Red's friends: the dogs who want someone to let them out

The Battersea Dogs Home lurcher who unlocked his cage to raid the kitchen was bound to get offers of a new home. But what about his fellow inmates? Julia Stuart reports
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Leo the lonely greyhound

Leo the lonely greyhound

This six-year-old greyhound is a friend of Red the Lurcher. He was taken to Battersea by his owner in January this year when the dog was no longer suitable for racing.

Leo was rehoused, but brought back again because he was too strong for his new owner. She was also leaving Leo alone for more than three hours at a time, which upset the sensitive chap.

He now has a gold star stuck on his kennel to attract another owner, but so far it has failed to work. White with black spots, he is an enthusiastic collector of soft toys and has a particular penchant for a blue hippo with a black and white checked waistcoat.

He also has a strong devotion to food, and, like his kleptomaniac friend Red, he hasn't quite cottoned on to the fact that not everything comestible is his. In between his twice-daily walks, Leo is partial to long snoozes, resting his freckled snout on his paws as he no doubt dreams of rabbits.

Indeed, he needs a calm and quiet household where he can sleep without being pestered. A gentle soul who likes his home comforts, Leo also loves spending time with people, but, like most of us, enjoys short periods on his own.

He would need a home with no cats, dogs or small children because of his sometime over-zealous nature when awake. He would suit either a home in the town or country. Like all ex-racers, he needs to wear a muzzle and lead when he goes out.

Jessie, the gangliest girl on the block

Jessie, a foxhound with gangly legs, is another long-timer. She arrived with her brother Milo in September last year when she was just three months old. The pair had been found wandering around the Black Mountains in Wales by holidaymakers. While Milo was rehomed within three months, there have been no takers for Jessie. Spending time in kennels (Battersea is currently caring for 370 dogs) left her under-socialised and she became destructive. She was sent to rehab because she was bullying other dogs, and she remains there today. She has since been introduced to other dogs to learn what is appropriate behaviour for man's best friend. Staff believe she has had no takers because the breed has a reputation for living outdoors and being hard to train. She is also up against body fascism. One prospective owner damned her as "not the prettiest dog in the world". She has also had tummy troubles because of the stress of being in the home. She would much rather be in a rural location. The foxhound had a brief sojourn in the sales block, but had to return to rehab because she missed the staff on their days off. She has many qualities, including an excellent knowledge of the Black Mountains, an ability to find endless entertainment in a simple rubber ball and a marked appreciation of a human lap.

Alfie the tearaway terrier cross

Alfie, a two-year-old brindle Staffordshire bull terrier cross, has been at Battersea for a year. He was handed in by his owner who found him too boisterous. The Staffordshire bull terrier is the most common breed in the home; last year Battersea looked after 1,002 pure breeds and 353 crosses. Alfie's handler likens him to a "teenage football hooligan", who was sent to "rehab" for "jump and grab" issues. He is still there. Alfie is the perfect example of a dog that hasn't had enough training. A happy mutt, he has a passion for tennis balls, is very eager to please, loves to train and has a weakness for rawhide chews. He has a range of skills up his one, white-pawed sleeve, including rolling over and playing dead. Alfie, can, however, get mouthy and nippy when out, but does listen when told off. He would suit an experienced owner who has lots of time and energy, plus a large house and garden. He has probably been overlooked because of his dark colouring and his propensity to jump, which has earned him the nickname Tigger.

Mason the stand-offish shar-pei

Outside Mason's kennel is a sign that reads: "Please don't stare at me or tease me. I find it very stressful." The shar-pei cross, who is between three and five years old, is wearing a dashing red neckerchief to increase his chances of someone wanting to take him home.

He arrived at the centre in July this year after being picked up by either the police or a dog warden. He is microchipped and a letter was sent to his home, but Battersea received no reply. A big, strong dog who is partial to bit of bacon, he is still quite nervous. Typical of a shar-pei, Mason can be aloof, but once he gets to know his owner, he will bond quickly and be a very loyal pet. He could cope with living with teenagers, but not young children.

He would like to live out of London in a large house with a garden. He is good with other dogs, but may overwhelm smaller varieties. It is not known whether he could cope sharing a home with a cat.

He needs to be exercised twice a day, but, according to his handler, he has a lazy streak.

Manson, the waif with odd eyes

A sign Manson's kennel reads: "I've been here so long it's scarey!" A small heart has also been stuck next to his name. The Staffordshire bull terrier was picked up by a dog warden in June last year. Contrary to popular opinion, it is during the summer months, rather than after Christmas, when most dogs are brought in, presumably because owners tend to be on holiday. Last year the charity cared for 8,748. Those which pass a behavioural assessment are ready to be rehoused after seven days if their owner doesn't come to collect them (40 per cent of strays are claimed). But Manson, who has one brown and one blue eye, failed his assessment and was referred to the home's rehabilitation department as he became frustrated on his lead around other dogs. Manson has spent more than a year in rehab working on his issues. White with grey flecks, the three- to four-year-old is considered to be very bright and would need a robust owner with big dog experience. He is finding life difficult at the home and uses his toys, particularly his tennis ball, as a form of stress release. He gets particularly stressed if he can't hold something in his mouth. He is looking for a semi-rural home with a low dog population. If left alone he will be destructive. He is partial to a massage and good food.

Benji the rottweiler who doesn't roar

Benji, a labrador/rottweiler cross, was given to the centre in May by his owner, as are half the dogs at Battersea. Reasons given include illness, divorce and the arrival of a baby. In Benji's case the owner had kept him in a yard all his life with his two brothers and had not realised they would get so big. When Benji was brought in, he had never had a collar or lead. Nor had he ever been anywhere else but the yard and the stress of new surroundings made him pass out. Benji, who is about a year old, is still in the rehabilitation unit because he tends to freeze with panic. His handler says he is "the biggest scaredy-cat here". He can just about rustle up a "very pathetic" growl when petrified. He would suit a home with a mature dog in a rural environment with no children. He gets stressed in traffic and has never lived in a house. He's a sucker for cuddly toys and was so partial to his pink elephant that he ate it. Benji also likes hot dogs.

Rusty the stressed-out springer spaniel

This 18-month-old Welsh springer spaniel cross was taken to Battersea as a stray in July last year. Rusty was sent to rehab as he was initially very stressed and frustrated. He was also extremely fearful of other dogs, but now has lots of canine friends.

Sadly for Rusty, his best friend, a black labrador, Pepper, has been rehoused.He doesn't like to be touched by strangers, particularly around the collar area. Owners will need to provide him with both mental and physical outlets for his energy, otherwise they might find their possessions in pieces.He needs calm, but active owners with experience of working dogs, but no children as he is too nervous of handling. A semi-rural or rural location with a low dog population would be ideal.

Brook the black and white nipper

Brook, a 12-month-old terrier cross, is also still in rehab. White with black patches over his eyes and ears, he arrived at the home in February this year as a stray. His owners probably considered him a cute puppy until he got out of control. Overly enthusiastic about life (he'll learn), he has had no constructive training with dogs or people. He is good with both, but lacks manners. Indeed Brook is prone to nipping, though his handler prefers to sees them more as "little love bites". His new owner will have to teach him how to chill out and help him establish a routine. As fast mentally as he is physically, he will be high maintenance. His barking has probably put off potential new owners. He would suit a rural location with a large garden so he would not annoy the neighbours.