Entrepreneurial Leeds man gives back to community after launching mental health dog walks

An entrepreneur who overcame difficulties with mental health after launching his booming business is giving back to the community with free 'mental health dog walks' - aiming to improve lives in North Leeds.

By Daniel Sheridan
Monday, 4th July 2022, 4:30 pm

Richard Somers, 32, struggled with his mental health during his 20s.

He spent a large period of time working in betting shops and was abused by customers day after day.

Eager to get out of that cycle, Richard launched PawDayz - a dog walking business in the Scarcroft area - in August 2017.

Dog walk for Mental Health .. Richard Somers pictured with his dogs Bailey and Bella at his home at Scarcroft, Leeds..Picture by Simon Hulme

Since then, his business has done "brilliantly" and he has even taken on an extra employee to keep up with demand.

Speaking to the YEP, Richard said he now has a "spring in his step" each day.

Before the lockdown pandemic hit the country, Richard launched a monthly 'mental health walk', where people could bring their dogs to Roundhay Park and discuss their issues in a relaxed environment.

Covid put a halt to the walks.

Dog walk for Mental Health .. Richard Somers pictured with his dogs Bailey and Bella at his home at Scarcroft, Leeds..Picture by Simon Hulme

However, Richard relaunched the walk in April and the group has now grown to more than 30.

Richard said he loved giving back to the community who had helped him launch his successful business and hoped the group would continue to expand,

Even at this early stage, Richard said he had seen a change in the mindset of many of the attendees and looked forward to the future of the walks.

"It is a relaxed and comfortable environment for people to meet", Richard explained.

Dog walk for Mental Health

"There is no pressure to speak and you don't even have to bring your own dog if you don't want.

"I make sure at some point in the walk I go around to every person and ask them how they are feeling.

"It started off with friends and family mainly on the walks but now I have people who come and say they had seen it online, on social media or been told about it and wanted to come along.

"It makes me very proud."

Richard said he suffered from anxiety growing up.

His Cavapoo dogs Bella and Bailey helped him enormously.

"I have always loved animals", Richard explained.

"They just give unconditional love, it doesn't matter how you are feeling.

"I got sick of the job I was doing, but everything just fell into place to start up the business.

"It has been a fairy tale really."

Richard said he has had to turn down some work due to the sheer amount of requests he has received.

He recently took on an employee to help grow the business.

For the mental health walks, Richard has set up a WhatsApp group for attendees.

"It has become a bit of a support network", he said.

"The group just keeps getting bigger each time.

"I feel I am a good judge of character and can help people who may be in a similar position to how I used to be.

"People have loved it so far."

Recently, Richard has introduced a 'story of the month' for each walk - given by a member who recalls their own mental health experiences.

He added: "The walks are very personal to me and I take great pride in being able to help people.

"I want to let people know it is okay to not be okay.

"Whether it is joining the gym, coming on the walks or changing your employment, there is a way out.

"I hope the group continues to grow and more can benefit from it."