3 out of 4 stars
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Anyone who’s ever owned a dog can tell you that they’re more than just animals – they’re family. Nicole Menton knows this better than most. In her memoir, Belly Rubs and Butt Scratches: How My Dogs’ Love Saved My Life, she explains how her five dogs helped her stay strong as she battled with depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
From the very beginning, I was struck by the author’s absolute honesty. She holds nothing back, vividly describing what she experienced during panic attacks and bouts of depression. She chronicles the awful intrusive thoughts that would plague her day after day, along with the painful events in her life that would often exacerbate them. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Menton to relive those dark periods in her life, and I admire her bravery in putting it all down on paper.
The writing itself is equally arresting. It can be hard to explain a mental illness to someone who has never experienced it. Depression is more than just a bad mood, and OCD is more than just alphabetizing your bookshelves, but getting those ideas across to someone with no frame of reference is tricky. I think this is why Menton made it a point to use powerful, evocative details to help the reader feel what she was feeling. It’s easier to understand how debilitating a panic attack can be when she writes that she felt as though her bones were rusting away like the remains of the Titanic. This is why I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a friend or loved one who is struggling with a mental illness. Menton’s detailed account may give you the perspective you need to understand what that loved one is going through.
Dog lovers will also enjoy this book. The author’s overwhelming love for her dogs almost drips from her words. Those dogs saved her life in more ways than one, and it warmed my heart to read about the positive impact they had on her mental and emotional state.
Overall, I’m happy to give this book 3 out of 4 stars. The author mentions that she wrote this book mostly for herself, as a way to better understand her own illnesses and coping mechanisms. While it is by no means lacking, it did lean a little more towards journal than memoir, missing a bit of the literary flair that would have made it a four-star work. I still highly recommend it to any reader who is dealing with mental health issues in themselves or in someone they care about.
Belly Rubs and Butt Scratches How My Dogs Love Saved My Life
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