Friday, October 11, 2019

UNDERSTANDING SASSIE. 19, Dog Behavior Testing

Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

 The time for Millie to do the dog evaluations had arrived.  She was eager to begin this task, and as Millie entered the shelter, she began to look for Jane.  She was in her office.  As Jane looked up, she saw Millie and said, “Millie, I have Room 101 ready, and the equipment that you requested has been placed in that room’s small closet.” 

They moved to 101. Millie checked her list of dogs to be tested; she saw that Sassie would be the first dog to be tested.    “Ruth asked for permission to come into Room 101 to watch.  I told her that she could only watch by looking through the window outside the room.” 

Millie smiled and said, “Yes, part of this test is to see how the dog reacts to me as I sit in this chair.  No distractions are permitted during this testing, and although I realize that Ruth wants to see Sassie pass, she cannot be in the room.  Thank you for explaining this to Ruth.  She most certainly can watch from that window.” 

Millie then sat in the room’s single chair and asked Jane to bring in Sassie.  When Jane brought Sassie into the room, she unclipped Sassie’s leash and then walked back out the door. 

Sassie had never been in this room.  She looked around, but when she saw Millie, she wagged her tail and went right up to her.  She gently bumped her elbow to see if Millie could be encouraged to pet her.  Sassie started to show Millie the Play Bow and even did a happy dance for her.  Millie checked the word “passed” on her clipboard and added a few comments to this area of the test.

Millie got a bowl of food and placed it onto the floor.  Sassie was encouraged to eat the food that was in the bowl.  Millie got the plastic hand and would “pet” Sassie as she ate.  Then the plastic hand was placed into the food bowl.  The plastic hand was used instead of the real hand because some dogs would bite any hand that went into their food bowl.  Once again, Sassie wagged her tail. 

As Ruth looked through the window she whispered, “Way to go, Sassie!”  Then added, “I bet you’re wondering when the good treats are coming.”  Ruth was glad she had used positive random reinforcement with her training of Sassie. 

As Millie put “passed” on each successful test, she began to enjoy watching Sassie’s trust of people and her free spirit.  In the next test, Millie put a pig’s ear on the floor and after Sassie started to chew on the ear, she placed the plastic hand near the treat.  As Millie pushed the pig’s ear away from Sassie, Millie was tempted to give a treat to Sassie, to reward her good behavior, but Millie knew that was against the rules of testing.  Sassie passed every test that Millie performed.

Millie decided to add a comment on the test sheet that she usually does not write, “This dog could easily pass the therapy dog test.  I recommend therapy dog testing in a year.”

Jane had been in her office during Sassie’s testing.  When the telephone rang, Jane had been concentrating on her paperwork and was only half listening to the caller.  The raspy voice said, “Ruth’s mother is a bad mother!” 

Jane suddenly began to listen closer to the voice on the phone and asked, “What did you say?” The only response to Jane’s question was a click and the dial tone. 

Staring at the phone, she slowly lowered the receiver.  Jane then glanced at the clock and realized that it was now time for the next dog to be brought into the testing area.  Jane hurried to Room 101.  She brought Sassie to Ruth before getting the next dog.  

“Guess we can start the adoption paperwork this afternoon.” Ruth said as she turned to leave. 

“Remind me to tell you about our Puppy Play Time,” Jane added before going to get another dog for Millie.

Jane was unsure if she should say anything to Ruth about that strange phone call, but then she decided that maybe now would not be a good time.


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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