My dog helped me make a new life after I suffered crippling anxiety

“I’d been an actor for 15 years in London when I started to suffer from social anxiety,” explains Polly, 39. “I found myself increasingly incapable of getting on stage.

“So in 2017 I decided to leave the city. I also got myself a puppy, remembering how my childhood dog, Little Bit, had brought me so much happiness. I’d originally planned to call my new pup Bertie, but he was such a chill guy I gave him the name Dude instead.”

Polly initially relocated back to her family’s farm in Northamptonshire, but she’d always nurtured a dream of living by the sea – and it was to Margate in Kent.

“I didn’t know many people there, so it was a bit daunting, but with Dude by my side I feel like I can do anything,” she says. “Thanks to him, I was forced to go out and chat to people on the beach – he’s a good ice-breaker!

“He’s not a needy or greedy or barky dog; he just likes to be near you – or preferably sitting on you! He also sleeps like a teenager – I do have to push him out of bed if I want to go out for an early-morning walk, but once he’s out he’s loving life.”

'Dude brings me joy and he makes me feel brave – he's my superpower!' – Polly Chromatic

Dude is also the reason Polly opened her colourful lifestyle shop in Margate’s Old Town, which she named Little Bit after her first dog. “I wanted a job where I could have Dude with me all the time – and he’s the perfect shop mascot because he adores people,” she says.

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“He’s a really happy dog and people are always pleased to see him. He loves to sit in the window, wagging his tail and watching the world go by, and sometimes he sits outside the door and welcomes customers in.

“Dude and I come as a team – we do everything together!"

And the adventuring doesn’t stop there – the inseparable pair are getting ready to embark on a big trip. “I’m in the process of buying a van and planning a ‘joyage’ [joyful voyage], exploring the people, places and projects that bring happiness to people all over the country,” says Polly, who’ll be getting help running the shop while she’s away.

“Because Dude brings me so much joy, I want to bring more joy to other people. I know I’d never have the courage to do it if he wasn’t by my side. He makes me feel brave – he’s my superpower!”

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