Monday, July 29, 2019


Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication
Ruth climbed the courthouse steps alone and afraid.  When she entered the courtroom, it was already packed.  She surveyed the room and was surprised to see Toni and Jim in attendance.  This fact disturbed her, and she hoped it was not a bad sign. 

It was not long before her name was called.  She stood before Judge Thomas and looked up at a tall man in his 50’s with silver white hair.  When the judge looked down at Ruth, his kind face seemed to show compassion.  Was she imagining this; was it wishful thinking? 

“I have received a message from the prosecuting attorney in this case that they have requested a decision of public service for your assault action.”  The judge continued, “This request is a kind act considering the severity of your assault.  Still I will honor this request and order you to the Riverview Animal Shelter for your six-month probationary service.” 

The judge’s words seemed like an answer to Ruth’s prayers. 

The judge was an animal lover and knew the shelter needed more workers.  He also knew that Ruth was a farmer’s daughter; it seemed a perfect match.  The judge continued, “You will report to Mrs. Jane Huffman at 7 a.m. on Monday.  She is the supervisor of the shelter, and she will assign you the work schedule.  You will report back to this court after your six-month probation, and I will determine if your community service should be extended or if I will consider your assignment completed.  You are dismissed.”

Ruth wanted to thank the judge with a hug.  She was so happy that he had not issued jail time.  She knew that a hug would not be appropriate but decided instead to ask Jim and Toni if they had been responsible for the community service.  Turning to survey the courtroom, she discovered that they were no longer in the room. 

She thought more about Judge Thomas’s ruling and was thankful for his decision but was unsure what her feelings would be for the shelter’s animals. I will think about that on Monday, Ruth decided.  She still had the weekend free, and at this moment she was going to head home.

Mom was setting the table for dinner when Ruth arrived at the farm.  As Ruth entered the dining room, she found her mother standing with her back to the doorway.  

Because Ruth was happy, she decided to greet her mother like she did in the old days, “Hi, Mom.  What’s for dinner?”  Mom jumped and let out a terrified scream of fear. 

Startled, Ruth cried, “Mom!  What’s wrong?” 

Mom gave a sigh of relief to see that it was just Ruth that startled her. Then she answered, “I am so embarrassed! You surprised me!  I’m so sorry about my reaction.” 

Puzzled by her mother’s explanation, Ruth put her arms around her mother and encouraged her to sit.  Ruth felt it was her turn to help her mother relax, “I’ll get you some tea with honey and lemon.  Sit here and talk to me while I prepare the tea for you.” 

Ruth entered the kitchen, and as she prepared the tea, she decided it might be a good idea to talk to Pop about Mom.  She asked Mom again about dinner.  “What have you planned for dinner?”

Mom’s reply made Ruth’s mouth water, “I have a ham roast in the oven, with my special gravy.  I’ve made mashed potatoes and a salad.  I’ve also baked fresh crescent rolls.” Mom’s reply sounded tired. 

Ruth placed the cup of tea in front of her mother. 

“Mom,” Ruth said, “I have never seen you so jumpy.  Are you sure you’re all right?” 

Mom answered simply, “I’m only tired.”  She quickly drank the hot tea and asked Ruth to make another cup.  Walking toward the kitchen, Ruth heard her mother say, “I’m not sleeping well.  It’s nothing to be concerned about.” Then she added, “Could you bring a glass of water with that tea?”

Pop soon arrived home from milking the cows.  The meal was ready to be served.  “Hurry and wash your hands,” Mom urged.  Ruth did most of the talking during their meal.  She explained about her court notification and the Judge’s ruling.  She added that she would begin her public service work on Monday at the Riverview Animal Shelter.  “I will need to meet Mrs. Huffman at 7:00 a.m.,” Ruth explained.  “She is the shelter’s supervisor.” 

The rest of the dinner conversation consisted of comments on the food and requests like “pass the rolls” or “more potatoes?” 

Ruth noticed that her mother seemed to be drinking a lot of water with her meal but decided it was just because they had been eating a ham roast.

After dinner, as her mother cleared the table, Ruth motioned for Pop to come outside to talk.  Once they were outside, Ruth asked, “Can you get an appointment for Mom with the family doctor?”  Pop looked puzzled at the request and asked, “Why?” 

Ruth went on to tell about Mom’s scream and added, “Mom keeps saying she is tired, and she seems to be drinking a lot of water.  She is jumpy and easily startled most of the time.” 

Pop thought about Ruth’s observations and decided it would be wise to also get an appointment for himself.  “That way I can tell your mother that I felt it was a good time for us to get a routine check-up and I believe she will agree to see the doctor.”
Pop set up the appointment for Wednesday of the following week.  Pop called it a “routine check-up,” but the results of the tests did not end up in being routine.

In another part of town, Donald was working with the Animal Control Officer.  He enjoyed the flexible hours and his boss, Mike, was a pleasant and friendly fella.  Donald thought, I’ve been able to observe the community as well as keep an eye on Valerie.  I’ll make her regret the day she threw me away!  I’m going to make her feel miserable!  She’ll be sorry for doing such mean and uncaring act toward me, her own child!


With her permission, I am 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment