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Jilian Medford has traveled the world as Ian Sweet, the moniker she started playing and releasing music under in 2014. Seven years later, with three studio albums under her belt and tours across the US, the UK, and Europe, the pandemic forced Medford to stay still. It wasn’t all bad, though: Like many Americans, the lack of motion allowed her to adopt a dog, an experience that she described as “the best thing that ever happened to [her].”
Medford has been open about her struggles with mental health — the musician’s most recent album, Show Me How You Disappear, was written after spending two months in outpatient treatment for anxiety and depression — and building a relationship with her pup, Blueberry, was just the thing to make the unease of pandemic living more bearable. We talked to Medford about how she and Blueberry found each other, raising a rescue pup, and how he feels about her making music.
Blueberry is a rescue, right? Can you tell me about when you first found each other?
He is a rescue! I knew I wanted to adopt a dog and started following a few Instagram [accounts for rescues] in order to foster a dog, then hopefully adopt. The process was much more difficult than I thought, especially since so many people were trying to get dogs during the pandemic. But I followed Love At First Mutt, an LA-based dog rescue, and was really inspired by the work they were doing. They rescue dogs from Mexico as well as the LA area. It seemed like every dog they rescued ended up being so happy and I wanted to give a dog a chance like that!
So I signed up to foster. I got an email about Blueberry and a few other dogs who they were bringing over from Tijuana. Blue was in such rough shape in the pictures. He was completely bald from mange and just looked so...sad. But so, so cute — he looked like Dobby from Harry Potter. I immediately put in an application to foster him and the rest is history.
Rescue dogs often have some anxiety. Have you had any challenges with Blueberry?
Blueberry has a lot of anxiety around new people. I think something happened to him while living on the streets those first few months of his life, and that makes me so sad. It takes him a bit to warm up to new people, but once he does he’ll be your best friend and never leave you alone. It’s something we are constantly working on, though.
Did you name Blueberry? If so, how did you pick the name?
I did! When I saw his picture it just all made sense. His nose looked like a big blueberry and he also had all these blueberry sized spots on his belly! I feel like his name suits him perfectly.
Do you think Blueberry will go on the road with you once touring is possible again?
I wish! It’s going to be so hard to be away from him. I’m not sure about that, though — I’ll have to ask him, ha!
How did Blueberry help you with pandemic life?
I’m always laughing. He brings so much joy into my life, it’s crazy. I don’t remember life before him. He has also helped me a lot with my anxiety. He helps me get outside of myself and enjoy the little things.
You played every instrument on your most recent album yourself. How does Blueberry react when you play music?
He sometimes growls when I play guitar. I think he thinks it’s some big weapon!
LA is a great place for adventurous dogs. Is there anything in particular y’all do with Blueberry to enjoy the California lifestyle?
We love going to the dog beach. He goes CRAZY for it. Lots of hikes, dog parks, picnics — we have fun!
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Rachel Davies is a writer who has written for numerous publications including Vox, Wall Street Journal, and Architectural Digest and the parent of a beautiful Cocker Spaniel mix named Thea.