By Darran Rowe

I had everything I ever dreamed of, the beautiful wife, the big 4X4 car, the wonderful city house, and an awesome job working for an investment bank in Canary Wharf, London. And I had only just turned 30 years old.  Life for Darran Rowe couldn’t have been any better. Or so I thought. 

And then on September 11, 2001 the wheels for a devastating plan, were put into motion and unknown to me, by the end of Christmas, my life would be changed for ever. You see it wasn’t just the towers that fell that day, it was also the start of the collapse of hundreds of peoples lives throughout the world due to the impending financial crisis that swallowed the entire globe afterwards.

I remember coming into work early that day, to get a head start on the project I needed to complete by the end of the week.  As I went through the monotonous morning ritual of logging on to the financial IT systems, I realised this time it was different. This time my password didn’t work, it hadn’t expired, it was revoked?  

After that it all seemed like a dream, my phone rang and I was asked to go to the board room to meet my boss. It really hadn’t dawned on me what was happening, I really thought I was just going for a chat. Then as a I saw a colleague walk past with his head down, the realisation of what was about to happen hit me in the pit of my stomach. It burned like a hot poker. Surely they didn’t mean me, I had just been given a bonus, not 6 months ago for great work? But as I entered the board room it was obvious what my fate was to be this day. And as those chilling words echoed around the room ‘Your job is no longer necessary’ I collapsed inside. What was I going to tell my wife, my dad, my friends? How was I going to keep my house, my car? Then I stopped thinking and shutdown completely. 

I remember going through many emotions while in the taxi, that the company kindly paid for me to go home in. I also remember crying and burying my head in my hands. It was obvious that the Taxi driver had been briefed about the situation, as he spoke only 7 words to me for the whole 40 minute journey. ‘It will be fine son, don’t worry.’, he said. I didn’t realise at the time, but these words would stay with me for a very long time and become my mantra for many year afterwards.

I would love to say that I, Darran Rowe was strong of mind and bounced back from this minor setback with gusto. But unfortunately that certainly wasn’t the case and like so many I went down hill at an alarming rate. Negative thoughts, and loss of direction sent me spiraling into a state of depression.

I lost my self respect and my dignity, and the inevitable lack of motivation for life turned me into a super couch potato. And then the weight just piled on. In the short space of a few months I went from just under 80kg up to a staggering to 125kg with a 46 inch waist. And I was only 171cm. I was a walking medical time bomb. But at that time I just didn’t care.

Now I hear you asking how long did this go on for. And the short answer is far to long. But one day I woke up and had an idea. I’m really not sure where it came from. I don’t remember discussing it with my wife, or anyone else for that matter. It may well have been inspired by the Universe itself. But that morning I woke up and decided,

I was going to buy a dog. 

We had a garden, and I had the time, so what more did I need. Now I was quite a spontaneous person, when on form, and this was one of those moments. So that morning my wife and I got in the car and drove to the East London Puppy Pet Shop to buy Man’s best Friend. Obviously we hadn’t done any of the things that I so strongly recommend to my clients, like researching the breed and the breeders. We had nothing setup at home for a dog, but I was adament I was going to get a dog. And it had to be today. 

We both went into the shop with dreams of buying a German Shepherd or a Golden Retriever. Thirty minutes later we left the shop, the proud owners of TWO scrawny little Irish Setter Puppies or Red Setters to most people. Yep, not quite what we had planned. But fate was guiding us down a amazing road, one that would change my life completely. I just hadn’t realised it yet.

Now anyone that knows anything about Irish Setters, and at the time I certainly didn’t, could tell you that they need lots, and I mean lots, of exercise. 

The problem was I was a walking wreck, still 125kg and now with a bad back, the idea of walking for a long period of time was not a pleasant one. But once I looked in to those adorable, butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth eyes, it all changed. For the first time in along time, I took a good look in the mirror and actually saw who I was, or more importantly what I had allowed myself to become. I guess I had just buried my head in the sand over the last 6 months, as it was too painful to deal with the problems in my life.  

But for some reason, when I was with these little dogs, the pain seemed to go away and life didn’t seem quite so bad. To say that my newly acquired friends were my salvation is putting it mildly. I can definately stand here today and say without doubt,  that if it wasn’t for my Irish Setters I would probably not be here today. The bond I formed with these two dogs over the next year gave me the strength to tackle my issues and my weight. Firstly I had a reason to get up in the morning, if I didn’t my dogs were not happy, as breakfast time was very important to them. During our daily walks in the park, I got the opportunity to clear my head and give myself the space to heal my emotional wounds. My dogs gave me a purpose and a reason to celebrate being alive again.

By the time they were 1 years old I had lost nearly 45kg and was back to the weight I was before my life was turned upside down. I was now running with my dogs in the park, and had even made the decision to go back to University to retrain as a teacher. Life was finally moving in the right direction.

Over the next decade our canine family grew to 5 dogs, our weekends were completely absorbed by agility competitions, we changed of residency moving to New Zealand, and of course  Mindfulness4dogs was born.

Our dogs will always hold a special place in my heart as they have helped me so much during my life. They have been my rock through the good times and the bad times, and I will forever be grateful for their wisdom and unconditional love.

Dedicated to Bruce, Queenie, Lemon and Sherbet.

by Darran Rowe