I did with a great web site, the small-header-logoincredibly popular Sweatpants & Coffee. Their tagline is, A bastion of comfort and sanity in an uncomfortable world.  How great is that? Writer Jordan Rosenfeld sent me the interview questions via e-mail, and I took them with me on a writing retreat. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about and writing these answers, and I hope you’ll read the whole interview. It’s long, but filled with a lot of thought and love. Here it is.

P.S. 19 days until Dog Medicine Launch Day!

Things I Wish I’d Never Said (Here’s Another)

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My almost unobstructed view of MK.

I heard Mary Karr r­­ead in Berkeley a week or two ago. She was a shining beacon of honesty, this beautiful badass with a whip-quick tongue and more smarts than all of us in the audience combined. She got on stage and said things like, “Writing about my family set them free.” And then she turned around and said, “Oh, that guy. He was a complete nutburger.” I devoured Lit, her book about “getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; learning to write by learning to live.”

I sat in the audience clutching one of my last advance copies of Dog Medicine in my sweaty palm. I whispered to my friend Karen, “Do I give it to her?”
Karen said, “Yes! Of course!”
“You think?” I said.

We stood in Mary’s book-signing line. As I watched her smile and scrawl her name with a thick black marker in book after book, I thought about how voraciously I had read her books as a budding writer, how in-awe she left me with her honesty and structure, and how I remain floored that her book proposal for one book turned into three knockout memoirs.

Then I thought about how many years I’ve been working on my book, and how many tears I’ve shed and how many grey hairs I’ve sprouted and how many pounds I’ve accumulated sitting ass-in-chair. Then when it was my turn to give her my copy of her new book for her to sign, my hand shook and I held out my book. “This is for you,” I said, not nearly loud enough. “It’s my memoir. It’s not out yet. You can just recycle it if you want.”

You. Can. Just. Recycle. It. If. You. Want.
WHY?
Why do I do this?
Why? My life’s work? Reduced, by me, to recycle-worthy paper waste.

The thing is, I felt okay saying this at the time. I even felt a little relieved, because Mary probably gets a lot of readers coming at her, handing her all sorts of earnest, sweaty manuscripts.

But a few weeks have gone by, and I’m mad at myself. I should have said, “I poured my goddamned heart into these pages. This is the best I’ve got, and if it’s any good, it’s because of brilliant writers like you.”

She smiled, read Dog Medicine’s title and subtitle out loud and thanked me. I said “You’re welcome,” and walked off into the cool Berkeley night.

A few days later, I cracked open her newest title,The Art of Memoir, and read her first line: “No one elected me the boss of memoir.” I thought… Again…
WHY?
Why do we do this?
No man would think to write this disclaimer as the opening line of his craft book about memoir after publishing three best-selling memoirs. It wouldn’t even occur to him. But here we are, denouncing ourselves in our introductory lines.

So.
Mary, as your loyal reader, I anoint you: Boss of Memoir.
And I take it back.
Please don’t recycle Dog Medicine. If you can’t read it, at least leave it someplace where someone might find it. Let the pages live. I didn’t mean it. “Recycle the book.” I didn’t mean to say those words.

Dr. Adam Strassberg’s medical opinion: Read ‘Dog Medicine’

Back in March, 2015, an amazing parenting article called Keep Calm and Parent On went viral. Prominent Bay Area psychiatrist, Dr. Adam Strassberg, wrote about varying ways to help ease the very-real-angst of many teenagers who are super-stressed, anxious, sad, confused, and even sometimes suicidal.

He listed the following: 1. Sleep, 2. Talk, 3. Model Mental Health Treatment, 4. Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best,  5. It’s you and the teachers versus your teen, not you and your teen versus the teachers, 6. Get a pet, 7. Keep Calm.

Did you notice that? #6? Get a Pet! I nearly jumped out of my seat the first time I read the article, because it was filled with spot-on advice, so well put, and topped off with the one thing that saved me time and time again as a child and young adult: my dog(s).

Little did I know that when my publisher sent him an advance copy of the book, he’d be kind enough to reply with such a lovely review. I’m so grateful to be sharing  Dr. Strassberg’s incredible words about Dog Medicine.

  Julie Barton’s Dog Medicine provides a detailed and engaging account of a young adult suffering through a first episode of major depression. The etiology of Major Depressive Disorder is multifactorial – and Ms. Barton’s narrative gives due consideration to the various biological, environmental, situational and psychological factors which contributed to her illness.  She recovers from her depression with the help of medication and psychotherapy, however she returns to happiness with the help of a far more powerful cure – the love of a dog.

