Our Henry's Tale
Happy Gotcha Day, Henry!
Today is our Henry’s Gotcha Day – we picked him up on 5th March 2016. So it seems like a good day to tell his story…
Back in early 2016 we were very happy with our one dog Jasper, our second Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I guess at that time we thought we’d always stick with the same breed and had even lined up a name for Jasper’s eventual replacement (“Maggie”, as it happens).
We were on a weekend away and, as is sometimes the way on holiday (even a very short one), the devil will find work for idle hands, and fanciful ideas seem more plausible. My lovely wife Ann had passed some time on the mini-break perusing dog rescue pages on Facebook, for some reason, and had fallen for a Bichon Frise called Florence – but by the time we’d decided (emboldened by wine) that a second dog might not be too crazy, Florence had already been rehomed. Shortly afterwards we saw Henry the Bedlington Terrier on the RSPCA site and (emboldened by even more wine) arranged to see him when we got back home.
[as an aside, deciding to rescue a dog isn’t our daftest ‘wine-emboldened holiday purchase’… last year I woke up on holiday to an email welcoming me as a new member of the National Trust…]
The scruffy ball of madness stage
Just a few days later we were at kennels to meet Henry. All we knew was that he was about six months old, and that his original elderly owners had struggled to cope with a puppy. He was, to be frank, a right state. Matted fur, stinky, yappy, over-excited…
We took him for a walk with Jasper, up the farm lane near the kennels. Henry was like a tornado of pent-up energy, a Tazmanian Devil on a lead. But we decided immediately that we couldn't leave him. He had to be rescued. We had to rescue him…
An inauspicious start
The first few weeks were… testing. He was more of a Bedlington Terrorist than a Terrier…
Several times both Ann and I harboured thoughts of handing him back (stubbornness won out, of course). He tried to bite Ann the first weekend. He peed in the house with alarming regularity – it seems he’d made it to six months old without any toilet training. He occasionally did the other thing in the house as well… And, most dispiritingly of all, he didn't immediately get on with Jasper.
I know introducing a new dog to a family can be difficult for the incumbent – Jasper’s predecessor Tooty didn't take to him at all in the few months that they overlapped – but we weren’t quite ready for the antagonism between these two in the early days. Both assumed that they were top dog, and it took quite a while for Henry to concede that it’s actually Jasper. Now they get on just fine :-)
Patience and training
Early on we got the advice of a canine behaviourist (thanks John!) who really helped us understand Henry and how best to cope with his rough edges. It became fairly clear that he hadn’t been trained much (if at all) in his first few months and we needed to take this into account. Slowly but surely we improved (but not completely eradicated) his little ‘accidents’ in the house, socialised him with other dogs and took him to local dog training courses. After a basic training course he moved onto dog agility, which he still does every weekend with Ann. We’ve even got an agility course set up in the garden.
It took a while, but he’s turned into a really loving, affectionate dog. He loves to jump up on the settee and snuggle up next to you (or on the bed when you’re trying to have a lie-in at the weekend). He’s still very bouncy and friendly with people and over time getting less anxious with strange dogs.
Last year we took him to the annual Bedlington Terrier Gathering in the town of Bedlington and he was in his element – surrounded by over 200 lookalikes! And this year, he’s the poster boy for the event!
My test model
And the best thing about Henry? He’s always happy to help me test out new photographic gear and techniques (and, er, costumes). Jasper isn’t as bothered. Henry seems to love the attention (and the steady supply of treats).
And that is the story of Henry… so far!
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