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How Alison Wu’s Dog Is a Positive Force for Her Mental Health

The lifestyle blogger and creative director’s Spaniel helps her stay grounded:
“When life gets inevitably turbulent, Tilly offers me much-needed stability, support, and calm.”

by Alison Wu
May 17, 2022
Woman laying on tan couch beneath large windows showing trees and sunshine with her dog laying beneath her
Courtesy of Alison Wu

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Having a pet is something that’s been a constant positive force for my mental health over the years. Actually, over my whole lifetime. I grew up with dogs as a child and as soon as I felt ready, I got one of my own. It’s hard to imagine my life without my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Tilly.

I got her when she was 11 weeks old (I was 21), and we’ve been together ever since — for the last 14 1/2 years. We’ve lived in over 10 different houses together. Tilly’s been with me through breakups, a layoff, heartbreak, divorce, and an international move. She’s been my constant companion, my rock. She’s like my baby, my partner, and my best friend all rolled into one. When life gets inevitably turbulent, Tilly offers me much-needed stability, support, and calm. Plus, she’s a beacon of joy and happiness in my life.

Groundedness and Consistency

Tilly provides a level of consistency to my life that helps me stay grounded. We have our daily routine, and I know that no matter what comes up or where we are together, I will always stay committed to it. In a lot of ways, she gives me purpose and helps me maintain a daily cadence. In 2020, after living in Portland for 12 years, I made a huge move down to Mexico City. Switching up my life completely — moving to a country where I barely knew the language or anyone there — was extremely scary at times. Tilly offered me familiarity and groundedness at times when everything else felt like it was spinning around me. Tilly feels like home. Tilly is home to me. When I have her by my side, I feel safe. I feel comforted. 

Calm Presence

Tilly has always had this calm, stable energy about her. Even as a puppy people would ask, “How is she so chill?” I can get pretty wound up given certain circumstances, and have struggled with anxiety most of my life. Most days my mind is pretty active and I’ve really had to incorporate practices that foster stillness and peace. I’ve leaned on Tilly’s energy as a calming force in my daily life, and also when I’ve struggled through periods of intense anxiety or big life changes. She loves to snuggle and lay in my lap. She’s even been known to come curl up while I’m meditating. She’s never been a super active dog, needing lots of walks or running, but she always, always wants to be near me. So long as she can keep her eye on me, she’s content.

Reduced Loneliness When Working From Home

Since I went freelance and then started my own brand in late 2015, I’ve always worked from home. If you’ve ever worked from home, you know it can be quite isolating unless you make a concentrated effort to leave the house and interact with others. Having Tilly has helped me tremendously. We love to wander around the neighborhood, stopping at our favorite coffee shop, where everyone knows Tilly. I never really feel actually alone, and taking her for walks forces me to get out and have a change of scenery. Tilly isn’t a replacement for human interaction, but she certainly makes my days feel less lonely and gives me gentle reminders to get up and get outside at different points throughout the day.

Joy

Animals are pure joy. Their innocence, playfulness, and exuberance are all healthy reminders for us as human adults to find our joy and not take everything so seriously. Even just looking at Tilly, or any dog or cat for that matter, makes me smile. I love having her around during the day to remind me to smile, to be joyful, to play! 

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Alison Wu

Alison Wu is the founder of Wu Haus, a holistic lifestyle brand and a place where she shares what inspires her in the realms of food, travel, wellness, style and design. She also collaborates with makers and artists to create intentional products meant for the home and to be worn. She lives in Mexico City with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Tilly.