The students from Good Intent Elementary School in Deptford chanted for the Old English sheepdog, shaggy superstar that he is.

"Hen-ley! Hen-ley!"

This is the celebrity dog, after all, whose love and generosity have raised awareness about rescue shelters for young students throughout the region; who inspired Good Intent youngsters to save up their allowance so they could contribute to drives that collected thousands of pounds of food, blankets, bleach, paper towels, leashes, toys, and treats for their local shelter - the Gloucester County Animal Shelter.

"Hen-ley! Hen-ley!" the kids shouted last week, waving "We Love Henley" signs.

Henley - a benevolent barker in customized orthopedic shoes - voiced his appreciation.

During their final assembly of the school year, the children of Good Intent were not only rewarded with a visit from Henley, whom they have adopted as their school mascot, but feted with a cake as well.

This wasn't just any cake. It was a creation, designed as a fully edible donation box by none other than the Ace of Cakes himself, the Food Network's Duff Goldman, and shipped from Baltimore.

"You know what? Kindness is its own reward, but this was such a banner year for the children, we wanted to do something special for them," said Henley's mom, Pennsauken writer Judith Kristen, who chipped in, along with the school's PTA and librarian Jacquelyn Dunion, for the $1,800 cake. "Isn't this cool? If I could still do backflips, I would."

Let's see. You've got your dogs, and then you've got your heroes, those unforgettable four-legged friends whose good deeds live on in perpetuity.

I'm talking Rin Tin Tin.

Oh, and Lassie.

And, in his own way, Marley.

And don't forget Angel (hey, she's mine; I'm allowed).

But Henley trumps them all.

Chained and left for dead in a mud pen at a Lancaster puppy mill, Henley was rescued and adopted by Kristen in 1998.

Along with Kristen, Henley lives with dad Andrew and brothers and sisters: Cassie and Abbie, 9-year-old sheepdogs; and cats Cynthia, 4; Rose, 8; Holly, 2; and the ever-social Mookie, 4.

What's happened to Henley in his golden years is almost impossible to imagine.

His book, My Name is Henley: My Life and Times as a Rescued Dog, (typed by Kristen but "written" by Henley, of course) has taken off, as has his two-year-old "An Old Dog Teaches Kids New Tricks" tour, an animal-awareness campaign for students.

Awards? Hen's got plenty, from the Pennsylvania Librarians Association and Lions Club. (Actually, it was Kristen who was honored as Lions Club Citizen of the Year, but around Henley's house, they seldom make distinctions between four legs and two.) The purposeful pooch is also up for the Please Touch Museum's Great Friend to Kids Award. He's the museum's first animal nominee.

Not bad for a shaggy dog.

"When I first got Henley, I said, 'Come over here to your new mom,' " Kristen recalled. "He wagged his butt so hard" - most sheepdogs don't have tails - "that he knocked himself right over. . . . He was just a good dog from the get-go."

Henley helped nurse Kristen through uterine cancer. And when Kristen's best friend, restaurateur Monti McDonald, was losing her battle with breast cancer, Henley was there to lick her face.

"I think he wants to give back because he had a second chance at life," Kristen said. "He's here for a special reason, and he's proven it over and over again."

He certainly has with the Good Intent student body, where the kids have taken renewed ownership of their own pets because of Henley, Dunion said.

Kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, and benevolence - life lessons of unconditional love, thanks to Henley.

This year marks Henley's last for school visits. He's almost 12 - 84 in people years - and he has cataracts, and arthritis in his back legs (hence the need for the shoes).

While retired, he'll still make occasional visits to Good Intent. But when he's not available, Mookie will make guest appearances.

Mookie, by the way, has shown himself to be quite the author, too.

He's already "written" a series of Mookie books. And for Henley's book, he wrote the blurb.

Contact columnist Annette John-Hall
at 215-854-4986 or Ajohnhall@phillynews.com. Read her work: http://go.philly.com/annette