Sunday, August 11, 2019

UNDERSTANDING SASSIE, Ch. 11, "Riverview Animal Shelter"

Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

       When Ruth woke up on Monday, she was surprised to find herself nervous.  Maybe it was the fact that she had never been to an animal shelter or the fact that she would need to confront her feelings about her Collie.  She quickly got ready and quietly went to the kitchen for a simple breakfast.  She was surprised to see that her mother was already up and fixing French toast and bacon for Ruth.  She was almost too nervous to eat, but she managed to eat some of her mother’s cooking. 

She then took a thermos of coffee and drove to the Riverview Animal Shelter.  She arrived 15 minutes early and entered the unlocked front entrance.  The woman that greeted her was tall and athletic. She had long red hair that contained a few streaks of white.  She was wearing jeans and a plaid shirt.  In her arms she held a small kitten and something that looked very much like a baby bottle.  “You must be Ruth,” Mrs. Huffman stated. 

Ruth nodded her head yes and replied, “You must be Mrs. Huffman.” 

“Please, call me Jane.”  The smiling Jane quickly put Ruth at ease.  “I just got a delivery of donated supplies.  Could you inventory them and put them in the labeled areas of the storeroom?  I’ll show you the supply storeroom area and later give you a tour of the place.”  Jane did not wait for a reply but led Ruth to her work location.

Ruth quickly began the task assigned to her. As she worked, she wondered about some of the animal sounds she was hearing.  Jane was friendly, but Ruth noticed that she seemed to be swamped with chores and sparse on staff.  How could anyone be both stressed and pleasant?  Ruth felt she wanted to prove that she could do a good job and quickly tackled the task she was assigned.  She would be a good helper for Jane.

As Ruth worked, a dog food company truck pulled up to the delivery door.  Ruth helped them unload the donated dog food and quickly stored them in their designated area.  A Girl Scout leader stopped by the delivery door with a truck load of towels, cleaning supplies, and dog toys.  Ruth was able to find the janitorial closet and moved the cleaning supplies to that area.  The dog toys she would ask Jane about. She had not seen a marked location for them.  The towels went into the laundry room.  The morning had turned into afternoon, but Ruth was too busy to notice.

Jane looked in on Ruth and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of organization that she had accomplished.  

“Time to take a break,” she told Ruth.  “Have you had lunch?”

Before Ruth could answer, Jane was leading the way to the break room.  It was a room that was more of a catch-all area with boxes, empty crates, a vending machine, a table with four chairs, and a coffee pot.  Jane poured herself a cup of coffee and invited Ruth to join her.

As Ruth sat down, she saw Jane pull out several sheets of paper.  “This first sheet is a map of the shelter,” Jane told Ruth.  “I do want you to know the layout of this building.”  Jane continued, “This second sheet is a time schedule.  The top section time tells about the animals that are dropped off by the Animal Control Officer and for the people that are surrendering animals to the shelter.  The middle section has the times for the public to come in and look at possible adoption of our animals.  The bottom section is a time schedule for volunteers and jobs such as cleaning or dog walkers.” 

Jane explained, “I realize I may not be able to spend a lot of time explaining to you what we do at this shelter, but I hope these sheets will be of help to you.  I have already seen that you are a hard worker, and I wanted you to know that I appreciate the work you have already done.”

Jane finished her coffee and got up to leave.  Turning to Ruth, she said, “Your hours are 7 to 4 with an hour for lunch.  You will be working Monday through Friday.  Sometimes, I may have you come in on a Saturday.  We’ll discuss details about a Saturday work schedule when that happens.”

Ruth finished her coffee and grabbed a snack from the vending machine.  She put the papers into her pocket, and then decided to go back to work.  She had no interest in taking an hour break for lunch.  She felt there was too much work to do. She returned to the storage area and continued to organize the cluttered spaces.

At 4:10 p.m., Jane found Ruth down on her hands and knees cleaning the storeroom floor.  “You’re still here?”  Jane’s voice sounded surprised.  “Go home!” she ordered.  “Tomorrow will be soon enough to finish any unfinished work.” 

Ruth decided to follow Jane’s orders.  As she drove home, she was surprised to find herself singing.  Wow, she thought, it has been a long time since I’ve felt good enough to sing.

That night as she climbed into bed, she discovered that she was looking forward to going back to the Riverview Animal Shelter.


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.

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