Saturday, September 21, 2019


Sassie awoke to several strange noises.  At first, she was confused.  She could not smell the pines, the scent of her littermates, nor any of the normal woody smells.  She looked at her surroundings and began to recognize some of the new smells.  She remembered the kind lady that gave her treats.  Sassie remembered how she had carried her to this area. 

Yesterday when Ruth had brought her to this area, she had stayed with her for a time.  Ruth gave Sassie lots of good treats.  She also gave her a fuzzy toy that made a squeaky noise.  Ruth even played a game with Sassie and the toy. 

Sassie decided to show the Play Bow to Ruth as they played with the fuzzy thing.  Ruth refilled her water bowl and left some food.  Sassie could smell Ruth’s scent start to fade as she left the building.  Sassie had enjoyed Ruth’s company. 

The fuzzy thing did have some of Ruth’s sent on it, so Sassie had placed her chin on the toy and fell asleep.  She dreamed of playing with her siblings and the joy she had running in the forest.

She liked the memory of Ruth, but this was a new day, and Sassie kept wondering about the strange sounds she kept hearing.  When the door to Sassie’s area opened, the sounds became very loud.  It seemed like a combination of dog cries and those metal machines that she had heard near the forest.  Jane was making her usual early morning rounds of the shelter.  As she entered this area she spoke to Sassie, “Were you able to rest last night?”  Sassie wagged her tail in response.  Jane offered Sassie a treat and she willingly received it.  

The door opened again, and Sassie smelled Ruth.  Ruth was entering the area carrying Sassie’s food bowl.  Sassie was giving a happy dance in her excitement of seeing Ruth.  The food bowl was put in front of Sassie.  Then Ruth did a very strange thing.  Instead of leaving the bowl and letting Sassie eat, Ruth began to put a few pieces of meat into the dish as Sassie was eating.  Every so often, Sassie felt Ruth’s hand go into her food dish, but it always meant that good things were being added to her food. 

I guess Ruth’s hand is good, Sassie decided.  She relaxed.  Ruth had been able to train her Collie not to worry about the hand going near his food.  She wanted to make sure that Sassie would welcome any hand that goes near her food bowl.  Sassie had once again discovered that she could trust Ruth.  She also discovered that Ruth was very clumsy.  Every time Ruth picked up Sassie’s dish she would drop it.  Sassie did not mind, because a piece of meat seemed to appear right after the noise of the dish.  She began to look forward to the noise. 

Then Ruth began to drop the clipboard she had been carrying.  Sassie discovered that a piece of meat would appear whenever she heard this noise.  She began to hope that any loud or strange noise would suddenly surprise her because a piece of meat would also suddenly appear.  The meat did not always come, but because the piece of meat did come occasionally, Sassie was no longer afraid of any type of noise. 

Sassie discovered that Ruth was fun to watch.  Sometimes she would put on a silly hat and dance around.  Sometimes, she would wear dark glasses and a funny-looking nose. 

Another strange game that Ruth was teaching Sassie was a game that involved the toys that Sassie loved to play with.  Ruth would give Sassie a toy and then say, “Trade.”

When Sassie dropped the toy, Ruth would give her a piece of meat.  Most times, Ruth would return the toy to Sassie.  Occasionally, she would say, “Drop it” and she gave Sassie the piece of meat.  Once again, Sassie recognized that many times Ruth would return the toy. 

Occasionally when Ruth would say either “Trade” or “Drop it” and give Sassie a piece of meat she would randomly make the toy disappear for a time.  Most times whenever this happened Ruth liked to give Sassie several pieces of meat.

Whenever Sassie seemed to be unsure of something and acted small, she would look at Ruth to see if she was upset about the situation.  If Ruth looked relaxed and ignored the problem that Sassie was reacting to, Sassie felt that all was okay, and she relaxed too.  Ruth made sure that Sassie was constantly getting a piece of meat and lots of love whenever she encountered new experiences.

Sassie discovered that when others put their hands near her dish, they made good things go into her dish.  Sometimes when they reached for a toy they would forget to say, “Trade” or “drop it,” but she would still get a treat if she let them pick up her prized item.  She also found that most times the item would be returned to her as well.

Sometimes, if it was a ball, they would play throw and “fetch” immediately after she picked up the ball.  She loved this game of fetch because she got a few treats whenever she brought the ball back to the person. 

Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

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

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