Sunday, June 9, 2019

UNDERSTANDING SASSIE, Ch. 2, "Sassie, Goldie, and the Worker"

Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

My name is Sassie. I am a working dog. Some of my job descriptions include such terms as “Therapy Dog,” “Service Dog,” “Hunting Dog,” “family pet,” and “teacher.”

As I tell my story, I’d like to help you understand how dogs communicate. If you can understand the dog’s language, you will know the difference between a friendly dog and one that is not so friendly. This knowledge could enable you to avoid a dog’s bite.

It all began with my mom. Not only was Mom my first language teacher, she was smart, gentle, and a patient instructor. I saw her as a beautiful canine, and I believed she was a true champion. Her bloodline was a mixture of Golden Retriever and several other intelligent breeds. I am proud to say that I look just like her. My goal has always been to be as smart as she. Mom obtained her wisdom by observing and recognizing the behavior of the creatures around her. She called this wisdom “listening with your eyes.”

Mom said that she was born in a shelter not far from here. She remembers little of that time, but she did remember the warmth of her mother and her siblings. She was removed from this comforting warmth to go to a cold wooden building. It was a hunter’s cabin that was heated by a fireplace. The building was usually damp and filled with strange smells. The meals were occasional ground meat scraps. She was always hungry.

This situation created the need to learn some hunting survival skills. She started to capture mice and other small creatures that wandered into the cabin. When she discovered an exit to the outdoors, she escaped her prison for the adventures of freedom. She would say no more about this time and discouraged any questions. If I tried to ask her about this early life she would only say, “Avoid the animal called ‘Man’!”

However, Mom was proud to talk about her time of pregnancy and her escape from another shelter. She talked about the careless workers and how they would pretend to do their work. Mom studied each worker in the hopes that their carelessness might create a chance for her to escape.

On the day of her escape, the temperature was bitter cold. The rain had created an icy blanket that coated Mom’s fur but did nothing to help protect her from the weather’s torture.

Usually, when the workers arrived, they would come before sunrise. There were always at least two workers who came to do the chores. However, on this day she saw only one worker. He looked angry. She saw him slam the door of the rusty truck. It did not shut but only bounced back with a loud and noisy protest. This time he kicked it shut with his work boot. Closing the gates with a bang and kicking anything in his path created a lot of noise, and that seemed to be the worker’s goal.

Mom wondered about the fact that this worker arrived long after the sun made its appearance. Mom continued to watch the worker. When she noticed his yellow shirt, she slowly started to wag her tail. Maybe, she hoped, this was the human that gave her treats as well as kind words. She believed that she was this worker’s favorite. He was the only one that called her “Goldie.” It was not her real name, but she knew that he called her this because of the golden color of her fur.

It felt good to have a name. Like many of the dogs at the shelter, no one knew her real name or her pedigree. All they really knew about Goldie was that she was pregnant.

As she continued to study the tall muscular figure, she noticed that he was now moving much slower. The man’s rain-soaked blue jeans went unnoticed as he became more and more lost in his thoughts about his no-show partner.

It was just like him to avoid work and claim a made-up sickness on a cold and wet day like today, the man thought. He is probably buried in his warm bed and asleep. He’s not concerned about his responsibilities! The man continued muttering as the storm raged around him.

As Goldie continued to watch, she grew impatient and decided to bark for the man’s attention. 

Goldie’s bark did draw attention, but when the man recognized the direction of the bark, he realized it was a bark from the north play area, and he knew this was a problem. All the dogs should have been crated in the indoor south shelter. At this time of the day, the dogs should be in warm and dry crates.

Dogs in the play yard could only mean that they had not been fed last night and were outside in this cold rain. Because he had been out of town for the long holiday weekend and had just returned to work today, he wondered if his no-show partner was responsible for this situation. Alarmed, he questioned, has it been more than a day that these dogs have been unfed and outside? Then he thought of a bigger problem, Oh, no! The shelter’s owner could easily turn angry, ugly, and nasty with this situation. I know he does not care if the employees cut corners to save him money, nor does he take notice of any work undone, but if a mistake seemed to cost him money, he would take much joy in giving a pay deduction as part of his punishment.

The man could see that the dogs looked wet, and some seemed to be shivering in the cold. Would this combination cause an illness? The owner would blame someone for any future vet bills. This would not be good for me. I could be the one getting blamed, he thought as he began to hurry to the food shed.

He decided he would warm the food that he would prepare. Heating the dogs’ insides with warm food and placing them into their warm crates would be the best way to avoid a possible illness. The appeal of food would also help encourage the dogs to go into their crates. He continued to hurry. As he filled the buckets with the warm food he was forming a plan. 


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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