As a big dog with an even bigger bark, Henry might not have been the shelter pet for just anyone. But when Melanie, an educator with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles, saw the 95-lb. Lab mix, it was love at first sight. "I've been in the shelter world for nine years now. I had done a lot of fostering but wasn't necessarily looking. I was waiting for the right one, and it was him," she says. "I fell in love. Now I couldn't imagine not having him."
Now Melanie has a very special assistant for the violence prevention program she teaches. "Henry is just so tolerant - he's our mascot for our 6-7 year olds," she says. "We do all sorts of positive reinforcement training to teach the kids how to interact with the animals around them. Through all eight weeks, Henry is there in the classroom."
Henry's participation is invaluable to the SPCA's program, which helps the community by teaching animal care and compassion to its youngest members. As Melanie explains, "If kids come from violent communities, they may start to be violent toward animals. So we're trying to break that cycle of violence, and prevent cruelty to animals."
As part of a loving family, Henry is proving to be a perfect pet - not to mention a wonderful teaching assistant. "Inherently he's just such a good dog," Melanie says. "He's just so patient and tolerant. It's just who he is - he's such a nice boy. He just wants to be around people."
Even with his large size, Henry was quick to find his place in Melanie's world. "It took a little bit of time for him trust that this was his home, and once he did, it was easy," she says. "It was only minor adjustments - like buying a trash can that was a little taller, with a top. He's just such a gentle soul, it was overall pretty easy."
Now this big dog with a big bark is making a big impact on the lives of everyone he meets. "As an educator, I really like that he brightens children's lives. He's a central focus of my community and my neighborhood," Melanie says. "The kids in my neighborhood love him. They ask him to sit and he does a wave - they think it's a blast. I'll hear 'Henry, Henry!' And there will be about 15 kids on the other side of the fence, waiting for him."
He has also impacted Melanie's life in ways even greater than his size. "He makes me laugh all the time. He's a 95-lb. dog who believes wholeheartedly that he only weighs 10 pounds," she says. "He helps me get so much more exercise by being more active than I was. He's a darned good snuggler, and he's great to travel with. I love the company ... and greeting you at the door every day with lots of slobbery kisses - I like it!"