Paws for thought with Niall Harbison

Over 400 people from as far and wide as Switzerland, Paris, Dover and Edinburgh made their way to Westholme School on Monday evening to meet dog rescuer Niall Harbison, in a special event arranged by Book, Bean and Ice Cream.

Niall, a social media sensation who has gained over a million followers documenting his stray dog rescues in Thailand, took part in a live Q&A – the only one he held in the country during his latest visit.

Niall was welcomed on to stage by Fatimah, Deputy Head Girl, and Bill , Assistant Head and the Q&A was conducted by BBC Radio 2 Presenter Phil Williams. During the interview, Niall spoke about his journey from working as a private chef, running his own advertising and marketing business to moving to Thailand and helping stray dogs. Niall’s new book, ‘Hope’ is an inspirational recollection of his journey and guests were able to get their copies signed at the end of the evening.

Before the evening started, we caught up with Niall to ask him any advice he would like to share with Westholme students.

What life lessons have you learned from the rescues? 

I would say just live in the moment. You can have all the plans in the world, but people get sick, life gets in the way. The dogs are very good at enjoying the moment and living in the now and I think that’s very important because life can pass you by otherwise.

You’ve said you wanted a life with meaning and a vocation, so how has this purpose made you feel? 

I wanted to find a little bit of meaning in life. Working with the dogs, I can literally save a life in a day so when I go to bed at night, I feel like I’ve achieved something.

You’ve spoken about your mental health struggles in your book. What advice would you give to students to look after their mental wellbeing?  

I think exercise is such a no brainer. Even if it’s just a 20 minutes’ walk, get out there. If you’ve got a lunch break or a sports class, you have to keep it up because it gives you the serotonin and the natural boost that can help you.

The other thing is to just find someone to talk to – maybe a friend or a parent or someone you can trust. It can be a scary thing to address, but talking to somebody halves any problem.

Any other advice to students at Westholme?

Have goals and try your very best, but sometimes I think in life, it’s very tough to know what you’re going to do, and you might not find that until you’re 22 or 23, what you really love, so don’t sweat it, do your best. Embrace change and embrace opportunities and possibilities. If you have a core skill set that you’ve learned in school, you can apply that to a lot of things.