Bruce Goldstein bravely shares what it is like to live with bipolar disorder in his book, Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac – The True Story Of A Man And The Dog Who Saved His Life. It took him eight years to finish this heart-warming and at times heart-wrenching story. He describes lows so bad he thought his cutlery was telling him to kill himself, and highs so manic he spent thousands of dollars on elaborate vacations that took him on helicopter rides over volcanoes. His illness interfered in his work in advertising, so he had to start freelancing. His first love broke up with him because she could no longer deal with his instability; mornings were the hardest for Bruce, and he often needed his mom or sister to encourage him over the phone to get out of bed.
Bruce didn’t just struggle with drastic mood swings, he also had Crohn’s disease; he had to keep Immodium around to prevent problems when he was away from home. The constant diarrhea was reason enough to hate going out; the depression made it even more difficult.
When he was given the diagnosis of bipolar he didn’t want to accept it. He refused medication but willingly attended therapy sessions. Eventually his drastic mood swings frightened him so much he agreed to take lithium and an antidepressant. When he worked with a psychologist and psychiatrist, the psychologist suggested Bruce get a dog. At first Bruce felt he couldn’t take care of the dog because he couldn’t take care of himself, plus he lives in a small apartment in Manhattan. But day after day, things happened that he felt were signs that he was destined to get a dog.
While reading in a park, a lady bug landed on his book and kept walking around the words “animals show us the way.” He saw people wearing t-shirts with a black dog, and while on vacation in the Hamptons, he found himself in a restaurant with an adjacent store with “Black Dog” items, where the t-shirts he was seeing everywhere originates. Then, in a book store, a man tripped and dropped all his items. Bruce helped him pick things up and the man thanked him by giving him a book. The title of that book was Go Dog Go. Bruce finally felt that the universe was trying to tell him to get a dog. He became really excited just thinking about the possibility, he went on a search to find the perfect one. He knew he wanted a black one, but he wasn’t sure which breed. While looking through dog books at a bookstore he found the one he just had to have, a black Labrador Retriever.
Looking for a black lab took him to pet stores and breeders across the tri-state area. Just when he was about to give up, a breeder returned his call; something inside Bruce told him she had his dog. He was so sure, he and a friend drove through a hurricane to get to the puppy before another couple could claim him. Bruce was confident, his car once christened “Toto” could make the journey through the storm to “Dorothy,” the breeder of the puppies. It wasn’t love at first sight, but Bruce was determined and felt somehow they were destined to be together. That is the day Bruce’s life changed for the better; he just wouldn’t realize it right away.
Instantly Bruce noticed that his puppy was a magnet for people. He hated socializing with strangers, yet he couldn’t avoid it when he was walking his puppy. To his surprise, he started to really enjoy the interactions with strangers and began to look forward to them. Bruce found people to be very supportive when he told them he wasn’t getting much sleep because the puppy was barking and whining all night, and they assured him once the puppy adjusted to his new surroundings he would calm down. After a few days of feeling awkward about not having a name for his puppy Bruce finally named him Ozzy, after the rock singer Ozzy Osborne, who is also known as “The Prince Of Darkness.” After all Bruce had been through he felt it was appropriate to name his dog after “The Prince Of Darkness”
I laughed out loud the first time Bruce gave Ozzy a bath. Ozzy got away and ran all over the house rubbing his wet body on the furniture, leaving hair and water everywhere, Bruce almost fell on wet linoleum while trying to catch the elusive puppy. Bruce wrote in such humorous detail it was like I was watching it happen.
The book is delicately sprinkled with beautiful photos of Ozzy, from puppy to full grown dog, a dog who brought life back into the dark existence of the author. Life still isn’t perfect, but with Ozzy by his side, Bruce gets through the rough spots; he even started dating again and eventually met his wife Brooke. Ozzy is 11 years old and Bruce knows he will have to say goodbye to him one day, but for now he is cherishing their time together.