A RESCUE poodle who was saved from the Chinese meat trade and now works as a therapy dog at a North Belfast primary school has been selected by a London-based charity to be the face of their campaign to promote diversity and respectfulness.

Henry Wee Wheels has been bringing joy and comfort to students and staff at Sacred Heart Boys Primary School for the past four years and comes in for therapy sessions with students with his owner Sharon every Thursday.

Henry was discovered on waste ground in Shanghai and had already been attacked by a larger dog resulting in his spine being severed and both his legs broken. Volunteers from Slaughterhouse Survivors in Harbin, Northern China rescued Henry and took him to their centre to receive care. Initially his rescuers were criticised for not putting him to sleep as his chances for survival were so slim but their dedication saw him not only recover, but thrive.

Sharon Warnock, Henry’s owner, discovered him on Facebook and paid to have him moved to Belfast once he had recovered. Now settled and thriving, Henry began working as a therapy dog for children during the coronavirus pandemic.

This year Henry has been chosen to be the face of the Great British Bark Off, hosted by Underdog International, a UK-wide charity which seeks to help both children and dogs.

Speaking about Henry, owner Sharon said: “When I first saw Henry the first thing I realised was how much love he had to give despite his traumatic past. He was so good with children and had nothing but love and support to give. 

“I was approached about Henry coming to work as a therapy dog but none of the other charities would insure him because as well as having a broken spine and legs he is incontinent and has to wear a nappy.

“I insured him myself and he now visits different schools each week and comes to Sacred Heart every Thursday. He is a proper member of the school now and has his own uniform and school photo. 

“Children love him because they empathise with his story and we have found that children open up to Henry and can talk to him about any issues they are having, which can help the school to address problems. He is much loved by all the staff and children.”

THERAPY: Henry Wee Wheels has a mural of himself at Sacred Heart PS

THERAPY: Henry Wee Wheels has a mural of himself at Sacred Heart PS

Joanne Smyth, Principal of Sacred Heart said: "Henry has been coming into the school for the past three or four years for ‘Therapy Thursday’ and he has been providing therapy for the children as well as a the staff. As soon as he arrives the whole atmosphere changes and he brightens everyone’s day.

“He is very much part of our team, he is part of our students and part of our staff and the reason we have chosen Henry is because Henry has had a lot of trauma and difficulties in his life. We can empathise with Henry as a school and the children greatly empathise with Henry. The main aim for Henry within our school is to promote empathy and understanding for each other’s different circumstances."

Joanne continued: “Henry also shows us that everyone is different and has a different life story and experiences and teaches us to respect and love each other even if we have different values and faiths.

“Henry himself has no voice but children can understand his situation and his story, it encourages them to speak up and be more confident about talking to people. Henry’s background coming from China also helps our children emphasise with refugee children and others who may not be living with their parents.

“Children will be more open to Henry about worries or concerns and his skilled owner Sharon is able to take on board what the children say to Henry so we can help them if they are struggling. Through Henry we have children who are more confident, empathetic and considerate and who are emotionally strong and resilient.

CHARITY: Henry Wee Wheels with his owner Sharon (left), Principal Joanne Smyth, pupils from Sacred Heart and Nadine Kayser from Underdog International

CHARITY: Henry Wee Wheels with his owner Sharon (left), Principal Joanne Smyth, pupils from Sacred Heart and Nadine Kayser from Underdog International

Nadine Kayser of Underdog International said: “The reason we chose Sacred Heart Boys Primary School was because they epitomise everything Underdog stand for as a charity and particularly because they embraced therapy dogs like Henry Wee Wheels in such a wholehearted way.

“Henry Wee Wheels has been helping the children of Sacred Heart for a long time now and he has been supporting the children and staff in such a big way and it’s this that made them our main choice for being the school that really represents what the Great British Bark Off is about this year and everything Underdog stands for.”