Picture the scene. It’s one of those horrible wet and windy crappy cold days that we do so well in the UK. There’s no way in hell I want to go out in this, especially not the way I’m feeling.
But there’s the dog, she doesn’t care that I feel like crap today. She doesn’t care that the weather is rubbish, she just wants to get out and play. With me. Really? Yes really. And you know what, it’s been the best therapy I’ve ever had.
I think I can consider myself one of the lucky ones in life. I had a good upbringing, fit and healthy, got an amazing family. I guess I fit into the ‘big jolly guy’ category. I hope I do, that’s nice. But yet, I’ve suffered a bit too. I broke my back which put paid to my hopes of playing at a decent level of cricket. I then had to have an operation a few years later when I thought everything was getting better and was reduced to living in my sisters windowless basement smoking far too much weed to care.
I lost my dad in my 20s. Not that unusual, but still something that can have a massive effect on my mood. The bit that very few know about; I’ve suffered with social anxiety since the age of about 10. When I was younger it manifested in basically throwing my guts up in pretty much any social situation, especially where girls were involved. Smooth right.... But as I say, I am still one of the lucky ones in life and yet I still get down. However, as I’ve got older I’ve realised this very much makes me one of the usual ones as well. Whoever we are, whatever we do, we still have our self doubts that can break us.
I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do something to help people, just never quite sure what. I started to get a good idea of what it was and decided the place to start was a psychology and counselling degree with the OU. In the meantime I’ve been looking to see where else I could help, through talk groups and charities, but I also started thinking about what had helped me hugely, and that was the fresh air and getting out with my dog, the good it does me is for another time. But when I was reaching out to others, part of my message always said, come on a dog walk and it reaffirmed what I already knew. This was a way I could help people. By giving them what I had. That time out, that time away, no signal, no noise but nature, just time.
And that in a nutshell is the basis of Dudes & Dogs. Helping others by doing what helped me.