     Over the years, I have lost count of the number of my patients who report their lives having been saved by love for their dog or their cat. Our mammalian companion animals are literally “bred” to be perfect therapists: unconditionally loving, accepting, great at listening, warm, cuddly, always attentive, ever present, ready for petting.  Ms. Barton’s love of her dog Bunker pulled her through her darkest depressive episodes and out into the light. I recommend getting a dog or a cat to all my patients who have the resources and room for such a commitment. Now I will recommend Ms. Barton’s inspiring book Dog Medicine as well.

– Adam Strassberg, M.D., Psychiatrist, author of “Keep Calm and Parent On” and the Psychology Today Blog: Silicon Valley Psychiatry

Thank you Dr. Strassberg! For the review and also for the life-saving work you do every day. I’m so grateful for wise voices like yours.

Book Tour!

Somehow the stars have aligned and we’ve managed to pull together an upper-left-coast book tour. I am so thrilled and excited to announce these dates. I can’t wait to meet every single one of you, hear your dog love stories, your human love stories, and celebrate the Dog Medicine we’ve all had throughout our lives. VermontRoad

Tour dates here! 

This is just the beginning. Trust me. I’ll come to as many cities as will have me!

Goodreads Giveaway!

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Sadly, the giveaway has ended. In five short days, we had 1184 entrants and the winners hailed from Connecticut, Texas, Tennessee, Washington, Illinois, Canada & England.  Pretty awesome. Books are in the mail, oh lucky ones! 

Feeling lucky? Goodreads.com is giving away ten autographed advance copies of Dog Medicine. 

Enter to win your free copy now!

The contest starts Monday, August 17th and ends Friday, August 21st. Anyone can enter. Good luck!

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Advance Reviews of ‘Dog Medicine’ are coming in. I’m overwhelmed in the very best way.

Dog_MedicinecvrI am forever grateful to all of these astoundingly talented writers for reading and reviewing my book. 

Book launch date is November 10th!

Pre-Order Dog Medicine


SightHound

“Anyone who has ever opened their heart and asked an animal to teach them how to liveand there are so many of uswill be deeply moved by the story of Julie Barton and her soulmate Bunker.  In this honest, gloriously unselfconscious and compelling memoir, she does great honor, not only to her dog, but to the miracles made possible when logic, and even language, is not allowed to stand in the way of love.”

— Pam Houston, author of Sight Hound  and Contents May Have Shifted.


steve-almond-against-football

Dog Medicine is the kind of memoir that will bring tears of sadness and joy to anyone who has ever felt rescued by a pet. It is a memoir about how the right animal can inspire not just hope but mercy. Julie Barton’s prose is lyrical and unflinching, a gorgeous howl in the darkness that leads the reader into the light.”

— Steve Almond, author of Against Football and Candyfreak


41T9S8WDKFL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_“In Dog Medicine Julie Barton has the cure for the common memoir. Not only an account of the unshakeable bond between dog and woman, her tale is a clear-eyed exploration of how thoughtless cruelty damages our souls, and how love, both given and received, makes us whole again. You’ll come back to this book again and again.” —Samantha Dunn, author of Not By Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life


volt-rev1Dog Medicine was so powerfully written, so lyrical and true, I felt I’d experienced every moment, all the loss, the crushing depression, the compassion, the great unstoppable love. So much love. Julie Barton’s journey with her beautiful dog Bunker from despair to hope was a profound exercise in how to be healed. For that, I’m deeply grateful for having read this amazing book.” —Alan Heathcock, author of VOLT.

Unknown-2Dog Medicine accomplishes what only the most authentic writing can do: craft language so that readers live an experience. In this brilliant and lyrical debut memoir, Barton has written a narrative of inescapable appeal. The bond, here, between human and animal isn’t easy or sentimental — rather, it’s archetypal and magical. There is a Buddhist story of a Bodhisattva, an enlightened one, who refused to enter paradise until an ailing companion dog could also enter. Dog Medicine relates an equally powerful story of devotion, only related in real, worldly terms with heartbreaking consequences and rewards.”

— Sue William Silverman, author of The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew.


