Posted 2 months ago ago
Ali Smith, originally from Basildon, Essex, started to struggle with her mental health after working as an accountant in London.
She found herself extremely anxious, crying at work and “just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel”.
She said: “I found the job unfulfilling. I couldn’t see the point of continuing in a job I had no desire for.”
Ali was also struggling financially which resulted in isolation from her friends.
She said: “I was pushed into such a dark place. Rent was so expensive that I couldn’t afford to go out and was constantly being pushed out by tenants.
“My mental health deteriorated beyond belief.”
Her employers did help at the time, though, as Ali added: “They were a Danish company that was good to their word and allowed me to take time off work and attend group cognitive behaviour therapy.
“However, I found it super degrading and hated it. I was then told the waiting list for one-to-one therapy was seven months.
“I was suicidal and just told to hang on.”
Thankfully, she was given access to therapy through a HR work plan and went on to attended for one year.
Ali said: “I slowly but surely reducing my appointments until I felt like I could manage my emotions again.”
Although therapy had previously helped her mental health, Ali decided to buy her German Shepherd, Indie, once she became a homeowner.
Ali with hero dog Indie, a German Shepherd cross
She was later made redundant at just aged 27, and was terrified about how she would cope during lockdown when spending so much time unemployed and alone.
She said: “I actually felt completely lifted out of my depressed state so when Covid hit, I dealt with it much better than a lot of my peers and that’s largely because of Indie.
“He gave me that element of routine, something to come home to, and loved me unconditionally.
“After redundancy, I wanted to find a job that I loved, then one day I looked at my dog and I thought ‘I love you’. I wanted to work with dogs! That’s when I immediately looked into dog walking, then later dog training.”
Ali, who now lives in Maryland, US, used her mental health battle to launch her own business, Rebarkable.
She works with puppy owners to help them make the best of their dogs so they can raise a fun, capable, confident and fun member of the family.
She added: “My approach to training is how I approach my mental health. If you care about what your emotional needs are for your dog, you in turn care for yourself.
“I genuinely believe a dog can be responsible for lifting people’s moods. It’s a unique bond, the relationship between an owner and their dog is undervalued.
“I wanted to raise awareness for mental health and why pets can be amazing to help with it.
“Therapy helped to find out the problem – I felt like a pot on a stove, just the tiniest problem caused the pot to boil over.
“I now don’t know what I’d do without Indie, he puts a smile on my face even on my worst days.”