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Wild Ones: Alison Wu & Tilly

The wellness influencer talks pet-friendly décor and road tripping with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

by Rebecca Willa Davis
August 2, 2021
Alison Wu sitting on a brown couch with her dog
Courtesy of Alison Wu

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To call Alison Wu a wanderer would be an understatement; the wellness influencer has lived in 10 different places in the past 13 years. But the one constant in her life — besides the superfood-packed smoothie bowls and pastel-accented design sensibility she’s known for — would be her dog Tilly. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been by Wu’s side through it all, from the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest to a mid-pandemic move to Mexico City. We caught up with the blogger to talk about pup road trips, pet-friendly décor, and dealing with the guilt that comes with being a dog mom.

I love when Tilly makes an Instagram appearance. What’s she like IRL?

I always call her an icon. Anyone who has met her knows she has such a fierce personality. She just has a presence and is such a joy to be around.

Alison Wu with her dog

How did she end up in your life?

I lived in Italy for 10 months my junior year of college and I did an internship at a fashion buying office. When the internship ended, the woman who owned the office gave me a pretty generous stipend, which I wasn’t expecting. I had been thinking I wanted a dog, so I ended up using the money she gave me to get Tilly — named after her four-year-old daughter, Matilde. I’m from the East Coast and my family lives there, so I wanted a dog who I could travel with and who didn’t need a ton of running. So I decided on a Cavalier. I found her online, then my best friend and I drove to Salem, OR, where this woman had Tilly in the parking lot of a Kmart — I swear!

As someone focused on wellness, how does Tilly contribute to your well-being?

She’s definitely my emotional support animal. I’ve had her for almost 14 years, and she’s been through relationships and several moves. We’ve lived in 10 places together and now she’s moved to a new country with me. She’s been my best friend, through all of the things that I’ve been through. She makes me feel like wherever I go, I’m home.

a dog and a cat cuddle together on a blanket
Alison Wu's dog Tilly looks up at the camera

Does she help you stay active?

Tilly’s always been a super-chill dog. We joke that she’s kind of like a cat. She can be active, but mostly just wants to be around me. Tilly doesn’t even like going to the dog park — she’s the dog in the corner, sniffing the fence. It’s been nice living in Mexico City because I have a car and my guy and I will go away for the weekend; Tilly loves being in the country because I don’t keep her on a leash. If we’re at the beach or the park and she can go off leash, she’s way more into it. On a leash in the city, she’s like, Ugh….

You’re known for your superfood-centric recipes for humans. What’s been your approach to Tilly’s nutrition?

I don’t make her food, but I do try to buy her the best-quality dry kibble. I’ve fed her mostly grain-free food her whole life, but I’ve been reprimanded about how much I’ve fed her. Food is her main passion; she’s literally plotting every moment of her life based off of if food is involved. She was overweight for several years, so I got more regimented with how much I was feeding her and when. That’s helped her as she’s gotten older.

Alison Wu with her dog Tilly

How have you navigated the stressful parts of dog ownership?

I think the hardest part for me has been my travel schedule. Less about Tilly and more about the guilt and having to manage the logistics as someone who likes to go away. That’s the most stressful part, and something you really have to consider. I wouldn’t trade it for anything — she’s the best thing in my life — but it’s hard. And when she got heart disease it was really scary, because a lot of Cavs pass away from it. But every day with Tilly is a blessing, and I feel lucky to have had all these amazing years with her. Pets become like your children, and it’s hard to process some of that when you’re so attached and worried about them. I just try to be grateful — and every day I’m so grateful to have all the time that I’ve had with her.

You’ve got such a clear design aesthetic. Have you had to make any compromises when it comes to dog gear?

I honestly don’t have many accessories for her. I don’t love the dog bed vibe, so I went with a cozy sheepskin that goes more with my design vibe. Her leash and poop bag holder are from Wild One — I like that it’s our color palette, and I can wash it really easily. She doesn’t really like toys. If I bought her one she’d be like, What do I do with this?

Alison Wu's dog tilly
Alison Wu's dog Tilly

How did she handle the move down to Mexico?

Tilly’s such an adaptable dog. Being in college and moving around a lot, she’s adapted to that as her lifestyle. As long as she’s with me, she’s good. I sold 90% of my stuff, packed the rest in my Subaru, and drove down to Mexico from Portland, OR. She can’t fly because of her heart disease, so I wanted to make sure I could get her here safely. We went on this two-week road trip through Utah and Texas down to Mexico. I just had her sheepskin rug and her ceramic water and food bowls. She’s like, Great, where are we now? She’s never scared and she makes herself at home wherever she goes. We can all take lessons from Tilly!

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rebecca willa davis

Rebecca Willa Davis

Rebecca Willa Davis is a writer, editor, and brand strategist. She previously worked for Elle, NYLON, and Well+Good, and has written for The New York Times, Vogue, Glamour, Details, and New York magazine. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog, Pepita.