Friday, June 14, 2019


Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

As Ruth headed toward the Riverview Animal Shelter, she noticed an unleashed Collie running after a ball. The dog looked exactly like her Collie that had died years ago with that deadly skin disease. The hurtful memories seemed to begin a loud torturous flow. “That was the time when I first tried to suppress my sad emotions.” Ruth said out loud. “I attended the state university just a month after my Collie’s death.”

The obsessive drive to earn a diploma in a money-making career never proved to be a successful method of avoiding pain. Sassie has taught me how to deal with sadness and pain. She has taught me about living in the moment and treasuring each segment of time.

As Ruth thought about her learning at the university, she remembered how the buildings had been old, but they did have the most up-to-date technology. The ivy on the oldest building, the library, reminded Ruth of the grape vineyard her mother had nurtured. She had to admit that during her time at college, she did miss the taste of her mother’s homemade grape jelly.

The university was in the middle of a large city. It was a city filled with interesting patterns of the very old and new structures. In comfortable walking weather, Ruth would stroll down the avenues. She never planned a specific destination, but she often discovered a park. She took advantage of these opportunities to have a talk with Mother Nature.

Ruth also found it fun to watch the dogs and children play. I did notice there was a strange ritual that dogs performed when they greeted each other. I believe someone named this greeting, “a Play Bow,” but at that time I had little interest in understanding dogs. Was this uncaring attitude the result of my slamming the door on my feelings? My words may have said. “I will forget those farm feelings,” but the farm experiences of fun and love would always be a part of me. Ruth would never be able to escape the warm memories of her farm home.

After college graduation, Ruth started a good-paying job in the corporate world. She met several people but felt they weren’t interesting enough to take the time to get to know them. She believed that as a woman in the corporate world, she had to work harder and longer than the men.

Ruth remembered, I saw everyone as competition rather than friends. I felt I needed no one’s help and treated most people with superiority and disdain. I wrongly thought that a negative attitude would enable me to be protected from feeling pain. I no longer mentioned that I was a farmer’s daughter, but worse than that was the knowledge that I only cared for power and money.

Ruth was beginning to talk out loud and explained to no one in particular, “That was one of the reasons I felt it could be a wise idea to cultivate a friendship with my boss, Toni.” She continued her thoughts in silence, we had taken our coffee breaks together. I felt comfortable talking to her. As I began to trust her, I shared my hurts and problems with her. Little did I realize at the time how wrong I was about my friendship with Toni. In my misguided trust I told her too many of my problems. She acted like she was interested in what I had to say and was a good listener. I felt free to discuss everything with her. On a day that I had once again mentioned the problems I was having with my apartment, Toni told me about an available apartment that was located a walking distance from our corporate building. As she described this apartment to me it seemed to be everything I had wanted. 

The only drawback might be the rental cost.

Toni encouraged my move and said that this apartment could be my showcase if I wanted to entertain clients at home. She also mentioned that a move up the corporate ladder would easily take care of the rent. I knew she would be retiring soon, so I took this statement as a hint that I would get her job. I moved to this apartment and not only enjoyed my new home but delighted in the secret that I would soon be moving into my boss’s office.

Ruth’s thoughts turned to that awful day, it was four months after the move into my new apartment that I began to hear rumors about Toni’s retirement. I was in the break room reading the newspaper and drinking my coffee when I heard Bill talking to the other workers. At first, I ignored their conversation.

Bill had just finished pouring coffee into his cup and decided to join the group of men sitting at the table nearby. Bill wanted to share a bit of news about their boss, Toni, “I know that you are aware of Toni’s plans to retire next month, but did you know that Jim will be getting her job?”

When Ruth heard Toni’s name she became interested in what Bill was saying about her. The men smiled at Bill and as some sipped their coffee, one man decided to reply to Bill’s question. “I hope that is true. I like Jim and I think we all feel he would do a good job if he replaced Toni!”

Ruth was shocked at this news and almost dropped her newspaper. Somehow, she was able to keep her face hidden. Confused by the information she was hearing, Ruth began to panic, I thought I would be the next in line for Toni’s job. I believed that position would be mine!

Questions were racing through her mind, and her thought of why didn’t Toni say something to me? quickly turned into a bigger concern, how will I continue to afford my rent? The lease will not end for another eight months! Is Bill’s story about Toni just a rumor? How did Bill know about Toni’s replacement? He seemed to speak like Jim was the one to replace Toni. Should I be looking for a new job? Jim and I had never been able to work together. I’m not sure if he did not like me, but I knew I would have a problem if he was to become my boss!

Ruth glanced back to her newspaper and noticed a small bit of local news that spoke of a robbery. A large jewelry store in the city had just reported the loss of very valuable piece of jewelry. The loss was due to a clerk’s carelessness. Ruth read the news with closer interest. Jim liked to shop at this store. What if I said that Jim robbed the store? Ruth thought, how can I get this rumor started without anyone knowing it was me that started this rumor? I need to plan carefully and soon.

Ruth stopped walking when she remembered the horror of that time. “I was angry and surprised by Toni’s words, but what I did was inexcusable!” Ruth did not realize she had just spoken out loud. A few of the bystanders turned to look in her direction. She took no notice of anyone around her and began to run. It was an old habit.

She ran away from facing her emotions in the past and when she had remembered those condemning images, she had instinctively run. Ruth soon realized that running would never change the past nor help her escape a negative feeling. Sassie had taught her that fact. She needed to accept the truth. She was responsible for that day’s incident.


With her permission, I will be serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, the material from this novel by Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through

As her editor and coach, I aided Helen through my endeavor.

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