Henry's Story

Henry is not your normal mastiff or even your normal mastiff rescue but this is how it was for Henry (and me).

From the beginning!

It was a Saturday morning and I was at college doing a computer course. I was bored and started browsing the web. Id been "mastiff less" for a few years, wanted to change my career (hence the course) and was unhappily married. I was looking through the dog photo gallery on the Battersea dog’s home website and could not believe it when I came across Henry. I could not believe that a mastiff was in Battersea. He looked so sad (that can be a bit of a natural mastiff look) but he looked how I felt so we bonded straightaway, although he did not know it yet.

I decided to I had to go and see him and the first opportunity I had was the following Saturday so made an appointment and skipped college..I went armed with bonios . The young man I met “interviewed” me on my large breed experience and said they knew nothing of his past as he’d been picked up as a stray and he was very nervous. He also told me 3 other couples had been to look at him but had not gone ahead due to his traumatised state.

He left us (us being ex hubby and I, (for all his faults he did support me in this seemingly mad venture) in a private waiting room and went to get Henry. It was quite shocking he sloped in and furtively tried to avoid us both. Wet himself and physically shook. We ignored him and carried on talking to try to give him time to calm down. Battersea do a great service but it’s noisy and busy and exactly where he really didn’t want to be.

We took him outside and he actually walked ok on the lead, still slinking though as if trying to make himself small. When startled he would jump a few yards one way or the other but didn’t seem to know where to go. I could not get him to take any biscuits or do anything really. Why should he though another complete stranger?

Not having any experience of rescue dogs or dogs with psychological problems I just thought I’d take him home love him like I’d had him from a puppy and he’d be fine....very naive. Long term that has happened but there was lots of ups and downs and different challenges. I had 2 more visits up to Battersea before they’d accept I was serious (standard procedure) they didn’t do a home visit as it we were well out their normal area. They did want to deliver him so they could see where he was going. I think they Google earthed us so knew what the area was like.

The first challenge once he arrived was getting him to eat! He sat on his bed in the kitchen and would not move eat or drink. This went on for several days. I remember my own feeling of panic that he was going to die in my kitchen. I’d had the week off work to be with him all the time and he did nothing. I phoned the Battersea advice line and they said just keep offering food’ leave the door open so he can go out and give him some space!

He then on the fourth day had a drink and started to eat on the fifth day. He slowly started to make progress in little ways.

It took a long time before he’d even venture out of the kitchen in to the front room! In addition, he’d always sit right in the way by the sink in the corner! It occurred to me much later that that corner was obviously the safest place as he had a clear view of both the doors out of the kitchen. The vet came up after he’d been here about a month (there was no way I could have taken him anywhere) as he needed some injections. I covered the floor with newspaper, as I knew what would happen him meeting a stranger, which it did. The vet really liked him just thought he was a bit under weight. Although very nervous, he has never shown any sign of aggression.

After about six months, I was impatient for more improvements and posted the following on the mastiff site.

"We got Henry, a brindle Mastiff from Battersea in November last year. He had been there for 3 months and had been picked up by police as a stray (quite amazing). He is about 4 and that's really all we know about his history. He is very nervous and timid and does not cope with meeting strangers. He has made some improvement since he’s been here but not a lot. He doesn’t like going outside, if left outside for more than about half an hour he starts to hyperventilate like a person having a panic attack. He is calm inside the house although he doesn’t do a lot during the day. Most of the time he looks very sad, the doggie version of Eeyore! I do get a welcome first thing in the morning and last thing at night he comes to me and puts his head on my lap, the rest of the time its me making a fuss of him. He has very short bursts of bouncing around when he does his welcome its almost like he is copying the other dogs but isn’t sure why he’s doing it!
I am hoping he will gradually start to enjoy his life. I have had a mastiff from a pup before (and my mum and dad had one when we were kids) loved them both to bits. My sister who lives very close has 2 dogs and with my hubbys 2 little terriers we have quite a collection. When the other dog’s visit they all get on well but Henry doesn't seem to know how to play so they say hello, then leave him alone and he wanders round the garden looking to see if he can get back inside the house!

Has anyone had experience of this sort of behaviour before and have any advice on how I can help him? I’ve had conflicting advice so far. Battersea said get him in a routine as quickly as possible so I did (once he’d settled in a bit ) start walking him every day but he doesn’t seem to enjoy it. This was often difficult as he would go so far, then just sit down, and refuse to move! The vet said don’t try and force him into anything and only let him be "stressed" for very short periods.

I am prepared to try anything and he is here to stay so there is no rush.

Any ideas?


Looking back now six months was really not that long considering the state he was in and far too soon to expect him to feel secure..

We can now go the vets, go for walks, play in the garden, ask to go out, sit for bonios, help dig up the muck heap, chew bones.......perfect!

There’s lots of little things I tried some worked some didn’t but as this is now looking like a book rather than a post I shall finish by saying his biggest steps to normal happy tail wagging dog was him having Spritza for company! They are both gorgeous and Henry was the start of me having what I wanted and we are all most happy here.


Tracy has posted some great shots on the forum Henry is a lucky boy and Spritza and he get on so well together.