A Streatham-based dog walker said her puppy helped save her life after struggling with depression.
Laura Ochoa, 33, left her corporate property job four years ago after she suffered a breakdown, having started at the company in 2008.
Ochoa took over south west London dog walking business Go Walkies London and said Alba, her now three-year-old Siberian Husky cross Golden Retriever, played a major role in her recovery.
Ochoa said: “She helped save my life.
“She was the reason I had to get up – I had to feed her, I had to take her out and it leads to actually meeting people.
“I made director at my company by 28 and got there and thought ‘Oh my god, I’m absolutely miserable’.
“I’d been climbing this ladder, going through the motions and I’d forgotten who I was.
“When I made the decision to not go back, I literally walked myself back to health.
“For six months it was just myself, the dogs, and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, I loved it.”
Although the pandemic initially forced her business to close, Ochoa’s four-person team has since resumed dog walking.
Yet giving birth in April to her baby daughter Maggie curbed Ochoa’s ability to go dog walking.
She said: “I’m desperate to get back out there.
“It’s interesting watching my baby with my dog, they just muddle along so beautifully together.
“They’re almost more in sync than I am with either of them.
“There’s that purity between them, they don’t have any drama.”
Ochoa said she believes dogs allow people to meet and form relationships in places they might not usually do so.
She explained: “Yesterday I was walking my dog and there was an old man sitting on a bench.
“He started up a conversation and I thought ‘I wonder if he’s spoken to anybody all day’.
“He’s isolated, locked down on his own and Alba was a conversation starter for him.
“It really was just a perfect example of what they enable: they bring joy to people.”
Dr Nicholas Walsh, a lecturer in developmental psychology at the University of East Anglia, says science supports Ochoa’s belief.
He said: “Seeing friendly dogs can cheer us up.
“Owning a dog seems to interact with marital status. Couples with dogs tend to report greater wellbeing, but single people tend to report lower wellbeing.”
Ochoa said Alba brings her endless joy, and believes her daughter may grow up to love dogs too.
She added: “She’s a little dog walker in training.”
Featured image credit: Laura Ochoa