Corgi brings cheer to campus

26 August 2022

Life as a student can be high pressure, but one charismatic corgi is helping to alleviate the stress of people studying at The Australian National University (ANU).  

Often found trotting through Kambri or chilling out at the dog-friendly office of the ANU Students' Association (ANUSA), 11-month-old Ally has achieved celebrity status since her human companion Kathryn Lee, a lawyer for the ANUSA Legal Service, started bringing her onto campus.  

"When things are a bit stressful at uni, like during exam time, we've posted on social media saying 'Ally's in the office, come and play with her', and we'll have about 60 students come in," Lee says. "They'll make a circle, and she'll just go from person to person. There's something very stress-relieving about a friendly dog."  

According to Professor Celia Roberts from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, research confirms the presence of pets in our lives can provide people with numerous benefits.  

"Pets, if loved and cared for properly, have documented positive effects on human health -- mental and physical," Roberts says. 

Lee, an ANU alumna, first fell in love with corgis after meeting a dog named Mia at an O-Week Market Day stall. When she heard about a litter of puppies not long after receiving her nomination for permanent residency in Australia, she saw the timing as a sign, and reached out to the breeder. 

After an intensive hour-long meeting, which she says was more challenging than any job interview, Lee learned that she had been matched with one of the corgis. She named the puppy Personality - or Ally, for short.  

 "She definitely lives up to her name," Lee says. "Every morning she gives me that sassy, personality-filled look that says 'come on, Mum, it's time to go for a walk'." 

Since first setting foot at ANU, Ally has taken her role as the unofficial mascot of ANUSA in her modest stride. ANUSA's former canine representative was Minty, the beloved chocolate Labrador of Operations Manager Eleanor Boyle.  

Lee recalls making many trips to the ANUSA office to visit Minty during her undergraduate degree when she was feeling under pressure. 

"I'm glad Ally can continue his legacy of bringing stress relief to students," she says. 

Ally's favourite place is Kambri, as it's where she's most likely to meet new friends and admirers, Lee says. Her popularity with students is so high that Lee says she's heard rumours of a 'cult of Ally' arising in the residential halls. 

"Every time I bring her to campus, she will greet at least 20 people," Lee says. "You just see people's smiles whenever we go. People come up for a pat or to ask about her." 

This kind of interaction can be good for both dogs and their owners, Roberts says. 

"Dogs need to go outside and to socialise, so living well with them often takes us into social settings with other dogs and humans on a daily basis."  

While there's no doubt that animals like Ally bring joy to many of us, Roberts says it's important for owners to make the effort to bring joy to their pets in return. She notes that there are studies showing that many pets are ignored and left under-stimulated, and that difficult behaviour and poor health can arise as a result of this neglect.  

"We are key, powerful members of their multispecies families, for better or worse," Roberts says. "We can give them a lot of attention and love and provide them with exciting experiences."  

Although Ally hasn't celebrated her first birthday yet, she and Lee have already had their fair share of adventures. 

"Ally brings both chaos and comfort to my life," says Lee. "My mental health is the best it's ever been. 

"Having such a sassy corgi to be responsible for, someone to get out of bed for and go for walks with, someone that gives me unconditional love - all these things have made my life all the better."