Unknown“It is not easy to explore the frightening landscape of depression with depth and surprising beauty. But Julie Barton has done just that. As someone who has lived with chronic depression for many years, I can tell you from personal experience how daunting and misunderstood this disease is. Not surprising that it takes the love and loyalty and unwavering sanity of a dog — any pet, really — to reach those of us struggling to find a way through the grips of melancholy. This, I know from experience, too. Read this book if you or someone you love is wrestling with depression. Read this book if you love dogs. Read this book if you want to remember what hope feels like. Just read this book.”

— Susan Chernak McElroyNew York Times bestselling author of All My Relations: Living with Animals as Teachers and Healers.


Unknown-1“There are times when another creature can hold our love until we can hold it for ourselves. And then, in perfect symbiosis, the beloved can become the lover, until they are one force. Dog Medicine shows us that this is not just possible, but sometimes, a matter of life or death.”

— Laura MunsonNew York Times bestselling author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is.


Unknown-3“Julie Barton’s memoir Dog Medicine is the most heartbreaking and heartwarming book I’ve read in years. It tells both the harrowing story of a depression so severe that Barton felt it might “vaporize her into
millions of tiny molecules” and the consoling story of her eventual recovery through the love of and for her beloved dog and “spirit twin,” Bunker. Reader, this book about how Barton’s dog changed her life will change your life.

— David Jauss, author of Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories.


Unknown-4You may think you’re about to read a book about a charming dog, or about struggling with identity in your twenties, or about how a young woman pulls herself together after a diagnosis of depression. But you’d be wrong. Dog Medicine is a love story — a great big beautiful honest touching intoxicating riveting page-turning instruction manual on the palpable healing power of love and forgiveness. Every word in this book is as honest and courageous as any I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot.”

— Robin OliveiraNew York Times bestselling author of My Name is Mary Sutter


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“Julie Barton’s wise, wonderful, impeccably written memoir is not just a book about how a puppy can help keep at bay the gray wolf of depression. It’s also a book filled with love stories and stories of people finding their better selves, all dramatized with novelistic suspense and complexity. In this age of hour-long therapy shows and sensationalistic self-depiction, Barton’s book holds true wisdom as it tells the hard-earned truths of mental illness, self-doubt, abuse, hope, family, forgiveness, connection with self and others, and finally something close to salvation. Barton gives real insight, conveyed through incisive, evocative prose. And she proves the adage that purpose comes not only from how well we are loved, but by how well we love.”

— Tim Parrish, author of Fear and What Follows and The Jumper.


“If you’ve ever loved an animal; if you’ve ever hated or doubted yourself; if you’ve fought against darkness—then Julie Barton’s memoir is your kind of medicine. Just as Barton and her beloved Bunker finding and saving each other feels meant to be, this woman was meant to write, so she could tell us this brave and beautiful story. Through the magic of their journey, I’ve had my own heart cracked open and healed. Like Bunker himself, this book is that most precious of gifts: a true soul companion.”

Ellen Lesser, author of The Shoplifter’s Apprentice and The Other Woman.


Unknown-6“A raw and honest memoir about Julie Barton’s clinical depression and how the love of a dog helped pull her back from hell. An eloquent testament to the resilience of humans and the healing power of canine love.”

— Susan Richards, New York Times bestselling author of Chosen By a Horse: How a Broken Horse Fixed a Broken Heart. 


“Julie Barton was haunted by a major depression that thUnknown-7reatened to topple her. What could one small puppy, Bunker, do in the face of such calamity? Only when Barton created a sacred place where she and Bunker could meet, a place without ridicule, doubt, sorrow, or anger, could the true healing begin. Her meticulous rendering of this transformation honors the power of love.”

— Jacqueline R. SheehanNew York Times bestselling author of Lost & Found.


41H7B09N4nL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Anyone who has ever loved a dog will relate to Julie Barton’s Dog Medicine. This memoir is a heartfelt tribute to man’s best friend.

–Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them


My Book Has A Birthday! Nov. 10, 2015

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How do you like the cover? Doesn’t our boy look so handsome?

I remember hearing Cheryl Strayed speak a few years ago when her incredible memoir, Wild, was first released. She repeated an amazing line from one of her famous Dear Sugar columns: “Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.” Guys, guess what? I know my book’s birthday! It’s November 10, 2015!!

Birth Announcement: 

Name: Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me From Myself

Due Date: November 10, 2015

Mama: Julie Barton

Can I get a woof and a howl?

Love you, Bunker. Miss you every day.