Anxiety, a frontier predominantly associated with humans. However, it’s essential to recognize that our canine companions can also experience anxiety. Anyone who has felt the grip of anxiety knows the tightness in the chest, the shortness of breath, the racing heart, and the haze that descends upon the world. Now, imagine your beloved pooch grappling with those same emotions.

Enter Chilli Chihuahua, a vibrant bundle of energy, strutting alongside his sidekick Sukhi (an equally tiny Chihuahua) and his devoted content creator, Yasmin El-Saie. But life isn’t always a walk in the park for Chilli. He is a reactive dog, one who battles anxiety and finds everyday situations overwhelming and stressful. Yasmin reflects on her discovery, saying, “I had no idea that dogs could experience mental health issues.” She continues, with a sigh laden with understanding, “It took Chilli’s anxiety for me to realize that I, too, am plagued by anxiety! It was as if Chilli became my mirror, reflecting the intense state I was in. Every time I ventured outside, I could feel my heart pounding, dreading the unpredictable world. And I witnessed it mirrored in his tense little body, bracing himself for the unknown.”

Over the years, Chilli and Yasmin have cultivated a special bond, working closely together to provide support in any way possible. “I never wanted Chilli to become a dog that I had to leave at home because he was too difficult to manage. I always envisioned Chilli being an integral part of my life, while still respecting his needs and boundaries.”

Yasmin has developed coping mechanisms for both herself and Chilli. For instance, she never leaves home without a dog bag. “The bag serves as Chilli’s safe haven, a cave-like space with a door that he can retreat to when the outside world becomes overwhelming. Additionally, he wears yellow gear to indicate to others that he requires space. He’s not comfortable with strangers approaching him.” Yasmin embraces a yogic lifestyle, incorporating meditation, sound therapy, and breathwork to regulate her own nervous system. “It’s fascinating to witness Chilli’s reactions to experiences like meditation, Reiki healing, and sound baths. He chooses which practices he wants to participate in, and it’s truly incredible to observe his relaxation and receptivity.”

Years of learning and training have inspired Yasmin to share her journey of living with an anxious dog through the “I am anxious too!” campaign on Chilliwawa’s Instagram account and website. Each week, Yasmin and Chilli offer valuable tips and insights on how to support and initiate healing for both your canine companion and yourself. “I am grateful that social media allows me to raise awareness for this crucial cause. People are often unaware that not all dogs are relaxed and easy to approach. When a dog reacts unexpectedly, it’s disheartening to see others misunderstand and label the dog as bad or aggressive. It would be wonderful if more people were aware of dog anxiety and reactivity, helping to prevent challenging situations for these animals. We simply need to improve our ability to understand and interpret their signals.”

Join the campaign by following Chilliwawa on Instagram.