Me and my Pet - Paul Brown and Cody the Labradoodle

Paul Brown and Cody, walking buddies and best friends for life

Paul Brown and Cody, walking buddies and best friends for life - Credit: not Archant

Residential housing developer Paul Brown on how Cody, a black Labradoodle, helped him rebuild his life

The property and banking crash of 2008 had many victims. I was one of them. After five years of owning a successful property development business during the boom, everything came crashing down in just three months. After 15 years in the property industry, I almost lost it all.

It was all going really well and then my world completely collapsed. Three of my joint venture partners went bust. Any investment I had in these companies was lost. It put my family under a lot of financial pressure. I had no income and three young children. It was hell - and I was struggling.

My wife, Allison, who has been an amazing support throughout our marriage, knew I needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning. So she bought Cody, a black Labradoodle puppy, for me.

We immediately hit it off. Cody's affectionate, kind and enthusiastic nature was just what I needed in those dark days of 2008 and 2009. Any chance of me lying in bed in the mornings feeling sorry for myself disappeared as Cody leapt on top of me, as if to say: 'Stop moping. Come on, it's time to get up and go for a walk'. And we would.

We went for long walks in the woods behind our Easingwold home. I loved the freedom, the fresh air and having Cody bounding along beside me. But my face couldn't hide my fears. Early in 2009, we bumped into a friend, also walking his dog, who told me I looked as though I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I suppose I did, but Cody's presence and unconditional love was already working its magic. Our walks together gave me time to think and plan for the future.

With a lot of hard work, I managed to remain in property. I did almost anything I could think of. A bit of agency brokerage; I bought bits and pieces in Leeds for some former clients. Anything that would keep the money coming in.

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I always said I would trade my way out of this, I just needed time. I had some financial support from my family, which kept me going. And I had Cody.

Now, a decade on, I have fully recovered from that dark period and am a director of Caedmon Homes, the residential development arm of Norstar Real Estate, based in Easingwold, with my business partner, Rufus Salter. We have successful sites in Whitby, York, and Kirby Hill, near Boroughbridge, plus projects on the horizon elsewhere in the region. I was also instrumental in identifying and securing the 100,000sq ft former Aviva office building in York, which is being redeveloped into a Malmaison Hotel.

Meanwhile, Cody remains an integral part of my - and my family's - life. Every morning he wakes me up, ready for his walk. We recently met the friend who had told me I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. 'You've cheered up,' he said. And he was right.

My beloved Cody played a major part in the revival of my fortunes. I know the saying that a dog is a man's best friend is a cliché but, in my case, it's absolutely true. I don't know what I would have done without him.

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